[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Are floorboards ruining your life?
Floorboards
Complaints are on the increase across Scotland
More and more people are replacing their carpets with laminate flooring or stripped boards as they follow the lead of home improvement shows on TV.

However, the number of complaints to environmental health officials is also on the rise as a result.

Those reporting problems tend to be flat dwellers who have new flooring installed above or next door.

Ministers have commissioned a study into the issue, and there are calls for tighter regulation.

We asked if you had experienced any problems as a result of a neighbour replacing their flooring and whether there should be restrictions on what can be installed.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

This is an aesthetically pleasing style, however, as with many styles there is a cost, this one is one of the worst costs: peace.
Jon, Edinburgh

Adequate sound insulation is a must when it comes to flooring. Our upstairs neighbour had a little sausage dog that used to leap off her bed in the middle of the night. A dog, even a small one, leaping on to a hardwood floor at 3am can bring you from sound sleep to fully awake in under a second.
John Paisley, New York, USA

We have lived in our Victorian semi for 20 years with few difficulties. When new neighbours bought the adjoining house they ripped up the carpets and put wood and laminate everywhere. The effect was unbelievable. We hear every sound, every conversation, every footstep and worse - the constant rumble of bikes and trikes from their four children. A surveyor explained that the effect of laying down wooden flooring was worse for us because the joint chimneys were acting as sound boxes and the shared floorboards meant that sound was travelling all around us on all three floors. Our house is now unsellable.
Sally Petworth, Brighton, UK

After having been in several flats and apartments with laminate flooring neighbours above, below and next door, there clearly is a need for some sort of legislation regarding hard surface flooring and the related noise.
Ross Robertson, Fife, Scotland

Carpet is most definitely the answer.
Jeremy Ball, Tavistock, Devon

I understand completely. Our upstairs neighbours have bare floorboards and we hear everything. This even includes them using the toilet! It's driving my flatmates and I to distraction and we seem unable to do anything about it, as they own the property. There should definitely be more legislation with regards to the level of soundproofing required in buildings.
Sharon Vivers, Edinburgh, UK

I lived downstairs from a girl with laminate flooring and at times it sounded like she was playing basketball with a 10-pin bowling ball.
Andy, Edinburgh

I totally sympathise with the misery caused by wooden flooring - my upstairs neighbour stampeded back and forth in her high heel boots at 5.30am practically every day for three months! Proper sound insulation would be an ideal solution - in the meantime, laminate floor owners - take off your shoes! It's not difficult! And maybe try gliding gracefully around your apartment in keeping with your elegant dance floor.
Marie Anne, New York

I tried to fix my squeaky floorboards in consideration of my neighbours below. They complained about the noise of me doing this. My floors were sanded when I moved in, and having discovered how expensive carpet is, I don't think there is much chance of acquiring any in the near future. I'll just have to continue tip-toeing and playing hopscotch in my own home... Noise is a hazard of living in close proximity to other people.
Anon, Edinburgh

We bought a conversion in a C-listed property with an arts and crafts interior and mahogany and parquet flooring throughout 10 years ago. We had no complaints for eight years then new neighbours moved in downstairs and started complaining about noise. We did everything we could to cut back noise, including wearing cloth soled slippers, laying rugs throughout, unplugging the music, taking the kids to the park after school when it is sunny and generally being as considerate as possible. The complaints only became more regular. We are all miserable now and our freedoms are very restricted. Our neighbours are now asking us to inform them beforehand if we have visitors to our property and have recently sent us a hefty bill to soundproof one of their rooms. We have done everything we can short of pulling up the original floors and amputating the kids but they are still threatening us with legal action. Nobody wants to be a noisy neighbour but there are two sides to every story.
Sonja, Scotland

I unfortunately live in the middle flat and have to contend with squeaky floorboards above me and my neighbour downstairs who has cheap carpets and no underlay. But I do not blame them as it is the building that is shoddily built with no soundproofing whatsoever! I can hear everything that goes on in both flats. I'm thinking of buying a house very soon!
Audrey, Glasgow, Glasgow

Some of the suggestions here are ridiculous - asking neighbours to wear slippers? Preventing toddlers from wearing shoes? If you live in a tenement or block of flats you should realise that you live in close proximity to other people. I understand that you might not want to hear other people's noise, so why not put some music on, watch the TV. Or maybe take a step back and see if you are overreacting.
Belailie, Edinburgh

Perhaps we can blame this one on the fast food manufacturers too - after all if the average height increases every generation AND an ever greater proportion of the populace are obese maybe we're just hitting the floor harder.
Tony, London, UK

