Blocking out noisy upstairs neighbors...

topic posted Sat, April 30, 2005 - 11:29 AM by  Unsubscribed
Here's the sitch. I am not very handy. And definitely poor. But I am VERY MOTIVATED. My upstairs neighbors run, jump, stomp, play loud music, and otherwise make asses of themselves at all times of the day and night. I've tried making millions of complaints with the management, to no avail, tried talking to them and leaving notes on their door, and all I get is hostility. I sleep with earplugs, a pillow on my head, and a white noise machine, and their noise still comes STRAIGHT into my apartment. I teach adult school and I NEED to be able to sleep; I often teach 3 and 4 classes in one day, which is a bitch on 6 hours of sleep. DIYers - any solutions for me? Gracias in advance.
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  • Unsu...
    sounds like you are living in the wrong type of building.
    i had a phsyco bitch make up a bunch of stuff about us making noise like you said they are making noise. after awhile the landlord stopped taking her calls.
    she would call her at like 4 am and stuff.
    i think that kinda noise beside the loud music is just an element you sometimes deal with living in a multi unit building.

    the music thing you can call the cops on them. if they catch them blasting it they can get fined.

    i have a stomper above me (old man)
    fans kinda block it out as far as smoothing it over.
    the hum of a fishtank also blocks the traffic and stoming.
    fans are good too.
  • Unsu...
    there are 4x8 foot sound blocking panels. i think home depot sells them, but i am sure you can find elsewhere too. just screw them into the ceiling, they are quite cheap too. just do not miss any gaps, a 1cm x 1cm hole can let in 3db, which is double the volume.

    you could also follow them around, hitting your ceiling with a broom handle, or hook up an automatic ceiling tapper, to tap away when you are not home or feeling silly.
    • Unsu...
      Sound blocking panels, as sold by Home Depot, don't work to diminish sound from exterior sources. They do work to keep sound from bouncing inside a room.

      Sound is a vibration in the air. When it hits a floor or wall it vibrates the solid structure as it passes through on it's merry way away from the source.

      There are three ways to reduce the sound from transmission through walls and floors
      1. Isolate the wall/floor transmitting the sound. This is very expensive and involves putting up insulation into the cavities betrween the floor joists and then hanging 1/2 inch drywall on your ceilings on Resilient metal channel. Mark is correct in that a tiny hole will transmit sound so the coverage needs to be 100%.

      2. Have a white noise generator to mask the noise.

      3. Get distance away from the source.

      Obviously #3 is not feasable. You say you've tried #2 with limited success. #1 will work but it requires a large outly of time, energy and money to accomlpish.

      My suggestion would be to get your neighbors to cooperate or move.

  • Unsu...
    It sounds like you just need to move. I've been in this exact situation before: loud, noisy, up at all hours of the night, hostile neighbors. there was nothing that could mask the noise and of course when you get pissed off about it, you focus on it more. in the end, i moved.
  • Mirium wrote:
    >" Here's the sitch. I am not very handy. And definitely poor. But I am VERY MOTIVATED. My upstairs neighbors run, jump, stomp, play loud music, and otherwise make asses of themselves at all times of the day and night."<

    It seriously looks like it is moving time. As guy pointed out the issue of noise reduction when placed in an apt setting becomes very labor and time intensive. Asdide from the placing of insulative material inthe ceiling you likely would have to reinforce the floors to stop the stomping noise. This generally would be accomplished by putting down a second layer of plywood. On thier side. Not likely to happen.

    The other option is to take both the neighbor and the management to court. This would require you to prove that the noise they are making is exessive <a difficult task>, and that the management has not taken reasonable steps to limit it. <difficult also>

    It is kinda up to you. This is a real issue when you are living in what amounts to someone elses property. Since all alterations to the structure have to be approved by the owner of said property. Otherwise you can be held liable for anything percieved as damage even if you think you are making improvements.


