One of my most popular articles on Yahoo Voices, this article looks at how we can better sound isolate our homes to make them quieter from our neighbors’ noise.
Flexible Isolation: Sound Absorption Options for Apartment Dwellers
These Sound Absorbing Options Make Apartment Tenants and Landlords Happy
July 4, 2013
If you’ve been listening to me on social media lately, you would think that the only thing going on in my life is my relentlessly loud and borderline sound-harassing next door neighbor. Growing up and living in cities, noise is nothing really all that new to me. Psychophysics tells us that women like myself tend to be more sensitive to noise than men. But over the course of my life, I’ve found that most neighbors (except for a few best described with profanity) usually will try to be nice and at least attempt to make things better.
So what do you do when talking to your neighbor is just not enough, when a discourse on the physics of sound and the impact on the human body of low frequency noise (LFN) reaches deaf (perhaps literally as well as figuratively) ears?
There’s lots of advice out there, most of it absurdly expensive. Most of the advice and products out there are for keeping your noise in, not absorbing structurally-transmitted sounds caused from without.
Here are some things I’ve found that I’m hoping will work for me – when I can afford to do more of them:
- Use a sound absorbing rug pad under your rugs and any new carpeting you lay down.
Carpeting seems to be one of the best ways to absorb sound. The thicker the rug, the better. Rugs and carpets can get pricey, of course, and by themselves may do nothing for your problem if they are low pile (read that, economical). Fortunately, there are sound absorbing rug pads that protect your apartment’s hard wood floor and are designed to reduce that structural noise – both what you transmit (walking, a/c, TV, music, etc.) and what others transmit to you. Check out the selection ofhigh density Jute felt rug pads at Rug Pad corner. What I like about Rug Pad Corner is they can cut your rug pad to whatever size your particular rug happens to be. So if you find a great deal on a 6 foot by 8 foot, 9 inches rug, you can still get the pad cut to fit without additional cost.
2. Try sound absorbing “vibration isolation feet” for your bed, couch, bird cage, or other piece of furniture that sits on casters that you do not need to move around much. Needle doctor has several sizes, based on weight, sold individually. Use size 5 for any furniture weighing more than about 50 lbs.
3. Sound absorbing “Quiet Barrier” is rubber/foam sheeting specifically designed to reduce noise transmission between rooms and apartments. Apply on the ceilings, walls, and floors. There is one big downside to the quiet barrier: cost! A 4 x 8 foot sheet is over $60 before shipping with a 30 feet roll costing over $250!
These three options seem to be the best and most economical for apartment dwellers, especially as they do not involve altering the apartment unit itself. Do they work as well as ripping up the floors to apply sound absorbing foam or filling drywall with sound absorbing materials? NO! But then again, odds are really good your landlord won’t let you re-model your apartment for sound anyway.
Finally, there is a lot of support for wall to wall carpeting, especially thick carpeting paired with the jute carpet pad mentioned earlier. The more your home is carpeted, the more sound-resistant it will be. Concrete floors, bare wood stairs, and hard wood floors by their nature sound the loudest. Finally, when searching for your next apartment, look for and ask about these simple measures. Landlords can be flexible and reasonable once asked. I have known many friends in New York City who petitioned for and receivable approval to carpet their apartments – generally at their own expense – but with really good results. Not only are their thickly carpeted apartments more pleasant to walk on, but they really are quieter than hard wood floor homes!
Bon chance in your quest for a quieter home.