Acoustiblok Soundproofing Blog Articles

'Treble' in Paradise: Piano Teacher’s Permit Revoked After Neighbor Complains About Noise

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Nov 29, 2013 7:34:00 PM

Next door, Jay Chester cringes from the sound. For him, it’s a constant barrage of noise — an intrusion on what he considers an otherwise peaceful refuge.

Both residents work from home: Marcus as a piano instructor and Chester as an Internet developer. They also have another thing in common: a shared dining room wall that connects their condominiums.

Coincidentally they both moved into their homes within months of each other in 2008.

The feud between neighbors has been escalating for years. It’s gone from friendly exchanges over the backyard fence to hostile encounters in the street and terse letters written to city officials.

Ultimately the fight led to the city’s revocation of the permit Marcus needs to teach piano lessons from her home.

a1a1a1a1 Blog picBut she’s not ready to give up. She appealed the decision to the City Council, which will decide later this month who will win the battle.

There is only one other permit issued for residential piano lessons in the city, and it has been held since 1999, said Brian Leveille, associate planner.

This is the first home occupation permit issued for home businesses to be revoked in the past five years, said Leveille, who called the situation “quite unusual.”

Both Marcus and Chester pleaded their cases before the city’s Planning Commission in December, which led to a 5-1 vote in support of revoking Marcus’ permit to give piano lessons from her home.

Chester argues that the “continuous cacophony of noise being produced by the grand piano on the other side of the common wall Mrs. Marcus and I share has been a constant nuisance.”

He’s made multiple short video clips — which he titled “piano pollution” — from his home to prove his point.

He also alleges that the continual coming and going of cars as students arrive and are picked up has proved to be a problem in their shared driveway and the nearby, narrow street.

Marcus says she has done everything she can to accommodate those concerns — including asking her clients to park in a specific location directly in front of her garage.

She claims that the cost of soundproofing her home, such as building an acoustical wall, is not feasible.

“On my side of the wall, there is a very large tapestry hanging,” Chester said. “I didn’t put it on my wall because I like tapestries. I went online to look for soundproofing options, and it said they help.”

But it still hasn’t muted the sound Chester is trying to be rid of.

Marcus is now offering to discontinue her use of the grand piano and use an upright piano on which to teach her students.

“It is a personal sacrifice for me as a musician to give up the use of this lovely instrument that I have owned for 45 years, but it is worth it to me in order to resolve the issue,” Marcus wrote in her appeal to the City Council.

Chester said that offer is not enough.

“This is just not the right environment for the business she is trying to run here,” Chester said. “The noise is constant and chronic. This is my home, my refuge, my sanctuary, and I should be able to enjoy it without piano music in the background.”

Piano Noise Blog Calif Text Box bylineAbout The Tribune

Founded in 1869 by District Attorney Walter Murray in what is now Mission Plaza, The Tribune is the oldest continuously operating business in the city of San Luis Obispo and one of the oldest enterprises in San Luis Obispo County.

Tags: neighborhood sounds, sounproofing, music noise, piano noise, neighborhood noise, home noise, Acoustiblok, residential noise

Noise U: College Athletic Complexes are Noise Issue to residents

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Dec 24, 2012 11:12:00 AM

West Virginia Univ Dick Blek Stadium field view

Today’s collegiate, high school, and recreational multi-sport complexes are getting larger, more complex and costly, and ultimately, noisier for residents who live near them. The collegiate sports facility market alone continues to grow and evolve. As student enrollment increases, outdated facilities age, programs shift and competition on the athletic recruiting front grows more intense.

With the increased expansion of outdoor collegiate sports complexes near residential areas, more and more people are experiencing noise disturbances near their homes. This noise pollution can diminish privacy, affect peace of mind, and increase tension levels for many people. Increasingly, municipalities are looking closer at potential noise issues before new complexes are built. They are seeking proactive approaches and new ways of controlling noise before they are built, rather than rely on reactive solutions later that may or may not be effective.

