Tired of the upstairs neighbor’s loud footsteps and other inevitable noises? Here's how to deal with noisy upstairs neighbors.
If you live in an apartment, one of your biggest problems must be loud upstairs neighbors. It can be hard to deal with them especially if you’re on the lower floors.
You can constantly hear your noisy upstairs neighbors stomping, partying, or even just loudly talking.
Sometimes, it isn’t their fault and the structure of the entire building is just really poor and thin that you can hear even their daily normal activities above.
You can also be one of the unlucky tenants who have cursed with the literal neighbors from hell that doesn’t care if their bothering other people around.
So, how to deal with noisy upstairs neighbors?
Before dealing with the noisy Upstairs neighbors
Before jumping on the different ways to deal with noisy upstairs neighbors here are some anticipatory measures to take note of.
You know what they say, prevention is the best cure. Well, your neighbors aren’t diseases that have to be eradicated no matter how much you think their noises ail you to death.
However, you can proactively deal with the problem by thinking ahead when you choose an apartment.
This obviously wouldn’t work if you already have an apartment but if you’re planning to move, always choose the apartment on the top floor.
It can be hard to find units at the very top of the building but it will work out for you in the long run especially if you’re used to living in a quiet household or neighborhood.
Talk to the landlord
When you start looking for apartments, talk to the landlord about your noise issues especially when you know that you can’t get a top unit.
Most of the time, the landlords know which tenants work well together.
Simply said, they most likely group the ones that they know can be a bit loud such as teenagers or families with babies, as well as the ones who have racked up a record of noise complaints.
You can ask them about the hours when you need the “quietness” especially if you work at home or for whatever reasons why.
Just make sure that these reasons are perfectly sound and logical, not that you’re just asking because you’re “picky”. The landlord might take it the wrong way so remember to ask nicely.
Charm them up!
Bring out your charm pants and butter your neighbors up. It wouldn’t hurt to bake some treats for everyone in the compound.
You’d be surprised how this little act of friendliness can help you in the future.
While you’re at it, you can slyly ask them if you have ever bothered them with your noise in some occasions.
Chances are, they’ll throw the question back at you. If you have any issues with them, you can bring it up in a friendly manner over cookies or treats.
It’s like building an air of familiarity and ease between you and your neighbors.
How to Deal with Noisy Upstairs Neighbors
The measures given above are applicable before you move in to your apartment. But how about when the problem is already there? How can you deal with it?
Talk to them
The primary course of action is to simply talk to them first. Communication is important if you’re living with different types of people in the same building.
It’s easier to this when you’re friends with your upstairs neighbor but even if you aren’t, there’s nothing wrong in politely asking them about some disturbances that bother you.
Avoid talking to them when you’re angry or while they’re currently having a party or activity. Pick a good time to talk to your neighbors when bringing up the issue.
For instance, you can talk to them about it over morning coffee.
You can make a short note if you’re too anxious to deal with them head on. Just make sure that you’re not being passive-aggressive in any way, always maintain a friendly tone.
Come to an agreement
Sometimes the noises can’t be helped and just like you, your neighbors are just trying to do their day to day activities peacefully.
You can’t be all righteous since you’re all living in the same building after all.
You have to accept that some noise should be considered normal especially during daytime or morning when people are getting ready for their respective work.
If you need some peace and quiet at certain hours of the day when your upstairs neighbor are exercising or playing music, for instance, you can both compromise.
Mention your sleep schedule and give insights on the best times when they could do their thing.
Through this, you’re not really restricting your neighbors like some boss, but making this situation a win-win one for each party.
Keep a log
What if you already asked them in different occasions but they still seem to make the same noise?
The best thing to do is to keep a log of the time and date of each incident when they make that excessive noise or how often it is happening.
You can also take note of your attempts to talk to them to resolve the problem.
This will also help you went escalating the situation to your landlord. It’s easy for them to deny it but not when you keep track of it and have a bunch of proof to back your claims.
If you’re not the only one at the lower floor, you can also ask the other tenants about the noise and if they are bothered by it.
Note: Most apartments have some kind of noise ordinance laws that ensures that each tenant can enjoy some quiet time daily. Find out if your apartment has this ordinance to help you in dealing with your noisy neighbor.
The old knock on the ceiling method
If your upstairs neighbor is unusually noisy all of a sudden, it’s either they’re doing something that cannot be avoided or they are not aware that they’re generating too much noise.
Either way, you can let them know on the fly by using any long material -like a broom- to tap on your ceiling.
