How do we keep from crashing into the apartment below?
August 13, 2018 6:30 AM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are powerlifters, with a home gym set-up. We've just moved to a new flat, a third-floor walkup with hardwood floors. We'd taken steps to be considerate and reduce noise, but while doing block deadlifts for our first workout session here, we found an unexpected problem -- at a fairly low weight (75 kg), the floors started physically shaking like we were in a bouncy castle. Since we don't want to fall through into the flat below, we're talking through our options and were hoping to get some advice. More inside.

The options we've discussed are as follows:

1) Buy a deadlift platform. Would this work, or would our floors shake anyway, making it a waste of money? And they're incredibly expensive. Is it possible to buy one used in the UK?

2) Build a deadlift platform. Much cheaper if we can figure out how -- and there's plenty of advice on the internet about this -- but same question about whether or not it would work.

3) Head to a gym once a week and no longer do deadlift at home for as long as we're in this flat. This is cheaper in the short run (although it would end up costing as much as a new store-bought deadlift platform in maybe three years unless we can find a supercheap gym), but is obviously much less convenient. However, if a deadlift platform won't work, it might be the best option.

Any thoughts on which of these is our best bet? And is there anything we haven't thought of?
posted by kyrademon to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried lifting in different rooms? Perhaps where you have your setup now is just not very well supported below. Moving to the other side of the room or closer to a structural wall might help.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:39 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I honestly would consider Option 3, just because it's not a house you can make structural changes to yourself, and since you're above others, it may lead to some kind of unexpected occurrence you don't want to be on the hook for. Plus, if there's any sort of noise issue, my luck is always that the neighbors who are going to notice it will notice it a LOT and that's no fun.
posted by xingcat at 6:47 AM on August 13, 2018 [59 favorites]

Lordy, it really sounds like the floor can't handle the weight. I would 100% do Option 3.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:50 AM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

My leases have always included clauses about not having weightlifting or other "gym equipment" in the apartment, for just this reason. It's not safe or courteous to your neighbors. Time to head to the gym!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:06 AM on August 13, 2018 [11 favorites]

Is there...literally a possibility that your weights will fall through the floor, potentially killing your downstairs neighbors, definitely causing an enormous amount of expensive damage and probably rendering two flats uninhabitable for months? If there is, I really think you have to go to the gym.

The way you're describing this disturbs me - I would not want to be your downstairs neighbors.
posted by Frowner at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2018 [56 favorites]

For the safety and sanity of your neighbors, and to preserve any chance of getting your security deposit back, do not do any sort of powerlifting in a third-floor walk-up apartment.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:07 AM on August 13, 2018 [40 favorites]

Yeah this could actually kill people. Whether a platform would make it safe is a call only a structural engineer or similar professional can make. So probably head to the gym unless you want to hire professional assessment.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:08 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Do you have space in a backyard or garage?
posted by shalom at 7:15 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

You absolutely should use a gym and never do this at home again.
posted by shesbenevolent at 7:16 AM on August 13, 2018 [32 favorites]

As someone who was once the downstairs neighbor of a powerlifter in the single most miserable year of 20+ years of apartment living, I sincerely vote option #3, only lift at the gym.
posted by TwoStride at 7:19 AM on August 13, 2018 [33 favorites]

I think it's too much of a risk. You don't know the structural details of the apartment's construction (joist size and spacing, which walls are load-bearing, etc.) and thus can't estimate where and how this might be safest.

Racks for plates, depending on how much you're lifting, might hold 400 lbs or more of plates over a small footprint. Depending on where that's placed in a room and what else is in that room, you might be risking the safety of the floor. Floors are only designed to safely hold up a certain amount of weight per square foot and across the room and you don't know the safe limits of this particular structure.

If you've already felt it flexing/bouncing, that's not a good sign.

Not to even mention the sound issue, which probably will not go over well with your neighbors.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:23 AM on August 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

When we bought our house, the inspector (an actual good one) pointed out one section of the house that we'd likely need to tear down the ceiling to see what exactly happened and likely have to remediate. When walking in that section of the hallway, it felt a bit wobbly.

