Foolproof Ways to Tune Out Your Neighbors
New York Daily News Staff Writer
by Isabel Forgang
[date unknown]

It's 3 a.m. and your next-door neighbor has the TV going full-blast.

What can you do?

You can bang on the wall, pull a pillow over your head and hope for the best.

There's nothing specific in the N.Y.C. Noise Control Code which regulates neighbor-to-neighbor activity," says Dan Cunningham of the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

The code only refers to commercial noise such as music blaring from a disco down the block, not the bass vibrating from the stereo next door, he notes.

Noise problems between neighbors have to be handled tenant to tenant or landlord to tenant, Cunningham advises.

It's important to negotiate with your noisy neighbor, says architect David Rockwell of Haverson-Rockwell Architects, because "the easiest way to deal with sound is at its source, with the person making the noise."

Once sound enters your apartment, the connecting wall vibrates and acts as a big speaker, he explains. Then the best you can do is try to muffle the noise.

How so?

"Fabric absorbs sound so use plenty of it, with carpet and padding on the floor, draperies at the windows and upholstery on the walls," advises Rockwell.

Interior designer Bruce Bierman went further to deaden sound for a client whose bedroom butted up to a neighbor's living room.

Rather than just upholster the wall with a layer of padding and fabric, Bierman wrapped a series of 18-inch high by 18-foot long plywood panels in fiberfill, then used decorative fabric over that. Once hung, the panels covered the wall between the two apartments.

Using fiberfill on the panel fronts and backs provided extra layers for sound absorption, explains Bierman.

The most effective way to block out sound -- albeit a more expensive method -- says space planner Janice Gerwirtz, is to build a second sheetrock wall and apply sound insulation batts or sound-deadening board (see below) in the open space between the two walls.

When building a new wall is not an option, Gerwirtz applies a sound-absorbing wall covering to existing walls. One possibility: Knoll International's "Furrows" wall carpeting. The ribbed 54-inch wide material, available in a number of colors, is 3/16-inch thick and made of nonwoven polyester.

Although the wall carpet helps, "acoustical absorbency is a function of the total environment." says David Bright, vice president of communication for the Knoll Group. "The more sound absorbing materials in the room, the quieter it will be." Architect David Estreich suggests apartment dwellers use sheets of Homosote on the walls.(see below)

Covered with decorative fabric and nailed to furring strips along the walls, the Homosote absorbs sounds coming into the room, while adding an attractive finish to the space, says Estreich.

If you need storage, build closets or a wall of bookshelves along the troublesome wall, but apply sound-deadening board or Homosote to the back of the storage units first to prevent sound from coming through, Estreich advises.

Extend the closets to the ceiling and caulk all edges. "Wherever there is a space, sound comes through," he warns.

Also, use soundproof stripping, similar to weather stripping but with acoustical properties, around the entry door to block noise from the corridor, the architect says.

To minimize impact sounds from above, Estreich suggests installing a dropped ceiling. Use resilient clips which do not transmit sound, he says.

Now, if all this seems too daunting, try earplugs.


[note: the date of this article is unknown and therefore the prices indicated below and suppliers may be out-of-date.]

Do-it-yourselfers can make sound improvements on their own. Here's what you can expect to pay for materials.

  • "Furrows" wall carpeting, 54 inches wide and in 16 colors, is $18.75 a yard at the Knoll Group, 105 Wooster Street.
  • Homosote comes in 4 X 8 foot sheets and can be cut to the size needed. A stock item at Home Depot stores, it costs about $13.25 a sheet. Sound deadening board is available in 4 x 8 foot sheets at Broadway Lumber, 517 W 42nd Street for $8.25 a sheet.
  • Sound batts, used between layers of sheetrock, start at 20 cents a square foot at Broadway Lumber.
  • Decorative sound board, available with a cork or burlap finish, can be special ordered at Home Depot. Cork starts at $7.12 for a 12 x 18 inch board. Burlap, sold in 4 x 8-foot sheets, starts at $47.
  • Sound Seal, a noise-reduction stripping for doors, is about $3.30 a foot on special order at Home Depot. -- L.F.

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