Friday, 27 June 2008

How to Deal With Loud Neighbours

By Adam Rosen
Anyone who has ever rented property has probably had to deal with neighbors on some level and the most common complaint amongst residents is dealing with noisy neighbors. We can all relate to having the family of four upstairs whose children seem to run marathons right above you, the drummer down below that only practices after 10 PM, or the habitual snorer who you share a bedroom wall with. Whatever the case, there are a lot of different ways to handle the situation.

Try the Kindness Approach

This is something that my mom always told me, and most times it works. A calm and friendly approach is the way to go especially if you just moved in. If you haven't addressed the noise, your neighbor probably doesn't even realize that there is an issue. Talking to them with out getting upset or having a bad attitude can take you a long way.

If your neighbor agrees to work on keeping the noise down, some positive reinforcement might help to keep them consistent with their efforts. Bake them some cookies at the end of the week if you have noticed a decrease in the noise level.

The Feng Sui Fix

If your neighbor shows no signs of letting up with the racket, or that he/she even cares that you are being affected by it, making some simple additions to your d├ęcor can help to alleviate your stress. If the downstairs neighbor is a part-time DJ and the constant bass is driving you crazy, you might want to consider laying down a rug or installing carpet if your floors are bare. Since sound waves bounce off flat surfaces, bare floors can cause the sound to resonate around your space. Spaces between the threads in the carpet reduce noise by absorbing sound waves so that they don't bounce back.

The shaggier the carpet the better it will work at reducing noise.

In the same way that carpet traps sound waves, fabric hung from the walls or the ceiling can drown out the noisy upstairs or next-door neighbors. Decorative tapestries can allow you to express yourself as well as drown out overly active neighbors. This can be a quick and inexpensive fix. Check out your local thrift stores for tapestries and colorful fabric. Curtains will also help if outside noise is a factor to your disturbance.

If the neighbors on either side are being loud and you aren't exactly excited about hanging tapestries, there is still hope. Your couch can actually absorb some of those sound waves if it is pulled away from the wall a couple of inches. Bookshelves or other storage furniture may be moved against the "problem wall" to reduce the noise. Lining the back of these items in cardboard will further help cut down on the sound.

Confront your Landlord

If you neighbor chooses to ignore your kind pleas for a quieter environment, it may be time to speak to your landlord. In your neighbor's eyes the landlord might be a little higher on the totem pole; thus he or she might be able to drive the point home. Moreover, your landlord is a neutral party and is looking out for the best interest of all tenants. You may choose to get him or her involved instead of potentially making enemies with your neighbor.

If you happen to have a landlord who doesn't seem to care much about your dilemma, informing him or her that you intend to withhold rent until the matter is resolved is another option. Just make sure you are prepared for the ramifications of these actions (i.e. being taken to house court, possibly losing the case, and still being stuck with loud neighbors).

Consider Soundproofing

If it becomes apparent that your complaints are falling on deaf ears, and the fabric tactics aren't enough to kill the noise, you may want to consider taking more extreme measures to soundproof your environment. While egg cartons may not be aesthetically pleasing, they are an economical way to approach soundproofing. Likewise, just like carpet catches sound in the space between carpet threads, the grooves of egg cartons absorb sound waves and prevent them from traveling into your sanctuary. Soundproofing foam also works this way. Finally, you can also try soundproofing drywall, a special type of drywall designed to block sound, which can be added to you existing walls, ceilings, and floors.

Noise is a part of life. While at times it can be bothersome, sealing ourselves in a panic room to get some relaxation is impractical. The best we can do is research ways to achieve a peaceful abode while maintaining a friendly relationship with our neighbors.

Adam Rosen is a freelance writer and musician living in Los Angeles who recently soundproofed his own home studio. For more information on soundproofing materials, visit