How to Quiet Hardwood Floors and Befriend Your Neighbor
Not long ago, I lived on the second floor of an old three-story apartment building that featured original hardwood floors in every unit. Less than one week after I moved in I began to notice various sounds coming from the apartment above my ceiling: footsteps of various speeds and levels of impact, chairs and tables sliding across the floor, vibrating appliances (especially the refrigerator), and another peculiar noise that, not until later, I learned came from exercise equipment.
Just as my frustrations began to mount, I realized the neighbors beneath my floor were probably feeling about as pleased with me as I was with my upstairs neighbors. I knew that before I could address the noises coming from upstairs I needed to address the noises I was creating in my own apartment.
If you have neighbors who dwell beneath your hardwood floors, let’s take a look at a few of the noise-reducing solutions that worked well for me. I can tell you that the following tips did not require a lot of my time or money, but they did save me months of stress and frustration. Are you ready to offer your neighbors some peace and quiet, and maybe your friendship?
Have a friendly visit with your neighbor.
Before you make any changes to the flooring in your apartment I recommend opening dialogue with the first-floor residents about what it is they hear, and to gauge their level of frustration. You’ll either learn you’re not making as much noise as you think or that your neighbors are only days away from a total meltdown. By starting this type of conversation you’re letting the neighbors know you’re conscientious about your noise and you care about their quality of life. They’ll most likely appreciate the caring gesture and will be open to discussing any necessary solutions.
But the goal will be more than just making friends with the neighbors. Most importantly, you need to figure out where most of the noise comes from, or what causes noise the most from your apartment. That way you can implement solutions only where needed, which will save you some time and money. After you’ve spoken with the neighbors and carried out implementations, check back again to make sure the solutions are effective.
Alter your footwear choices at home.
The easiest and most cost-effective option is to simply remove your shoes at the front door as soon as you come home. More often than not the neighbors hear the sound of your shoes clapping against the hardwood floors. Nobody expects you to stop walking at home, but wearing socks, a pair of flip flops or slippers, or going barefoot will go far in reducing the sound of your footsteps and impromptu dance moves.
Lay down some area rugs or carpet runners.
Chances are you spend a concentrated amount of time in select areas of your apartment, and those areas warrant rugs the most. It’s not too difficult to figure out which surfaces receive the most foot traffic, and you ought to be able to figure it out during your discussion with the neighbor. In places like the kitchen or the bathroom, typically a small throw rug or bath mat will suffice. The living room may require a larger area rug while a hallway is ideal for a long, narrow runner.
Ultimately, with rugs, the idea is not to cover every inch of hardwood flooring. Simply identify those few areas with the most foot traffic. You may also find that an extra layer of padding underneath each rug will help further absorb noise caused by feet.
You can also lay other materials on hardwood floors, such as cork, but if you rent your apartment you may want to explore other options before making that kind of investment. In fact, if your downstairs neighbor continues to suffer from your noisy floor even after an intervention, contact your landlord or maintenance professional to discuss other options. But first, head downstairs to get the ball rolling on some soundproofing measures—just be sure to postpone the rolling of anything until after you’ve silenced the floors.
If you’ve lived in an apartment building with noisy floors and noisy neighbors, what solutions have worked well for you? What did you discover made the most noise and challenged your nerves the most? We want to know!