Apartment dwellers are often amazed to find out how much sound carries through walls, floors, and ceilings. Even tenants who mean well and want to be good neighbors can get the occasional noise complaint. If you’ve heard noise complaints from your neighbors, landlord, or even the police—or if you want to take steps to make sure you never do—here are some tips to help you keep the peace, while still living your life:
Before you move in
While you’re in the market for your Houston apartment, look over our previous post on choosing an apartment that will be quiet for you. Some of those tips will also help you make sure the sounds of your everyday life won’t carry into your neighbors’ spaces. Specifically, take a close look at the construction of any apartment you’re considering. Look for:
- Well-fitted doors and windows. A lot of sound can leak through gaps in these.
- Insulation. You may not be able to see whether the walls, ceilings, and floors are insulated, but you can ask the manager or landlord.
- Poured concrete walls, floors, and ceilings. These are found only in luxury apartments and high rise buildings, but if you keep unusual hours or enjoy relatively noisy activities—like entertaining, playing a musical instrument, living with children or pets, or using a high-end home theater—choosing a high rise or luxury apartment may be worthwhile for you.
- A quiet building. Schedule showings for evenings or weekends, when your potential neighbors are likely to be home. Can you hear other people from the apartment you’re considering? If so, chances are good that they can hear you, too.
- Noise rules you can live with. Read the lease carefully before you sign, and don’t be afraid to ask the landlord or manager what the community’s noise pollution rules are. You don’t have to tell them that you plan to be the noisy one. Good managers know that renters who are interested in the rules are likely to be good neighbors.
If a complaint is lodged about you
Whether you’re hearing about the noise complaint from your neighbor, your landlord or manager, or even the police, these steps can help you handle the situation as fairly as possible (for you and for your noise sensitive neighbor):
- Communicate. The Apartment Therapy Blog/a> has advice for dealing with apartment noise complaints, and their first tip is simply to talk with the complaining neighbor, if possible. Let them know you’re surprised and embarrassed that they can hear you, and you’re willing to work with them for better sound control. If they’re reasonable people (and most people are, even the most noise sensitive), they’ll feel better knowing that you care, and they’ll be able to give you useful information and work with you to solve the problem. There is a chance that the complaining neighbor is unreasonable, hostile, or even mentally ill. If any of these seems to be the case, talk with your landlord or manager, instead, and call the police if you feel physically threatened.
- Rearrange your setup. If you find out that a noisy part of your life shares a wall or floor/ceiling with a quiet part of your noise sensitive neighbor’s (if, for example, your stereo system shares a wall with their bedroom), simply moving the noisemaker to the other side of the room might make all the difference.
- Change the timing of noisier activities. Is the problem a clash of schedules that you hadn’t known about before? For example, a neighbor who works nights and gets to bed at 6 a.m. would be understandably upset if you tend to play music while you get ready for work at 7 a.m. You could solve the problem by enjoying your music in the evening, or through headphones. If your neighbor’s baby goes to bed at 7 p.m., you might agree not to vacuum after that time.
- Insulate. While true soundproofing is not an option in most rentals, you can try a few simple noise reduction tricks without making permanent changes to your apartment. If the problem noise is going through your floor, put down rugs to absorb sounds and footsteps. Hanging quilts, tapestries, or other fabric on walls can dampen sound. Even putting well-filled bookshelves against a wall can help absorb some sound. If your landlord is okay with minor DIY improvements, you can also add a door sweep and weather stripping foam to seal doors and windows.
- Get a great set of headphones. This makes it possible for you truly enjoy activities that otherwise wouldn’t work in an apartment, like rocking out with your music turned up to 11, playing electric guitar or other non-acoustic instruments with all the volume and effects they deserve, or watching a great movie with full sound late at night. This post from Lifehacker gives advice on apartment noise reduction, and also links to an article on choosing the best headphones your budget will allow.