Constantly hearing my upstairs neighbours nearly drove me mad. So I decided to do something about it
Friends occasionally ask me how my neighbours’ poos are doing – and until quite recently I would have been able to give them an alarmingly detailed report. What’s more, I could do this from the comfort of my bed.
I am not the poo police – just someone who lives in a typical ground-floor flat in a Victorian house that was converted in the 70s, before building regulations covered soundproofing.
A Which? report earlier this month revealed that 10 million people in this country had a problem with their neighbour in the last year, and noise was top of the list. It’s nothing new: Julius Caesar legislated against traffic noise, and Hogarth’s 1741 etching The Enraged Musician shows a violinist leaning out of his window, fingers in ears, berating street musicians – one of whom is peeing against his railings.
The psychology is corrosive. Once a sound bothers you, it’s tagged. For me, life upstairs became a soap opera I couldn’t stop listening to, like clawing at a scab.
But the neighbours weren’t being a nuisance; the building was at fault. In the end soundproofing was the only answer. Bluntly, it is about putting mass between you and your neighbour. It is more tricky from below, but still possible. How well it works will depend partly on how much ceiling height you can afford to lose – from a couple of inches up to 12. It puts a hole in the bank account (in our case just under £5,000 for three rooms and a corridor, which then needed plastering) and makes an apocalyptic mess, especially if old ceilings are taken down rather than built over. Without it, though, I might have ended up in a padded cell of a different kind.
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