How to Deal With Noisy Neighbors

Having noisy neighbors is the worst thing that can happen to any person. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but still, it’s a big problem. They will ruin your sleep, your peaceful time reading the latest great American novel, wake up your baby and make you angrier than you deserve to be.

Since this is a problem that a huge part of the population has dealt with at some point in their lives (and continues to do!), there are also many effective solutions. They involve confronting the neighbors about the problem as well as blocking or reducing the sound with soundproofing materials and devices. Now, allow me to explain the best options and how to utilize them successfully:

Human Interaction Solutions

1. Confront your loud neighbors (in a smart way!)

When I say confront, I don’t mean that you should break their door in with an axe. Simply knock on the door and ask them politely to lower the volume on whichever activity they’re doing.

Most neighbors will be (or at least act) surprised and apologize because they “had no idea” that someone could even hear them. Sometimes the sound insulation in the wall between two apartments is poor and even moderate noise can seem excessive. So before you go in there and point a finger of blame, have some idea of whether that’s the case as well, because they could be hearing you also.

If that’s not the case and you’re quite sure that they’re simply too loud, identify the source of the sound. This way they won’t be able to pretend that you’re over-exaggerating. If they’re blasting Bruce Springsteen (or something much worse) let them know. If they’re having loud mating rituals in the bedroom, maybe that should be addressed also. If it’s their puddle, say it. They are the ones causing the trouble, but maybe, just maybe they don’t know the exact sound(s) that are heard by their neighbors.

By pin-pointing the source of the noise, they can address the problem more effectively. So it’s a win-win. In comparison, simply asking your neighbors who are always loud to “tone-it-down” often doesn’t work, because they’re probably loud by nature.

2. Complain to the authorities

I suggest using this tactic only after you tried confronting your neighbors and they don’t do anything about it. Depending on your situation, you can complain to a landlord, management company, home owners’ association or, in situations where you don’t deal with any of the above, the police. If it’s relatively minor noise, police won’t do much about it. It’s simply a nuisance, and you’ll be the one considered a nuisance by the authorities for wasting their time.

So use this strategy only sparingly, i.e. when teenagers or college students are having an unbearably loud party. This is when a knock on the door from police officers tends to have a tranquilizing effect on the situation.

3. Create a signed petition/complaint with other neighbors

Chances are that you’re not the only victim of your loud neighbors. What about other people that live next to them? Surely they’re not all deaf! If the problem persists, do this – creating a signed petition about the loud neighbors will do two things:

  • it will shame the loud neighbors and hopefully get them to be quieter in the future
  • you won’t be seen as that one nagging neighbor when and if you decide to call one of the authority figures

So once the other neighbors have signed the petition, approach the loud neighbors and show them the paper. Now they won’t be able to act surprised or ignore the problem as easily. If your neighbors have a history of violence or other potentially dangerous behavior, contact the authorities directly without presenting them with the compliant.

Soundproofing/Noise-Blocking Solutions

The following tips are great if you hate confronting your neighbors and if the problem can’t get solved that way. There are a few simple do-it-yourself soundproofing projects that can really help you lower the noise. These are the best options on that front:

4. Create a sound-blocking barrier

Soundproofing the wall(s) separating you from the loud neighbors will significantly reduce the noise or block it completely. The effectiveness of this method however also depends on the soundproofing materials that are installed on the wall or inside the wall.

Many people prefer adding thickness to the wall with soundproofing panels rather than breaking the wall and placing materials inside. You have to be careful when using this preferred option, because cheap acoustics foam panels will not do the trick. They are used almost exclusively for improving the sound quality in a room (for example a recording studio). Instead, use thicker panels that are designed specifically for blocking noise. They usually have fiberglass as the main component.

The most effective wall soundproofing method is installing mass loaded vinyl on the studs and/or stuffing rockwool batts between them to cover all that empty space through which sound can otherwise pass. Mass loaded vinyl (MLV) is great in particular because it works great against impact noise (vibrations).

However, installing both materials involves reaching the studs, so if the wall is already finished most people are  reluctant to do this. Having said that, MLV can be installed directly on the wall surface, but then it loses some of its quality and it doesn’t look very good. But if you don’t care about appearance or you can hide it behind some furniture it is definitely an option worth considering.

Another option is to install additional drywall, especially soundproof drywall. This is not exactly a DIY project and it can be costly, but it’s also effective. Overall, if the sound is not extremely loud, soundproofing panels will noticeably improve your situation and they’re easy to install. Simply attach to the wall with some hanging strips.

To block noise from upstairs neighbors: These same materials and methods can be used for soundproofing a ceiling. The only difference is that it’s a bit harder to install the materials as it inevitably involves a greater struggle against gravity.

5. Use noise-cancelling headphones

If the noise bothers you while you’re working on the computer for example, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones. These will block any noise coming from the environment so that you can fully focus on your work. I recommend this even if you’re bothered by traffic noise or your housemates. Here’s my list of best noise-cancelling headphones under $50 so feel free to check them out.

Some good alternatives to noise-cancelling headphones include ear muffs and ear plugs, especially for getting a good nights rest. However, I would not consider these to be long-term options. You should still deal with this problem on a systematic level by confronting your neighbors and/or creating a sound barrier. But having some of these devices at hand is great in case of any surprises.

6. Block outside noise

If the loud noise comes from outside, consider also soundproofing your door and windows. Soundproofing panels can be attached to doors as well. Also, sealing off any gaps on the door frame and under the door will prevent the currently uninterrupted passing of sound.

Learn more: Best Door Soundproofing Tips

Reducing noise that comes through windows is pretty simple with noise-reducing curtains. These curtains also provide thermal insulation so they’re great for keeping a room cool during summer and warm during winter months.

Learn more: Best Window Soundproofing Tips

If the noise comes from the neighbors yard, I highly recommend reading my article How to block noise from neighbors yard where I explain all the best tips.

7. If the noise is coming from downstairs

If the noise is coming from downstairs, the only sound-blocking solution is to soundproof the floor. Again, how far you should take this depends on the loudness and the type of sound. There are two types of sound: airborne and impact. Airborne sound is the one carried by air. Impact sound is the sound of  vibrations.

Now, if vibrations (impact) are a problem, you will need to buffer the floor with wooden panels, soundproofing glue and other more professional methods like mass loaded vinyl.

If the problem is only airborne sound, adding any thick material on top of the floor will also reduce the noise. For example thick and dense rugs can work pretty well. I  recommend reading my article How to soundproof floors in an apartment to see the best options.

Final Word: How to Deal With Loud Neighbors

Loud neighbors are the worst, but they can’t be dealt with by confronting them or the correct authorities about the problem and/or by implementing the correct soundproofing methods in your home. So I hope this information helps you and you’ll get this problem under control sooner rather than later.

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