Let’s look at some recent happenings that made the news at a few colleges and universities. As student populations grow, so must the campuses and physical elements of these schools. As they grow and expand closer and closer to residential areas, so too does the intrusion of noises these complexes onto nearby residential areas.

Northern Kentucky University (NKU), located in Highland Heights, KY, (about 12 miles southeast of downtown Cincinnati) built a new $6.5 million soccer stadium to support its successful men’s and women’s soccer teams. The beautiful, new open-air soccer stadium was built into a hillside on university property near the school’s $69 million state-of-the-art basketball arena.

Norhtern Kentucky University soccer complex  NKUaerialpic

The soccer field borders a residential area located near the backside of the field. Music and voices from the game announcer is broadcast over a public address system before, during and after games. Over the past year, nearby residents have voiced concerns to the university and to the Highland Heights City Council about the noise levels at the complex. Recently, the university announced it is turning to a commonly used solution; planting evergreen trees along the backside area to partially block the noise to nearby residents during games and activities at the soccer complex. These tree barriers are generally not an effective and acceptable noise reduction solution.

West Virginia Univ Dick Blek Stadium aerial 

Similarly, West Virginia University (WVU), located in Morgantown, WV was facing a noise issue at their collegiate soccer complex (shown directly above and at the top of the article). However, rather than using only a natural product like trees to partially block the line of site noise, WVU is taking a more modern and proven approach to solving their noise concerns. They decided to use Acoustiblok’s Acoustifence product, a 1/8-inch thick unique sound deadening material that easily attaches to fences to form a noise barrier. It’s a simple and economical first step noise abatement solution that provides a noise blocker. The material itself provides a meaningful reduction in sound and can represent more than an 80 percent reduction in sound to the human ear depending on the surrounding environment. It is virtually indestructible, very resilient and is proven to reduce noise.

In Kalamazoo, MI, Kalamazoo College (shown below) recently built a new $16-million sports complex that is near a residential community. Even though the new complex is aesthetically pleasing to the residents, some residents of Seven Oaks, Rob Roy on the Lake, and other neighborhoods in the River Hills area formed an organization to oppose the sports complex and retained an attorney to represent their interests. In addition to the traffic issues, they cite problems with wastewater, light pollution and noise. Some residents are concerned that the complex will affect their property values.

Kalamazoo College athletic complex - soccer field View of Kalazoo College athletics complex from nearby street

So the next time the referee blows the whistle to signal the start of a collegiate sports match, it may not be the hundreds or thousands of spectators in the stands that make the most noise. It may be nearby residents who make the loudest noise after the games through noise complaints City Council about their noisy neighbors.

Tags: noise blocking material, college noise issue, noise complaints, noise barrier, noise, residential noise

Airport Traffic Noise Pits Communities Against Eachother

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Nov 29, 2012 6:30:00 AM

airplane in residential neighborhood

Residents of Minneapolis and nearby Edina raised their collective voices and lobbied successfully to keep aircraft noise out of their backyards last week, effectively delaying a new FAA flight pattern that would have rerouted some aircraft through their neighborhoods to alleviate plane noise plaguing the community of Richfield.

The lesson here is simple and timeless – the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and residents of both Minneapolis and Edina proved it last week. Their gain is now Richfield’s loss.

Similar episodes are playing out across the U.S., illuminating an increasingly common fight that pits community against community over local airport noise. Ultimately, the best organized and often most combative reign victorious, while neighboring communities are left to deal with renewed levels of airport noise pollution. The outcome of these battles can affect everything from residents’ health and well-being to real estate values.

First a little geography. Edina is about nine miles southwest of Minneapolis, and Richfield is just under five miles east of Edina. All three deal with aircraft noise from the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport Lindbergh Terminal. The community of Richfield bears the brunt of incoming and outgoing aircraft noise due to its close proximity to the airport. But Richfield has been lobbying hard to have some flights rerouted, which would have lightened Richfield’s noise impact while increasing aircraft noise pollution in Minneapolis and Edina.

