I live in a top floor apartment which is above the garage (open air, really just a lot). The unit is at the end of the building; the apartment is held up by columns. The building was built around the 1970s. During the last major earthquake in the area (Los Angeles, California), the building only sustained minor damage (a broken window).

The thing is, before I moved in, the landlord installed hardwood floors instead of the carpet that was there before (not a good idea). This has the effect of amplifying all kinds of sound waves and causing vibrations and thumps. There are moments when it's still, but when my next door neighbor (his apartment is also above the garage and has no unit below it) walks around close to my room (his bathroom is adjacent to my bathroom), his footsteps cause minor tremors to ripple through the floor. It's really annoying and it feels like I'm on a boat or in a car that's stopping and braking frequently. It happens in the kitchen and main room too (I live in a one-bedroom apartment).

I got an area rug and put some cut up carpet under the bed legs, and that seems to help a little bit as well as moving the bed away from the wall bordering the neighbor's apartment to the other side of the room. But I still feel the little ripples and shakes from time to time. Will soundproof foam pads under the carpet help?

It can't be that much of a structural deficiency; as I said before, the last major earthquake did not cause major damage to the building.

What can I do to soundproof my bedroom floor outside of stripping the hardwood and installing all the necessary things (can't afford that, landlord won't do it)? I'm pretty sure 99% of the vibrations are caused by my neighbor's footsteps. Perhaps some of it is caused by something else in the building, but this is hard to figure out due to having no unit below me.

My bed frame is also really cheap and flimsy and will shake and sway if you move around on it, so that's not helping. Should I take the headboard and mattress off the frame and just put it on the carpet? The couch in the main room also seems to ripple from time to time, but it feels more pronounced in the bedroom.

Other information: Since there is nothing directly below my apartment there are pipes immediately running underneath the floor and are visible in the garage. Could the pipes be causing the vibrations?

  • 1
    The fact that an earthquake did not cause major damage to the building doesn't really "help" your scenario. A lot of buildings near fault lines have room for movement, allowing shock waves to hit and move the building, without crippling it. Who knows if this is the case with your building from the 70s. Just know - no damage doesn't mean your building shakes less - probably means the opposite.
    – DMoore
    Apr 15, 2013 at 4:29
  • Definitely not comforting news. I really have no way of communicating that effectively to the landlord as he assures me the building columns are solid. Apr 15, 2013 at 4:51
  • would you please provide an update and let us know if you were able to solve this? i have the same problem.
    – user13201
    May 27, 2013 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


You need something to absorb the movement and vibrations.

I am not really sure about the layout but you need something along the adjoining wall that is very heavy and won't make noise. I had the same situation when I was in college and I brought in a large concrete outdoor bench and put a rubber mat under it. It weighed a good 400-500 pounds and I had energy to move these things back then. It worked great.

So very heavy furniture plus padding... You could also talk to the landlord and see if he can secure the joists better underneath to see if that helps.

  • There is no immediate adjoining wall to the next apartment, except in my bathroom. There is a small walkway and a wall that divides my bathroom from my bedroom. My computer desk is also adjacent to the bedroom wall that is in front of the bathroom, so I'm strapped for space there. Securing joists does sound expensive. My neighbor across from me also tells me he feels the vibrations from time to time however. Perhaps the two of us can convince him to do something like that, but I'm not sure how that would work while I am already moved in. Apr 15, 2013 at 4:48
  • When you look up from the garage under you, what do you see? Are there joists showing? wood or metal? what do you see?
    – DMoore
    Apr 15, 2013 at 4:57
  • I cannot see any joists, just what looks like thick stucco and pipes for the utilities. Apr 15, 2013 at 5:01
  • When you describe moving in a heavy bench, do you mean the vibrations will all be 'sucked up' by the heavy bench or whatever object I'd add? It seems like every vibration is amplified substantially when I am on a raised surface that isn't adequately padded (my computer chair and the bed for example). Apr 15, 2013 at 5:24
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    Your apartment is bouncing from the neighbor moving. You have sound and vibration waves that are traveling in all directions - taking the easiest route. Obviously your floor/joists has a lot of flex, allowing for movement. A large/heavy piece of furniture would help. The owner strapping the joists would help - although I doubt he rips out stucco to add strapping and that is still expensive unless there is wood under the stucco - which given the movement might be the case. Carpeting with a thick pad in each apartment seems like best solution given that the bathroom is on the adjoining wall
    – DMoore
    Apr 15, 2013 at 15:48

You can try to sleep on truck tire inner tubes. I did this in my old apartment. It let me survive for a year. Basically you get 4 tubes, pump them up until they are firm to the touch, then place them under your bed. The important thing is to have each tube resting on a single piece of bed frame.

The second thing you will need to do is get a collapsible material that absorbs any remaining energy by deforming. This is best accomplished with pillow material. You can get things like this from bed bath and beyond for about $100, but you will need to fluff your pillow blanket ever so often.

Finding new inner tubes of the same type however can be challenging. Get an inflatable air mattress from wall mart for the time being.

Lastly you need to be able to prove to the landlord that the vibration is creating a hostile living environment. This can be accomplished by using any number of cell apps. I used an app for the iphone called seismometer. Its icon is a gray graph, with a blue squiggly line on it. You can use any similar app that records throughout the night.

Start your recordings on ground level sidewalk, so you have a base line. Then place the phone on your bed frame while you sleep. In the morning save the recording so you can show it to the landlord. Most landlords will send a tech up to check for problems after you can prove your complaint. And if they don't... take your grievance to the city.

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