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Thread: Shop noise and neighbors in neighborhoods where homes are close together

  1. #1

    Shop noise and neighbors in neighborhoods where homes are close together

    A question for those with experience of having a typical hobbyist garage woodshop where neighbors' homes are very close either side--say 5 to 15 feet between exterior walls--how much of an issue has your woodshop noise been to neighbors and how practical is it to run a tablesaw, planer, router, etc. etc. in the amount and frequency that go along with doing machine /power tool hobby woodworking without unduly annoying neighbors?

    Obviously, some people are incredibly tolerant while others love to complain, but for purposes of this question let's assume average, middle of the road people for neighbors. Let's also assume doing the woodworking only during normal hours, with the garage door closed and a couple days a week. And let's assume noise levels are not so great as to violate local ordinances, HOA rules or whatever, so it's not a question of how much noise a property owner has a legal right to make but rather about wanting to be respectful of other people.

    I'm asking this because my wife and I are contemplating moving sometime in the next few years, potentially to a community where almost certainly we'd be in a single family home on an (otherwise) quiet street with very close neighbors--I attach pictures that illustrate the idea. Right now, my shop is in a semi-rural setting where there's a few hundred feet to neighbors' homes, people do things like running a chainsaw for an hour or two, and so currently noise is not an issue at all.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    San Francisco, CA
    I had a bad situation with a neighbor who was very sensitive. You might or might not have a sensitive neighbor.

    If I were you, I'd sound-insulate the garage before I set up shop. It will be much easier then than if you try it later on. It will also work better than if you start by aggravating your neighbor, and then insulate afterwards. There's loads of info about sound-insulating a shop (or a band rehearsal space), and loads of materials which are commonly used.

  3. #3
    I live in a house where my neighbors house is <10' from the side of my house. I never had any complaints - I usually do my woodworking with the garage door open (better airflow). My garage faces the street - there are some houses in my neighborhood where the driveway is curved, so the garage door would directly face a neighboring house.
    I think there is also some variability here based on what tools you use - some are going to be noisier than others.
    But the other thing is, even though the street I live in is quiet, the neighborhood is hardly quiet. Every day, someone is having yard work done with the related gas lawn mowers and leaf blowers - I don't think any of my wood working tools approaches that noise level. It also seems like there is at least one construction project going on in the neighborhood at any given time (re-roofing, addition, hardscaping, whatever).
    My garage has a side door, and my neighbors house as a side door in the same location - he usually keeps his open (I can hear him watching TV), so I keep my side door closed to keep noise down. It might be worth noting that the walls of my garage are stucco, and when I put in cabinets a few years ago, I also put insulation on the walls - this was mostly because one of the walls faces south and the insulation helps keep the temperature more moderate in the summertime - but that also happens to be the wall close to my neighbor, so probably helps out some with noise.
    One thing to perhaps try is run the power tools in your current residence with someone else inside the house - how noisy is that? That might give you some idea on how much the noise is likely to propagate to a neighboring house.
    But if the neighbor is highly sensitive, no matter what you do, this could be a problem - but in that case, you could just have general issues with such a neighbor (they might complain about noise you make having a BBQ outside or something) - other than trying to identify such a situation before you move in, I'm not sure what you can do about that.
    If you are able to hang out in the neighborhood a for a few hours (even if just sitting in your car with the windows open), that might also give you some idea of general noise level. My neighbor has a fairly noisy AC unit - I suspect that is putting more noise into his house than my woodworking tools. If there is a lot of other noise around, probably less likely someone would be annoyed with some extra from woodworking, but if it is a really quiet neighborhood, then someone who moved there because it is quiet may be annoyed with the extra noise.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Blog Entries
    I would say you want to decide how much woodworking factors in to your life. It is hard to know whether we will keep with a hobby or not sometimes. If this is something you will do until you can't anymore I would choose my living arrangements with that in mind if at all possible. If you will be doing the occasional evening and some weekend work only, I would make a reasonable effort to soundproof the walls and move on. If someone complains I would just tell them I am doing some remodeling. If they happen to notice the remodeling never stops you can deal with it then . I have been lucky the couple of times that I lived close to neighbors. When it came time to buy my last house I bought a larger piece of land just to be sure.
    "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".

    Ė Samuel Butler

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Columbus, OH
    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    I had a bad situation with a neighbor who was very sensitive. You might or might not have a sensitive neighbor.

    If I were you, I'd sound-insulate the garage before I set up shop. It will be much easier then than if you try it later on. It will also work better than if you start by aggravating your neighbor, and then insulate afterwards. There's loads of info about sound-insulating a shop (or a band rehearsal space), and loads of materials which are commonly used.

