From the Forum – Polling PoPville: noise issues between row houses?

Photo by PoPville flickr user grit and whatever

Polling PoPville: noise issues between row houses?

“After years in a small apartment, we are relocating to a bigger space, and are looking at a variety of neighborhoods in DC and VA. We’d like to stay in the city but are hesitant to live in a row house because we are concerned about having adjoining walls. Specifically, we currently have really annoying noisy neighbors at all hours (above and below) and are worried about having the same problem again. We have asked friends who live in row houses – some do, some don’t. We’d appreciate hearing from Popvillers living in row houses: do you hear noises from adjoining properties? To what level is it bothersome, i.e. has it ever woken you up?

We appreciate you sharing your experience as we make a significant financial decision. Thank you!”

You can see all forum topics and add your own here.

43 Comment

  • You can buy special dry-wall that adds sound proofing if it is an issue.

  • much less annoying than neighbors above because you don’t hear footsteps in your ceiling.

    • epric002

      +10 we also suffered through god-awfully loud, inconsiderate neighbors above/next door when we lived in an apartment. we currently live in a 1920s rowhouse and hear virtually nothing from either neighbor. occasionally we can hear the faintest tinkling of one playing the piano, but i actually enjoy that, or maybe if i listen reallllly closely i can hear them watching TV/listening to music, but it is certainly nothing that disrupts/is bothersome. i will admit though that both of my neighbors are older (middle aged and elderly), so younger/rowdier neighbors *could* cause more noise. i also think that the plaster/brick walls make for much better noise insulation than the drywall used in most newer apt bldgs.

  • I lived in a rowhouse in Adams Morgan for three years and never once heard the neighbors. Now I live in a rowhouse in Petworth and only occasionally hear them (if they pound while going up their staircase, which is right next to a shared wall).

    What’s more of a noise issue is if your neighbors are loud while outside (either in front or out back). One of our neighbors frequently likes to yell across the street to another neighbor at 6A. He also will use loud power tools out back late at night. But, there’s not much to be done about that! Living in a rowhouse is a symbiotic relationship with the neighbors.

  • I can sometimes hear my neighbors if they are talking in a loud voice or arguing, but mostly I don’t notice them. I have a family with young children on one side and two middle-aged men on the other, who make no noise at all. Having lived in rowhouses in the middle of the row for 24 years, I’d say noise from the adjoining neighbors has been a non-issue. The biggest problem I’ve had was living two houses down from a group house of 20 somethings who would have really loud parties that went too late and kept me awake.

  • We live in a row house around H St / NOMA. We have literally never heard any noise from our neighbors, and one of them has a newborn baby. We have two dogs, one of which is a coonhound (he howls every now and then), and also enjoy listening to music somewhat loudly at times. We have asked our neighbors on numerous occasions if we have ever bothered them. They too claim to have never heard sound coming through the walls.

  • yes, you will occasionally hear neighbors. If they are normal people, its not a problem. If they are terrible neighbors like some I had a few years ago with fights, screaming, slamming doors, etc. there isnt much you can do in regards to sound proofing. Unless you are willing to add a stud wall and 4-6 inches of insulation. Even then that will only work on higher frequency noise. Stuff like bass will go right through that.

  • In old row houses, you rarely hear anything. The most we hear is someone walking up and down the stairs or screaming at the football game but those are few and far between. For some of the new construction places, I would be a bit more wary.

  • Lived in a rowhouse in Glover Park for years and never once heard our neighbors, even though one was a group house. I think those older homes just have thicker walls.

  • The best way to get peace and quiet in your home is to move out of the city… Short of that, you can always insulate your interior walls and get good windows. For any new place you decide to rent, check the insulation between units, that’s what makes the most difference.

  • The only thing I’ve ever heard, from either of my adjacent neighbors, is the occasional low hum of what I believe to be a garbage disposal. The street, alley, and other people’s backyards are a much greater source of noise for us (although I don’t consider this a problem as I enjoy the sounds of urban life!). It seems like having one or both sides of the house open to the environment would, if anything, make the noise problem worse.

    There are several benefits to living in a rowhouse. For one thing, the house is better insulated, so heating and cooling costs are lower, and less energy is wasted. Your house is also a lot less likely to get burglarized because there are fewer points of entry.

  • It can vary within a single rowhouse. Our finished basement is pretty much soundproof, the ground floor has decent sound insulation, although I can hear if they are yelling. Fortunately, they have been quiet this year.

    The top floor has much thinner walls, and we can hear much more (unfortunately). There is one bathroom on the top floor where there must be some kind of defect, I can hear everything. The problem with addressing this is that if I have the wall opened up to work on it, I may find myself looking into my neighbor’s bedroom. We own, they rent. I’m waiting for them to move out before I try doing anything about it.

  • I agree with the comments about the old rowhouses being good about not hearing sound. Ours is a 1920s Petworth Rowhouse and we can hardly ever hear a thing from neighbors on either side.

