Help me cope with construction
March 16, 2023 9:56 PM   Subscribe

There is currently construction happening on both sides of my house. On one side, a new house is being built; which is making my wooden bedroom floor vibrate; which is making my bed vibrate; which is exacerbating my chronic pain. On the other side, a new train line is being built. I am struggling to cope.

The new house construction is also generating loud BEEP BEEP BEEPs of reversing equipment during the day, and the train line construction is generating loud BEEP BEEP BEEPs of reversing equipment during the night.

What I am currently doing:
I am playing white noise on my computer from;
I have ordered noise-cancelling headphones (Bose QuietComfort 45 Wireless NC);
Keeping all doors and windows closed;
Reminding myself that it won't last forever (although it has already been more than 3 months).

What won't work:

I've tried ear plugs, but they cause major skin irritation in my ear canal.
Staying in a hotel or at a friend's house is not an option.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We left our house a lot during renovations because of the noise. By law it had to stop by evening, but I did seriously consider a hotel also. For the nighttime noise, I find brown noise much more effective than white noise - Spotify has plenty of tracks.

Libraries, cafes, parks - any third space you can go to with your laptop or a book for several quiet hours will help build up your nerves to tolerate the noise.

If you have a polite relationship with your neighbours or the new house contractor person, you can ask them for the general timeline of their renovation to get an end date and also to know when the noisiest parts are scheduled so you can leave the house then.

I would also try folded blankets under the legs/corners of your bed to absorb the vibrations.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:12 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We left our house a lot during renovations because of the noise

In case I wasn't clear: I am medically high risk for COVID, so my Dr doesn't want me leaving the house for anything except essential medical appointments and essential dental appointments.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 10:16 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Not exacerbating your chronic pain should be your top priority. Move to the side of the house where the train line noise is and just try to mitigate that (with headphones, etc) as much as you can.
posted by mirepoix at 10:20 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

If you can find yourself the planning documents for the rail project (which will be public, but may take a bit of searching on the websites of the State planning dept or rail authority), there will certainly be a mitigation plan for noise as part of the planning approval. In NSW it's unheard of for night work in urban areas to involve vehicles with noise-producing reversing, and most construction management plans insist on low-noise alternatives, which kind of make a softer rattling buzz. I'm very surprised to hear they're doing night beeping.

Find out what their mitigation plan is, then call them up and make them abide by it.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:22 PM on March 16 [12 favorites]

This sounds terrible; I'm so sorry.

I can't wear most earplugs, either (irritation, discomfort, sensory issues) but I find Loop earplugs very comfortable (the Quiet ones). They're silicone, so they're pretty flexible and smoother against the ear, and they come with three tip-size options.

Agree with dorothyisunderwood that brown noise works better than white noise. I can turn brown noise up louder without feeling like I'm going to get a headache. If you're very sensitive to noise or have misophonia, you might also try the white noise site (also iPhone app) Noisli. You can create a custom blend of white/brown/pink noise overlaid with a tiny bit of other sorts of noises, like waves or rainfall. I find that the blend sounds more natural and is easier on the ears, and the "fuller" sound blocks out noise more completely.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 10:23 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

I saw on your profile that you might be in Perth; here are the city’s guidelines on noise pollution.

Notably, while at first glance it seems residential construction sites are allowed to make noise from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday (excluding public holidays), the city says they do in fact investigate complaints about “mechanical plant and construction noise” if it’s not “being carried out in accordance with AS 2436-2010 - Guide to Noise and Vibration control on Construction, Demolition and maintenance sites” (which I found here).

While they recommend in the first instance chatting to the site manager/supervisor — perhaps this is signed somewhere near the under-construction property? — I would ring the city and explain your inability to do this yourself at the moment and your access need for assistance here.

For the train line construction at night, the site above advises ringing New Metro Rail on 1800 110 075.
posted by mdonley at 10:27 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

Get some pieces of high density foam and put them under the legs of the bed, sofa, etc.

This won't help with noise but might help with the vibrations. You will need very dense foam to stand up to the weight of the bed. If you need a lower cost option try layers of cardboard first, maybe with some thick fabric in between cardboard layers.
posted by yohko at 10:31 PM on March 16 [10 favorites]

Definitely investigate the planning documents and local laws about construction noise like some of the folks above are pointing out. If you’re in a neighborhood with something like an HOA, a news site or journalist dedicated to hyper-local happenings, or even just a very active Facebook group, you may be able to recruit some neighbors to help you out and talk to general contractors and crews on your behalf. This is one of those times when bureaucracy might be on your side.

Other ideas, I’m just spitballing here, take it or leave it:

Make comfy beds in different parts of your house, so you can real quick move to one in the quieter less vibrating area when the construction noise shifts direction. If you have some friends who are willing to wear ppe and take a covid test before coming over, ask them to come help you rearrange some furniture. A mattress can make for a great couch in the style of a daybed, with stolen couch cushions for the back and arm rests, and then you shove them out of the way when you want to sleep there. Similarly, take advantage of your full living space. Are there areas that might be easier to put up some sound insulation, like a big closet or an oddly shaped alcove? Consider setting up a work area in places you might not have previously considered. There are some pretty good sound mitigation panels of the peel and stick variety these days, depending on your budget. On the topic of redecorating, heavy curtains can make a noticeable difference. If you just have simple blinds or sheers right now, you might be surprised how much soundproof curtains could do. At the very least, they might help make your white/brown/pink noise easier to focus on.

Mentally it might help you to make a physical calendar timeline. Call around to find the timeline of the train construction and ask neighbors about the house construction. Get a calendar and write expected dates of completion on there, and mark off each day you survive with a big X in thick marker. When enduring a siege, it can be really helpful to have a visual reminder of what you’ve handled so far, and how the time remaining continues to get less and less. If the big X doesn’t work for you, think of some other kind of thing that would feel similarly satisfying, like ripping off a page or checking off a list or adding to a pile of stones or whatever.

Also, talk to your doctor about what they may be able to prescribe for you in the realm of assistive devices. You may be able to get a different mattress, noise machines, sessions with an occupational therapist, or other things I haven’t thought of. Look to local disability rights groups for accommodation inspiration, as well. Since this is affecting your chronic pain and mental health, your doctor might revisit the risk rubric for doing things like relaxing outdoor activities while wearing a mask, so you can feel less worried about taking some time away from the surround sound construction experience of your home.
posted by Mizu at 10:53 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Nthing trying different colors of noise as they block out different types of things. I leave brown noise running most of the time to not hear traffic because white noise just didn't muffle it enough.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:11 PM on March 16

The train line construction almost certainly has an exemption from the Noise Regulations Act (also assuming Perth), which will make it harder to get any action for the night noises. The new house construction is definitely exempt from the Act between 7am and 7pm Mon-Sat, but they must comply with the guidelines mentioned by mdonley above. Some saving grace is that the home construction will probably last not too much longer (says the person living next to a home construction that has had its first birthday).

The best first thing to do is speak to whoever the site supervisor is - this will be listed somewhere on the street side of the construction, but sometimes these are 'accidentally' a little hard to find. Ring them first and find out if there's anything they can do. It's not likely, but any subsequent step will probably require you to have spoken to whoever is in charge on-site first. if you can't find their contact details, take photos of the street frontage in case you need to prove you can't contact anyone. Assuming you can, at the very least you will be able to get an approximate timeline for the work and, possible timelines for the noisy work. They may even be willing to try and do something about the incessant beeping.

If that doesn't resolve things, contact the city council with a noise complaint and, when they take forever to get back to you, call the customer service number on their Web site and make a nuisance of yourself. The sooner you get your complaint in place, the sooner they will get to it.

None of that helps the immediate issue, but others have given what seems like good advice there.
posted by dg at 11:41 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Oh I feel you so hard. This would be absolute hell for my chronic pain. First, noise canceling headphones will definitely help! I’m glad they’re on the way. Second, if you can afford a mattress that doesn’t transfer vibrations, make the investment. Tempurpedic and purple mattresses come to mind, but I think the cheaper versions will also work. Also for times when you need silence not noise canceling out noise, get some ear defenders.
posted by Bottlecap at 1:23 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]

The QC45 are a fantastic choice, the noise cancelling is very effective

If you have the budget for a second pair of headphones, and if you have an iPhone, consider the Apple AirPod Pro 2nd generation. They are small and sit in your ear, but they may not cause the same problems as earplugs because they do not protrude into your ear canal, and the silicon tips are very soft. The noise cancelling on them is great for such a small earphone. It's not as good as the QC45 but they could be useful as a 2nd option when you don't want to wear full-size headphones (for example if it's hot or when you're in bed). If you don't want or can't afford two pairs of headphones, the QC45 are the ones to go with.

I like yokho's suggestion of trying isolation foam under your bed, you can buy isolation foam normally used for machinery:
posted by riddley at 1:30 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]

I'm in similar circumstances and feel your pain. The only suggestions I can add to the above are to consider trying some different kinds of earplugs - most don't work for me (honeywells were extremely irritating, for example) but the one that does really helps; and to try music as an alternative to white noise, since it can help the brain (my brain, anyway) ignore sudden noises like beeping much better.
posted by trig at 2:17 AM on March 17

Another suggestion on the white noise alternative front - running water with birdsong. The water masks any rumbling that gets past the noise cancellation; the birdsong is calming and helps mask the beeping.

I'm so sorry you're having to cope with this. I hope the ordeal ends soon.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:54 AM on March 17

Not trying to borrow trouble, but do you know with what kind of frequency the trains will pass, once the project is complete? I’m wondering if it is worth exploring other living options, because I would also expect trains to shake a house, although obviously not all day. (This assumes the train is literally next door and not eg several houses away in that direction.) Good luck, this sounds really tough.
posted by eirias at 3:47 AM on March 17

Response by poster: Not trying to borrow trouble, but do you know with what kind of frequency the trains will pass, once the project is complete? I’m wondering if it is worth exploring other living options, because I would also expect trains to shake a house, although obviously not all day. (This assumes the train is literally next door and not eg several houses away in that direction.) Good luck, this sounds really tough

There is one house between me and the train line. I have lived in my current house, with the train running past every 15 minutes, since 2020 and the train hasn't caused shaking.

When I say that it is a new train line - they are sinking (partially undergrounding) and extending a train line that has been here since before 2011.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 4:15 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

I find foam earplugs irritate my ear canals as well.

Silicone putty ear plugs work far better for me. More comfortable and no skin irritation, even for overnight use. You knead them into a ball then cover your ear canal and smooth it out to form fit them to your ear. Reusable a few times.

mack's silicone putty earplugs is the main brand i see available, but occasionally i see generics that work the same way.

Ps. Noise cancelling headphones are great for constant sounds, but sudden changing sounds like the beep beep beep for reversing trucks goes right through them.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:25 AM on March 17

I've tried ear plugs, but they cause major skin irritation in my ear canal.

Try a little mineral oil in your ear before you put the ear plug in? It's helped me.
posted by humbug at 5:36 AM on March 17

I've worn in ear noise cancelling headphones at the same time as the over ear (the QC45 you've ordered). In ear are far more effective than over ear if you can find a way for the them to be comfortable. Id recommend QC20 for in ear.
posted by Lucy_32 at 6:16 AM on March 17

Would you consider housesitting? I've been housesitting/petsitting for other reasons, and usually do it no-contact (I talk to the homeowner on Zoom or the phone, and then arrive after they've left on their trip; they hide the key or use a lockbox or I go in the garage with a code). If you're stuck at home because of Covid, it could also be a nice change of scenery. I've found places to go via a site called Trusted Housesitters (I think I can give you a discount code) or by posting an offer of free petsitting on Nextdoor. If you don't like pets, occasionally people just need housesitters, though that's more rare. The length of time varies from days to months...I'm currently somewhere for six weeks.
posted by pinochiette at 6:17 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]

Pursuant to the concept of isolating your bed (above), you could also try mass-loaded vinyl. It’s used in industrial (and audiophile) applications to prevent certain frequencies of vibration transfer.

Another option in the same domain is sorbothane, which can be purchased on Amazon.
posted by aramaic at 6:27 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

If you can, pick the room to sound proof- one with the least doors and windows. Ensure that this space has a good seal to the outside source of the noise, and use calk or winterizing kits to get a good seal without spending $$.

For best results you want multiple layers of heavy curtains over the exterior windows that are ideally spaced a few cm from the walls that feature heavy pleating. This is what I have, and I got mine at Ikea. Adding a door sweeper to the bottom of any doors and weather stripping around the door frame where there is gaps will also make significant differences. Sealing all outlets is more involved but something I have done as well.

To further deaden sound you need to put up material over all the flat reflective spaces, including walls, ceiling, windows and doors. Heavy curtains work great, especially layered, but you don't need to get new kit for this. Blankets are ok and towels actually work great. You can use 3m mounting hooks and safety pins every 15cm to mount these fabrics directly. Moving blankets are popular for an inexpensive solution to covering lots of space, but don't build a fire trap. The more flat space you cover the less noise can bounce around the room.

There is a whole YouTube community around this topic - starting with Soundproof Guide who generally provides reasonable solutions that avoid fire hazards, complications, woo, and still price conscious. If price is not an issue then commercial acoustic panels are going to be ideal.

In terms of the vibrating bed a good friend's solution was to switch to a swing/hammock that largely eliminated that issue, at the benefit/expense of being a much cooler sleeping space. He required a rigid frame, and found a giant basket thing that he could fit a sleeping pad in.
posted by zenon at 7:55 AM on March 17

It might help to try to isolate the vibration problem somewhat before attempting any specific remedies. Could you try moving your bed to a different location in the room or another room? Could you try putting your mattress on the floor to see if the bed frame makes a difference? Could you try a different mattress? There are a lot of potential solutions (better location, carpet underneath, rubber feet under bed frame, different bedframe, different mattress (potentially foam)) and so on, but it's really hard to know which ones to invest in without some experimentation. Can you get the bed onto concrete somehow?

For the noise issue, do you have sealed-unit double-paned windows? They will make a big difference and you might only need to replace the ones in your bedroom. Similarly, insulation in the walls will help a lot. You might be able to get some blown in if there isn't any. These are obviously not inexpensive solutions, but they might be worthwhile for you as they will be a lot more effective than any half-measures you take indoors.
posted by ssg at 8:12 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

I am in California so this may not be relevant, but I worked for a local train line (BART) and when we did major construction, we had folks in Community Relations or who worked for the project who were assigned to address mitigation issues--maybe they'd pay for your headphones and to have other sound-dampening devices provided. You should be able to find a contact on the website (usually we had a subpage dedicated to each project).

I understand your COVID issues as I am still isolating/masking based on vulnerabilty. However, we did, on occasion pay for residents who were near the construction to stay in hotels for the duration of the project. If you could find one that would follow strict COVID protections, that might be an option, and again, I'm in the litigation-loving USA, so we justified the expense to avoid costly lawsuits.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:00 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

I also can't stand every type of earplug except the loop ones, (fiy they don't block all noise like foam earplugs do, but they reduce it enough for me). The loop brand is $$$ though, but i found an identical dupe on aliexpress.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 9:31 AM on March 17

Dollar store yoga mats are probably your cheapest option for close cell foam to put under your bed legs.

You might try keeping a diary of when the sound occurs. Sometimes it helps because recording the incidents shows you that they are only occurring sporadically, not all the time. Other times it helps because it will show you patterns and you can work with them. For example if every two or three days they start a phase of construction where there are six hours of off and on backing-up beeps, you will know when it starts that you have six hours to go, but by supper time it will be over, and then that you will probably get a full day with almost no backing up beeps. You might also discover that there will be a regular late afternoon session and change from going out in the morning to going out at the time when the beeping peaks instead.

When something is irritating you it tends to trigger anxiety, so being able to predict what, how much and when can help with that.

A diary will also be useful if you need to discuss this with someone - being able to give specific information about it as compared to just using words like "lots" and "always" will make it easier to be taken seriously.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:35 AM on March 17

When it is most noisy is a good time to do exercise. It both works off the stress chemicals but also doing lunges to the rhythm of the backing up construction vehicles is a lot better than trying to concentrate on reading or working with the sound intruding on your efforts to focus. Just about any rhythmic exercise will feel better than simply trying to ignore it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:38 AM on March 17

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