By Bill Primavera
Frequently I’ve been asked by buyer clients to show them homes in a quiet neighborhood or homes that are far from a busy road.
The most important thing they seek in their home life is peace and quiet. While some people can live happily with the most extraordinary noise surrounding them, others seem to be more sensitive to lesser extraneous sounds, such as passing cars.
And if you live in an apartment or condo, there are the sounds that come through ceilings and walls that can be an issue to the more sensitive ear. Some noise you can do something about, some you grin and bear it and some you just get used to.
My first apartment in New York was in a new building that wasn’t soundproofed. Upstairs there was a young child who would run back and forth on uncarpeted floors. I complained to the mother bitterly every time it got out of hand. That neighbor, whose name I still recall, got so sick of my complaints that she sent her tough boyfriend down to threaten me. The only real solution to the problem was to walk out on my lease and find an apartment with no one above.
When I bought my first home in Brooklyn Heights, I found that it sat directly over the A train subway line. Visiting dinner guests would sometimes have a look of mild panic when the rumbling train barreled through below. We loved the house and learned to accept the noise. In fact, when the transit workers went on strike for a week, we missed the sound that lulled and vibrated us to sleep at night.
When I moved to Westchester, it was late summer and I couldn’t fall asleep the first night because of noise that one would never find in the city: the drone of katydids. By my second season here, I was welcoming the sound like a lullaby.
Those of us who live in a single-family home expect to be spared the kind of noise pollution that one might face in an apartment, co-op or condo with common walls. But we have all of the outdoors to carry annoying sound waves: lawn mowers, leaf blowers, cars and trucks.
If the whoosh of cars annoys you, it can be abated by installing a solid fence along the street. The regular four-foot fence will help deflect some of the sound. Also, thick evergreen bushes help. Another device is outdoor water, either in a fountain or a waterfall incorporated into a swimming pool.
Another effective technique to lessen noise from a busy road, often used in apartment and condo developments, is the creation of a high dirt berm with plantings.
It is estimated that as much as 90 percent of outdoor noise comes through windows and doors. Good insulated windows are the best defense to prevent outdoor noise from becoming indoor noise. As much as 75 to 95 percent of extreme outdoor noise, such as living next to a major traffic artery, can be eliminated through the use of soundproof windows that are added as an extra layer inside of a regular window.
The noise outside that had always annoyed me most was the persistent barking of dogs. If you live in a neighborhood long enough this annoyance can come in waves, depending on the dogs that come into and out of the lives of nearby neighbors.
In Yorktown, we have a code that invites us to complain to the code enforcement officer if barking lasts more than 15 minutes. I have taken advantage of that code rather than having a face-to-face confrontation.
If you live in an apartment, co-op or condo, the concern is whether the ceiling and floor insulation are sufficient. There’s a reason why many units for sale are promoted with such phrases as “no one above or below” or “end unit with only one shared wall.” But if you find that you’re sharing too much of your neighbors’ personal lives, there are companies that sell soundproofing wallboard for more privacy.
Another option is to create white noise or more pleasant distracting noise to take the edge off the irritating noise. I have a sound effects device that I would take with me on road trips when I had to stay in hotels near busy highways. It creates the sound of ocean waves, waterfalls, rain and a variety of other sounds that soothe my environment.
Instead of covering your ears, you can make your own privacy by addressing sound pollution creatively.
Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To take advantage of these dual areas of expertise, you can engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale. Just call 914-522-2076.