Don’t you just hate hearing loud footsteps banging on your ceiling at night?
If it so happens the people living above your room enjoy partying until 2 in the morning or have loud conversations often, soundproofing the ceiling would be an urgent solution for your peace of mind.
Without your beauty rest or precious alone time, constant exposure to these noisy distractions can get in the way of your daily lifestyle.
How Do I Get Rid of the Noise?
Believe me, being where you are right now isn’t easy and if you’re looking for a quick fix, well – soundproofing the ceiling takes a little more effort than quick fixes.
What I’d like to propose is an effective soundproof ceiling solution that will take a day or two to install. You might even need professional help to maximize the effects of a soundproof ceiling.
Not to worry. What I’m about to share with you is a complete guide you can use both as a reference and manual on how to soundproof a ceiling.
In 8 steps, you’ll learn all there is to know about how to soundproof a ceiling and achieve the comfort and peace you deserve.
Step 1: Understand the 2 Types of Noise You Have to Treat
Understanding these two will help you as we discuss the various ways and steps for ceiling soundproofing.
What is Impact Noise?
Impact noise is also known as structure noise and travels through structures such as the footsteps you hear or when someone drops an object like a plate, for example.
This is why footsteps that come in contact with the floor above your ceiling create a noise since they travel via the floor structure. The vibrations it produces is a result of the impact or contact it makes with a structure, hence the term impact noise.
What is Airborne Noise?
Unlike impact noise, airborne noise travels through air and will keep traveling until the sound waves collide with a solid structure like a wall or the floor.
Music, honking of cars, crying, dogs barking, and conversations are all examples of airborne noise, making it much harder to reduce.
In a ceiling setup, impact noise travels through the drywall while airborne noise travels in the space that exists in between your neighbor’s floor and your ceiling.
Step 2: Learn the Difference Between the 2 Types of Ceilings
There are 2 types of ceilings you can install and many have a hard time deciding between the two. These are your drywall ceilings and dropped or suspended ceilings.
A drywall ceiling offers a more attractive finished look compared to a drop ceiling. For practical reasons, drywall ceilings fare better, especially when you have low headroom. This means if your ceiling is already low in, drywall ceilings are ideal choices.
If your ceiling however carries electrical junction boxes between the ceiling joists, installing a drywall ceiling would be against building codes.
A drop ceiling may not offer visual appeal as much as a drywall type, but it provides better accessibility for any home ducts and pipes that are important to your home’s maintenance.
When you have maintenance problems in the future or need to convert your room, for instance, it’s easy to do with a drop ceiling installed. You can easily find any electrical wiring by simply moving a few tiles aside.
If you needed to convert your room and have a drywall ceiling installed, it’s much harder. You’d have to tear the whole drywall and then repair and paint the ceiling again.
Step 3: Use the Elements of Soundproofing to Maximize the Soundproofing Effects
Take note of these 4 elements, as they will help in reducing and blocking sound. These are factors you should consider when you soundproof a ceiling for maximum reduction.
This is where insulation comes in. Absorption refers to soaking sound to reduce or minimize noise. Using an insulating material, you can fill the space between your joists to absorb most of the vibrations.
Fiberglass, mineral wood, cellulose, and open cell foam are examples of insulating materials. They’re also ideal for reducing airborne noise.
A higher mass in the material will result in more effective soundproofing, especially towards airborne noise. In fact, heavy materials block noise and is an essential factor if you’re looking for a sound blocking solution.
The only downside is heavy materials aren’t effective against impact noise. Plywood, cement board, and mass loaded vinyl are examples of heavy materials.
Decoupling refers to separating one thing from another. In the case of ceiling soundproofing, decoupling is creating a space or separating your ceiling frame to break the path of any sound waves traveling through; therefore, reducing noise.
Damping involves using a damping compound to convert sound into heat energy, which helps to stop sound from traveling further.
An example of a damping compound is the Green Glue sealant.
Step 4: Add a Layer of Drywall
You have 2 options when adding drywall to your ceiling.
Adding a Single Layer Drywall
For light noise pollution in your ceiling, adding a single layer of drywall is a good soundproof solution for reducing impact noise.
Drywall is also cheaper than most materials so it’s good if you’re looking for a budget option. The downside though is how ineffective it would be if you live in an area with heavy noise pollution.
A single layer of drywall wouldn’t be effective against the sound at considerably high levels. To remedy this and improve the effect slightly, you can add fiberglass insulation in your ceiling space. Fiberglass is a sound-absorbent material that can help reduce airborne noise.
The only problem? It’s costly. Fiberglass insulation would only work if you have fiberglass ceilings installed. You might want to consult a professional about this if you decide to move forward with this method.
Adding a Double Layer Drywall
A double layer drywall is more effective thanks to the added mass and is a good solution to reducing airborne noise. Double drywall setups usually use fiberglass as the material and come in 5/8 inches thick of drywall material.
Step 5: Install/Replace Your Current Drywall
If adding a drywall doesn’t sound convincing on your end, you can replace your current drywall and install a new one on your ceiling.
There are two ways to do this: acoustic tiles and a soundproof drywall.
Regardless of whether you have a drop or drywall ceiling installed, you can install acoustic tiles easily. The installation will require specialized clips or construction adhesive if you have a drywall ceiling installed.
