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How to Soundproof Against Noisy Neighbors

Nothing is as enjoyable as relaxing at home after a long day's work. But the noise from your neighbors may deter you from having peace of mind. Most people think that moving into a quiet home is the solution. But what if it's a new place and you just moved in?

Maybe you spent much of your hard-earned money and waited for months, sometimes years to construct that home. Will you then just move out because of the noise? There's no doubt, noisy neighbors are unbearable and can get on your nerves.

If this is the case, you may ask what to do with your noisy neighbors. Luckily, there is a solution. You only need to learn how to soundproof against noisy neighbors. 

Though the permanent methods are drastic and expensive, there are cheap and easy DIY projects. Besides, they solve the sound problem effectively and are fun to do.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty details of soundproofing against neighbors, here are some facts you should have in mind when looking for a place to live in. 

noisy neighbors

Measures Taken By Building Code to Minimize Noise Disturbance in Homes

According to the building code today, all newly constructed units should have a minimum acoustical measure of privacy or isolation. All floors, walls, and ceilings should have a rating of a single number based on Sound Transmission Class (STC). 

The STC is a laboratory test, and when high, the airborne sound isolation is also high.

The construction's assemblies should be at least 50 STC by design, as stated by the STC. If the building achieves a field test of 45 FSTC as the actual measurement, it still passes the test.

It also applies to the floor and ceiling assemblies' impact requirements, and Impact Isolation Class (IIC &FIIC).

Unfortunately, despite all these efforts by the building code to reduce sound between houses, not much come out of it. Dwellers still complain of the noise from neighbors. 

Why the Building Code Does Not Succeed in Reducing Noise between Houses

  • Not All Sound Isolation Measures Get Met

The bad news is that, though the architect may select floor or ceiling assemblies as required, they may fail to ensure that every detail has gotten met. 

Also, few building inspection departments carry out inspections to ensure that all sound isolation measures get met.

  • Lack of Flanking Sound Transmission Pathways

Most architects succeed in specifying STC/IIC floor and wall ratings but fail to design and specify measures that prevent the transmission pathways of flanking noise. A flanking sound transmission pathway is defined as a pathway that allows noise to travel around the wall, on or under the floor, and ceiling assembly.

Lack of flanking sound transmission through blocking or caulking reduces the FSTC drastically. A crack of 1/16 – inches on the floor line can cause a wall design of 50STC to reduce to 39, which is below the minimum requirement of the building code.

  • Floor or Ceiling Assemblies Preferences

A building may be constructed with high impact isolation, but the occupant's preference may reduce its sound isolation characteristics. 

An ideal example is where a building's floor gets carpeted, but the dweller changes it into a wooden floor. In its initial state, the building's floor prevented noise from entering or leaving the room more effectively than its current state. The only solution is to protect yourself from the noise coming from such a floor is adding noise reduction underlayment.

If you are looking for a new dwelling and want to avoid getting disturbed by the noise from your neighbors, carry out an evaluation of the place you want to move in as follows;

Evaluating a Place to Move-In

  • Inquire about the STC and IIC criteria used when selecting the walls and floors for the building
  • Move around with a radio to test how the sound moves through the floor and walls of that house
  • Ask someone to impact on the floor upstairs and access the amount of noise coming in
  • Access the amount of noise coming from the plumbing system, and especially from the kitchen
  • Investigate the kind and density of sound produced by the cabinets in that building, particularly the kitchen
  • Listen to the noise from the local traffic or highway coming through the window. Is it much, moderate, or none?
  • Check whether the hallways are noisy. Investigate if the entry doors have solid cores
  • Investigate whether the house lies within a flight path
  • Is its floor and walls hard-surfaced? If so, and your furnishings are less upholstered, your space will build up noise from any sounds that get generated, making it highly reverberant. As a result, conversing with someone within the house or listening to your radio or TV may be difficult.

Whether it's renting a new home or constructing one, you will spend much of your hard-earned money. You should, therefore, ensure you enjoy value for your money by getting a comfortable home. 

If you evaluate the house as explained above and pass the test, you may go ahead and move in with a clear mind that you will enjoy your peace without neighbors' distractions.