    • Unsu...
      Ah, the problem is, it's a condo. My property, at least these 600 sq. ft. of it, and that makes moving a big problem; I bought this place when you could still find an afforable condo on the market in San Jose which is absolutely not true any longer. So moving isn't financially feasible. They are about to have yet another child and I'm worried that I will never be able to sleep again! I've tried sleeping on a cot in the living room, but they run all over their house, with boots or shoes on. The mom doesn't work, so she and the kids are home all day, and they often let the little girl stay up past midnight. I, however, have to be up at 7:30 in the morning. It's pretty evil. I was hoping there would be some sort of sound thing I could put on the ceiling, some sort of padding or something, but it sounds like that wouldn't really help. I've even tried hypnosis, to try and believe I can sleep through their noise. Didn't work either...

      Thanks guys for any advice.
      • Unsu...
        It sounds to me like your neighbors are doing fine. They are just walking around in their home when the sound of their feet bothers you, so if you ask them to be quiet, they can't because they aren't doing anything abnormal.

        The problem is that your condo is not designed for insulating noises between floors. People who have a problem with noise from upstairs neighbors buy single family dwellings. That's just the way it is. You made a mistake when you bought a condo. Fortunately, the market where you are is still sizzling so you can sell it at a modest profit and move to a different state and buy yourselves a giant mansion with the proceeds. You'll be happier, really.

        I know you don't want to do this, but there is nothing that will make the noise go away. You could try noise-cancelling headphones at night which might help - there are some designed for airplane travel that are good at masking out low frequency rumble.
        • I have lived in a downstairs unit twice. The first time, it was just couple that lived above me and they were very quiet and nice. The second time it was in the basement of an apartment house. The people above me were a girl and her boyfriend and a couple of small children. They were a young couple and liked to party-A LOT. I too am an insomniac, so I played hell trying to get a wink of sleep. I was able to move my bedroom into what was then the living room and that put me under the main hallway of the building. Still a lot of noise with footsteps, people going up and down stairs and stuff, but much quieter as far as music and laughter and things like that goes.

          Lesson learned. I refuse to live downstairs anymore. If I have to live in an apartment setting, I am living upstairs.

          Do you not have a Homeowner's Association? HAs usually have pretty strict rules about use and conduct. If they are condos, that means they are each individually owned, right? Does the family upstairs own the unit, or are they renters? Maybe you can find out who the owner of the unit is and complain directly to them?

          Otherwise, I have to say that X.J. is right. In San Jose you can sell your condo and probably make a nice little profit which you can use to move elsewhere with...
      • Unsu...
        Maybe you could invite them down to your place to let them see for themselves just how loud and distracting it really is. Have them turn on their music and have their kids run around their apartment while they come down to yours to hear the noise. Approach them with a cooperative attitude rather than an irritated one. And maybe make some compromises on what your keep the music down after a certain time at night (when you need to go to bed).

        If none of that works...I would start calling the police (esp on the music after a certain time at night). And possibly start making recordings and documenting the excessive noise in case you need to take some kind of legal action.
        • Unsu...
          Yeah, I have tried this; I thought once they knew how loud it was and saw how it makes the walls shake and stuff they would be more compassionate. They refused to come. ;<
          • Unsu...
            Well, if they are going to be complete some research on noise-related legislation in your area and start calling the cops every chance you get. It sucks to have to take that route but it seems they are leaving you with little choice.
      • Read your condo agreement. It might specify that a certain percentage of floors must be covered by rugs to insulate sound.

        Regardless of whether such a provision exists, have a good conversation with your neighbors about it, and offer to buy them some rugs. It will be worth it.
      • Unsu...
        Do you live in my complex???
        I have same problem except from next door and can't move because I own. I just saw an episode on hgtv about wall paper. I know crazy but it is not your grams wall paper. I guess they have improved wall paper since the olden days. Now it reduces noise as well as your electric bill. Also what about fabric with some sort of backing???

        I am going to do the wall paper so I will let you know how it goes.
    • Unsu...
      I agree with you about reinforcing the floor, but it should be done when the building is built. You use the next size of floor joist and place reinforcing cross bars between all the joists to create a grid. Retrofitting something like this on a condo would be impossible unless you could get all parties to vacate for a few months. Another option would be to use steel girder framing when you built the building, which is why this is much less of a problem with large buildings.
  • Unsu...
    I have been in your situation with many tenants and in 2 apartments. In my experience, if you have tried talking to them, then the only thing that is left to change is your reaction to it. You can try noise cancelling headphones if that may help, but for me the only answer was (and is, still happens) to accept it. I have leaned to live and sleep with others noises.