  • The party wall is double the width on one side of my house as the other. I get no noise from that direction. From the other side, I can get some noise when they are having a party, but not day-to-day noise. That said, those neighbors have a lot of parties and hang out in the backyard into the early hours. Get more noise from that than through the walls.

  • Our neighbor on one side, we never hear anything out of his house. The neighbors on the other side are the loudest, most annoying people in the world. We wonder if they have damaged the walls or exposed the brick or something because their used to be a family that lived there with two kids and we never heard them. These people, their children sound like they are in our house. They clomp up and down the stairs, the children must be jumping off the various beds onto the floor in shoes until 11pm or midnight, the one kid cries way more than most kids do. We had to get a noise machine for our room because they are so loud. We just can’t wait for them to move on or get foreclosed.

  • I live in a 1930’s row house in Mt Pleasant and I rarely hear my neighbors – noise is a non-issue here.

    • PDleftMtP

      That’s your neighbors, I think. We’re also in a 1930s row house in MtP (maybe on your block), and we can hear our neighbors’ kids and piano on one side, football games on the other, and odd things like air conditioners, vacuums, and (whoda thunk it) hangers sliding in closets. Only the piano is loud enough to be annoying if it’s too early in the morning, and we’re absolutely fine with our very nice neighbors, but I don’t want to set the bar at “you’ll never hear anything.”

  • We live in a 1920s row house. the neighbor on one side is great, mostly quiet. The other neighbor…. let’s just say the house has seen better days, and he likes loud music. our bedroom wall is like a giant amplifier for the surround-sound system he has bolted to his wall. On the days he gets his groove on, we can sing along, the music transmits that well through the wall. So when you look at a house, check out the neighbors. if the adjoining houses are in good repair, that is a good sign. drop by on evenings and weekends. and before you commit to purchasing a row house, know that some noise is inevitable.

  • agreed, 1916 here

  • Has anyone heard that rock (IDK I’m not good with labeling music) band playing in the house across from the soccer field on 11th. They must have real accomidating neighbors. I don’t think I could deal with that. Our neighbors are quiet up until about 11, when they spill onto the street in a booze and weed frenzy.

  • That is a *really* good point- check if either you, your neighbors or both of you have exposed brick, as I’ve found that really increases the noise that bounces between houses. You might like the look, but just know that it does reduce the amount of insulation!

  • We live in a rowhouse in Adams Morgan that has been divided into three apartments. We never, ever hear noise from the houses adjoining ours (neither of which have been subdivided into apartments), but we can hear our upstairs and downstairs neighbors. The noise from the upstairs isn’t terribly intrusive, but we can hear – perfectly clearly – every second of our downstairs neighbor’s extremely loud (and frequent) bedroom activities.

  • Neither of my neighbors have exposed brick in their houses, nor do I, but we can still hear the dogs from the neighbor to the west and folks to the east when the yell (which is a lot). We don’t hear it if we have the tv or music on, but when the house is quiet you definitely can. It has woken my husband up in the middle of the night. We have actually considered adding sound-proofing drywall to our bedroom, since that is really the only place the noise is a nuisance.

  • 1912 TH in CH. I rarely hear neighbors. I was in a smaller townhouse off of U Street and would occasionally hear the thumping of the bass of a radio at odd times. But that’s because the dude was against my wall and blaring it while high on whatever.

  • Have lived in row houses here for several years and no issues at all. Certainly no reason to consider moving out of the city.

  • Park View 1910 row house…the first 4 years were hell. Adjacent neighbor was a heroin dealer and pimp. The prostitutes were constantly fighting (could make out all words although they only seemed to use 3 words) and people were “visiting” for their various needs about 15 times a night. They had a dog that barked each time the door was knocked and they also had a beeping door alarm. There were 9 people living there. Finally some were jailed, and later the house was foreclosed on. I think the developer who flipped the house put soundproofing wallboard up; the only thing I have heard from the new neighbors is when they use the stairs in their work shoes.

  • Our house was built in 1909. If we’re in the house and the neighbors are in the house, we can’t hear a thing. If however, they are in their backyard or on the front porch, we can hear every word- espeically since screaming is their chosen method of communication. Unfortunately our neighbors have a propensity for having loud gatherings on their front porch and we have to turn up the TV or wear earplugs at night.

    While you’re house hunting, I’d suggest walking by at all hours and see if the neighbors like to have lively gatherings in front of the house. I will say it’s not foolproof, because we surveyed the neighborhood for months and it always appeared to be very quiet. It was just the luck of the draw!

  • It really depends upon the row house and the quality of construction, which varied even a hundred years ago. We rarely hear our neighbors and when we do, the noise is pretty faint. Our house was built by Harry Wardman, who was known for quality construction. Our party wall is a double wall. I have neighbors on the same block whose houses were built by other developers during the same period who hear everything next door. So, you need to do a bit of research about the house. Also, I agree that the biggest problem is outside noises. If your neighbors like to party outdoors in warm weather, you will have sleepless summers, no matter how well built your house is.

