Squeak squeak squeak squeak
December 27, 2011 3:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I either stop my bed from squeaking or stop being embarrassed about my downstairs neighbors potentially hearing it?

I grew up in houses and have recently rented my first duplex. Yay! I was on my own until around a month ago when the neighbors moved in. This is when I started being a lot more conscious about how squeaky my mattress is. It's just two mattresses on the floor, no headboards or anything. I'm deathly embarrassed that my neighbors can hear me having sex. My partner who spent almost her entire life living in apartments tells me this is normal and she heard her neighbors going at it all the time. Is this really just normal?

I'm a tad mortified and on occasion when we'll be having sex I'll notice how noisy the bed is and be unable to focus because I'll be too afraid of the neighbors hearing. It's like, when I see them around and we exchange "Hi's" all I can think of is "These people have heard me having sex!"

I don't know if they've actually heard anything as I haven't received any complaints. Buut, I can hear when they walk around, have arguments, play music, dog barking, etc so I'm assuming they can hear what goes on in the bedroom. Apartment-dwellers, how do you handle this? Is there a way to fix this and if not how can I stop letting it bother me so much that they hear me? Also, doing it at her place is definitely not an option. I'm assuming there's some common solution that I'm missing because I know plenty of people live in duplexes and I know they aren't all celibate. Please enlighten me!
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
(ms. Vegetable)
Normal. Totally normal. Have fun!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:20 PM on December 27, 2011

Totally normal. Stopping the squeaking is one thing, but you also want to stop the transfer of sound through the floor and/or walls. For that, you want carpets, carpet padding, rugs or thick towels in key places.

But I vividly recall a friend asking his neighbor, "How's your boyfriend, Mike? That's his name, right? Or is it 'MIKE!'"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:24 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

Can you hear your downstairs neighbors having sex? If not, why do you think that they can hear you?

Also, yes, I have heard neighbors having sex. I've also heard roommates having sex in the next room. Hell I've been at house parties where people just randomly decided to have sex in a room full of drunk people. I dated a girl whose roommates never knocked and randomly walked in on us more than once. After a while, you just learn to not give a fuck.

Most neighbors will have some tact and not mention it, unless you're being obnoxiously loud. They might have a private conversation about it, but unless you're really close friends they'll never bring it up to you. Usually because they are positive that you can hear them having sex, too.
posted by empath at 3:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem with apartments is that they are not apart enough.

This is totally normal. Years ago I had an SO who was anxious about this, and the solution was to put on some nature sounds at low volume to cover the random squeaking. Rainfall, a running brook, ocean waves, that kind of thing. I have no idea whether it was really possible to be heard, but it just made it a non-issue.
posted by ambrosia at 3:28 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have to teach yourself to not care what they hear. I'm pretty sure our neighbors hear us every time, and we had to learn to not think about it.

Afterwards we laugh about how the old ladies haven't heard sex that good in a long time.
posted by Sweetmag at 3:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can you hear your downstairs neighbors having sex? If not, why do you think that they can hear you?

In my last apartment in San Francisco, I used to think I was in the clear, because I couldn't hear my neighbors. Until they broke up and moved out, and a new couple moved in. Then I realized that the previous set of neighbors just weren't having sex. (Thus the eventual breakup. Duh.)

posted by ambrosia at 3:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know it's your first apartment and you may be a little self conscious, but people fuck all the time, it's really no big deal. I've never lived in an apartment where I didn't hear my neighbors having sex (and sometimes it was the roommates). So what if your neighbors can hear you? Having sex is what us humans do and there's no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed.

At my last apartment, my neighbor upstairs liked to play his video games or watch tv on a loud volume at all times during the night, so I would feel no shame and would even be SUPER LOUD on purpose during late night sexy times.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:33 PM on December 27, 2011

If you are too loud or obnoxious, they'll throw a shoe at the ceiling or bang on the wall. Otherwise...welcome to life in a multi-family dwelling. Related and funny, albeit potentially NSFW.
posted by mosk at 3:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

As long as you aren't hooting and hollering for hours on end through the night or at strange hours, it's really not a big deal.