    Maybe becoming a friend may help as it will give them a reason to want to keep the noise down.
    • Unsu...
      Kevin, you are right, and this is part of what I have been trying to do. I get very upset, and then I have insomnia - I am angry all day because I am so tired, and it becomes a vicious cycle. I don't think befriending them will work - I had tried that before, as they have a very cute little daughter, and I played with her and brought her books to read (I'm a teacher) but I do think as I explore noise cancellation options, I also want to work on my own attitude and not letting myself get so upset that it ruins my life. I've made lots of schedule adjustments to work around their noise, like I've stopped going out on weekends, because they go t o bed early on weekends...but it's impossible to make our schedules totally mesh. Do you have any specfic suggestions as to how you have learned to sleep while others are making noise?

      Thanks group for all the great ideas and discussion. Very much appreciated.
  • Unsu...
    What about and squirt in into the ceiling/walls?
    • I checked out that website, and here's what they say:

      FOMO Foam Soundproofing for existing
      Homes or Apartments and Condos
      FOMO Foam Slow Rise (SR) pour in place foam insulation is designed with a delayed foaming agent. One of it's many uses is to fill walls in existing homes or apartments and condos to isolate noisy areas or walls connecting to noisy neighbors.


      This foam is high-density foam, and is often not the most economical soundproofing for between floors. Cellulose insulation dense-packed between floors is suggested as one excellent and economical solution for those living below high traffic areas. The fact that, for foam to be effective, you have to fill what is often 8" to 12" floor joist cavities, a cellulose insulation contractor will be able to dense pack cellulose for effective sound insulation in the floor cavities much more economically."

      What do you all think about cellulose insulation for noise reduction?
      • Hire a professional to install it. "Dense packing" is a "method" of installation and not for the inexperienced. Blowing cellulose into your ceiling is simply a matter of drilling 1 1/2" holes into the sheetrock (?) through which to insert a hose. After the cellulosde is blown in, the hose is withdrawn and the hole plugged. You may have to do some sanding and painting for coverup.

        Blown-in insulation of ANY type is NOT a good idea, however, if your apartment has any recessed electric light fixtures or exhaust fans in the ceiling.
  • Two words.

    Sleeping pills.
    • Unsu...
      Tried that - just makes me groggy AND woken up. They could wake up the dead, really. You guys are awesome with the suggestions! What a great group!
      • What about the foam egg-crate shaped panels used in recording studios and radio broadcast studios? The egg crates are supposed to face in towards the source of the noise, but I wonder if you could cover the ceiling with them with the flat side down? I am not sure how you would attach them since squishing the egg crates flat would defeat the point, BUT they are designed for people to be able to play and record music in rooms right next to each other. Anyone know more about what is needed for these to work?
        • "Egg-crate" foam is pretty good for trapping sound, but not so good for *blocking* its transmission.

          There are three main things that actually block sound transmission. One is space (or better yet--a vacuum). Recording studios have walls made of many layers of sheetrock or other panels, with a space of dead air in-between each one. Rather difficult to use in this situation, unless you can stand having a considerably lower ceiling.

          A second thing is mass. Recording studios use masonry, lead sheet, etc., for this purpose; to block exterior sound sources. The denser the mass, the better. Again, not so practical when it comes to a ceiling treatment.

          The third is a sort of hybrid of mass and a vacuum: foam. The cells in foam (whether empty or full) act as miniature spaces, and the cell walls as dividers. Best of both worlds, in this case.

          There are three main kinds of foam (without getting into the exotic stuff). The first kind is what's called "open-cell" foam. That's what egg-crate is made out of. The open cells capture soundwaves to prevent their reflection, but don't do much to block their transmission. That's why they face *inwards* in recording studios; to trap echoing soundwaves.