Just as word got out that the FAA was poised to approve the new flight plan, Minneapolis and Edina slammed the agency with emails, petitions, and phone calls to defeat the plan that would route more aircraft over their own back yards. All the commotion worked, and the FAA’s ruling to delay the flight pattern change left Ritchfield residents back where they started.

As the aircraft noise pollution problem increases from one year to the next, this turn of events illustrates how communities can expect to be pitted against each other to protect their peace and quiet, and how the best organized communities ultimately win the battle.

Ironically, the uproar over aircraft noise pollution has gone from spewing choice words of displeasure at the airlines to battling neighboring communities to determine which one least deserves the bulk of the airwave invasion.

Edina homeowners were the first to organize, and they did so quite effectively. Local activists took up the cause, using language that was alarming and filled with imagery meant to scare others into agreement.  

Emails warning of "Toxic Super Highway for Planes planned for Edina," in the subject line threatened other homeowners with proclamations that “This (new flight pattern) will dramatically reduce your quality of life AND significantly reduce your property values," read another.

Homeowners filled a meeting of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to review the new flight plan, which uses a system that utilizes satellite technology to reroute planes more precisely over less populated areas. The FAA uses the same system for airports nationwide.

Richfield residents were happy with the new flight pattern system because it would steer air traffic over the city’s Crosstown Expressway, where many of the homes already had government-subsidized sound proofing, and away from neighborhoods in which homes were more vulnerable to noise.

But Edina and Minneapolis activists opposed the new plan because they said that while it would benefit certain homeowners, others would be harmed by it. Now, the rerouting plan is on hold while more studies are conducted, and Richfield residents are back to square one.

Minneapolis homeowners are well known for their anti-airport noise activism, which in 2007 resulted in a settlement that forced the FAA to provide soundproofing material in 5,800 homes that were affected by aircraft noise.

Last summer, we witnessed a similar dilemma when residents of the Hamptons demanded changes be made to alleviate the horrendous levels of noise pollution incurred by neighbors who were utilizing private helicopters to commute to back and forth between homes in the Hamptons and offices in Manhattan.

The helicopter noise was unbearable according to Hamptons residents and visitors alike, who claimed it made windows rattle, woke people from their sleep and heightened anxiety and blood pressure in many of those exposed to the helicopter noise. Residents on Long Island and Manhattan were also subjected to the helicopters’ relentless pounding day and night, seven days a week. However, when FAA officials ordered new flight paths and hours to protect Hamptons residents from the clamor, the proposed changed impacted Long Island and Manhattan residents negatively.

Ten years ago, people were still telling themselves that noise pollution was something we need to live with, something that was unavoidable. Today, the opposite is happening as awareness over the dangers of noise pollution to health and well-being has increased, and people are growing more protective over the quality of their environments.


Tags: aircraft noise, airport noise, noisy neighborhoods, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise barrier, residential noise

How About a Big Box of Peace and Quiet for Dad This Year?

Posted by Liz Ernst on Jun 8, 2012 7:00:00 AM

dad relaxes in soundproofed home officeFather’s Day is fast approaching – June 17, only nine days away. If you’re searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift this year, you’re probably looking beyond the obligatory card and tie. 

If you polled dads across the country, their number one wish for Father’s Day might be peace and quiet. And they really mean it – a solid stretch of at least 10 hours of silence, or the closest thing to it they can find.

Now, this could be a challenge. How do you gift a commodity as valuable and, more often than not out of reach, as quiet?

A gift certificate for a massage could be a good bet. Check ahead with the spa to make sure their masseuse is not a chatty type, and fetch your dad one to two hours of undisturbed ahhhhhh.  If he’s a golfer, time on the green might be a favorite escape, if he can squeeze in his tee-off mid week when most courses are quietest. But even the most creative choices for giving dad some quiet time are fleeting. Buying quiet is just not easy.

It may seem like a stretch, but how many adults do you know, men and women, who don’t dream of a quiet space at home they can call their own? Soundproofing in homes today is growing in popularity, although most homeowners aren’t sure where to begin or what the cost might be.

