Shortly after they were married, Brittany H. and her husband moved into an apartment in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood. With Victorian houses and vintage flats dotting the tree-lined streets, they assumed their new home would be a peaceful spot to build their life together.
But the couple got more than they bargained for. At all hours of the night, they heard strange and very loud sounds coming from the neighbors upstairs.
Brittany vividly recalls her first night in the unit: “It was midnight, and the upstairs neighbors sounded like they were dropping bricks on the floor. Our ceiling light fixture rattled from the loud, noisy pounding.”
When their lease was up, the couple promptly moved to the top floor of a different apartment building—and Brittany says she’ll never live anywhere but a top floor again.
As a renter, you have to be ready for some day-to-day noise—that’s just part of living at close quarters with other people.
But if your walls are particularly thin or your neighbors are particularly loud (looking at you, upstairs noisy drum guy), are you doomed to a life of permanently wearing earplugs or lodging complaints with the police?
We won’t lie: Signing a lease might limit what you can do to fully soundproof your pad. But thankfully, there are several easy tricks to drown out your noisy neighbors—without your landlord freaking out.
Here are some of our favorites for dealing with this issue (so you won’t have to call the police).
1. Try ceiling clouds and acoustic fixtures
Say what now? Ceiling clouds are acoustic panels that hang from the ceiling and can reduce noise and echoes. (Science!) Take that, noisy neighbors.
You’ve probably seen them before in auditoriums, atriums, and restaurants. But they can do wonders for cutting down noise in your home, too.
Just make sure to check with your landlord before installing, since they need to be securely mounted to the ceiling.
But watch the price tag—such fixtures can range in price from around $700 to $1,175.
2. Rearrange your furniture
Have you ever lived next to a neighbor who plays the piano (or worse, an amped-up electric guitar) well past bedtime?
If the neighbor won’t knock it off, you don’t have to move (or file a complaint with the landlord or police). Just put some stuff between you and the pandemonium next door.
Start by placing bookcases or other heavy furniture against the dividing wall, covering as much of the wall as possible.
“The more mass between you and the neighbor, the less sound that will come through,” says Zach Ziskin, a recording engineer in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Then, rearrange fabric-covered sofas or chairs so that they’re close to windows and doors. And for more quiet, use lots of decorative pillows and throws.
“The heavier and denser the textile, the greater the absorption,” says Heather Humphrey, owner of the interior design firm Alder & Tweed, in Park City, UT.
3. Fill up your bathroom
If you can hear your neighbors flush the toilet, they can probably hear you, right? That’s because open spaces with tile and hard surfaces, such as a bathroom, amplify sound.
To give your privacy an upgrade, take a cue from tip No. 2 and bring in a small linen closet to place against the wall, Humphrey suggests.
Short on space? Fill the bathroom with wall coverings and soft goods such as rugs and towels, which is a pretty easy way of dealing with noisy neighbors and their sounds.
“The same principle goes,” she says. “The more you cover your walls, the greater the barrier to sound created.”
4. Seal the windows
Sometimes, the outside noise you hear in your apartment can be just as irritating as noise from your neighbors. And closing your windows isn’t always a cure-all—those sounds can trickle in regardless.
One way to dial it down? Make sure the window casings and frames are fully caulked and sealed. (You’ll want to call your landlord about this one.) Or use a window insert to make the seal more airtight, Ziskin says.
Even easier? Just hang some heavy curtains, which will help muffle any noise from outside.
5. Seal the doors
You’d be surprised by how much noise can seep in through the cracks around your door and ruin your quiet. Your best soundproofing efforts will be futile unless you address them.
Make sure there’s high-quality weatherstripping between the door and door frame to create a seal when closed, Ziskin says.
Likewise, if there’s an air gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, attach a heavy-duty door sweep or draft blocker to create a seal.
6. Hang wall art and tapestries
Because wall hangings and tapestries are porous, they can absorb sound and excessive noise.
If you’re conjuring up images of your college dorm room, don’t worry—there are tons of options these days that are beautifully on trend.
For instance, the heavy knotting in macramé makes it perfect for buffering noise and giving your place stylish flair.
Canvas wall art can also help absorb sound; consider adding a layer of foam to the hollow inside for extra buffer. Or try sound-absorbing felt panels—you can even use one to make a DIY bulletin board.
“It will add a decorative touch and keep you organized, while reducing noise levels,” says Dayna Hairston, interior designer at Dayziner in Cary, NC.
7. Add thick rugs with rubber backing
If you have wood floors, do yourself and your neighbor a favor, and throw down some area rugs. (Heck, if you have carpet, go ahead and do this, too—the more padding, the better.)
When buying a rug, seek out thick pile material or something with a rubber backing to muffle sound, Humphrey suggests.
8. Know your neighbors
Of course, it just isn’t always possible to completely soundproof your apartment. If you’re still fighting the urge to grab a broom and bang on the ceiling, it’s probably time to talk to the neighbors.
“If all else fails, invest in high-quality earplugs or a white noise machine,” Ziskin says.
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