          The second kind of foam is called "closed-cell". Neoprene is a good example of this. It has zillions of bubbles in it, and each of them acts as an acoustical isolator. Unfortunately, it's not rigid, it's expensive to make, and it can get heavy. Recording studios use it *underneath* floors, to isolate them from the outside.

          The third kind is the stuff commonly referred to as Styrofoam. That's what Dow and DuPont make "blue board" out of. It's essentially a sheet of extruded polystyrene foam, faced on both sides with blue mylar film, and most often used in walls and ceilings for thermal insulation. It's super-lightweight, stiff, and cuts down on sound very nicely. It runs about $20 for a 4'x8' panel, in the 2" thickness (it's available in thicknesses from 1/4" to 4"). Easily cut with a knife, pretty forgiving to work with, and paintable.

          Here's what the ideal sound barrier would look like, in your situation:
          a layer of open-cell foam, perhaps an inch thick, flush up against your ceiling, held in place with pieces of velcro. Flush up against that: your blueboard panels. Holding the blueboard up against the foam: some nice "T"-shaped aluminum channel, anchored to the walls on the sides. (That's better than attaching the blueboard directly to the ceiling, as that will tend to transmit some of the sounwaves through it.) 2" thick blueboard will theoretically block 10dB of sound; 4" will block 20dB. Go with the thickest you can fit without giving up too much headroom.

          I believe that a combination of this type of ceiling treatment (at least in your bedroom), a white noise generator, and the use of foam earplugs (Hearos are the best) will do the trick, in exchange for a few hundred $ in materials and a weekend's labor. I made shutters for my windows out of blueboard, and with them closed at night, plus wearing Hearos and having a fan running, I can sleep through the episodic sirens and other loud sounds from our very busy and noisy street.

          Good luck!
  • I like to kill my neighbor's power when they get unruly, but I live in an apartment complex that has easy access to the main breaker for everyone's apartment... So, when I wake up early or get kept up late by loud music I just kill the power to that apartment from the downstairs box... Easy, passive solution :)

    • Chase wrote:
      >"I wake up early or get kept up late by loud music I just kill the power to that apartment from the downstairs box... Easy, passive solution :) "<

      Also a felony in some states, <denial of utilities> check your local laws. For myself if a person in the same building as I pulled that one they would find very severe retalitory action for any trangressions. <not gonna kick anyones ass> but will find minor ways to make someones life a living hell.

      Just my take on that lil plan.

      • I've been doing this (popping the circuit breaker) for years to my upstairs neighbors. Obviously, one has to think such a thing through beforehand and consider all the potential ramifications, but in my case, it works. (a) I'm discrete; they'd be hard-pressed to prove it was me. Indeed, they probably don't realize that *anyone is doing anything*; it's in the "act-of-god" realm to them. (b) It's pretty unlikely that someone is going to contact the police and have them dust the circuit breaker for fingerprints, so proving such a "felony" would be next-to-impossible without third-party witnesses. (c) It is just as possible to demonstrate "diminished services" in court, since there is a expectation of peace-and-quiet that is on the side of the party that is being affected by external noises; especially if the quiet-seeking party has a documented history of complaining to the landlord about the noisemaking party. (d) Any ass-kicking is gonna come from my side, not that of the old Chinese couple upstairs of me. Everything is a calculated risk, but the risk in many situations is minimal. YMMV.
        • So, if you've been doing it for years to your upstairs neighbor, is it changing the amount of disturbance you get from them, or just making you feel better about it? Just curious.
          • >>"So, if you've been doing it for years to your upstairs neighbor, is it changing the amount of disturbance you get from them, or just making you feel better about it? Just curious."<<

