Any street noise reduction tips for a new apartment?
December 29, 2006 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I've lived in L.A. for several years. I've just signed a year lease on a place I like very much, except there's an increase in street noise both sporadic and repetitive that's got me worried. All of my windows face the street and all but one have wooden frames with old-timey latches that don't do a great job of blocking out noise. Does noise-reduction moulding work? Heavy curtains? Any tips for dealing with street noise/apartment building noise in general?

And yes, I realize my mefi name is hilariously appropriate for this post.
posted by ambulance blues to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I had the same sort of experience when I was going to school at UGA in Athens, GA. I loved where I lived but all the bars and rebel rousers were outside my window just about every night. Ironicallly, in about a week, I got use to it. In fact, when I came home from school, I found myself missing the noise. You might give it a shot before you spend any money solving a problem that you don't have too.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:34 PM on December 29, 2006

I sorta get used to the street noise during the day, but at night, I generally need earplugs to fall asleep. If your building is anything like mine (also in LA), covering the windows with stuff won't do much when the walls are thin. Your options are to cover it up with your own noise, use earplugs, or get acclimated. I do a mix of those, depending on what I need.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2006

The world is getting noisier. Lots of people hate it. Subwoofers, air traffic, etc. Join an antinoise activist group and do something about the problem in general. Here's a good one: Noise Off and when I say join, I mean take action, not donate. I am not a donation-hunter for this group. Also, that link will have many tips for noise related problems.
posted by Listener at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2006

Yeah, L.A. is land of the thin walls/shitty window blues. I use a white noise machine plus earplugs (when necessary), which usually is enough to cut the street noise. (The bellowing asshole who lives next door who thinks that the world is his frat house, however, is another story.)
posted by scody at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2006

Curtains of any kind will definitely help, but the thicker black-out kind will probably help more. Of course, you also lose the light of the rising sun helping wake you up if you go for extreme measures, but you can always leave a little light coming through if it bothers you. There are also thick foam panels that you can buy and cut to the dimension of the window that just rest in the frame that will block a lot of noise, but again you lose daylight coming in. I think most options in this category will result in much less sunlight, so that can potentially be a real problem if you rely on light to help keep your cycle.

There's a lot to be said for eventually just becoming used to the noise though. If you just moved in don't fret, because anything new will seem noisy at first. White-noise generators and earplugs are also good to consider.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2006

The only real solution is to move. Or get used to it. Trust me though. You'll get used to it.

A couple personal observations -

1) A few years ago my wife and I lived in a very loud place in San Diego. When we finally moved (for other reasons) we had trouble sleeping for weeks due to the quiet. Noise you can get used to quickly. Quiet is creepy.

2) Back in the day I lived in a shack down by the river. Really. It abutted (sp?) a rail yard. When they coupled the trains the building would shake. Enough that every dish in the house would rattle. I got used to it. I find that rather weird, since guest would jump out of their seats in terror.

Give it a few weeks.
posted by Tiddles at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2006

I'm a VERY light sleeper so just about any little bump or noise will both wake me up and annoy the piss out of me. I did the ear plugs thing for a while but they tend to hurt my ears. Eventually I invested in a Marpac white noise conditioner and I've been reasonably happy since then. I bought the two speed model (highly recommend) from a dealer on eBay for less than what I saw on Amazon. Shop around.

You can also use a cheap department store fan (the cheaper the better) to drown out noise, but then you've got a fan to deal with...
posted by wfrgms at 10:25 PM on December 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have to second wfrgms - I have a Marpac white noise machine and it has made a world of difference. I use it in the winter when it's too cool to have the fan or air conditioner on, which also make good white noise.
posted by tastybrains at 10:40 PM on December 29, 2006


I've got long, extensive experience with asshole neighbors, so when Putzy McYellsALot is redlining the engine of his poor little Suzuki Rollover in a senseless attempt at "warming it up" in the mornings, I stuff 30dB of silence into my ears, quietly curse him, and go back to sleep. (Really. Warming up your engine when the low was 55 degrees.)

Also, before you plunk down a fair chunk on a white noise machine, check out the white noise software available for your platform of choice. I haven't used Windows for a while, but check out Noise for OS X or whitenoise for Linux. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can check out Boodler, a cross(ish) platform noise generator with entirely too many options. Playing these on your speakers might not net you any friends, but on a decent set of sealed headphones they'll mask most any sound.

Push comes to shove, combine both earplugs and white noise generator.

Good luck, ambulance blues, and get some sleep.
posted by Coda at 12:40 AM on December 30, 2006

My experience has led me to rely on earplugs. The white noise generators just make more noise.

Set your cellphone to vibrate for a reliable alarm clock that bypasses the earplug issue.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 3:22 AM on December 30, 2006

Get used to it. Really. This is the best solution. By using prosthetics to avoid things that annoy you, all you do is become dependant on those prosthetics. Its like people who get addicted to their crutches and never learn to walk properly.
So it will take a few months to get used to the noise yes, but then, you will have hardly notice problems after you have adapted.
posted by Osmanthus at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2006

Spent a couple of years once in a trailer just barely across the street from a 6 track main rail line, with the crossing about a half a block down. The first couple of nights, I woke up every time a train went through. I think I started sleeping through it the third night. YMMV, and I was half this age then, but it does seem likely you can acclimate to it. Eventually. I'm with those who say you'll be better off if you can.
If you need some help at first, try white sound or a fan, or some new age music for a while. I'd try to lower the volume of whatever as you go, to allow the sounds to creep in. I think you can learn it.
I'm guessing in that climate, you are likely to not have much insulation in the walls, so doing anything to the windows isn't likely to help, and it may dork with your circadian rhythm.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2006

Like many here, I'm advising you come up with some other noise to drown out the undesirable noise. I say buy a large box fan. Much cheaper than a white noise machine (which in my experience, are never quite robust enough to drown out serious noise). As you live in L.A., I imagine cold temperatures wouldn't be much of a problem, but if it does get cold there, it's not like there's a law saying the fan has to be pointing at you. You could always turn it around to face the wall. I started using a box fan when I lived in a very noisy dorm in college, and now I can't sleep unless I have the fan on.
posted by katyggls at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2006

Agree with the white noise generator suggestions. I have an air filter with multiple speeds that we got because of my wife's allergies, but after 2-3 nights of getting used to it, I love the white noise affect. We call our bedroom with the filter on, the sound-proof chamber. And you get cleaner air too!
posted by krudiger at 1:33 PM on January 4, 2007

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