I live below someone who has laminate flooring everywhere upstairs and I can hear just about everything they do. The noise is sometimes unbearable and as it is a privately owned flat I'm not sure what I can do about it other than buy ear plugs or buy them carpet slippers!
Michael, Stirling

For people who are annoyed by wooden floors simply turn on the CD/Radio at 11:30pm mid level and leave on - when the neighbour complains - negotiate! (:
Joe Rooney, Glasgow

Wooden flooring can cause a "drum" effect so that I was plagued from the noise in the flat BELOW. Even noises from the walls resonated - light switches, drawers and all because of this drum effect. I moved.
Miriam, Edinburgh

I rather resent the assumption of equivalence between installing laminate flooring and restoring the original wooden boards. The former may rightly be termed a 'fashion'. The latter certainly not. Carpets were the 'fashion', now rightly obsolete.
Moo, Edinburgh

Why can't someone invent a carpet that looks like wood??? Or why can't people just give free ear plugs to the neighbours down below if they really must have wood flooring...that's fair enough!
Peter Pine, Elmsburgh

In many countries people wouldn't dream of walking around in their houses wearing outdoor shoes. I don't know many people in the UK who take their shoes off at the door, perhaps this would help.
Fiona, UK/Sweden

I agree - I have to live under a family with laminate flooring in their flat and the noise is appalling - particularly with a toddler running about and music being amplified loudly through the flooring. It is appalling and as such I am now forced into moving home.
Nick Patrick, Dundee

I live in New York, where the majority of apartments have hardwood floor coverings. Here, it is generally written into the lease that at least 80% of the floor area must be covered with rugs to reduce noise to the residents below.
Alan Proud, New York City, USA

We decided to change the carpeted sitting room to laminate flooring, best thing we ever did. You would be surprised how much sand, etc, the dog brings in from the beach.
Mark Rogers, Dawlish, Devon

The owners of the flat above me installed laminate flooring a year or so ago. A nightmare ensued mainly due to the lady who lived there stomping around in very high heels (very loud) and for some reason they kept dropping things on the floor which made a loud noise, especially at bedtime. A new couple have moved in who appear to be either wearing soft shoes or barefoot as the noise is not so bad, but I really believe people in flats should not be allowed wooden floors!! If they must have them then they should have consideration and wear soft shoes or slippers. Or use lots of nice stylish rugs! There is a flat below mine, and much as I would love to have wooden floors I have kept my carpets and have vinyl flooring in the kitchen. It is all about being considerate - I would always advocate personal freedom, but in return those enjoying this should think of others. Bit of commonsense really. With regard to the comments quoted by Colin from Dunfermline regarding the quality of buildings, the flats I mention are of solid constructions, ie concrete floors - don't know if this makes a difference.
Alexandra, Glasgow, Scotland

I chose laminate flooring as my hall is huge and to carpet it would have been extremely expensive. It is also far easier to keep clean. My neighbour complained about the noise saying he hears everything and that his girlfriend works 24 hour shifts etc, etc. In my opinion, if it is total silence you require then don't buy or rent a flat - especially one that isn't at the very top!
Wilson, Tayside

When the tenement houses were built at the turn of the century the space between ceilings and floorboards above was filled with ash which was an excellent sound insulator. What houses need is a modern equivalent - not carpets, which were never intended to do the job of adequate sound insulation.
JR, Nairn Scotland

Bring legislative sound quality tests into new home purchases and raise the minimum building standards to a silent level, as the problem is not the people making the noise but the people who hear it.
C, Glasgow

Laminate would be an improvement for my upstairs neighbour! She just has bare floorboards, and wanders around all hours of the day and night with high heels on. Each footstep sounds like a gunshot!
Mark, Edinburgh

I live in a 101-year-old tenement. Ever since my neighbours upstairs switched to sanded floorboards, I can hear every footstep... and lots of other things too.
Robert L, Glasgow, Scotland

The problem with noise doesn't come solely from the laminate or wooden floor. It has to do both with attitude of people and very poor quality of buildings in Edinburgh at least. Having lived in four different countries (Greece, Netherlands, France and Scotland) I had never had problems with noise despite the fact I always lived in flats in quite crowded conditions. Last year when we moved houses we decided a house was the only option even if we had to move outside the city. I think Scottish authorities should also focus on improving the quality of buildings and leave people the choice of how the want to decorate their own homes.
Eirini, Edinburgh, Scotland

At the moment I don't have wooden floors, but I'm seriously considering it. They are so much easier to keep clean and as my child suffers from asthma I have been told it would help her health. The only thing that puts me off is the fact that I live in an upper flat. I have my neighbour to consider. I know that my council states that you need permission to install wooden flooring, but I also know many people install it without permission. It is also so much cheaper now to install it rather than carpet. Perhaps councils could work with tenants rather than discourage them from installing it.
Lesley, Glasgow, Scotland