Although the scientific veracity of these findings may be debatable, on a recent episode of “Family Feud,” a television game show that asks contestants to guess the most popular answers to random questions, the results of the show’s survey question: “Name the noisiest room in a house,” were, in this order:

  • Living room

  • Kitchen

  • Bedroom

  • Bathroom

If the dad in your life were to choose his own peace and quiet oasis, he may or may not choose any of these rooms, but for practical purposes most homeowners look to install noise absorbing and noise blocking materials in a home theater or home office. These rooms tend to provide a comfort level that can be enjoyed for long stretches of time, whereas a bathroom might not offer any realistic relaxation space for more than 20 minutes.  The kitchen may not offer the absolute isolation that is part and parcel with peace and quiet, which makes the living room an equally questionable contender.

Different rooms have different noise abatement needs, so if you decided that the dad in your household would appreciate a quiet space of his own (or one you could share), the first step would be to talk to an acoustical consultant who can evaluate noise issues in the home, and help choose the best room for soundproofing treatment. 

Let me just mention that soundproofing is never absolute. Eliminating all sound completely is simply not achievable, but noise can be dramatically reduced in a room – and in today’s noisy world, this “little luxury” is growing in popularity as more and more people seek solitude from the clamor of everyday life.

Noise abatement in a home theater makes sense, as this room is meant for enjoying music, movies, and television with as little external acoustical interference as possible. Eliminating noise in home theaters can be tricky because there may be issues of vibration and low frequency sound that requires a different sound abatement approach than, say, a room in which the challenge is keeping external noise out.

A home office might make sense for soundproofing treatments, since most homes do not have home theaters, and home offices are becoming standard as more people choose to telecommute. Depending on factors such as the number and placement of windows, as well as noise sources affecting the room, a noise blocking or noise absorbing treatment may be called for, or possibly a combination of both.  An acoustical expert can also determine if the ceiling or floor need noise abatement treatments as well.

For anyone who has struggled with noise-related sleep deprivation, the bedroom may be the best choice for soundproofing, especially since it can serve as a comfortable retreat when the need for peace and quiet arises.  

As the number of studies proving the negative health effects of noise keeps growing, the number of people looking to install noise insulating material in their homes grows. Increasingly, architects and builders are including soundproofing material in new home projects as a selling point that definitely appeals to buyers.

When I was growing up, ours was a family of eight children in a cavernous six-bedroom house on Lake Michigan, built in the late 19th century. There were always a door slamming, voices echoing, televisions, radios, stereos blaring – it was a boisterous household. My dad found his solitude in our bunker of a basement, which actually did a good job of sealing out the upstairs chaos above.

But that basement was built more than 100 years ago as a fortified shelter to protect the home’s inhabitants from the tornadoes that occasionally moved in off the lake in summer. Its solid stone walls were thick enough to house a wine cellar. Dad was a quiet guy, who rarely seemed perturbed by the noise in the house; he would just slip down to the basement to putter when he needed peace and quiet.

It wasn’t until he passed away in 1994 that we realized how peaceful his cellar lair actually was, an oasis in that big old house where over the years he taught himself to build delicate ships in bottles, make custom fishing rods and golf clubs, and kill time with a half a dozen other hobbies that required quiet and  focus.

Everyone deserves such an oasis of peace and quiet, although you’re just not going to get it in most houses built after the early 20th century.  In modern houses, creating a “peace and quiet” room can be the best Father’s Day gift yet, especially since mom can enjoy it too. Realtors find that home soundproofing can increases the resale value as well.

If you can think of a better Father’s Day gift – or perhaps you already have – tell us about it in the comments below.


Tags: peace and quiet, sound barrier, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise barrier, residential noise, father's day

Residential Noise Pollution: Living Quietly is More Elusive Than Ever

Posted by Liz Ernst on Apr 26, 2012 10:09:00 PM

residential noise pollution,noise pollution, soundproofing,noise insulating material,noisy neighbors

As someone who has been writing about noise pollution for more than three years, I have come to understand the insidious threat that noise is to pretty much everyone on the planet. Yet for some reason, noise pollution is largely ignored by environmental agencies, law enforcement, and ordinary citizens who either don’t understand the toll noise takes on our health and well being, or who think they have no recourse.