            I only do it as a last measure; when I've tried going up and knocking on their door and they haven't answered, or when they have answered, but keep making noise anyway. Most of the time, when I knock and they open their door, they say that they'll stop, but for those times when they haven't, switching off their power has been the only way I can get any sleep. They're *always* quiet afterwards.
  • I think your best bet is to have mind blowing, super loud sex when your neighbors are sleeping... that way, they will understand about the noise, and you will be so tired you will sleep like a baby. And if they don't under stand the noise, at least you will have some fun!
  • Unsu...
    Yeah, bring a really big friend(s) to their door next time that looks menacing. Have them say they are your brother or honey and have them make the request. You'd be surprised at the positive results for your apartment. Yeah, it isn't a fix through insulation thing, but it works. That or start playing really loud opera, on their quiet times, generally start doing annoying things when they aren't loud to get them to come down and try to negotiate. Thge best defense is a good offense.
    Shadow Walker
  • Unsu...
    I have noisy upstairs neighbors too. I don't understand how they can be so clueless and inconsiderate. What I do is turn the music up, and then put on carpenter's noise-reducing headphones. (I try to keep the music just loud enough to block them out without causing a noise war.) Sometimes I put in ear plugs, and then the carpenter's headphones over them. I also can put in my earbuds and listen to music under the headphones. Listening to loud music with the earbuds works well, even without the workmen's headphones on top of the earbuds. I have found that my 3 white noise machines aren't loud enough. At night, I wear earplugs, and also run the radio and the white noise machines all night. Sometimes I will also run fans and dehumidifiers, for more white noise. The stomping shakes my walls though, and there is no hope for that. I am also really working on staying occupied, so I can try and tune it out and not focus on it so much. It's hard, though.
    • Unsu...
      ******I don't understand how they can be so clueless and inconsiderate. *******

      And they want us all to live in tenements where the neighbors have no manners.

      That's the problem with people. They really don't do well living like termites.
      • Has anyone every tried talking to their neighbors?
        I had a situation, it led to stereo wars as well. I ended borrowing my roommate's amplifier, thus leading to the downstairs neighbor blowing their speaker out trying to be louder than ours. But a week later it started all over again. Finally after not sleeping well for 3 months, I decided to go downstairs and knock on their door. I explained to the lady that I work at night from any where from 2 to 4 am, that is why I need to sleep in the morning but I am usually up at 11 am. She then got this look on her face when I explained the music was so loud from 8 :30 am to 12 and then apologized about the speakers/stereo war & I asked nicely if she didn't mind from 11 am on and if there was any thing I could do at night on my side. She asked me if I could do anything about my motorcycle when I came home, one of her kids slept in the front room. I said I could coast and park with the engine off and then she asked me to always let her know when I heard any noise in the house downstairs during the school week. Turned out it was her teenager skipping school...... The only days there was noise was during holidays & during summer it was always right at 11 am, I didn't have any problem with that, hell I even made sure I never walked with heavy or heeled shoes in the house.
        • In such situations usually it is the biggest & meanest dog on the block who wins the day. Rather than expose myself to more of that type of pissing contest, I've sold my home in the city and moved to the countryside. Nearest neighbor 1/2 mile off. Now I can have my blessed peace,... or else play bongo drums naked in the moonlight if I wish. Seems unnatural and unnecessary to live all jammed & crammed together like people do
        • Unsu...
          *************Has anyone every tried talking to their neighbors? **************

          You mean like talking to Kim Jung Ill?

          • < like talking to Kim Jung III.....>


            Hey my mom was Korean, try living in the same house within that culture.....
            I ended up moving around the globe! LOL!
            and like Briggi wrote....
            I as well live in a remote area, were my nearest neighbor is kind of deaf and ex-legionare on top of a mountain were there is more live stock and wild animals then humans. Got burnt out living around closed quarters.
            But when ever I am forced to be back in the city, I usually can diffuse a situation....
  • I have done probably one of the more unusual things to reduce the sounds from upstais neighbors. I'm a musician so I have always had musical equipment lying around. Knowing that the hum of a fan has a subtle change on how much sound comes through the ceiling, one day I decided to plug a pro microphone into an amplifier and the place the microphone directly in front of the turning blades of the fan. It had a 90% to 95% success rate. Also, using an amplifier, you have a volune knob which allows you to vary the amount of hum. If the stomping was low, I would turn the volume lower. If the stomping was high, I would turn it higher. While decreasing the sound from the neighbors, I'm sure I was increasing the sound and vibration back at them since I was using a bass amp with a 15 in speaker. And since it was such a odd sound and vibration, no one ever knew what it was or where it was coming from. So although my sound was a little annoying, it was sure better than the never ending sound of feet stomping about.

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