Noisefilter (possibly literally?)
May 1, 2008 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything we can do to keep our apartment a bit quieter?

My girlfriend and I just moved into a new apartment, which we like very much. However, there is one problem: noise. We're on the top floor, but we can hear quite a bit of what our neighbour directly below us is up to.

I don't think he is (often) being excessively loud. For instance, right now, he's talking on the phone below me at what seems to be a reasonable volume, but I can still hear him and even, occasionally, make out the odd word. When his computer makes noise (such as when he gets an instant message on MSN) I know about it too. Things are a bit more frustrating when he listens to music. While there have been a couple of times when he has turned up the volume, for the most part it is, I think, fairly reasonable; it just seems as though the floor between our apartment and his is very, very thin. (I am not sure how much of what we do he can hear.)

I'm not sure what we can do. The floor is well-padded carpet through most of the apartment, though it is an older building. Most of the time he isn't really doing anything wrong, and it isn't as though we can ask him to not talk on the phone or ever listen to music.

Any tips on dealing with this? We're both grad students who do work at home, and would love things to be a bit better than "just tolerable." We're in Southern Ontario, if it matters. Thanks.
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by eatdonuts at 7:16 PM on May 1, 2008

Can you try white noise like fans etc? I don't hear my downstairs neighbor, but I do hear music etc... from the guy next door, and having a fan running at a medium speed really helps. I work from home a lot, too - and sometimes I just have to try to ignore the noise, or put on headphones.

Also...if the floors are really that thin, bear in mind that anything you're doing will probably be magnified x1000 to his ears - so you can do a lot for friendly neighbor relations by taking off your shoes when you enter the apartment, picking up chairs to move them instead of sliding them across the floor, keeping your stereo speakers at a medium height instead of sitting on the floor, etc...

Just have a talk with him...ask him how much he can hear, and mention what you're doing to cut down on that noise - and then you can bring up what you hear of his activities. He might be willing to turn the volume down on his computer speakers, etc...
posted by Liosliath at 7:26 PM on May 1, 2008

Are your windows open? I noticed that I heard a lot more of the ambient sounds from other people in my building that were actually coming out their windows and in mine, rather than through the floor.

I've also found it helpful to talk to the person as Liosliath suggested. You might try to agree on some general "quiet hours," or a convenient, polite way to let the other person know if the noise is bothersome (maybe via instant message?).
posted by supramarginal at 7:35 PM on May 1, 2008

I'm also a student living in a noisy apartment, and when I need quiet to do work I wear earplugs (and, if necessary, acoustic earmuffs on top of them). Very effective. My preferred brand of earplug is Moldex Pura Fit, which are available from Amazon in huge packages and are very soft, comfortable to wear over extended durations.
posted by Cucurbit at 7:36 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Look for heating vents, too. We can hear our downstairs neighbors distinctly through ours; when that happens, I just throw a pillow over the vent (so long as the heat is off, of course!)
posted by wyzewoman at 8:12 PM on May 1, 2008

Wall hangings?
posted by mattoxic at 9:33 PM on May 1, 2008

Nthing wall hangings, which would double (triple, quadruple) the carpet effect, and white noise can be a godsend.

Also perhaps look around to see if the sound is actually coming from one distinct place that you can block. A lot of older buildings have air ducts that "helpfully" connect each apartment to every other. I once lived in a place from which I could hear every word of every conversation from one single room... four floors away. Ducts.
posted by rokusan at 5:13 AM on May 2, 2008

I lived in an apartment like that for 4 years, except I was the one on the bottom floor and I could hear everything my upstairs neighbor did. I found that wall hanging did not do much good for that type of noise (though they may help with outside noise, like traffic). The best thing I tried was a big box fan to make white noise and drown out the sounds above. It was invaluable when trying to sleep. Other than that, if your neighbor gets too loud you can always politely ask them to keep it down, and mention that the walls are really thin.
posted by geeky at 7:45 AM on May 2, 2008

I used to hear my downstairs neighbor through the radiator--the little holes that the pipes went through were just enough to transmit sound, I suppose. Have a look around for little gaps in the floor--each one may be tiny, but the accumulated effect of blocking them might help.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2008

Investigate the option of lifting a few floorboards and spreading a layer of sand on top of your neighbours ceiling.
posted by Dr.Pill at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2008

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