After spending the better part of the past three months searching for a new apartment, it dawned on me how much my growing awareness of the poison that is noise has changed my priorities. I’ve always loved city living, and loved living in the heart of downtown Tampa for these past two years. But the relentless barking of miserably sheltered dogs, the pounding bass of passing boom cars, and the continuous buzz of construction noise, neighbors’ stereos, traffic – it has caught up with me. I needed to move, but I set out looking for a nice first floor apartment in a gated community.

However, after traipsing through half a dozen of these idyllic communities – Tampa is loaded with them – I realized quickly that, although the dogs barking were smaller (a different kind of annoying) and the boom cars were absent, the ambient noise was hardly improved. Traffic noise from busy nearby highways still seep in, along with other modern noise culprits.  

Uncontrolled noise pollution has infiltrated our living spaces to such a degree, many people don’t realize the toll it’s taking. It’s not uncommon to tell oneself that you’ve grown used to certain noises in your environment; air traffic, if you live near an airport for instance, or the drone of a neighbor’s heat pump. Unfettered noise can not only harm our quality of life, but it can reduce property values as our neighborhoods become less sought after place to live.

Noise pollution is tricky. It’s not visible, and often highly subjective. In residential communities, noise pollution frequently occurs when the “perpetrator” is not home to control it, and often stops before law enforcement can confirm there’s a problem. Unfortunately, it is a low priority for police, who are the respondents in most communities to noise complaints.

Because of the lack of attention paid to noise pollution – another Earth Day just passed without a mention of it – most people suffer in silence, not wanting to have a problem with the people behind the source of the noise, or simply believing complaining does no good. Some noise can be troubling to one person and not bother another at all. Such subjectivity over what noise is problematic can add another obstacle to finding a workable resolution. Yet studies show that people consistently rank noise as an important quality of life issue. When noise levels are consistently high, humans suffer from stress and stress-related illness.

Perhaps the greatest concern now is that over time, as noise pollution becomes more common in residential communities, everyone’s expectations of how quiet their neighborhood should be will decrease. People will complain less, and just try to live with it—to the detriment of their quality of life, health, and neighborhood.

Perhaps because I come from a large family, as an adult I have always appreciated peace and quiet wherever I can get it. In recent years, when I choose places to spend my vacations I seek quiet surroundings more often than not; I used to head straight for New York, Paris, Madrid – now I seek the quietest beach or most isolated corner I can afford to get to. I have developed tinnitus, which is more common than it should be, although I can’t tell you when – my ears had been ringing for years before I actually took note of it. Today, one in three people I ask tell me they have tinnitus, and have had it for years.

Since writing about the effects of noise on humans, wildlife, and even plant life (noise kills trees!) I have learned a lot about the effects of noise in different areas of the world. India, for instance, contains the world’s noisiest city – Mumbai – and the noise related health problems of Mumbai residents are bordering catastrophic. To its credit, the Indian government is beginning to enforce some of the strict noise ordinances recently put in place, but India’s culture is a noisy one. It will take years of education and enforcement to undo generations of traditions and lifestyles in which noise is a common part of the fabric.

Sound abatement technology keeps improving, and some industries are beginning to embrace it – often due either to pressure from government or irritated neighbors. But 21st century lifestyles have incorporated new and growing noise control challenges that more people have to identify and address.

When the hazards of second hand cigarette smoke first became an issue, many people scoffed, but eventually everyone listened and people either learned to isolate their smoking from others, or they quit. Taking control of noise pollution is going to require the same style of self awareness and self-discipline  – wearing headphones when you want to blast the music (although you’ll still be hammering your own hearing); finding an alternative to the boom car for public coolness; placing noise abatement solutions around noisy HVAC units, pool pumps, and generators. Mowing grass and using power tools when your neighbors are not trying to sleep or sit down to dinner.

There are other sounds over which we have no control – emergency vehicle sirens, police helicopters, commercial aircrafts, industrial vehicles, industrial machinery, and – oh yes  the neighbor’s barking dog.

