Nobody Wants to Be the Noisy Neighbor: Tips for Keeping Your Sound Down

published Jul 22, 2014
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(Image credit: Justice Darragh)

If there’s anything worse than having a noisy neighbor, it’s realizing that you are the noisy neighbor. Nobody goes around intending to be overheard by strangers, but then one day a neighbor knocks on your door and complains about the sound of your footsteps on his ceiling or says he can hear you singing to your cat, and then there’s nothing to do but tiptoe around in socks and worry that all your neighbors hate you.

A little noise is inevitable in life, especially in apartment living. Maybe it’s the fault of your building’s paper-thin walls. But there are some steps you can take to continue living a normal life without letting your neighbors hear everything.

1. Carpets.
If your neighbor has super hearing, or you just seem to have really thin floors, carpet can go a long way to mitigating that noise. Throw down rugs in high-traffic areas to help soundproof. You can even layer rugs for a chic, bohemian look that will help protect your neighbor from hearing your feet every day.

2. Keep your clompy shoes near the door.
No one expects you to wear flats all the time, or wear sneakers to work, but it can be considerate to avoid wearing work shoes while you get ready in the morning. Keep them by the door and put them on right as you’re ready to go, and your neighbor won’t have to hear you wandering up and down the halls before 9 a.m.

3. Note the time.
Occasional noise is unavoidable in apartment living, and your neighbor hopefully understands that. But do try to keep the noise to reasonable hours. Don’t drill into the walls early in the morning or play music late at night.

4. Cover the walls.
If noise is seeping into your neighbor’s house through paper-thin interior walls, consider putting up a sound barrier like bookshelves. The books and shelves will provide an extra buffer between you and your neighbor, and help absorb any extra noise.

Using rugs or tapestries as wall hangings can also help absorb extra noise and keep it from getting to your neighbor.

5. Check for unexpected noise sources.
My downstairs neighbor once complained about my running up and down the hall every night at around 11 p.m. I was embarrassed, but also confused, because I hadn’t left my couch the night before since 6. The next day around 11, I noticed my cats zoom past the door and down the hallway. I had no idea my neighbor could hear their little cat feet, but that was the only possible source of the problem. Some hallway rugs helped a lot, but because I couldn’t figure out how to stop the cats from running around, I decided I had to slow them down somehow. Rolling a few gates in their way created a little cat obstacle course that prevented them from thumping on the neighbor’s head, and also probably helped them get in better shape.

6. Watch the windows.
If sound is getting out through the windows, heavy, noise-cancelling curtains can help soundproof your space. You also might have to commit to not watching TV or listening to music with the windows open.

7. Check your hearing.
This is probably unlikely, but in the event that neighbors are complaining about your TV and radio volume, you might want to get your hearing checked. One of my friends thought he was going deaf, but the doctor fixed the problem with a quick cleaning. If your neighbors are constantly complaining about your TV but you can’t hear theirs, it might be worth a try.

Have any other good tips for keeping your noise in your own space? Let us know in the comments. Nobody wants to be the noisy neighbor.