    Soundproofing would definitely be the way to go. The way these houses are built, that garage will only have type X where required to meet fire code. As long as David or the previous owner didn't drywall the rest of the garage (or pay the upgrade cost to have the builder do that) the exterior studs will be open to add rock wool and some 1/2" plywood paneling which will make a nice solid wall for hanging stuff on. Plus that insulation will do wonders to keeping the temperatures in the garage in check.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Central IL
    I live in a neighborhood with normal lot size being 1/3 an acre. From my garage to the street is 41 feet, then the street probably being 25 foot wide and the house across from my garage probably 40 feet to the windows. The b#$+h that lives there loves to call the police on me for "disturbing the neighborhood" . None of the other neighbors have ever complained 1 time. It's usually on a Sunday afternoon when the shop door is open. The police stop for a short visit and chat but always say I am doing nothing wrong. Some people will complain no matter what

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Columbus, OH
    Dense neighborhoods often have adjacent houses built with their garages adjacent to one another specifically to counteract house-to-house sound transmission. Unfortunately these neighborhoods also often have house designs where living space is stacked over the garages. I think you will still need to insulate and finish your garage walls and ceilings to minimize sound transmission to your own home.

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    N CA
    We downsized this past Feb. I took all my machinery, TS, BS, 8” J, 735. I did leave my Grizzly Cyclone to the new owner of the property as it is a howler and I wanted to be somewhat sensitive to the neighbors on the way in. I bought a Harvey G-700. It is substantially quieter than the cyclone. I asked here about the sound prior to the buy and Jim replied that it is…”different.” He is correct but I can walk out the garage around the side of the building and I cannot hear it. Of course working around this stuff I can’t hear a lot of things. Upon meeting them I informed the neighbors that I was going to make noise at times and to please let me know if for some reason it was objectionable. I would work around it but no one has complained. If it was a “I don’t want to hear it any time,” I’d be in Sam’s camp. Also, I have a HOA, something I thought I would never do. I always like to meet my neighbors and tell them that I like a “friendly fence,” and communication is respected and appreciated. That’s about all you can do. Live your life and good luck with the move.

  9. #9
    there are many dynamics there, what machines, in a garage or a basement which is far more sound proof being in the ground. Time of the day or night you run, lot size, late at night there is no outside road noise that masks and and and and. Did have a problem with a neighbour 20 years ago. bought the home and fine since. Lots here are 90 feet wide though my 92 year old neighbour across the road rules with her 300 wide by 150 deep park like lot. The good old days.
    Last edited by Warren Lake; 11-21-2023 at 4:11 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    I have lived in the burbs off and on over the years. Am currently in a condo with attached neighbors. I ask my neighbors if the sound is bothersome, and every person I have ever asked tells me they do not hear it (which can not be 100% true, but it means they are ok with it).

    I do not run the noisy stuff early/late. My current garage is drywall and insulation - which isolates pretty well. I may add insulation to the garage door (which helps with heat as well), but have not yet.

    The Harvey DC is more quiet than the clearvue. And the shelix head is quieter for the jointer/planer. Both of these help. Which leaves the tablesaw as the loudest equipment. I put my cnc in the furnace room which is pretty isolated.

    The ultimate answer is 'it depends' on the particular neighbor. But my experience is that I would not let that deter me from buying a house. Worse case some deliberate noise insulation would bring it down to levels that would not be heard a few feet from closed doors.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    NW Indiana
    I am so glad that I do not have this difficult problem. I never think about the noise except my wife gives me a hard time when I use my DW735. Thankfully, my neighbors are more than 100 ft away.

  12. #12
    You never know, people move. I've had good neighbors who moved than I had bad neighbors. If you spend some money on soundproofing you'll be fine unless your hobby is 5 days a week 8 hrs day. I insulated and rocked walls, got an insulated garage door and the sound outside 10' away isn't bad at all, running dust collector, planer, jointer ect. My hobby is a hobby so sometimes there is months between projects so the noise is intermittent and I'll never start up machines on a Sunday or run them before 9 or after 5.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    I live in a townhouse with my shop in the basement.

    My neighbour shares a poured concrete basement wall with me and has never complained.

    Last night I heard a neighbour 15 houses up the street using a screamer of a portable planer with his garage door open at 10pm. Thatís the first time I ever heard that.

    I donít think youíll have a problem with an insulated garage.

    Regards, Rod

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Doylestown, PA
    Avoid a Homeowner's Association if possible. When we bought our current townhouse a top criteria was no HOA. We're still subject to township ordinances but those are pretty reasonable here. I don't think HOAs per se are problematic but one or a small handful of 'activists' on the governing body can make life miserable.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Mid West and North East USA
    Routers and the bread box planer with the DC running are my biggest offenders. My garage is very much in violation of the town ordnance for a home business. Our town has 1/2 horsepower limit on any equipment within a home business. We also have a neighbor who loves to call the police at every opportunity. I don't run loud tools before 7:30 AM or after 7:30 PM. When I need to plane I start up 2 lawnmowers out in the yard as a disguise. It is not an ideal situation. I have plans to get the shop back into an industrial area or out in the country. I have a business license for a home based construction company. The shop is for hobby use only. Thats my story and I am sticking to it.
    Coincidentally the grumpy neighbor also has a home business selling books. He has mountains of books under blue tarps out in his yard. He is involved in a dispute with the city and neighbors himself. He has not called the cops in a while. It helps that our middle school punk rockers have grown up and moved away.
    Last edited by Maurice Mcmurry; 11-24-2023 at 11:15 AM.
    Best Regards, Maurice

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