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Q: I’ve got a bit of a noise issue that I was hoping you all could help me out with. I live in the middle apartment of a three-unit building, with tenants above and below me. My neighbor from below, who also happens to be my landlord, is really loud. We’ve talked to him about the noise, and he has been helpful in changing his speaker-systems around and by not playing music late at night. However, I can still hear almost everything that goes on in the apartment – phone conversations, dinner parties, which movie he’s  watching…you name it.

Most of this noise is between 11PM – 2AM. I don’t want to be a jerk by also asking him to talk quieter or invite less people over (because really, that’s not my place).

Are there some ways I can soundproof my apartment to block against downstairs neighbors? I’ve looked in the site’s archives, but most of your soundproofing tips are for loud upstairs-stompers or street noise. I should mention that I rent, so major construction is out of my hands.

Sent by Liz

The comments give some good hints on sound proofing your apartment.

Do you have hardwood floors?
I’d begin with laying lots of thick wool rugs w/ underpads to help absorb the sounds from below. posted by bepsf on November 29th 2010 at 1:06pm

Rugs and a white noise machine.
Good luck. posted by LovelyVelocity on November 29th 2010 at 1:10pm

Thick carpet/underpadding + some combination of the following: white noise machine/air purifier/ac window unit/silicone ear plugs/noise cancelling headphones. posted by mirandajane on November 29th 2010 at 1:18pm

I’ve been an apartment dweller the majority of my adult life and I can seriously vouch for adding rugs (even if you have carpet already). Also, decorative tapestries or a curtain wall of medium to heavy fabric. Something that provides white noise like soft music or even a fan is another good idea.

Most importantly, find the room where the majority of the noise seeps in and concentrate on it first. In the past it’s usually been the bathroom for me. Clearly, you don’t want to lay down huge rugs or add fabric to the walls for sanitation reasons. That’s why a draft dodger can be your best friend. Another place I’ve always noticed an issue is in the vents. If you have building-wide temperature control you’ll hear everything from everyone. So when it’s nice enough outside you can use magnetic vent covers. (These are also great if you need to shut off a room for a while for any reason.) posted by LovieDovie on November 29th 2010 at 1:21pm

The folks who have lived in the unit above me have been loud since day one – and I think it’s the building itself, not the neighbors. My roommate sleeps with earplugs, but I just hate that… I run an oscillating fan, facing away from me, just for the white noise. It helps. posted by sarahe on November 29th 2010 at 1:30pm

It may not be your place to ask him to have fewer people over, but it is definitely your place to ask him to adjust the TIMES he has them over. If he’s making a ton of noise after 11, it’s completely appropriate to talk to him about it. No one wants to come off like a jerk, but if the amount of noise he’s making is disrupting your life, he has a responsibility (especially as the landlord) to do something about it. posted by LitNerd on November 29th 2010 at 1:50pm

Hmmm…up til 2 am you say? How about being sure to save up all of your loud chores like vacuuming for 7 am? Not retaliation exactly, but it might help prove your point and show the landlord how terrible the sound pollution in the building is. posted by ashk on November 29th 2010 at 1:51pm

Rugs will help, like others have said. Barring that, I would move ASAP. It’s the landlord’s fault that you can hear everything that’s being done below you, and unless he agrees to add some insulation or sound-dampening materials between the ceiling and your floor, it should be obvious to you that he has no intention to permanently solve the problem and you should move.

posted by Pi on November 29th 2010 at 2:02pm
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Do you have floor vents? That might be contributing to a lot of noise. Unfortunately, you can’t really block the vents if air is flowing through them (hot or cold), but your landlord might be interested to know that you can hear EVERYTHING that’s going on. He might be embarrassed enough to keep it down. posted by instantphoebe on November 29th 2010 at 2:07pm

If you have bare or hardwood floors, I suggest you get large, thickly woven, room sized, wool or nylon rugs to cover as much of your floors, (at least 90%) as possible. If you’re starting with bare floors, consider ordering wall-to-wall carpet bound as a rug in the exact dimensions of the room. This includes getting runners for hallways and other odd spaces. These rugs should be laid atop the thickest sound attenuating carpet padding available.

If you already have rugs covering 90% or more of your floor, you should replace their existing underlayment with thick padding.

The padding can be obtained inexpensively from any carpet retailer or a big box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Once you get the padding home, cut it about 2-4 inches smaller than the rug and lay the rug on top of it. You should notice an immediate reduction of both exterior and interior noise.

Good Luck posted by John H on November 29th 2010 at 2:10pm

If your bed or mattress is directly on the ground, I would suggest raising it off the floor: it’s like putting a glass to the floor and your ear to the glass to amplify the sound. putting something between your bed and the floor would help too! posted by dvl on November 29th 2010 at 2:17pm

I also have lived in apts for most of my adult life. I have always lived on the top floors because of the noise factor but the walk ups proved to be too much for me as I got older. I now live in a 2nd floor apt. (elevators YAY!). It’s a one bedroom converted factory apt. Tall, tall ceilings and the walls are like poster board. I have a box fan on in my bedroom when I sleep, every night. This takes care of above, below and side noise. And I have a large woolen, heavy rug over my wall to wall in my living room. It helps. posted by lac105323 on November 29th 2010 at 2:19pm

You may want to review your city’s rent laws, in particular the right to quiet enjoyment. Quiet enjoyment refers to the right of an occupant of real property, particularly of a residence, to enjoy and use premises in peace and without interference. Quiet enjoyment is often an implied condition in a lease. Quiet is not restricted to an absence of noise; it has been interpreted as uninterrupted. A tenant’s remedies for breach of his/her quiet enjoyment are damages and injunctions. Although it is your landlord who is in breach, you might want to consider a very graciously worded letter stating your rights pursuant to the lease…and also contact your local police department about noise laws. You are paying him for something he is not providing and/or respecting. posted by obleak1 on November 29th 2010 at 2:45pm

my roomate and i used the vacuuming early in the morning technique-worked like a charm. our neighbors below were constantly up until 3 or 4 in the morning with lots of people over, and it was an old building, so we could repeat their conversations back to them if need be. they didn’t feel the need to stop, even though we told them we both had jobs that started at 6am [getting us up at 5 to get ready], so we started leaving the vacuum cleaner plugged in and running while we got ready in the mornings. :] kind of vengeful, but a sleep deprived person can’t always make the nicest decisions.  posted by misslilley1207 on November 29th 2010 at 3:08pm

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Written by Lorenzo

Lorenzo has been hanging around the office for the past 20 years, and, in the process, has become the president of,, and His mission is to build into New York's largest no fee apartment rental service. Before, Lorenzo was a Regional Sales Manager for Time Equities, Inc., one of New York's largest converters of rental buildings to coops and condos. Lorenzo was once a part owner of Swift & Watson Real Estate in NYC's Greenwich Village.

This article has 1 comments

  1. Frank Reply

    Try a sound machine or white noise machine. Keep the machine close to you when you sleep. You will hear white noise instead of your neighbors. Works for me. Bought mine here with free shipping:

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