Upon actually opening the ceiling we found that the original owners had removed a load bearing wall, and while they had added two metal ibeams to support the area, 1) the main ibeam was only supported on each end by about 1/4"(!) and 2) joists attached to the smaller ibeam hadn't been cut properly and had a 1" cut resting on the top of the ibeam. That thin cut section of two of the joists had cracked which had cracked and was actually (currently) allowing 1/2" of movement of the floor that felt "just" a bit wobbly. Meanwhile that movement was of course going to be doing increasingly worse things to the cracked joists.

Fortunately this was all relatively easy to remedy. However the wobbly section with the cracked/stressed joists could have easily broken lettings a small section of hallway fall through. Worse the entire 2nd floor section could have collapsed if one side of the inadequete bracings compressed enough to allow movement.

Really bad things can happen - if it feels spongey or unsafe, it probably is. I'll also N'th that the apartment leases I've had have forbidden using weights and/or exercise equipment like treadmills. A structural engineer would (likely) need to access to the exposed ceiling beneath you. Which you're not going to get. So option 3) , the gym is really the only safe option.
posted by nobeagle at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also have lifting equipment set up in my apartment. I do about 95kg deadlifts (padded with rubber matting stacked about a foot high) and nothing remotely like this happens, if it did I def would not be doing them inside.
posted by griphus at 7:31 AM on August 13, 2018

Structural issues aside, even if the volume in your apartment seems reasonable, sound and vibrations travel. The thumping of your lifting will be heard and probably felt throughout the building. If this was my building, you would not want to be my upstairs neighbor because are you fucking kidding me?
posted by yeahlikethat at 7:33 AM on August 13, 2018 [26 favorites]

Yeah, structural issues aside, this is just not something you should be doing if people live below you.
posted by something something at 8:03 AM on August 13, 2018 [14 favorites]





Noooooooooooooooo..... ARRRRRRRGH .... flames.....

These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I imagine myself as your downstairs neighbor. I know you've tried to reduce noise, but it's extremely unlikely you could ever reduce it enough. This kind of noise travels - and it's also extremely, extremely annoying. You can't really tune it out.

Living in the same building with other people sometimes means adjustments to your life style in order to be considerate. Sometimes you have to give something up. I used to have some lovely large speakers and would listen to loud music; I no longer do, I invested in good headphones instead. It's not really the same, but what can you do.

Even before the safety issues came up, I'd ask you to please go to the gym. Add the safety issues, and you'd really have to be a top-rate selfish asshole to keep lifting in your apartment. I don't think you are, so, please don't?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:13 AM on August 13, 2018 [20 favorites]

If your floor is shaking side-to-side, rather than up and down, I would be very concerned about the stiffness of the walls. If so, I can't imagine what alterations you could make to the floor to address that. If the floor are going up and down, then the floor joists are not up to the job, or do not have adequate support downstairs. Again, unless you can create a new support span from the walls, I can't picture how to solve this problem. I am not a structural engineer. I just worry about structures doing unusual things.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:26 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is much like jerry-rigging a window AC. It miiiiiight be okay, but do you want to be the one that drops a hundred pounds of steel onto someone's head from a height? I sincerely hope not! Really, only an engineer who'd analyzed the place could tell you what was safe. Pay for the gym.
posted by praemunire at 8:31 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

If there's anywhere ground-level or outdoors where you could set up temporarily for lifting with your own equipment, that might be an option. Is there any sort of storage area on site? If there's no secure way to store your equipment between uses, it wouldn't be pleasant to carry it all up and down the stairs, but potentially better than paying for a gym membership.

If there's downstairs space that a neighbor has access to but you don't, it could be worth offering use of your equipment as trade for use of the space. If this option's feasible, make sure everyone's got an understanding of appropriate safety procedures (injury makes neighborly relations awkward at best.)
posted by asperity at 8:41 AM on August 13, 2018

The floor should not be shaking under this amount of weight. Something is wrong with that floor. Also, you didn't ask, but IMO it is super rude to do this in an apartment, especially with neighbors below.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 9:22 AM on August 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

You say hardwood, but you don't say what the underlying floor is.