It’s like the universal downstairs neighbour code for “hey, do you mind if you keep the noise down?” and believe it or not, it always works.
Stock up your space
Did you know that open areas with hard surfaces and tiles tend to amplify sounds more?
This is why you sound good singing in the shower and it feels like your bathroom is the best place for your impromptu concerts.
However, it may not be good news if you can hear other people’s own bathroom shenanigans.
If the noise is specifically focused in your bathroom, you can put a linen closet as well as hangings, rugs, and towels to act as a barrier for the bathroom noises that your upstairs neighbor make.
Time to rearrange your stuff
Just like the bathroom trick, rearranging your furniture can go a long way in reducing some loud noises from the room above.
Think of it as a buffer, heavy furniture or chairs and sofa that are covered in fabric will not only take in sound from above but also from nearby or outside sources.
Also remember that denser and heavier textile absorbs more noise. If the textile in your apartment is not that heavy, you can just rearrange the shelves in it to bring in some mass.
There will be less sound if there is greater mass count between the noise and you.
Dealing with loud walking upstairs neighbor using some Equipment
There will come to a point that talking or negotiating won’t help you with your problem. This might be the right time to use some tools to lessen, if not completely get rid of, the noise that has been bothering you.
Purchase Noise canceling headphones or earplugs
Earplugs are the most immediate solution if you don’t want to deal with the noise. If you’re working, simply just put in earplugs to reduce the sounds around you.
You can also easily wear earplugs to sleep if ever your neighbor decides have a loud party at night. Choose earplugs made with industrial strength foam to block out more sounds.
If you have money to spare, you can also invest in a good pair of headphones. It’s best to choose the over-the-ear ones with thick padding that can provide you some passive noise cancelling effect.
Headphones with active noise cancellation feature is good too if you want to tune out more noise.
At the same time, you can play some classical music with your headphones so you can focus more on the task at hand.
Get a noise machine or a sound machine
These machines are commonly used to help you get the best sleep at night. You can also use it at daytime to help you calm down. There are different kinds of sound machines.
White noise machines produce white noise but not the kind that agitates your hearing link the TV’s static.
Most noise machines use brown or pink noise as well. These sound machines are guaranteed to help you sleep amidst the noises coming from your upstairs neighbor.
In fact, some offices use them too to help simulate a peaceful work space.
Put on some tapestries and wall arts
You can buffer the noise not only from your upstairs neighbor but also from the rooms next to yours just by putting up some tapestries and wall arts.
It’s like you’re hitting two birds in one stone if you also like a bit of interior design for your apartment.
How do these things reduce noise levels you ask? Tapestries and some wall decors are porous, which means they are good at absorbing noise and sounds.
You can make your space stylish while minimizing the noise!
How about soundproofing and fixtures?
This one is a more permanent solution for your noise problems.
However, you might need to ask to your landlord’s permission about this since you’re basically changing a bit of the apartment’s interior, most specifically the ceiling.
Once your landlord has approved, you can now start with this little project!
Things to take note of:
Before immediately jumping on soundproofing your apartment, you must first do a couple of these things.
First is to identify the source of the noise.
Ask yourself, what kind of noises are you trying to avoid? Is it just footsteps or is it loud music?
It is important to pinpoint the source so you won’t need to waste time and money trying to add unnecessary fixtures in your apartment.
The solution to your problem depends greatly on the type of noise that you’re trying to tackle.
For instance, noise that comes from any impact such as footsteps, dragging, or dropping materials on the floor needs some kind of material that will absorb that specific vibrating sound.
Sometimes, your upstairs neighbor just needs to use a carpet so the noise can be minimized. There are also noises that are airborne and the solution for this can be quite complicated.
Meaning, just putting on some carpets won’t solve it. This step is important so you won’t make the mistake of just soundproofing right away.
Next is to inspect your area.
There also might be tiny holes or gaps between the room upstairs and your apartment that’s why noise is seeping through.
You need to properly inspect your ceiling and identify which parts only need some fix. You might be surprised that you don’t need to soundproof your whole ceiling.
Now, let’s get to the things that you can do with your ceiling.
Installing a Drop Ceiling
The density of your ceiling can be poor that’s why you can hear every single thing that your neighbor makes. Thin ceilings are most likely the root cause of the problem.
For this, the first option that you can do is to install a drop ceiling. Others call it a suspended ceiling and this solution is really cost-effective.
