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What can you do about the neighbours building work noise?

As long as the world exists people will always live in large numbers around main water sources. The beauty of having direct access to this life-giving resource also comes with the burden of living in a close proximity to other creatures called humans. Even though over centuries we have evolved, walked out of caves, stopped using buckets for water access and got access to drainage systems, we still tend to live in groups called neighbourhoods.

Having neighbours had its pros and cons. If they are nice people you will benefit from all the social elements of street life. If they are less… considerate let’s say it may lead to some serious disputes. Having new neighbours who might want to refurbish, extend, convert or have any type of building work done generally comes with the burden of the noise. Can something be done about this?

Well the answer is always YES but the ‘something’ element depends on levels of extreme you want to or need to go to. Below I have listed 3 ways of dealing with the noisy site next door to your house.

1. Conversation.

I know it’s cliché but if I’m honest it’s usually the most effective way of resolving issues.

There was a time when I used to work on a contractor side. That meant I would be on site managing people, suppliers, subcontractors and… all the other friends and family of the client. Including neighbours. For instance, I remember a project where a lady next door had a new born during the works. She came to site one day absolutely furious shouting that she was sick of the noise and it needed to stop right away. Luckily I was on site at the time (I had 5 sites normally at any one time). The workers wanted to throw her out but I started talking to her. When she cooled down she started talking like a civilised person again. I mean let’s cut her some slack ok. We reached the point that she needed 90 minutes during the day for her baby to have a nap. That was all. So we agreed that 12:30-2pm every day the workers would take a lunch break or do quiet work (or at least that work that doesn’t produce excessive noise). Job done. Believe it or not I even got a Christmas card from the lady next door.

I of course don’t suggest that you should go down to the site next to you demanding 90 minutes of silence every day. But if you put annoyance and negative emotions to one side you might have a discussion that will be somewhat beneficial. What can they offer you in terms of silence and what you might need to accept? Compromise is the word you are looking for here.

2. Party wall matters.

This of course will not apply to each and every project out there. It won’t even apply to all the neighbours. But more often than not there will be an element of work that might need your agreement.

If you are sharing a wall with the people next door it’s kind of a given. But if they are building an extension within 6m of the boundary wall they might also need to serve you a notice. This might be a good time to actually negotiate when the works can and can’t be executed. For instance I was working on a project once when Wednesdays work was only allowed until 12pm. That related to a portion of the work (not the entire scope) but it was agreed as part of the Party Wall Agreement.

3. The council.

I’d say the worst thing you can do is report the builders / people next door to the council because that usually becomes serious. But if you have tried communicating and didn’t succeed it might be necessary. There aren't many enforcement tools the council has to actually limit the site noise but there are some. Including financial penalties and even closing the site.

Of course there are other means that you can use but these are more trouble creators than actually solution finders. You can report the site to the HSE or any form of trading bodies such as the Considerate Constructors Scheme. Don’t get me wrong - if the noise level is in fact dangerous, do it. But don’t really expect this to be a lasting solution in terms of giving you peace and silence desired.

At the end of the day it’s always worth remembering that the inconvenience you are going through may at some point be the inconvenience you will (or have) put other people through when refurbishing your own property. Have a think, how would you like to be approached about this and do exactly that.

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