Third floor, UK, it could well just be chipboard with an engineered hardwood on top. In which case, it may well flex with any weight, even just 75kg.

Our extension has this, though carpeted, and i reckon i could put my foot through it without too much effort. I wouldn't want to drop any real weight.
posted by macapes at 10:03 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

If your floors are "shaking like you are in a bouncy castle" when you do even moderate deadlifts, you are so far from being able to do this safely (nevermind considerately!) that there is nothing you can do short of major structural modifications to your building which will allow you to do this in your flat. I guarantee you that whatever steps you've taken to reduce noise for your downstairs neighbors are woefully inadequate, and it sounds as though you may actually start damaging their ceiling if you keep this up, as in chunks of plaster raining down from above. There is no way that you can repeatedly drop 75kg weights on your floors and not have your downstairs neighbors hate you, even if your floors were structurally adequate to withstand this kind of abuse, which they so very obviously are not.

Do your deadlifts elsewhere.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:20 AM on August 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

Do you drop the bar when you get to the top of the lift or otherwise let it drop with force? My husband and I lift in our NYC apartment, but don't let the bar drop/bounce at all; for deadlifts, we set the bar back down very gently. We use rubber plates and have 2 layers of rubber mat like this under both ends. Typically, there is no noise or vibration when we lower the bar in a deadlift, even though our floors are otherwise very uneven, loud, and wonky (for comparison: my deadlift is also around 75kg for 3x5; my husband's is quite a bit higher than that). We're usually lifting when the downstairs neighbor isn't home, but try to do it with as little noise as possible just in case. It means we're not lifting as heavy as we probably could, but there is the added benefit of strengthening all of the little stabilizer muscles by lowering the bar back down suuuuuuper slowly.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I also don't understand how the floor could shake unless you drop the bar. I mean, 75kg is just another person, presumably the floor doesn't shake if you bring guests over.

Buuut UK + "walk up" sounds like a converted house and if it's anything like the ones I've lived in, then there's no way I'd risk any shenanigans. You may find a local option, renting a garage or small space, since you have the equipment. My neighbour asked to rent my vacant garage to use as his gym.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2018

The cost of the gym would not out-weigh the potential expenses from destroying the floor and damaging your neighbor's property, let alone possibly injuring or killing someone below you. Go to the gym.
posted by acidnova at 1:02 PM on August 13, 2018

Yikes, I wouldn't want to live in a building that was that rickety. I think you have a bigger problem than your powerlifting being annoying to your downstairs neighbors.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:02 PM on August 13, 2018

As a renter and powerlifter, please do not ever deadlift in an apartment of any kind when there are people below you! (How is this even a question)
posted by Robocat at 3:46 PM on August 13, 2018 [13 favorites]

Oh my god.

I am your downstairs neighbor.

Seriously. I have a dude living in the apartment above mine who lifts weights and drops them on the fucking floor. He does this in the evenings, just after I get home from long and stressful days at work.

As you can probably deduce from my use of the word "fucking", it does not amuse me to say the least. I have spoken with him, asked him to go to the gym, he got mouthy and insulting. So I started calling the cops on him – I warned him that would be the next step, and it's wholly in line with noise ordinances here, so it wasn't out of nowhere. That got him to finally install foam on his floor so I "only" hear dull thuds, which, while better than shaking my fucking walls, when you're trying to evacuate the stress of a long day at work and have no fucking idea to expect them, are not amusing either.

As I told my upstairs neighbor: gyms are made for this purpose, and beyond sparing neighbors random booms they have no way of contextualizing when they happen (neighbors can only do so after the fact, and it will not be with a smile on their faces), there is a reason that the weightlifting equipment is practically always installed on a ground floor.
posted by fraula at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

...Is there a common area or storage area you have access to in the basement/ground_floor that you could walk your weights to when you want to powerlift and then walk them back up when you are done?
posted by Blasdelb at 10:46 AM on August 15, 2018

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