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Terrace houses with terrible sound insulation

(30 Posts)
Notcontent Sat 23-Sep-17 21:50:12

I live in a small Victorian terrace and being in London I feel lucky to have it BUT it has quite poor sound insulation. The front seems worse than the back for some reason. Neighbours are not too bad but if I am in my bedroom (at the front) I can hear my neighbour quite clearly if she is talking on her phone on the other side of the wall.

Is this a common problem? I have thought about moving (which would be difficult and expensive) but I am not sure if another terrace would be better...

BarbaraofSevillle Sat 23-Sep-17 22:01:23

I'm not sure it is necessarily a terraced house thing. Our first house was a back to back terraced, so we had neighbours either side and at the back as well and we never heard a peep out of any of them.

We now live in a semi and only have one neighbour (field at back and other side) and it is like the dividing wall is made of tracing paper as we can almost hear next door farting if the wind is in the right direction.

Is there a possiblity of installing sound reduction insulation? Would be quite disruptive and possibly expensive but cheaper than moving especially if you like where you live.

Notcontent Sat 23-Sep-17 22:08:36

I have thought about insulation but I haven't read good things about it...

dantdmistedious Sat 23-Sep-17 22:10:19

Do you have a hall or walk straight in to your living room. We have the first so have the benefit of a staircase that stops noise. My sister has the latter and if the tv in theirs isn't o you can quite clearly hear the conversation or what they are watching next door.

Sheridanflamingo Sat 23-Sep-17 22:12:55

I have this - im sure neighbours can hear me. I dont care though so it's fine - get insulation if it bothers you. There are lots of options. I think moving is worth it if your neighbours are very loud or you don't like them much, in that case probably a win win for everyone if you move. Normal household noise however probably will be the same everywhere.

ifcatscouldtalk Sat 23-Sep-17 22:26:49

Same here (mid terrace). I generally don't hear conversations but when one side run up their stairs and across the landing, it may as well be in my house. I can hear the other sides TV occasionally when it's really loud and my house is in silence. I don't like the lack of soundproofing particularly, but have learned to live with it. would also be interested in sound proofing stories.

Notcontent Sat 23-Sep-17 22:32:14

I am trying to learn to live with it, but would love to live in a detached house so that when I go to bed I can do so without having to listen to other people's TV or music or conversation... But It could be worse, as my neighbours are not too bad...

elektrawoman Sat 23-Sep-17 22:35:17

One good way of soundproofing a wall is to put your bookshelves or wardrobes there. In our bedroom we have fitted wardrobes along one wall and can't hear the neighbours (even though they are pretty noisy generally). The wall we don't have the wardrobes on we can hear the other neighbours more. So if possible put your bookshelves and wardrobes on the noisiest side!

mummymeister Sat 23-Sep-17 22:35:20

Its really hard, almost impossible, to successfully mitigate the causes of sound transmission in these sorts of properties. you have airborne sound and impact sound and both travel along and through the structure. you can do some simple things to improve it like good underlay and good carpet, thicker curtains and soft furnishings to absorb the airborne as well as the impact. you can also use things like book cases on party walls to help.

but fundamentally all the systems for sound insulation will either be really expensive and really disruptive or cheap and not work.

Sheridanflamingo Sat 23-Sep-17 22:38:39

@notcontent could you try earplugs? If your neighbours are ok that's not too bad. I personally hate / absolutely despise mine so count yourself lucky

Tameagobairanois Sat 23-Sep-17 22:42:30

I'm planning to get the wall upstairs between my house and the house next door sound proofed when I get an extension (i'm still saving). It is ridiculous. I can hear that woman urinating. I am not exaggerating. She doesn't close her back door. She slams it shut. Thirty times a day.

It's expensive and you lose about 6-8 cm, and my house is small anyway. But................

I'm going to put rockwool under the floor boards in my bedroom as well to try and muffle a bit more sound. I can hear /feel her trundling across her bedroom floor, her floor boards and bed creaking.

Notcontent Sat 23-Sep-17 22:44:06

Sheridan - I am not great with earplugs - they hurt my ears and don't seem to work so well... I don't have a good relationship with one set of neighbours, so I know what you mean....

ReinettePompadour Sat 23-Sep-17 22:45:43

I have the same problem. My house is 1970s, the walls are like paper. I can hear every conversation my neighbours have, hear their phone ringing, hear their toilet flush hear them having a wee I hear absolutely everything as though its in my own house.

We have insulation but its for heat not sound. I have put all the wardrobes and bookcases along the adjoining walls to try and muffle the sound. It must be very loud as I have hearing problems and can hear both sides perfectly clearly.

Notcontent Sat 23-Sep-17 22:46:40

Tame - my neighbours have a really noisy bathroom fan so I can tell every time someone is using the bathroom - not great....