Step By Step Guide on How to Soundproof Against Noisy Neighbors

So, what happens if, after going through all the steps, Jack from next door plays his bass drums too loudly? Do you start looking for a new house because Susan from downstairs can't stop her toddlers from wailing all through the night?

You may find it easier to soundproof your home against the noisy neighbors. Well, if that's the case for you, here are the steps you should follow. 

Step 1: Identify the Type of Noise

The main types of noise from neighbors are impact and airborne noise. The general sounds of things like television, music, appliances, and conversations qualify as airborne noise. If you live in an apartment building with thin walls, you are likely going to experience airborne noise. 

Impact noise types are from vibrations like footsteps, door banging, and furniture scraping. This noise will likely get to you through the floors and ceilings. 

Step 2: Identify the Source of the Noise

Noise from your neighbors can be from different sources. To effectively prevent yourself from the identified noise types, you need to locate their sources. Though the sound is directional, it quickly identifies weak spots to penetrate. 

You should, therefore, not ignore those small cracks or gaps on your ceiling or walls. They can allow in a lot of noise.

Investigate and identify the direction the noise is coming from for better interpretation. Why should you soundproof your walls when the sound comes from upstairs? It would be a waste of time. The noise disturbing your sleep or peace of mind could come from various sources. For Example;

  • Upstairs

If you stay in a townhome, an apartment, or a condo, noise from the above unit can disturb your peace. The noise intrusion could either be airborne or impact, sometimes both. 

Also, the sound could get transmitted to your house through the structure. This type of noise is known as structure-borne.

Unfortunately, fixing loud noise from your upstairs neighbors can be challenging. Your best bet to curb the noise is from the source, which is from your neighbors' house upstairs.

But let's face it. Your neighbors may not be too thrilled about preventing the noise to your house from theirs. The only way you can have your neighbors take action about their disturbance is by reporting the matter to the local noise ordinances. 

Sometimes, an apartment dweller signs an agreement to contain noise after occupying the premises. If this is the case in your building, you can inform the building inspection department in your locality to inspect if the neighbors upstairs were given a certificate of occupancy with relevant sound isolation measures.

Though such enforcements may help reduce the noise coming from the neighbors living above your house, you still get to experience annoying and disturbing noise from such premises.

The only solution is to soundproof the noise. But before we look at how you can effectively soundproof against noisy neighbors, let's look at the measures taken by today's building code to help houses reduce noise from their neighbors.

  • Next Door

You may not experience annoying noise from your neighbors upstairs, but have it worse with the next-door neighbors. 

Hearing sounds from the people living next to you is inevitable while living in certain houses like condominiums. Like the upstairs neighbors, it is also tricky to fix noise from such neighbors, and the procedures come with a hefty budget.

You can easily hear your neighbor bang the door, or the voices of TV and music. It can be very irritating when you want to rest or have a quiet sleep. 

That is why it's essential to check whether such a home or building complies with the isolation standards ordered by the Building Code before moving in. The best way to know is to ask the builder. Then investigate as described earlier.

  • Cracks in Partition Sound Insulation

Even the smallest crack on a partition sound insulation can compromise the performance of sound isolation of a ceiling or wall. 

If the disturbing noise isn't due to inadequate caulking and comes through the party walls, it could be that the partition sound isolation has cracked, letting the noise in or out.

In such a case, you will need to bite the bullet and redo the wall by removing the gypsum board. Then isolate the walls by installing resilient channels or clips which are not only practical but also cost-effective.

Step 3: Soundproof

After discovering the noise type from your neighbors and how it enters your house, the next step is to start soundproofing your home. 

The different areas in your house may require different soundproofing methods. There are four main methods of achieving a soundproof home. These are decoupling, adding mass, and damping. While it may take quite some work, you will be glad when the noise from the neighbors no longer irks you. Here is how you quiet the different areas of your house.

  • Ceiling

If you live in an apartment building, noisy neighbors are probably something you are quite familiar with. And if you have neighbors upstairs, the ceiling is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to noise. 

Soundproofing your ceiling, just like any surface, would require that you add mass and thickness to block out sound. Your best bet would be to decouple the ceiling and use trapped air as the insulation for the noise from upstairs. 

You would achieve this by separating the frame or having a dropped ceiling installed. However, both of these methods will probably cost you a lot. 

You can install some sound-blocking sheets, which are made to be thick enough to block out any noise. Layer them up to achieve better results, and ensure you cover the entire ceiling, so that there are no sound leaks. 

  • Walls

The walls are other essential parts of your house that you should soundproof to protect yourself from the noisy neighbors. Houses that share walls transmit noise into each other. Apartments are notorious in this because contractors often make their walls to be thin to reduce costs. 

The most common way of soundproofing walls is by use of acoustic panels or foams. They are boards designed from sound-absorbing materials like fiberglass.

The panels mainly treat the sounds in a room, but they also reduce sound by increasing the air resistance between them.

Installing drywall to the existing wall also helps in reducing noise through the walls. The idea is to increase the wall's density as sound travel quickly through thin walls. To optimize the results, add two layers of drywall. Besides, installing them is simple. You only need some screws to attach them in place.

If you cannot afford the drywalls or acoustic panels, fret not. Use what you have to block the noise. 

For example, large canvas painting effectively reduces the amount of noise entering into a house. If you have a couple of them, hang them on your wall. The results are mesmerizing!

Another option you can use is a bookshelf. Position it on the wall you share with your neighbor, and the amount of noise entering your house will reduce significantly.

  • Door

Doors play a significant role in allowing sound in from your neighbors. Fashion and latest trends have made some doors come as hollow, with many gaps. The best way to avoid noise entering such a door is by replacing it. But this option is expensive. Fortunately, there are many options you can use to curb noise from doors.

Do not underestimate the smallest gaps in transmitting sound. No matter the size of the hole, noise passes through. It is, therefore, essential to seal all gaps with viable sealants. You may wonder why a sealant; because they're airtight neoprene or vinyl strips that effectively absorb sound.

For the hollow doors or those with spaces below, you can install a door draft stopper that prevents noise or air from leaving or entering the room. The draft stoppers also prevent insects, pollen, or dust from entering the room, making you enjoy quality air.

If the home isn't yours, go for the temporary options like sealing the edges of your doors with insulating foam.

  • Windows

Windows allow not only noises from your neighbors but also the nearby buildings. Blocking the entire window would be the best option to prevent the sound into your house, but it will also prevent the light from coming in. The cheapest and most ideal method to soundproof your window would be using a sealant or strip to seal the gaps or cracks.

If you have the money, you can invest in installing double-paned windows. Their glasses come with an extra layer, which helps them block out sound. But you need an expert to fix this option for you. If the paned windows are beyond your budget, you could consider adding an acrylic layer to your windows. It is cheaper and effective in blocking sound.

  • Floor

If you live above another house, noise from downstairs may rob your peace. The disturbing sound travels into your home through the floor. The first step to take to solve this problem is to carpet your floor. If the house is yours, consider carpeting the whole house. If in a rented house, be sure to get the landlord's approval.

You can also use a sound blocking sheet on your floor. To reduce the sound, you can ultimately use the sound blocking sheet on your floor as the first layer, then apply the carpeting on top. 

You can also add some rugs to your floor. The advantage of rugs is that you choose the design and color you like, thereby enhancing the room's look.

  • Use Noise-Reducing Curtains

When you soundproof your windows, floors, and walls, it is more than enough in curbing noise, but adding noise-reducing curtains will only go a step further in reducing the annoying noise. Soundproofing curtains will enable you to go a notch higher in reducing noise in your home at night.

The curtains come with a thick absorbing material that prevents sound from passing through into your room. They also come in different colors to complement your room's décor.

Conclusion

As illustrated above, soundproofing your house is an excellent way of preventing noisy neighbors from disturbing your peace. Soundproofing also comes with other benefits like improving your house's interior by giving it an aesthetic touch.

Blocking nuisance sounds from your neighbors requires you to soundproof various parts of your house effectively, as explained above. Your budget and preference determine the kind of soundproofing to apply to your home. Instead of using too much energy and gathering a lot of expenses, consider using affordable and effective soundproof methods.