How Do I Drown Out the Noise My Neighbor Creates?
September 28, 2008 1:07 PM   Subscribe

There is little to no insulation between the ceiling of my apartment, and the floor of the apartment above me. I am looking for a way to drown out the noise from my upstairs neighbor. Can anyone, for the sake of my sanity, recommend something that generates enough noise to drown her out?

During the summers the situation is bearable because my A/C would take care of this problem, for the most part. Being that the colder months are ahead, I don't want to freeze to death trying to achieve the above.

The problem is she walks around her apartment - a lot - and you can literally feel her walking around above you. So I am looking for a device / machine that generates a noise / reverberation to low frequency humming, or something to that effect. Any suggestions?
posted by helios410 to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Stereo? Television? Dishwasher? Washing Machine? Buy her a deep shag carpet?
posted by sophist at 1:17 PM on September 28, 2008

You could try a sound machine, though you might need one for each room. I got one when I lived in front of a noisy intersection and it worked pretty well.

The best solution might be to politely ask if she'd be willing to go shoeless in her apartment or put in a carpet.
posted by susanvance at 1:17 PM on September 28, 2008

Unfortunately I'm having to chalk this up as a problem you can't fix. Maybe if mid/high frequency noises were involved (like chatting, TV, etc) noise cancellation devices might help, but here we're talking about low frequency noises that conduct through the building's structure. There's nothing I can think of that will do a reasonable job at taking care of this, except for putting background music on all the time to mask it. Another idea is to meet your neighbor and try to socialize with her so you can have a more positive psychological association with her activities and feel that you have some control if it gets to be too much (and maybe implement the ideas above about not walking around in spurs and cowboy boots). If that's not workable either, I would be looking at talking to apartment management and changing units, or moving out of the complex altogether. Maybe you want to buy a house?
posted by crapmatic at 1:23 PM on September 28, 2008

You have my deepest sympathy. I used to live under energetic undergraduates. I had a tape (the brand was called "Solitudes") that played the roar of heavy ocean surf. It helped a lot. I also became quite fond of the string quartets of Bela Bartok- the footsteps would blend right in. Currently at work, my next-door neighbor listens to Rush Limbaugh, so I downloaded a shareware white noise generator that works pretty well for Rush's endless droning. I'm not sure it would work for footsteps.
posted by acrasis at 1:31 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is a tough one. I live in a pretty well-insulated apartment, and have had 3 different upstairs neighbors. The current one is a petite lady who is the LOUDEST WALKING PERSON ON THE PLANET! For whatever reason, she walks fast and hard everywhere she goes. How can you always be in such a rush in your own apartment?

Anyway, I kind of agree with crapmatic. It's the trade-off to living in an apartment. You will never be able to drown it out, all you can do is lessen the annoyance factor. Play music or television as background. Run a fan or noise machine. Or all of the above.

In my case, I almost always have music, movies, or television on anyway. I hardly notice the walking; I've just learned to accept it and focus on what I'm watching or listening to. Thankfully, it doesn't happen during my sleep times.

Good luck!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2008

I 2nd the idea of not being able to drown out the noise. Well, unless you ran a jackhammer in your living room, but you can see how that might have its own undesirable aspects. I've been in the below apartment, under some guys who liked to play DDR until late, and then a very fat woman who seemed to have a need to reconfigure the furniture at random times in the night (because 4:30am is the time to decide that the dresser looks better on the other wall). After a very productive night for her, I decided that if she thought I didn't need to sleep in the middle of the night, she didn't need to sleep in the mid-morning. I tapped the broom on the ceiling every few minutes. . .

An answer though. . .
Get them some big, thick rugs. How? Places that sell carpet will make large rugs for you out of remnants. You might be able to even get them to put some under padding under the rugs you get made. That will muffle the hammering from their walking and spread the hit over a larger area. You will pay some coin for those rugs up front, but maybe you can sell them to the management when you're through. Long shot!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2008

Some leases have a clause that if your downstairs neighbor complains, you'll be required to cover 75% of your floor with carpeting.

In our building it's understood that you don't wear hard shoes unless you are on your way in or out.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2008

oreck air purifier set on medium or high.
posted by nadawi at 1:56 PM on September 28, 2008

One of my former bosses had his office on the same floor as a university drum studio. In fact, his office shared it's largest wall with the large group practice room. When I first started working there, I was surprised one day to hear what sounded like a wide open faucet running. I had to bang on the door more than once before I was heard and let in.

Turns out his solution to the noise problem was turning his stereo on to a "radio station" of complete static and turn it up to a medium volume, and then wear earplugs while he worked. Often I would come to work and find him doing this. It drove me crazy because I didn't have earplugs, but he swore by his methods. (And to be honest, even without earplugs the drums were pretty faint with the white noise from the stereo.)

