Here’s How to Block the Sound From Even the Noisiest Neighbors

updated Sep 16, 2022
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Living in close vicinity to other people has its perks (new friends, BBQ invites, borrowing a missing ingredient), but it oftentimes comes with a few frustrations too, one of the main ones being noise. While legally, no federal laws cover loud neighbors, most towns and cities have some kind of noise ordinance that protects you, plus there are some tricks you can use to dampen the noise.

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We’ve all had at least one experience with an obnoxious, loud neighbor: non-stop guitar practice, a little too much nightly fun, or even a generally loud and heavy-footed person. It’s beyond annoying, and when you’re starting to lose sleep or patience over it, it might be time to do something. 

Read up on your state’s laws and see what rights you’re entitled to before filing any complaints or taking it up with someone other than your neighbor. Tobener Ravenscroft, a tenant law firm in San Francisco, mentions on its site that most leases contain some kind of clause about noise that’ll help you win this type of battle.

But similarly to noise laws, every state and different buildings have different rules and regulations when it comes to leases, and you have to check into state-specific laws to get the most accurate read. But, if this noise problem just started, there are a variety of solutions that are worth trying first before you take legal action. 

Below, we’ve rounded up a multitude of ways to deal with noisy neighbors and restore the peace—we’re sure your other neighbors will thank you, too.

Reducing Sound with Furniture and Decor

Sometimes all it takes to drown out unpleasant sounds, and loud neighbors are a few decorative tweaks and helpful tools. While they’re not always foolproof, it sure beats the uninhibited sound of Sir Barks-a-lot upstairs.

1. Add a rug or two.

While full-blown carpeting is the best for reducing noise, you can’t quite do that in an apartment. Add in a few area rugs to help absorb sound and keep things quieter. Plus, they’re a statement piece that doesn’t look like an intentional noise-blocking tool.

2. Invest in a white noise machine and earplugs.

Noise-canceling headphones may come in handy in the office or while working from home, but you’re not going to wear those to bed. A white noise machine and soft squishy ear plugs are smarter options for helping you catch Zs when you have neighbors who never seem to go to bed before 2 a.m.

3. Incorporate more furniture.

Sound waves love to bounce around empty rooms, so if you’ve yet to purchase a sofa or have been living with nothing more than a mattress and lamp, you’ve got an excuse to finally get more furniture. Filling up your room creates less of an echo, which means more quiet time for you. 

4. Invest in some sound-reducing curtains.

You may have heard of blackout curtains for light, but there are also drapes available that can decrease volume from outside, like these, from Pottery Barn. While you’ll be shutting some noise out, they also help keep out light and keep heat from escaping—it’s a win-win in so many different ways.

5. Utilize a door draft stopper.

While these handy tools are meant to prevent cold drafts from making their way into your home, they also work well at absorbing noise from beyond your door. Try placing one at your front door and one in front of your bedroom door to seal up any cracks that could let extra noise seep in.

Taking Legal and Verbal Action

1. Speak with your neighbors. 

It can be a little intimidating stopping by to *kindly* ask them to keep it down. But people are usually pretty receptive to these requests and oftentimes don’t realize how loud they were being in the first place. If you’re nervous about face-to-face meetings, leave a note instead with your contact info.

2. Offer suggestions to them.

Sometimes your neighbors might be at a loss for ideas on how to tone down the noise — they may be a professional musician or have a happy-go-lucky dog running around all the time. Kindly offer a few recommendations, like adding rugs to their floors or investing in a few extra cushions or sound-proofing curtains.

3. Talk to an on-site manager.

Many apartments and condo complexes have on-site managers and leasing offices. Make a quick stop over there to mention you’re having issues with noisy neighbors and see what they suggest. They may be able to call or speak to the neighbor for you. Similarly, if you rent from a landlord, they may be able to communicate on your behalf to the building or other tenants. 

4. File a noise complaint. 

If the noise pollution is egregious, filing a noise complaint with your municipality may be the only way to get the attention and consideration of your neighbors. Be sure to look into the ordinances and laws for the specific city you live in to ensure you’re not in the wrong and don’t escalate the problem to this level until you’ve exhausted every other option available.

How NOT to Deal with Loud Neighbors

In the heat of the moment, it may feel easiest to leave a note or yell back, but there are a handful of things you should never resort to—no matter how frustrating the noise is.

1. Do not leave passive-aggressive notes.

As tempting as it is to write a snarky note and leave it on their door, it’s better to keep the sticky note wars for the movies. A handwritten letter with a name and number on it is okay, but not identifying yourself will only serve to aggravate.

2. Do not try to compete with their noise level.

Turning your TV volume up ten notches higher or playing music to drown out the sound from next door might be a temporary fix, but there are a few issues with this method.

For starters, you’re adding to the noise, which defeats the purpose. And while it may seem like you’re being nice by not complaining, you’re most likely annoying your neighbors back (or your next-door neighbors who surround you).

3. Do not try to “out noise” them.

We get it. Sometimes pounding back on the wall or blaring music in spite feels like you’re teaching them the best kind of lesson by giving them a taste of their own medicine. But this can start mutual tension between both parties, and it’s so much better, in the long run, to first approach the situation kindly.

4. Do not confront them with anger.

There is no doubt that noisy neighbors are absolutely infuriating. But spewing anger can lead to unnecessary drama, fear, or less of a chance that they’ll listen. Although it’s upsetting, try to regain your composure before broaching the subject.

5. Do not call the police for a noise complaint, ever.

If you’re not in immediate danger, do not call the police. If you haven’t spoken to your neighbors in person, do not call the police. Calling the police is a drastic step that can have unforeseen consequences.