Experiences with apartment soundproofing?
January 15, 2020 3:53 PM   Subscribe

There seems to be lots of advice on apartment soundproofing available online but most of it looks like advertising or doesn't seem pertinent to my needs. I'm hoping some people here can share first hand experience with proven, economical, non-destructive methods.

I was thinking of something like a cork underlay with wood laminate over it. Has anyone tried anything like this and found the results to be worth the effort/expense? My other thought was a layer of Dri-Core hard foam/plywood panels.

An important consideration is that the finished floor has to be sweepable, so carpet isn’t an option. I need to avoid drilling, nailing or gluing anything to the existing floor. I also want to avoid any vinyl products.

The apartment building is from the early 60s and is pretty solid (oak parquet over concrete) but the noise still seems to travel. My next door neighbours are hard of hearing and tend to shout a lot at all hours, so I moved my home workshop into the bedroom sharing that wall. Unfortunately, I'm now getting pounding from the unit below whenever I try to use a handsaw. It never seemed to bother them while I was doing it in my living room. If I could cut the sound by about 50%, I think it would be enough.

Moving isn’t an option due to an inflated rental market and the comparable units in my building are substantially higher in rent.
posted by bonobothegreat to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's a significant chance things like sawing noises are being conducted through the table legs and floor rather than through the air, so most sound dampening products won't be all that helpful. One option is to find a way to float the table so that it's weakly attached to the floor. Sticking foam blocks, pool toys, or something else bouncy under the table legs is worth a try. Suspending the table from ropes or chains, perhaps with a few bungee cords anchoring it to a weight on the ground or something on the wall so it doesn't swing, would be even better.
posted by eotvos at 4:55 PM on January 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've just been researching anti-vibration pads for the type of problem eotvas is describing, they seem to be widely available... perhaps also search vibration isolation pads and/or carpet pads(?)
posted by Coaticass at 5:25 PM on January 15, 2020

I moved my home workshop into the bedroom sharing that wall. Unfortunately, I'm now getting pounding from the unit below whenever I try to use a handsaw.

If you're working in what used to be a bedroom then you're most likely directly above what still is a bedroom, and if your workbench is sitting directly on a hard floor than it's absolutely going to conduct every little noise generated by anything you're working on straight down the legs and turn the ceiling below into a very effective loudspeaker.

Concrete floors do a pretty good job of containing sound that arrives at the floor through the air because they're massive and it takes a fair bit of air vibration to shift them, but the flip side of that is that they're very very good at radiating sounds that are directly coupled to them or, like shod footsteps, generated within them. So if you isolate your workbench legs from your workroom floor with resilient pads, I would expect that to do more to keep your sawing sounds out of the apartment below than any other countermeasure you could possibly install.

You can improvise resilient table leg pads from many kinds of material. Four or five little tiles cut from an old carpet and stacked on top of each other should work quite well. You can get some idea of how much difference they're going to make by lying on the floor in the workroom with an ear pressed to the floor while rapping on the workbench with a tool handle.

Introducing yourself to your downstairs neighbour, apologizing for the noise, and demonstrating a desire to work with them on ways to mitigate it will also go a long way toward not needing to achieve a 100% Cone of Silence.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the replies - I agree that it's a vibration issue, rather than just sound. I’ve had pieces of a anti-fatigue mat under the bench legs but I guess it needs more. I've been planning to raise the bench height, so I suppose it would make sense to incorporate a more substantial isolation pad into that.

I'll get in touch with the neighbours but wanted to make some kind of noise mediation effort first. A couple years back, I left notes with all my neighbours asking them to contact my cell if there was ever an issue but it's likely the downstairs unit has changed hands.

Just for the record - yeah, it's a bedroom below but it's not constant sawing and I wrap up activity by 8pm.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:57 PM on January 15, 2020

Is moving your home sawing workshop back into the room nobody was complaining about an option?
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:08 PM on January 15, 2020

Not really an option. I moved my bed into the main room when it was clear that the ongoing noise from next door wasn’t fixable and found that tiny amounts of dust would settle on my bedsheets and get thrown into the air every time I moved them. Dust isn't an issue when the surfaces are hard and can be swept or wiped down (I also have a hepa room filter but would still like to keep the bed away from the tools) A rented workspace isn’t an option right now either.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:35 PM on January 15, 2020

the ongoing noise from next door wasn’t fixable

This is what I was getting at - what makes you think their noise is unfixable but yours isn’t?

If I worked from home quietly enough that you only heard me when I pounded on the ceiling to get your attention, or was homebound for some reason (which it sounds like your downstairs neighbor is one of these or something like it), and you were making furniture in the bedroom above mine all day (or whatever is you’re doing that requires sawing and fills the air with dust), there’s really no measure you could take to mask that fact, and I would frankly hate you for it.
posted by STFUDonnie at 12:23 AM on January 16, 2020

I'm going to step back now but would like to make clear that I'm talking about activity between 5:30-8pm, a couple evenings a week and the odd Saturday afternoon. I'm trying to make this work without annoying people or being paranoid about it myself.

I'm hoping to hear about people's firsthand experiences with DIY apartment soundproofing. Thanks.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:30 AM on January 16, 2020

In addition to an anti-vibration mat under the bench, I'd suggest getting a mat for you to stand on while working as well. Vibrations could be transferring through the floor through you as well as directly through the bench legs.

A cheap, easy-to-assemble option for flooring would be foam puzzle mats. You can get them at many hardware and big box stores, aimed both at people doing home repair (the gray ones) and little kids (the colorful ones). These are probably the ones I've got (from Costco).

As a downstairs neighbor who has both endured and committed construction noises, the most important thing is knowing the likely duration and schedule. "This sucks, but they'll stop well before bedtime" is obviously preferable to "WILL IT NEVER END?" and the difference between the two is information.
posted by asperity at 10:11 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

After a month of being at home and doing a fair bit of woodworking without further complaints from the downstairs neighbour, I figured I could mark this resolved.

I moved the workbench back to the livingroom, where it's adjacent to a concrete wall, which makes the floor less prone to vibration. I laid down a couple very dense 1/4” recycled rubber mats that I ordered from CostCo. They're a solid rubber, rather than a foam and create a 5x8 work area, so tools or boards don't clatter loudly when dropped. I also put the bench legs onto rubber and foam isolation pads that are sold for under washing machines. To mitigate the dust in my living space I purchased a room air filter and made a window panel to port my shop vac outside.

I also purchased a Makita cordless circular saw, so I if I need to make a bunch of long rip cuts, it's a job I can do relatively quickly outdoors.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:39 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

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