Usually I could convince him to turn it off pretty quickly after I arrived, but then we had the drums to deal with. What made it worse for me was that he refused to work with actual music playing - said it was too distracting. Go figure...

Since then he has relocated, but I have caught him using his old tricks at his new job as well, so maybe its more of a comfort than a solution to him.
posted by Kimothy at 2:14 PM on September 28, 2008

Late to the party here, but I have a very basic white noise machine made by these people, and it really does the job of masking traffic and other noise. I can't sleep without it now, and if I had a bigger place, I'd buy a second one. It's extremely sturdy, and I know people who've had the same ones for years. Got mine on Amazon. Maybe it'd help you, too.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 2:48 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If your AC helped in the summer, there are some equally noisy space heaters that could sustain you through the winter. I found mine indispensable when I lived with a dog whose feet clattered very loudly when she ran for the food dish at 6:30 AM.
posted by Beardman at 3:03 PM on September 28, 2008

Talk to the neighbor and offer to buy rugs & padding. And ask her if she'd mind keeping her shoes at the door.
posted by theora55 at 3:19 PM on September 28, 2008

How about getting her a soft pair of slippers and attach a nice note letting her know that her footsteps are a bit loud in your apartment.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:31 PM on September 28, 2008

Most buildings have a rule requiring people to have carpets on a certain percent of their floors because of this problem. Find out about yours-- but yeah, low frequency noises are a problem that is difficult to address other than by reducing the noise itself.

Also, you can close the A/C's vent and put it on fan and use in the winter without freezing yourself.
posted by Maias at 3:33 PM on September 28, 2008

I used to live below a bunch of Japanese uni students - there were about a dozen of them in this two-bedroom flat - and it seemed to me that every Friday night, about nine o'clock, they played a very special traditional Japanese game that involved dropping bowling balls and other solid weighted items from shoulder height, and then screaming in amusement about it. My solution to this involved turning my television up very loudly, putting on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, playing Baldur's Gate, and drinking. YMMV.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:19 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I spent twelve years living in an apartment where all the walls were made practically of particleboard and there was no insulation in the floors/ceilings; I could hear things like the upstairs neighbors practicing "Girl from Ipanema" on his jazz guitar to the guy next door negotiating rates with a prostitute. The people downstairs heard my CAT running around so much they actually for a while thought he was a monkey.

And yet, despite all that noise, every single person who lived in the building eventually just got used to it. Only when things got aggregiously loud (the banjo instructional CD that came on accidentally when one neighbor's cat jumped on the stereo at 4 am, or the girl on the second floor who played really weird French techno music and cranked the bass and played her cello along with it) did we even notice anything.

I'd wager that you may just become accustomed to things for the most part. It'll take time, but it's very likely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

seconding nadawi above. i live in a very similar situation. i run a hepa air filter on low every night for the ambient noise it makes, and usually have music playing during the day.
posted by bilgepump at 5:49 PM on September 28, 2008

Been there, suffered through 4 years and several noisy neighbors! During waking hours, I would just crank up the TV to drown the noise out. At night, the only thing that ever helped was running your average box fan on med-high or high. It generated almost as much white noise as the A/C and was usable year round. The only drawback? Now that I live in a very quiet house, I still can't sleep without a fan running!
posted by geeky at 7:16 PM on September 28, 2008

A solution that probably won't be ideal for you is putting up noise damping sheetrock on the ceiling. While it would greatly ablate the noise from above, your landlord would almost certainly not go for it. Also, it's quite expensive, and even if you did get the greenlight to do it, it's not a quick task to do the apartment. Although if you limited it to just the bedroom, cost and effort wouldn't be *crazy*... There's apparently a newer product on the market that you could use in between your existing sheetrock ceiling and another layer of sheetrock (regular, not superexpensive sound damping) called Green Glue, so that may cut your costs as well if you did get permission from your landlord to slap something up.
posted by barc0001 at 2:20 AM on September 29, 2008

i used to live below a couple that--i swear to god--sounded like they morphed into horses every night.

you want to know what i invested in? A BROOM. and i told them to shut the F*%$ up by banging quite loudly on the ceiling. They got the point eventually and bought some rugs.
posted by slograffiti at 2:03 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

and i told them to shut the F*%$ up by banging quite loudly on the ceiling.

Not always a wise choice. In some neighborhoods that's a great way to get your tires slashed. Happened to my mom not long ago, and she's one of the kindest, most timid old ladies you'll ever meet. Shitbird neighbors slashed two of her tires for asking them to quiet down. Police response: "meh."
posted by bilgepump at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2008

« Older Help me find and fix my wifi card problem.   |   have house, will travel Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.