Installing Hard-Surface Flooring in Apartments

Installing new hard-surface flooring like timber, vinyl, or hybrid floors in your apartment can be a great way to update the look and feel of your living space. However, following the correct procedures is crucial to avoid disputes with your neighbours or the owners corporation.

Before you start ripping up that old carpet, there are a few essential steps you need to take:

Review your strata scheme’s by-laws

Every strata scheme has by-laws that outline the rules and regulations regarding renovations, including flooring installations. By-laws may cover approval, preferred or prohibited flooring products, acoustic requirements, and locations where hard-surface flooring is permitted.

Your by-laws may contain the approval process to obtain owners corporation consent for hard-surface flooring that applies in your scheme, which may include approval in the form of a by-law. They may specify the scheme’s preferred or prohibited acoustic underlay and flooring products, as well as any documents that you may have to provide to your owners corporation before you start your flooring works, such as a product description or an acoustic engineer’s report.

Additionally, there might be a requirement that lot owners pay a bond prior to commencing works. Restrictions on the locations where hard-surface flooring may be installed, such as not above bedrooms of other lots, may also be included. Furthermore, there could be a condition that hard-surface flooring be covered or acoustically treated to ensure the transmission of noise does not unreasonably disturb the peaceful enjoyment of any other owner or occupier.

Seek approval from the owners corporation or strata committee

Under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, installing or replacing hard floors is considered a minor renovation. You will need to obtain consent from either the strata committee (if your owners corporation has given the strata committee authority to sign off on minor renovations) or the owners corporation in the form of an ordinary resolution at a general meeting. In which case, you’ll need more than 50% of the votes cast in favour of the work at the meeting.

Your written application should provide details of the scope of works, an acoustic certificate to show appropriate sound insulation, proposed products, including plans, duration, and the qualifications and  insurance details of the tradespeople who will do the work.

Understand the acoustic standards

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) and your strata scheme’s by-laws may have specific acoustic standards for impact noise transmission. The BCA sets a maximum limit of Ln,w + CI = 62dB, but your scheme’s by-laws may have stricter requirements, and preferred or prohibited acoustic underlay and flooring products, therefore it’s important to start by checking your by-laws.

All strata buildings are constructed differently, and often the concrete slabs in high-rise buildings vary in slab thickness and Megapascals (MPa), which is the unit of pressure used to determine the compressive strength of concrete. Lower floor levels in high-rise buildings may have a thicker concrete slab compared to higher levels.

An acoustic engineers report will perform sound tests to ensure the correct acoustic underlay is specified and installed to suit your building. Getting an acoustic engineers report is an important step as inadequate acoustic underlay may result in an order for the flooring to be dismantled and re-laid at the full cost to the owner.

Choose the right flooring and underlay

To comply with acoustic standards, you’ll likely need to install a combination of flooring and noise-reducing underlay. Check your strata scheme’s by-laws first as it might list preferred or prohibited flooring products. If there isn’t any guidance on products, look for products with high AAAC star ratings, typically between 4 and 5 stars, depending on your scheme’s by-laws. Share your flooring and underlay choices with the owners corporation to ensure they meet the requirements.

Follow these steps to avoid costly mistakes

By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth and conflict-free installation of your new hard-surface flooring. Remember, unauthorised installations or non-compliance with the by-laws could result in costly orders from the Tribunal to remove or upgrade the flooring.

Investing the time and effort to seek proper approval and adhere to the strata scheme’s regulations will save you from potential headaches and expenses down the line.

Case study: Flooring Disputes

A 1970s art deco building, encountered significant noise related disputes when a new owner removed the carpet of his unit and polished the floorboards without obtaining the necessary approval. The owner then rented out the apartment, and the new tenants, unaware of the flooring’s history, experienced regular harassment from the downstairs neighbour. Despite the tenants only producing normal levels of noise, such as walking and watching TV, the downstairs neighbour would knock on their door daily, request that they minimise their movements, and even called the police on several occasions.

What the downstairs neighbour was unaware of was that the lack of soundproofing between the two units was also causing grief for the tenants upstairs, as his unusual night hours were keeping them awake.

The situation escalated, prompting an urgent meeting of the owners corporation to address the ongoing dispute. Despite these efforts, the tenants, unable to bear the continuous harassment and noise issues, eventually moved out. This entire ordeal could have been prevented if the owner had sought proper approval and implemented soundproofing measures for the flooring.

Further information

Your Strata + strata manager can provide further information these matters.

About the author

Joshua Jasnos is an Associate Director at Strata Plus. Joshua is especially valued for his ability to navigate complex strata issues with confidence, offering sound advice and solutions.

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