I worked in Silicon Valley during the height of the dot com boom. The apartment above me had floorboards so squeaky, I could tell exactly where my neighbour was at any time of the day. During this period, anywhere else was twice as expensive and as far to commute. Even worse, my upstairs neighbour was a shift worker who wouldn't got to bed until 4am. After about three months of only getting 4 hours sleep a day, and having pounding headaches, I ended up moving out. I feel sorry for whoever is renting there now.
Michael, Edinburgh

My upstairs neighbour had laminate put in and every time her grandchildren visited after that it sounded like an elephant stampede! Plus I could tell exactly where in the house she was by following the booming footsteps! Laminate flooring should come with proper sound insulation included in the price, otherwise people won't bother.
Jill, Glasgow

Wood/laminate flooring should only be installed after the occupants have installed sufficient sound insulation. To live below someone clumping about on hard flooring is very stressful.
Ryan, Dundee

I have laminate flooring in my flat because I have spinal arthritis and find it so much easier to clean than carpets. My husband has asthma so it is better for him too. We don't wear shoes in the house and try to limit noise. The insulation between us and our neighbours in our 30s ex-council flat is appalling - you can hear everything they say! This is the fault of poor - or non-existent - sound insulation and not the laminate or floor boards. Surely someone could come up with a product to insulate floors, walls and ceilings? How do recording studios insulate against sound?
Helen, Edinburgh

The problem caused by noise from laminate floors should be tackled with legislation forcing a certain grade of underlay/insulation to be used in all future installations. The problem of noisy, poorly maintained floorboards is a bigger one which is associated with the current lack of full enforcement of housing standards by local authorities. Particularly in Edinburgh the condition of old tenement buildings is being allowed to degrade to dangerous levels. All aspects from roofs, masonry, piping, gardens, stairs and other communal property are, in some buildings, seriously neglected. I have seen some properties where stair windows are only held in by paint, the putty and wooden framework being heavily decayed.
Paul, Edinburgh

Our houses are poorly sound insulated. I can often hear my neighbours both above and next door. I only hope they can't hear me. It would be lovely if we could all live in detached accommodation, but we have to be realistic. As for wooden flooring of any kind, its now out, carpets are the latest must have so all you that have spent a fortune laying laminate flooring, it's old fashioned now. Better get down the carpet shop, and remember to buy underlay, it adds life to the carpet as well to the sound proofing.
John Graham, Edinburgh, Scotland

I lived below a couple who had laminate flooring and the noise was deafening. I eventually sold up and moved out to get away from the noise. I totally agree there should be restrictions on where and how flooring can be installed. People living in flats above others should not be allowed to have wooden floors or at least should have some sound proofing.
Gill Donaldson, Edinburgh

My eldest son suffers from asthma and eczema, or at least he did until we replaced the carpets in our house with laminate, cork and ceramic tiles. Now he only needs his medication when we visit other people's (carpeted) houses. To solve the noise issue is simple - just use a rug. And you can take it outside to beat it to get rid of all the dust. Isn't this what people used to do years ago, when there was less asthma cases around?
Rob, Milton Keynes, UK

My neighbours above have hardwood flooring despite its specific exclusion as per the lease agreement for the building. They have a three-year-old toddler who they permit to wear shoes which exacerbates the noise nuisance as he runs around the flat. I have no objection to their son's playtime but having recently spoken to the parents I have discovered that they have no intention of so much as laying down some rugs or buying their son some soft soled slippers. Since that time they now play rock music very loud during early morning and late night (obviously not very good for their son's sleeping patterns either) and other such hostile neighbour tactics. Linda Barker has a lot to answer for.
Lionel Hives, London

I think it's more of a problem in the way that people adapt to wooden flooring. I've lived in a new build flat for two years now and the flat upstairs has wooden flooring. I had no noise problems with the original owner and he was a very hefty guy. Then when a young couple moved in about a year ago the level of noise was incredible, caused mainly by her walking around on the floor with high heels. It got so bad I had to put a letter through their door. So really it's all about behaviour and using some commonsense - rugs and taking your shoes off spring to mind!
Mark Devlin, Livingston

When we put down our wooden floor in France we were obliged to lay down thick insulating mats at the same time. They are almost as thick as the carpet we replaced. Our neighbours say they cannot hear us at all, but we also insist on people taking of high heels etc. in the house.
Sarah , Geneva, Switzerland

I think there should be a complete ban on wooden floors in flats as even the smallest noise is amplified with such flooring - I have spent too many years being irritated by neighbours with wooden flooring, be they considerate or inconsiderate neighbours.
Rebecca, Edinburgh