  • It will really depend on the quality of the construction and the neighbors. On one side, we only hear noise if their baby is crying or the other kids run up and down the stairs. On the other side however, we hear it all. She is just a loud person, has a lot of fights with her family, and drinks to much, which causes her to swear uncontrollably. We added about 4 inches to our shared bedroom wall to try and block out the sound, which it does for the most part, but we can’t spare the 4 inches in our narrow living room, so it’s not uncommon to hear that she “is sick of this shit”, or “doesn’t give a fuck about a motherfucker” at 8am on Sunday morning.

  • The only noise I hear in my row house is from the people downstairs. They argue more than anyone I know. I miss having a single person living down there.

  • Early 20th century rowhouses were really built well. I hardly ever hear my neighbors, my sister lived in a new townhouse in NoVA and you could hear everything in the house next door.

  • CH Rowhouse C. 1900, exposed brick wall on one side, drywalled brick on the other. It is extremely quiet and now when I am in apartment buildings and reminded of all the crap you can hear from your neighbors I wonder how I ever put up with it.

  • If it’s a big concern there are also lots of duplexes in the Lamond, Brightwood, Manor Park, and 16th St. Heights area. That would be a little quieter.

  • I travel a lot, and always travel with earplugs. Also always have then in the drawer next to my bed.

    You get used to wearing them, and, while they are not very comfortable, it is better than missing sleep and being angry.

  • Living in a row house in Logan Circle since 2006 I’ve very rarely heard anything from adjacent houses on either side…generally any noise issues come from neighbors above me but they are in the same house…

  • Victorian rowhouse in Columbia Heights. Rowhouses on either side are rented. Renters on one side are considerate and we rarely hear anything. They always shut the noise down at a reasonable hour. The renter on the other side likes coming home when the bars close and turning his bedroom into a karaoke bar. Wakes us up every time. After half a dozen police visits it has become less frequent.

    Previously had a rowhouse on Capitol Hill and only ever heard the occasional argument from the folks in the rowhouses on either side.

    It’s all about the neighbors.

  • exposing the brick does take out a huge amount of effective insulation if there was plaster there before. The plaster was never installed for asthetic reasons as much as insulation against temperature, and it works against sound as well.

  • Some thoughts from a Petworth Rowhouse owner w/ loud neighbors…

    First, it’s not too hard to add some voice/ambient soundproofing to a row house, depending on how much you want your life disrupted. 😉 You can thin-frame (2x3s against the wall on their thick side) out the party wall on your side and add soundproofing material inbetween the brick and some soundproof sheetrock. For less work, you can add an extra layer of sheetrock to the plaster wall w/ construction adhesive. The second approach is more likely to work well against the wall with the stairs.

    That said, it depends on the kind of noise you’re talking about. If it’s voices and ambient (TVs, phones ringing, etc), then a thicker wall helps. If it’s mechanical noise — creaks, floor noise, etc. — then much of that is transmitted via the floor/ceiling joists that hang in the party wall, which means the sound insulation needs to be in your floor/ceiling joist space, not on your walls. That could be a more difficult problem to solve, particularly if your joists and theirs abut in their pockets in the brick wall. I have heard of poking small holes in your ceilings along the party wall and putting in expandable foam along that area, but haven’t seen it myself.

  • I’m in a 1920 rowhouse with one side also being from 1920 and the other side from 1900. I hear everything from both sides, though less from the house from 1900. Conversations, music, TV, barking, crying, running, shoes on hardwood floors, creaking, slamming. The child’s room is next to mine, and it woke me up every night and early morning with crying or slamming doors or drawers, until I bought a white noise machine. Which I guess was so loud that the neighbors then complained about that to me! I switched noise machines, and occasionally if the kid is having a fit or slams something really loudly it wakes me up, but it’s rare now.

  • I live in a 1920 row house in SE and we’re having issues with our adjacent neighbor who plays his club music super loud, from early in the morning until late at night. He’ll turn on his music and leave for the day, not coming back until early the next morning.

    I moved out of a condo thinking I wasn’t going to have to deal with noise issues anymore, but this guy takes the cake. I think it’s more or less an issue with your neighbors and not the construction of the house. Ours is solid. If you’re interested in a house, stop by at night to see how loud everyone gets.

  • I live in a 1910 row house in SE and we’re having issues with our adjacent neighbor who plays his club music super loud, from early in the morning until late at night. He’ll turn on his music and leave for the day, not coming back until early the next morning.

    I moved out of a condo thinking I wasn’t going to have to deal with noise issues anymore, but this guy takes the cake. I think it’s more or less an issue with your neighbors and not the construction of the house. Ours is solid. If you’re interested in a house, stop by at night to see how loud everyone gets.

Comments are closed.