A friend once had to deal with his roommate alternately having sex and consoling a crying girlfriend THE ENTIRE NIGHT right before finals. That is firmly in the DONT column.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:41 PM on December 27, 2011

I've found it's the side-by-side apartments that transfer more sound than above-and-below. If the fact that you're on the floor still concerns you, try putting a thick rug under the mattress -- that will deaden the sound. (Or just get a bedframe; that'll lift your mattress off the floor so the squeaking won't "carry".)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on December 27, 2011

if it's just the mattress that's squeaking, then other noise, like music or something, should mask it. if it's the headboard or something else, use an extra pillow or some packing foam.

another solution could be putting a large comforter on the floor, or something soft enough, and fucking on that.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:06 PM on December 27, 2011

Get a sex swing, that should cure the squeaky mattress problem. Make sure you have a decent hanging point though, don't want to pull the ceiling down. That would be noisy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's nothing to be embarrassed about... this is just part of apartment living. Yes, I hear my neighbors going at it. I also hear them fighting, skypeing, watching tv... and my neighbors are pretty decent about not making a ton of noise, but you can't control every little bit of it.

That said, you can try to be a good neighbor and limit your squeaking by trying to resolve it - there could be space between your mattresses, or space between your mattress and the floor that make that noise. Get a frame, or put some rugs down, or put on some music. Even if it doesn't kill the noise for you, it might make you feel more comfortable if you've been proactive regarding your neighbors.

But honestly, I wouldn't worry. Should it get too loud, someone will let you know - usually by knocking on the ceiling. No one really cares about your sex life unless it's keeping them up or something, and even then it's highly unlikely that anyone is going to be thinking about it when they see you in hallway, unless it's because you have truly been disruptive. The fact that you're even thinking about it - and no one has yet approached you about it - suggests that this isn't a problem.
posted by sm1tten at 4:55 PM on December 27, 2011

Unfortunately, it's part of apartment living. In such close quarters, you're bound to hear the neighbors doing all kinds of shit you wish you didn't - and vice versa. The social contract is that the noisy person keeps it within reason, and the overhearing person pretends it isn't happening.

This is also the very reason mood music exists.

So put a carpet under your mattress and have fun!
posted by Space Kitty at 5:40 PM on December 27, 2011

Ask your partner to scream during sex. Should cover the squeaky mattress sound right up.

(Totally normal, in any case.)
posted by ead at 5:46 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was living for a while in a flat with noisy (aggressively discussing, through the night) downstairs neigbors. Made me all tense and cranky (and tired...)
How I, in contrast, absolutely loved the cozy rhythmic squeaks from upstairs. You're giving the world some positive vibes. Can't be wrong.
posted by Namlit at 6:15 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I hear you on the extreme self-consciousness. (Self-conscious people make very conscientious neighbors - if only there were more of us in the world.)
posted by ataraxiac at 7:37 PM on December 27, 2011

I once had a neighbor below me who didn't think this was normal and gave me a hard time about it. I ended up switching to a different type of bed- a more firm mattress without a box spring on the floor, since in my case it was the evil box spring that made the noise. I actually find it more comfortable and have slept this way ever since.
posted by melissam at 7:57 PM on December 27, 2011

It's just two mattresses on the floor, no headboards or anything.

Mattresses generally aren't "squeaky", being just dense lumps.
Do you mean a box spring and a mattress?

If so, you can take the mattress off the box spring, wiggle about a bit to locate the squeak, then use some nails or heavy-duty staples (depending on the construction) to stop the rubbing (and thus, the noise).

If it actually is your mattress that's squeaky, you could try elevating the whole thing on an actual bed frame, it might insulate you enough from the floor to stop the vibrations from reaching your neighbors.

Finally, normal is relative. I've lived in 4 or 5 different apartment-like living spaces and have never once heard my neighbors going at it.
Whether this is because I had square neighbors or picked better constructed apartments, I don't know. Either way I'm thankful.
posted by madajb at 8:50 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a GREAT solution!

A while back I gave an answer about the most comfortable mattress, ever! My friend had this bed, and I got one just like it.

From a fancy store, you can get a proper Japanese wool/cotton futon with a high density foam (2.5inch) "mattress topper" that's covered in a fabric sleeve. Then you put a deep mattress sheet set over the whole thing and call it a day. This is a total Japanese thing, apparently. Both my friend's mattress and mine are in slat bed frames. I got my first bed frame off craigslist (ikea brand) for $50. My mattress is from a specialty store that makes these, and the high density foam part is inside the futon between two layers of wool/cotton. These are not the crappy futons you get at ikea or the like. Mine only cost $450, but I've seen them at "futon stores" for about $1200 - so it is worth it to find an actual manufacturer in your area. it will be difficult, but you can likely find this. Slat-type bed frame is optional, but mine gets lots of compliments! Both mine and my friend's has a very wide lip or "shelf" all the way around, so it can hold your cell phone, a book, glass of water - very functional!

My frame looks something like this, but I picked it up at Macy's warehouse for like $250. You get the idea.

posted by jbenben at 9:46 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Scroll down. Mine is like the one without the headboard lighting, which is just garish. Oops!)
posted by jbenben at 9:48 PM on December 27, 2011

I'm a tad mortified and on occasion when we'll be having sex I'll notice how noisy the bed is and be unable to focus because I'll be too afraid of the neighbors hearing.

Rule #1: People aren't thinking about you or even noticing you. Ever. There's no reason to be mortified.

Why do you think you're more worried about the noise you make having sex than you are about your neighbors thinking you overeat because you use a blender every morning? I guarantee none of them are thinking "Damn, is that Autumn making another smoothie? That's six this week!"

Nobody is thinking about you. Everyone's too busy worrying about their own lives. Unless you and your partner are having knock-down, drag-out screaming sex in which tables are flying off the balcony and you're seen carrying drywall patching supplies in on a regular basis, none of your neighbors have noticed.

Relax. It's your place. You're an adult. Go for it.
posted by phoebus at 9:52 PM on December 27, 2011

My grandmother once visited an apartment I was staying at where the upstairs neighbors went at it with impressive frequency both day and night. She and I were having a nice chat over dinner when once again we hear - SQUEAKA-SQUEAKA-SQUEAKA!" Utterly mortified, I try desperately to pretend it isn't happening, but my grandmother remarks, "I guess your neighbors must be moving furniture again, they sure do that a lot, don't they?" I agreed, relieved at how naive and innocent my sweet little old grandmother was, and only much, MUCH later realized she was actually trying to spare MY innocence with her remarks - I was so worried about protecting her sense of propriety that it hadn't even occurred to me that a woman who's had three kids isn't likely to be fazed by the sounds if other people having sex ... All of which is just to say that those people who really need to convince themselves you aren't having sex will find a way to do so; everyone else will just laugh and shrug and chalk it up to apartment living.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:53 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Put on R. Kelky's "12 Play". Make clear to the neighbors you're not having sex, you're fucking. Get a new box spring that's silent so they can hear it better.
posted by anildash at 10:31 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was about to come in and suggest putting blocks of styrofoam under each leg of your bed (helps a little with sound vibrations coming through the floor as well!), but - this is mattress on the floor?

Yeah, that's actually pretty quiet.

The deal with neighbours/roomates is, you make a considerate effort to be reasonably quiet, and they make a considerate effort to pretend they heard nothing.
posted by Elysum at 1:02 AM on December 28, 2011

A bit of perspective, to perhaps lessen your embarrassment. At least all you have to worry about are squeaky mattresses whilst having sex. Some people produce much worse noises, and some activities are much more alarming to neighbours than squeak squeak squeak. Whapping noises, cries of pain, alarming role play scenario dialogue, etc. And some of these people have housemates, let alone neighbours.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:08 AM on December 28, 2011

Seconding Grace of God: my last apartment was in a building constructed primarily of balsa wood, and one morning at about 5 am I overheard a detailed conversation between my next door neighbor and a prostitute. And the reason I know it was a prostitute was because what I heard them negotiating was the transaction in question, and the price.

I said absolutely nothing to him about it. Granted, I"m telling the internet now, but I said nothing to him at all for the remaining time I still lived there.

A squeaky bed would have been NOTHING. And the only reason I heard anything was becasue of how totally crappy the walls were. Floors and ceilings tend to be thicker, so you've got more blocking your sounds from carrying.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:25 AM on December 28, 2011

Apparently I'm a big ol' fuddy fuddy (who knew?) however I'd also prefer that my neighbours not hear obvious sex sounds coming from my place regardless of how "normal" or reciprocal those noises are.

Autumn posted "How do I either stop my bed from squeaking "

To that end and similar to jbenben I had a foam mattress on a platform bed. No noise unless the actual bed fram itaelf got to moving.
posted by Mitheral at 5:54 AM on December 28, 2011

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