Sheridanflamingo Sat 23-Sep-17 22:58:12

@notcontent i think insulation or moving are your only options. Have you considered moving? I am an end of terrace and dislike the people directly next door to me but have other people around the corner and on the road who are good friends. So I guess it depends.

ifcatscouldtalk Sat 23-Sep-17 23:04:26

notcontent I would also love a detached house but unfortunately its no where near possible. In the daytime I generally have a TV on or washing machine going and daytime noise doesn't seem so noticeable to me anyway. At night I've taken to using white noise as it blocks other sounds (no different to an electric fan running). I do however know that I sleep very light.

HidingBehindTheWallpaper Sat 23-Sep-17 23:06:51

In our terrace house I could hear both sides of phone calls next door!

Now we are in a 40s ex council bay fronted semi. Our neighbours are noisy but I can only just hear them. If they were an ordinary family I doubt I’d hear them at all.

ifcatscouldtalk Sat 23-Sep-17 23:17:15

tame for some reason your line I can hear that woman urinating cracked me up! Sums up how badly insulated houses can be.
My big fear is getting a bad lot move in. I'd be most put out by musicians or extremely loud shaggers.
Annoyingly, I do know people in terraces that swear they have never heard a peep from their neighbours. I do feel my place was done on the cheap. Even the floorboards upstairs are incredibly creaky ( next on the list to be looked at).
Tame would be interested in how your soundproofing goes.

Justaboy Sat 23-Sep-17 23:29:56

Mass!, is what its about and an air gap and you haven't got much of the former and none i expect of the latter.

This is a very difficult thing to cure I expect that you walls are single brick and that could be a single, around 100 mm or possible 225 mm (9 inch), cavity walls which do help weren't around in those days.

In a previous life i used to help design recording studios and the like for the BBC et al. What is needed is to isolate the sound "energy" in one area then air gap (isolate) it and then the other area this is a room within a room principle and it works very well indeed. Problem for you is you cant do that the most you could do possibly is to put a framework up against the existing wall and pack that with the right sort of acoustic absorbent ie Rockwool of the right type (not fiberglass differing materiel) this will help its very difficult to give exact decibel reduction figure.

In this instance you are absorbing the sound energy like you do with coats and blankets furnishings note how echoey and alive the bathroom sounds to the living room, far more absorbent things therein.

Course you still need to live there and the room might not be available to add and extra absorbent wall like this its quite a large and not that cheap addition.

Best bet is to consult a competent architect and ask them if they are knowledge on the subject not that many are. I very much doubt you'll cure the problem maybe just reduce it the only complete cure is what I did many years ago fork out for a detached house this means i can enjoy classical music and opera and the neighbors don't get to hear it either!

HarrietSchulenberg Sun 24-Sep-17 00:39:19

I have a Victorian terrace that has brilliant sound insulation due to the chimney breasts still being in situ. One side is better insulated than the other but both are pretty good.

My parents have a 1970s bungalow semi with walls you can hear a sparrow fart through.

My friend has a large 2011 detached that she doesn't realise has cardboard walls through which you can hear their also detached neighbours arguing.

Josiah Sun 24-Sep-17 03:25:33

tralaaa Sun 24-Sep-17 07:01:19

We boarded our dividing wall in our bedroom! As the neighbour has 2 small children in the joining bedroom, and a chimney stack shared through the room. Works a treat - I think it was thin plasterboard

Elendon Sun 24-Sep-17 08:19:57

Is your attic walled on both sides? I would check it. Plug any gaps up there as well. Check the thickness of the insulation too.

I agree with the bookshelves along the dividing wall and do fill with books and files (get cheap books from the charity shop).

Put wardrobes along the dividing wall as well, if you can manage that. Clothes will muffle the sounds.

I agree it's irritating and you will be forever wondering if the new neighbours will be noisy.

Get advice as Justaboy suggested. It might be worth it and your sanity

Elendon Sun 24-Sep-17 08:21:36

Oh and I agree about detached houses not insulating you from noise either, unless the grounds are substantial.

kernowgal Sun 24-Sep-17 09:31:10

I'm in a semi and I hear my neighbours all the time. It was a shock, having lived in detached places or houses with very thick walls. It's like a herd of elephants when they go up and down the stairs - to the point where I can identify who's going up and down the stairs. They're really nice though, and I'm sure they can hear me.

Sound insulation works best when done on the side the sound is coming from. Most of the noise in my case is impact noise from the stairs, and so there's pretty much nothing I can do about that. We have adjoining hallways and there is a lot of echo, so I'm hoping it'll improve when I update the carpets and maybe add some rugs as wall hangings. Also planning to use acoustic plasterboard when I do the ceilings. However a lot of the sound seems to travel through the cavity walls or the concrete blockwork walls.

I was also advised to make sure any brickwork is properly pointed, as holes in cement will let noise through. I've had my fireplace done (and rendered) but theirs is still open with lots of holes, so I hear a lot from there. But yes, bookshelves are a huge help.

It can be miserable. I'm still debating moving as my neighbours are pretty noisy regardless, but unless I move to a detached place (which I can't currently afford) there's the risk that my next place might be the same or worse!

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