If you live in a town or city then there is every chance that you have been bothered by noise at some point. Whether you have to regularly stay awake listening to the neighbours argue or simply have to put up with teenage parties from across the street you will know that noise makes you tense, tired and tetchy. The frustration at the combination of lost sleep with a feeling of being powerless to do anything about it and not knowing how to deal with noisy neighbours can compound the problem, with noise nuisance genuinely making some people very ill.
With that in mind, it is always best to deal with noise nuisance as soon as you can, starting with the source of the noise. If the sound of your neighbours’ old washing machine running keeps you awake at night, then tell him or her rather than silently fuming. Similarly, if parties, music lessons or the elephant-footed neighbour pirouetting on the laminate flooring in the flat above you is driving you to distraction then pop round and say something. Neighbours are often not aware of the impact that they make on the lives of others and most will take reasonable steps to deal with a problem.
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Expert tips on how to deal with noisy neighbours
Where noise problems cannot be solved by a quick word then you will have to consider other options such as calling in your local council’s noise nuisance team. Most councils will have a team that investigates noise nuisance as part of its environment department, with some offering an out-of-hours number where a team of officers will attend to witness loud parties or noise.
These council teams can deal with all kinds of unreasonable noise and behaviour, even taking cases to court where necessary. But most ongoing noise problems will in some way be linked to your home or that of your neighbours. We all live very close together in our towns and cities, which means that alterations to our homes or the addition of new equipment can upset our neighbours due to the noise they create.
You will find that better doors and double glazing will shut out some nuisance noise. But most problems tend to occur in (often rented) flats or conversions where walls may be thin, floors are not designed with downstairs neighbours in mind and noise can carry both up and down. In some cases a false ceiling with acoustic insulation may help to keep out some of the noise. But there are various courses of action you can take to deal with constant noise, especially the clomping and clacking coming from a wooden floor above your head.
Your first port of call should be to look at the leasehold agreement for the building. This will normally have stipulations about flooring types, especially in converted houses. In most cases the leasehold will not allow wooden flooring or laminate flooring in the upper floors of any converted house. If your neighbours have installed a wooden floor or stripped out the carpets then speak with the owner of the lease on the building, as they will be able to ensure this is put right.
Similarly, your local authority may have local rules on this. Get in touch to ask if there are any breaches of local planning regulations or in building regulations if your upstairs neighbour has a wooden floor. In most cases, having them lay carpet will significantly cut down on the noise that transfers to your flat.
Problems with acoustic insulation between floors may be another problem that is causing noise to transfer. There should usually be some kind of insulation between floors in flats or conversions, which will stop noise from transferring via floor beams and travelling between flats, either downwards or sideways. Again, this is something that you should speak to the leaseholder about. Lease Advice provides a great breakdown of obligations and solutions for leased flats, although it some circumstances it can be better for your peace of mind (and flat) if you offer to make a contribution to new acoustic insulation.
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As a final resort, speak to a builder or specialist in sound insulation about ways that you can install acoustic insulation in your own flat. Creative solutions such as densely-packed book shelving and thick, soft tiling can help. In most cases this will mean losing some ceiling or wall space, but it can save you a great deal of stress and lost sleep. Costs start at around £1,000 for a small flat.