Reducing Noise Caused by Poor Insulation – Part 1

Poor sound insulation between flats causes noise problems.

Reduce Noise and Improve Sound Insulation

Unless you are one of the lucky ones living in a detached property it is likely that you will share at least one wall or floor/ceiling with your neighbours. Most of us who do live together in relative harmony. However, in some property, often flats or converted property, poor quality sound insulation is often raised as a cause for noise complaints.

Whether it is purpose built or a converted property problems often arise. Property converted before the early 90’s, in particular, may have been completed with poor sound insulation qualities (whereas after the early 90’s minimum standards for sound insulation were put in place). There is also the chance that work is substandard.

Some people are more sensitive to noise than others. So it is important you consider whether you are experiencing a ‘behaviourial’ problem. If the noise is not a result of unreasonable behaviour by the occupant it can not be considered as a statutory nuisance. In close proximity you will be able to hear occasional raised voices and amplified music; this is part of everyday living. However, if you are able to discern normal speech or television (played at a reasonable level) you may have a sound insulation problem. In some cases where the premises is defective in some way (or were not made to the standard of the day, for example, when converted) there may be the potential for a statutory nuisance to exist. However, the circumstances for such cases are rare and protection through noise legislation is, in the main, unavailable.

So if statutory nuisance (noise powers) can not be used what are your options? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Put pressure on landlords
In private rented property (or social housing) pressure can be put on landlords to assess and address the problem through improvements to the building fabric or internal arrangements.

2. Request a housing assessment
You can contact the environmental health service housing team to assess the issue. Using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System they can determine whether a noise hazard exists and can sometimes require landlords to improve sound insulation for occupants.

3. Consider internal arrangements
It may be that the noise is structure borne and so moving a bed to a different side of the room may reduce noise experienced at night. Sometimes people are able to swap over living rooms and bedrooms.

4. Get professional help
Consult a builder or specialist with a view to increasing the sound insulation properties of the building (some examples are given at the end of this article). In such circumstances neighbouring occupants may be happy to share costs as improvements serve common interests.

5. D.I.Y sound insulation
You could complete your own sound insulation improvements internally. For many this will be a cheap option and can be effective in certain circumstances.

We provide some more practical information on how to improve sound insulation in our resources.

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