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Q: How can I reduce footfall and other noises from the condominium above me? There is a two-foot space between my ceiling and their floor that has no insulation – is there a product to put in this space? I have very high ceilings, so should I consider a “false” ceiling instead? Or both? Finally, what kind of contractor do I contact? Thanks! -Jim A.

A: Since you have a crawl space between the two units, my suggestion would be to install sound-deadening insulation in this cavity. This is a heavier, denser material than standard fiberglass thermal insulation, and is designed specifically to reduce sound transmission. For installation, contact a contractor that specializes in insulation work.

If insulating that cavity is not feasible, you have a couple of other options. One would be to install sound channels on the ceiling – these are basically U-shaped metal strips – and then install one or even two layers of drywall over the channels. The channels reduce transmitted noise by isolating the new drywall from the framing, and if you use two layers of drywall with staggered joints, the transmission is reduced even further.

Another option would be to install a suspended ceiling grid with sound-deadening insulation above – the combination of the suspended grid and the insulation should definitely do the trick. For these installations, I would contact a commercial drywall contractor who has specific experience with sound-reduction installations. Most drywall contractors who do commercial work will have this type of experience.

Be aware that installing drywall, insulation or ceiling panels typically is considered a structural alteration, and may be restricted by your condominium association. You may also be required to get a building permit. After you and your contractor have discussed your options and decided exactly what you want to do, I would strongly suggest that you discuss the work with your condo board and the building department prior to proceeding.

Q: I have a cement basement floor to which I applied a sealer after one year. I later applied a paint for cement floors, but it came off in fine particles. I tried painting a second time with the same results, even where there is not traffic. Any suggestions? -Gilbert M.

A: Gilbert, you said that you sealed the floor first and then painted over it. My suspicion is that the paint and the sealer are not compatible with one another. Most types of concrete sealers are designed in some part to repel water, and the additives used to do this can make it difficult for paint to adhere. I would suggest that you take your paint can and your sealer can over to a good paint store in your area and discuss this with them. You may need to abrade the sealer in order to get a good surface for painting, or you may be able to clean off the paint, apply a compatible primer over the sealer, and then repaint.

If the sealer and the paint are indeed compatible, then the other possible problem could be moisture. If you have a damp basement and painted over the floor while moisture was present, the paint will not adhere. If you suspect this is the case, then you will need to locate and deal with the moisture source prior to having any success with painting.

Q: I want to have a vinyl fence put in, and was wondering how to judge quality between the different manufacturers. –Jerry B.

A: My best advice would be to talk to a couple of different vinyl fence retailers in your area. Get their opinions – which of course will be weighted toward whatever products they sell – and ask them why they feel their product is superior to someone else’s. Look at full size samples of their products, and check the gauge (thickness) of the vinyl, the way the pieces fit together, the term and details of the warranty being offered, and of course the price. 

Next, ask for the names of some of their past customers – preferably ones who’ve had the fence in place for a couple of years. Call a few of the customer references, ask their opinion of both the product and the installation, and if possible, arrange to make a site visit or two.


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