For a drop or suspended type, you can install the acoustic ceiling tiles in place using a metal grid and is quite similar to how you would install a drop or suspended ceiling.
The materials used in acoustic tiles are in the form of fiberglass. High-quality acoustic ceiling tiles use a layer of mass loaded vinyl or sound-interrupting foil.
Replacing your ceiling with a soundproof drywall is effective against impact and airborne noise. Soundproof drywalls are installations you’ll find common in construction areas, meaning they have better ceiling soundproofing quality.
While this will create better soundproof ceilings for you, it’s also quite pricey. At $40 per panel, this can be a heavy spend, especially if you’re using it for a large area like your living room, for example.
Step 6: Use Decoupling Techniques
Using a double layer of drywall and green glue sealant, you allow the elements of absorption, mass, and damping to take place in reducing sound.
A decoupling technique you can add to this is using hat channels and resilient sound clips. Here’s how to do it:
- Remove the drywall from your ceiling
- Use the sound clips to grip the hat channels apart from the drywall and ceiling joists. Using small screws, fasten them in with a distance of 10 inches.
- Measure your joists to see how much of your hat channels your ceiling would need.
- Using a hacksaw, divide the pieces with the appropriate measurements.
- Position the hat channels together with a small flange that points towards the roof or into the joists. The bigger flange should point downwards, towards the floor.
- Secure the hat channels with the soundproof clips. This helps reduce vibration produced through the fasteners or screws.
- Start this process from one end of the ceiling. If you encounter a light fixture, you can lift the hat channel into place over the fixture.
- Once this is done, add the green glue sealant to your drywall and install the double-layer drywall onto your ceiling.
Install New Joists
This decoupling technique is effective against impact noise and works only for drywall ceilings.
For this to work, you need to install a new joist between every pair of ceiling joists you already have in place. Make sure to extend the new joists 2 inches below the existing ceiling joists.
Finally, install an insulation material in between the joists. Make sure you also don’t compress the insulating material in between the sets of joists. This can have a negative effect on the new joist you just installed.
Step 7: Add Mass Loaded Vinyl
Adding mass loaded vinyl to your ceiling is a damping technique and provides an extra padding layer to your ceiling. You can also add mass loaded vinyl in between your drywall or use them for your floor.
Mass loaded vinyls (MLV) are effective, multipurpose materials to use for blocking sound. Thanks to their high density, MLV is effective against blocking most airborne noises.
Another damping technique would be to use green glue sealant. If you want a cheaper damping soundproof solution that’s also effective against sound waves, green glue works well too.
Step 8: Floor Soundproofing
As a last resort, you can opt for a floor soundproofing solution through the use of floor underlayment. As mentioned in the previous step, MLV works well for floors too.
The best underlay materials you should use are foam and sponge. Thanks to their porous nature, they can reduce sound effectively. Acoustic panels and anti-vibration pads are ineffective options and also damage your floor.
How it works is by placing the underlay over your subfloor. This creates a sound-absorbing layer between the flooring material and the subfloor.
We recommend using the Roberts Super Felt Insulating Underlayment.
The challenge to floor soundproofing is if you live in an apartment space. You’d have to talk to the people living above you if they’d allow you to install floor underlayment in their space.
Using Dense Rugs
Probably the cheapest soundproofing option on this list. If you have any dense rugs in your home, you could use this to add to your floor soundproofing method.
Rugs with tighter weaves and higher density are more effective in absorbing sound. Generally, floors are the hardest areas of any home or living space to soundproof.
This is why it’s more effective to use a combination of techniques when soundproofing your floor.
Placing MLV underneath a heavy carpet along with dense rugs in between the carpet and MLV can be an effective solution to blocking sound.
Using acoustic floor underlayment though is a more preferable option for floor soundproofing. To note, using underlay is also a highly economical option.
Tips & Advice
To soundproof a ceiling effectively, you’ll also need a few tips to remember for safety precautions and extra advice moving forward. Here are a few worth noting:
- Always consult professional help before, during, and after your soundproofing project
- Follow the correct building codes and should you decide to install a drywall, be sure to use the right screws.
- It’s better to use a flex duct instead of a rigid duct for less noise produced, especially if you have a drop or suspended type installed.
- Always consider your budget. Most soundproofing methods, even the cheaper options, still require a considerable amount to shell out. This is because soundproofing your home or living space is no small repair or task. Materials and labor costs alone are proof of why.
- If you can, ask for the STC or Sound Transmission Class Ratings to get a better understanding of the material’s soundproofing effectiveness.
Noise exists everywhere around you. As irritating as they can be at times, we also have noise to thank for allowing us to be aware of our surroundings.
Soundproofing is a recent innovation most people never had back in the day. Most of the time, DIY solutions and luckily stumbling onto effective methods were the only way.
Of course, there were earplugs too and let’s not forget what lifesavers they are in heavily noisy areas.
On how to soundproof a ceiling, it’s no small task for a single person to do on their own, which is why it’s always recommended to seek professional help for home improvements like these.
Overall, soundproofing may be slightly costly and more labor-intensive, but it’s worth it in making your living space more comfortable, at peace, and ultimately more enjoyable.