It is not realistic to think we can completely control noise, nor is it realistic to believe that local police should be interventionists when the neighbor’s noise levels are keeping us awake. People need to be educated about the effects of noise pollution on everyone’s life and health, and from there, take action. No more passive acceptance of noise pollution in our neighborhoods because much of it can be curtailed with simple common sense and courtesy. Special noise enforcement units should be set up separately from law enforcement, staffed with people trained in acoustics and sound measuring, who work full time at controlling noise pollution.

Tags: sound barrier, soundproofing, Noise pollution, noise barrier, residential noise

Neighbors are Crowing Over Noise-Related Sleep Deprivation

Posted by Thomas Wiseman on Sep 6, 2011 11:06:00 AM

 Noisy rooster noise barrier sleep deprivation  Noise related sleep deprivation sound barriers

A rooster accused of waking up residents in a quaint UK village is being forced to move out after its owner was served with a noise abatement order by the local town council and threatened with court action.

The early morning alarm that comes naturally to Cockadoodle Welch has been disrupting the neighbors' sleep for months. After weighing in on more than 50 recordings of the young rooster (also known as a cockerel) crowing before 7:30 a.m. over the space of one week, council members intervened on behalf of the sleep-deprived residents by delivering an ultimatum to Cockadoodle's owner Carl Welch: the rooster, who lives with 12 hens in Welch's yard, must be relocated or Mr. Welch will find himself in court over the noisy disruption to his neighbors' peace and quiet.

The headaches began in late 2010 when Mr. Welch thought it would be nice to add chickens to his garden, since his home is in a relatively rural area where outdoor noise is not usually a problem for residents. Mr. Welch says it never occurred to him that the neighbors would take issue when he added the cockerel to the backyard flock.

“As the mornings grew lighter, one of my neighbors complained that the rooster's crowing was disturbing them in the early mornings," he said.

“I’ve done everything I can to stop him from crowing really early.

“I brought him inside and covered him up, but I have to leave for work at 7 a.m. so I have no choice but to put him outside at about 6.45 a.m.”

Mr. Welch says Cockadoodle, who has his own Facebook page, would now have to go and live with a friend in another community.

“It seems a bit ridiculous to me," Mr Welch says. "I’ve got to re-home him just because I can’t go to work any later.

“I’ve got to stop him from crowing between 6.45 a.m. and 7.30 a.m., but most people are already up and going to work at that time. I don’t even know who’s complained. I’ve asked around and people have said they’ve heard him but it’s a countryside sound so it doesn’t bother them.”

A statutory noise nuisance has been established and as such, the council is duty bound to serve an abatement notice when no sufficient soundproofing material or other noise deadening resolution has been put in place to provide peace and privacy to the neighbors. Mr. Welch has been advised that should the notice be breached, ultimately court proceedings may follow.

“We have a duty to investigate all reports of noise pollution thoroughly and take all complaints to the council seriously," said a council spokesman.

Although evicting a noisy cockerel on behalf of cranky neighbors may sound like fodder for a standup comedy routine, noise-related sleep deprivation can have serious implications; it can interfere with daytime functions that require alertness including driving, operating machinery, working, and watching over children. Ongoing sleep disruption due to noise can also lead to serious health problems including high blood pressure, impaired immune system, irritability, cognitive impairment, memory lapses or loss, anxiety and other health risks.

In many U.S. communities, keeping roosters in residential areas is discouraged due to the noise nuisance they often create. Regulations vary from one community to the next; whereas roosters may violate noise ordinances in one community, they may be in violation of livestock ordinances in another.

If legitimate noise complaints are received against roosters in residential areas, and steps are not taken to create an effective noise barrier to keep the offending wakeup call out of neighboring properties, local governing officials may request the rooster(s) to be removed from the property.

Tags: noise-related sleep deprivation, rooster noise, noisy roosters, noise deadening, noisy neighbors, backyard noise, sound barrier, soundproofing, noise abatement, sound deadening, noise barrier, residential noise