Looking at different flats for a new home I would like to determine how much noise I would get from neighbours based on the brief visits to see the candidates.

How could I measure that practically?

  • Would knowing the wall materials help for instance as I have no idea whether say stone or wood walls would be better at insulating noise or not?

2 Answers 2


Not really a home improvement question, but this does seem the best match on SE...

It's all about mass and decoupling.

Stone or brick walls have a lot of mass compared to stick-and-plaster walls. That means it takes more energy to get them moving, wich means your side of the wall doesn't vibrate as easily, which will block a lot of noise.

Hollow plaster walls can't give you that without special construction -- offset studs so vibration isn't passed through the studs from one side to the other -- which costs more and is rarely seen outside rooms constructed specifically for sound isolation. (In a studio, mass is sometimes added back in by filling the space between the plasterboard walks with sand -- and yes, you hope you'll never have to alter that wall!)

BUT... Remember that sound can travel through floors and ceilings too. If you can get an apartmenton the top floor you'll pay more in heating and cooling but won't have noises coming from above.

Usually being in an apartment means putting up with some noise, and negotiating with neihbors on how much and when that's acceptable.One reason I finally bought a house was wanting the freedom to make a reasonable amount of noise at 2AM occasionally.


to measure sound, you just need a sonometer or decibel meter. however that will just give you levels. wavelength and sound energy are much more relevant. a 100 db drumset is much louder apparently than a 100 db clarinet.

  • any app on iPhone that will do the job of roughly distinguishing wall sound absorption? say my test would be to ask the estate agent to knock on the other side of the wall and i would record ..
    – Cel
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 9:56
  • I don't have any technical information about the acoustical accuracy of any cellphone app, microphone and its measurement architecture, but I would suspect its pretty weak compared to a calibrated measuring tool designed to do just that job. it all depends on what you are trying to achieve: some simple sound reduction in certain audible ranges, or broad band sound attenuation and reduction. Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 15:39

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