Noise Violations: A Guide to Keeping the Peace

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Noise levels are common complaints between neighbors. Here are some ways to think about it and do something about it, too.


Noise. It’s everywhere. From reverse-alerts beeping on every truck on the block to that idiot who doesn’t turn off his phone’s keyboard sound-effects in public — noise is the bane of modern life.

Unless you’re get into nature a lot, home is the sanctuary where most of us shut out modern madness. Let us take a moment to praise double-glazed windows, or even — gasp! — the triple-glazed. That glorious sound-muffling glass.

Noise guidelines

Thomas_H_Ince_-_Megaphone_1922But sadly we can’t shut everything out.  For those of us live in townhouses, apartments, or shared buildings with others, this tests our patience often. That great maven of etiquette Emily Post died over a half-century ago, long before today’s ever-present noisiness, leaving us with no clear-cut guidelines on noise-making around home.

I’m no Emily Post, but here’s the guidelines I live by, which I feel could help us keep the peace in most ‘hoods. Feel free to anonymously print a copy to post in your lobby or slip into your neighbor’s mailbox. Maybe it’ll help bring life down a notch for you.

Phoning People

After the age of 25, no one who ever phoned me after 10pm has done it a second time. In fact, in my perfect world, I would never receive phone calls before 9am or after 9pm. Like many in the 45-and-under crowd, I consider the phone jarring and evil, an instrument of Satan. Text me, please! The day tends to be go-go-go, and the last thing I want is the phone ringing right when I’m trying to come down after my day, or psych myself up for my day ahead, and throwing me out of that mindset.

Mornings are too busy for phone calls, and you never know how early someone’s going to crash out. Phoning between 9 and 9 is the civil way to go. And for the love of God, please remember to think of their time zone!

Children playing outside

This is another perfect 9-to-9 situation. In the summer after nine at night, “inside voices” should also be used outside. Again, people are trying to relax before bed, and it’s not cool to hear shouting and loud laughter when getting into a wind-down mode. Sound, especially the shrill cackling of children, carries well at night-time. Playing quietly after 8 in the morning is okay, but doing so loudly isn’t cool until about 10am.

That said, it’s important parents remind their kids that they can have fun without SHOUTING ALL THE TIME in the daytime. More and more people are working from home and it can be very difficult to focus if kids next door have access to a pool and are splashing, shouting, and all that during open-window seasons like summer.

Backyard barbecue

It depends how close others are to your property and how sound travels, but if you’re “right next door” to people, then things should start winding down by 10. “Inside voices” and quiet talking should be completely fine until midnight, at least in most normal situations on weekends, but weekdays, keep it to 10 and earlier, period.

Music at a party

On a weeknight, you’re kind of a jerk if it’s after 10 and you’re blasting music, party or not. In my world, I start stepping the volume down by 9pm. A little quieter each hour if I’m still up. On my stereo, that means going from a max of volume level 21 down to about 15, depending on the hour. If you’ve ever found out “the hard way” how loud is too loud for your neighbors, use that in figuring out the right scale for where you are.

On the weekend, if hosting a party is a rare event for you, then midnight shouldn’t be a huge problem as the “turn-it-down” point. If you’re in an apartment building, though, it should be earlier — start lowering the levels by 11.

If your neighbors threaten to call the cops, don’t laugh it off — “disturbing the peace” is a thing and they can report you. And vice versa.


Vacuuming isn’t just loud, it rumbles on the floor. If you’re in a shared dwelling like an apartment building, you really shouldn’t vacuum after 8 at night or before 9am (or 10am on Sundays). It’s just not cool. Vacuum at a reasonable time. That’s not too much to ask. It’s easy to do other areas of cleaning outside the “time zone,” but save the vacuuming for a practical moment.

Consideration Costs Nothing

I live in a world where I believe in karma. If I live with respect to others, I find I get it back. Years of wood-frame apartment-dwelling have taught me to be a considerate, quiet neighbor, and I’m grateful for it.

You may feel inconvenienced if you can’t be noisy right when you feel inclined to be, but once you get in the habit of expecting — and receiving — a pretty silent building or street around you from 9-9 daily, it makes home what it should be — a place where the stresses of the day can fade away and you can recharge for the day ahead. In peace.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.