Sirens, barking dogs, 3 a.m. video gamers, professional dancers upstairs, who may or may not be teaching Godzilla to salsa -- living in an apartment or condo can be a very noisy experience, not to mention a daily exercise in calmness. When plugging your ears or having a conversation with your neighbors just doesn't cut it, take matters into your own hands and soundproof your space. These simple, affordable tips will help your home return to a place of rest and relaxation, no matter those around you.
Michael LaFratta, owner of Silentium Soundproofing, is an expert on urban noise. He notes that noise pollution most often occurs due to a lack of soundproofing when a building was initially constructed, or people living in close proximity. When there is not enough mass and space between walls, ceilings or floors, sound is easily transferred. It's tough but not impossible to tell in advance whether you would have a noise issue in a particular home. LaFratta suggests visiting a potential home at night when neighbors will be home or having your attorney check the housing board minutes for noise complaints.
That said, considering the competitiveness of the housing market today, many would not opt out of buying or renting a home simply because of noise pollution. And renters often can't make major changes to a property. These possible solutions will help you bring some peace and quiet to your home.
*Fill the Space
Interior designer DeAnna Radaj is the author of "Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In" and "Feng Shui for Teens." As someone who has dealt with noisy neighbors and had clients with similar issues, she recommends creating an environment in which sound is absorbed, deadened and lessened. With shared walls, it's best to "place all heavy case good furniture like media centers, bookcases and shelving on the shared wall to help absorb sound vibration and noise," she says.
Otherwise, placing items in the corners of the rooms (they could be purely decorative) helps, too. Radaj recommends live plants -- one for every 100 square feet of living space. They are a triple threat: absorbing sound, detoxing the air and adding a design aesthetic.
If you are able, weather stripping your windows will help block outside racket.
*Stop the Clatter
Some noise pollution comes from within your home. Radaj says, "Make sure there are plenty of 'soft' surfaces." Buffer the noise from hard surfaces like tile and hardwood floors by decorating the space with a rug, a carpet, upholstered furniture or curtains. Any or all of these options will decrease the volume of the offending sounds. This can be especially useful in homes with pets or small children.
*Wall to Wall
Empty wall space can create echoes. The simplest solution is to hang artwork. 3M hooks are no-nail hanging tools that work well to keep art in place, Radaj says. Using either adhesive tape or hanging putty, they are very renter-friendly. Hang framed artwork, or even a rug or tapestry, on your walls according to your personal style.
And though you might not expect it, reflecting light is considered by some to help with noise reduction. According to feng shui theory, Radaj explains, a mirror bounces negative energy and sound back in the direction from which it came. As such, you can hang a mirror on the wall facing the noisy area, say, across from the wall you share with your next-door neighbors.
Radaj's mother taped a makeup mirror inside a piece of artwork that was hung on the shared wall of her condo. Regardless of the effect it may have on irritating noises, a mirror is stylish and can also make a space appear to be larger.
As with many things in life, when it comes to noise pollution, short of picking up and moving altogether, whatever you resist will persist. Try one of these simple, affordable tips so that when thinking of home, the word "serene," not "scream" comes to mind.