Can hear neighbours after cavity walls insulated

12 Jul 2009
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United Kingdom

Hoping someone can offer some advice for my problem...

I live in a 1970's timberframed semi-detached house. The lounges & staircases adjoin each other in both properties but TV / radio noise was initially not an issue - the only noises heard were the occasional stomp upstairs or loud conversations if you were close to the adjoining wall.

In 2007 we had cavity wall insulation blown into all the external walls.
The insulation was fitted when the next door property was empty and about a month later a new family moved in, who we could hear very clearly - TV was very loud, conversations were far more noticeable and doors being closed were suddenly an issue. I had put the additional noise down to the kids, but recently the family moved out but the issue remains whenever anyone visits the property - I can now tell where anyone is in the house, based on the noises I can hear. Even low volume TV sound can be heard at all times, as well as chopping in the kitchen and most conversations even when they were deliberately keeping the sound to a minimum.

I am now wondering if the additional noise could have been created by the installation of the cavity wall insulation? I don't know if there is similar insulation next door, but the fact that I lived here for 2 years with limited / no noise issues and now I have had problems with 2 consecutive neighbours is making me thing the installation was a mistake...

Is there anything that can be done? We have already tried to get acoustic boards fitted to the adjoining wall in the lounge / hallway area on both floors, but that has made matters worse as noise now appears to be flanked through every place where acoustic boards were not installed (the bathroom upstairs especially is now like a megaphone for conversations in the downstairs kitchen!). When the boards were fitted the company stated the additional noise I was experiencing was unlikely to be due to the insulation, but given the performance of the boards so far I'm not really sure I would take their advice now!

Is it possible for cavity wall insulation to be removed in any way so that this can be ruled out? What other alternatives are there?

Many thanks for any advice anyone can offer...even any ideas about who I can contact for advice would be great.
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If its a new family, then sound can be affected by their choice of carpets or wall coverings, and room layouts, so comparing the current noise with that from the previous neighbours can be misleading

If you have a timber frame, then I am sure that the cavity should not be insulated as it will then affect the ability of the frame to breathe. If this is the case, then the installer should have known this, nad it could have implications for the structure

The acoustic boards will not do much to stop incoming noise via the frame, so again you may have been given bad advice and the system mis-sold to you.

You probably need to get a professional opinion/report from a local specialist, and see what the options are and if you have recourse against the two installers
Apologies - I've just checked the original surveyor notes and it states 'Brick built with cavities' for the construction...'main walls comprise two skins of solid material incorporating brick outerskin and cavity in between' assumption on the timber frame I'm afraid. The surveyor even recommended we fill the cavities!

Next door is a rented property and there was no change in carpets between tenants. I think you are right re: room layout as I believe the TV has been moved from the other side of the room to sit right next to the adjoining wall.

I guess I need more specific information on the construction of the adjoining you can tell I am totally out of my depth! What sort of local specialist do you recommend? What should I be looking around for?
What cavity fill was it - polystyrene beads or blown fibre?

And presumably you never had the party wall cavity insulated as well did you?
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I believe it was polystyrene beads and no, the party wall was not insulated at the same time
I can't see how cavity insulation would increase noise transmission through the cavity to this extent, but it may well be that poly beads are not as effective in blocking sound than fibre would be. But I don't know if that would translate to poly beads actually amplifying sound.

It may well be that the acoustic properties have changed to such an extent that sound which would otherwise have gone out of your house, or came in, which may have masked the noise from next door, have now reduced, and so the sound from next door may seem louder and more prevalent. Add this to a different lifestyle of the neighbours, and it may seem more noisy.

You are going to find this very difficult now as every noise you hear, is going to appear 10x as noisy as it actually is, and much noisier than you thought it was 2 years ago.
Thanks for the replies Woody

Is there anything that can be done? The only thing I can think of are to add acoustic boards where there currently aren't any, although doing something like this in the bathroom is not something I'd necessarily like to get involved in as it is all tiled. Alternatively (or maybe as well) most of the interior walls / floors are not currently insulated at all so would this help to some extent? I've also considered putting up an insulated stud wall in the lounge (to cut off the open plan stairs & adjoining wall) but the loss of space from the main room would be a shame...

As before, who would be a good person locally to get some advice from re: the current situation? I'm googling for acoustic solutions but only really finding there something else I should be searching for? :(
The Party wall WILL be solid in a 70`s house...unfortunately it`s bang in the middle of the "bears arse" time of building :cry: ie. the P/wall will be full of voids because the brickies were on a price. Save your money - just get the acoustic material and construct a framed wall in front of p/wall not fixed with nails/screws. Good luck , and try some more googling.

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