Drop ceilings are made of square panels that are assisted by a system that suspends from the main ceiling. The panels can be made from composite materials, synthetic, wood, or metal.
You can choose if you want your drop ceiling to be flat and plain or with intricate designs.
The space between the main ceiling and your drop ceiling isolates or traps the noise from above so it will diminished as the sound waves travel down to you.
Using acoustic tiles on ceiling
Most establishments use acoustic tiles not only to lower the height of a room but also to dampen any ambient noises.
If you look at it, putting acoustic tiles is more like installing a specific kind of drop ceiling since these tiles are held by a metal grid from the main ceiling.
Acoustic tiles are exceptional in absorbing noises in an area so say goodbye to those d help loud sounds and echoes from above.
Acoustic ceilings can also help you in saving money since they are highly reflective.
Using a drywall
You can also prefer to just another drywall to the existing ceiling if you don’t want to invest on drop ceilings or acoustic tiles.
It is easier since you just need to install them on the main ceiling using some screws.
Another layer of a thick drywall can block out the noise from above for as much as 80%.
It’s up to you if you want to add more layers of drywall depending on the intensity of the noise that you want to block.
Since drywalls are thick it can be a challenge to install them. A 4x8 and half-inch thick drywall sheet weighs more than 22 kilos already.
If you’re alone in your apartment, you might want to get some extra help in moving and installing. To make the installation of ceiling panels even easier, use an equipment such as a drywall jack.
Using a noiseproofing compound
You’ll need a Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound for this one. This material is used in the middle of two materials such as drywall, plywood, or cement board.
It’s more advisable if one of the materials used is porous while two layers are rigid materials.
How does it work? The compound is made with a polymeric formula. It transforms the mechanical energy that the noise or sound waves make into tiny amounts of heat.
As this compound is placed in the middle of two rigid material layers such as drywall, it makes a system that dampens out the sound.
It means that as the sound waves from the noise go through the ceiling structure, it just turns into heat.
Use acoustic sealants
Even if you install a drywall but there’s still small spaces and holes in it, noise will still come through. This is where the sealants come in.
You can use other sealants when patching up the drywalls or the tiny gaps in your ceiling but why stop there when you can use noise-proofing sealants?
When installing drywalls, always double check for cracks in the wall where noise can still escape or your effort in installing the walls will just be in vain.
Read Next: Soundproof A Thin Wall Between Apartments
Use soundproofing paint
If you’re only dealing with some light and occasional noise you can just apply a soundproofing paint in your ceiling or in any other problem areas in your apartment.
You can also add a layer of this paint over the drywall to increase the buffer.
Most of the time, this type of paint works in noises that are in mid-frequency so if you’re trying to drown out some really loud noises, this won’t help much.
At most, it can decrease the noise level by 30%. Also known as deadening paint, it reduces any noise and echo by absorbing it.
How about carpets on the ceiling?
Yes, carpets can also be placed on a ceiling and it works just like when you’re using it on the floor.
Depending on the thickness, even carpets can significantly minimize the sounds or disturbances from your upstairs neighbors.
It also comes in handy during winters since the carpets also insulate the room.
If all else fails..
If no other solution works for you then maybe you should just try to move out. It isn’t worth the effort living in a compound where even the landlord doesn’t care for the well-being of the tenants.
However, if your landlord can’t really do anything about it, chances are they’ll help you find a new place to stay or a different unit in the same compound.
Is it possible to sue a noisy neighbor?
If you don’t want to back down because you know that you’re not doing anything wrong, you can opt to sue your noisy neighbor.
You can let the court order them to finally stop the disturbance and even ask for money damages.
Remember the records of the disturbances that you keep? These will come in handy if ever you wanted to sue them.
You need to prove that there’s excessive noise that greatly affects your way of living and that you’ve tried to ask your neighbor to stop the disturbance.
Any witnesses, recordings, plus your own testimony is detrimental in proving your case.
Dealing with your noisy upstairs neighbors can be quite a hassle especially if they are not cooperating.
To be honest, this problem should be easily resolved if you’re dealing with a reasonable adult.
With the different soundproofing methods that are stated above when it comes to dealing with the loud disturbances, you can practically drown out all the noises.
You basically won’t have to move out of your apartment with these foolproof solutions.
You can combine all of these methods to make it more effective or if you have money to spare. At night, wearing earbuds will work just fine as it will mostly cancel out any outside noise.
However, if your target is to lower the money that you will spend but want to completely avoid the noise, you can just stay out of your apartment and wait the disturbance out.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.