When I was a student in Edinburgh the people in the flat above removed the carpets throughout their flat (including the bathroom). This meant that we could hear everything - I mean everything, particularly in the bathroom. I had spoken to several of my friends, who had the same problem. As I was studying a surveying course at uni at the time, I ended up writing my dissertation on the whole problem and proved conclusively that carpet was vital in reducing both impact and airborne sound transmission and complemented the naturally good sound insulation in tenements. It's nice to know that local governments are finally waking up and dealing with the problem.
Bruce McEwen, London, England

I have laid laminate flooring with the proper insulation and live on the top flat in a terrace. I find it cleaner and more hygienic than carpets as no dirt is trapped. When I had carpeted floors I could hear just as much noise from my neighbour and her grandchildren in the flat below as I do now. People should be allowed to choose for themselves what kind of flooring they prefer.
Helen, Edinburgh

There are many different types of laminate and, more importantly, underlay. I selected a wooden fibre underlay - it has the best sound deadening properties, isn't 'springy' to walk over and lasts much longer than the flimsy polystyrene types. It's a slightly more expensive choice - but pays dividends immediately as it's quieter all around. The root of the problem is that builders in the UK don't seem to bother with sound insulation between floors.
Colin, Kilmacolm, Scotland

I have laminate flooring and find it easier to keep spotless. Yes it is a little noisier, but I don't walk around with high heels on, so noise is minimal.
Linda Hind, Hamilton, Scotland

I used to stay in a bottom flat and was constantly kept awake at night by neighbours upstairs from me. They didn't have laminate flooring and I can only imagine that it was rubbish floorboards and poor insulation that was the main cause of the problem. I suppose that is typical council houses for you!
Susan O'Neill, Glasgow

The first two years of living in a brand new building with people above and below in a flat situation was fine until year three. The couple upstairs have gone wild with laminate flooring now it's a nightmare as every footstep is clearly audible. Not only footsteps but without carpeting to deaden the sounds, even a wardrobe door or drawer being closed seems to be amplified. It's certainly upset my sleeping pattern as I used to be able to go to sleep at 10pm and start work at 7am. Now I have to wait until they go to sleep after 11:30pm and start work at 8am. Its not ideal but what else can I do? The costs of moving in Aberdeen now are such that every purchase seems to go for 25% above the asking price. I guess it's cheaper to buy ear plugs...
Arran Duncan, Aberdeen

People moan too readily. Buy a bungalow or the top flat in future.
Rob, Edinburgh

I only hope Rob in Edinburgh never has to go through the misery of noisy neighbours, caused by laminate or wooden flooring. This is no joke. I was kept awake almost every night for over two years because the person in the flat above me would wander around in the wee small hours. I was at my wits end. Another problem, often overlooked, is squeaky floorboards - even if a carpet is laid over them, the high-pitched squeaking is a real nuisance and stopped me and my family from getting a good nights sleep. The local authority said they were powerless to act. I hope the Scottish Parliament can use the new anti-social behaviour legislation to tighten up on this loophole and make life more tolerable for those of us who have suffered terribly because of this.
Paul, Dunfermline, Fife

Our life has been made a literally living hell since our neighbours (in a terraced house) installed laminate flooring. We can hear everything (literally) that goes on in their house. There is no noise insulation at all. There should be some restrictions in place, or at very least a warning given to people installing this type of flooring that extra insulation is required. But people go for the cheap option. We've lived abroad in flats with solid concrete floors with no noise problems whatsoever. It's down to poor build quality in this country.
N Bruce, Aberdeen

When I get a place of my own, it's going to have wood or tile flooring throughout. Since I have asthma and eczema, doing away with carpets gives the dust mites one less place to hide and should improve my health no end. Sure, I'll take steps to reduce noise, but no council or housing association is going to stop me from doing something in my own flat to improve my quality of life.
Ed, Hertford

It's not unusual. When we lived in a classic tenement in Glasgow, a neighbour in our close told us she'd been driven to the verge of a nervous breakdown by her upstairs neighbour's footsteps late at night. However, when we had some dry rot work done, the workers removed the 'deafening' (heavy material for sound insulation) from under our boards, and replaced it with much lighter stuff. Perhaps it should be made a condition that hard floors should necessitate proper sound insulation underneath. We should also find out how continental people manage: flats and hard floors are commonplace everywhere from France to Russia and they don't seem to have any problems.
Candy Spillard, York (was Glasgow), UK

Having lived in a flat in Spain where carpets are rare I can only suggest that the building quality there must be much higher because in all my time I never heard people upstairs walking around. Perhaps the problem is that in Scotland there is a tendency to build shoddy quality buildings?
Colin, Dunfermline, Fife




PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific