Whether you’re a musician or not, soundproofing your floor is a must.
Learning how to soundproof a floor is an effective way to block noise from entering and leaving your space. Doing so will help keep your privacy, especially if you live in an apartment unit.
With this guide, you’ll be able to start your soundproofing project with ease. Let’s dive in!
Why Is It Important to Soundproof Floors?
Soundproofing a floor helps absorb sound vibrations created by noise. This prevents your daily movements from disturbing your neighbors (and preventing your neighbors from disturbing you too).
In this guide, you will learn different methods and products you can use to secure your home from constant noise.
If you’re leasing a space, there are methods you can do to your apartment home without losing your security deposit.
To learn about how soundproofing a floor will help, we need to learn what kind of noise we are aiming to block.
Impact Noise and Airborne Noise
There are two types of noises that can go through your space, impact and airborne noise.
Commonly known as footfall noise, impact noise is produced by the impact of any object or action on the floor.
Examples are footsteps, moving furniture, running on a quiet treadmill, or dropping an item. The vibrations from impact noise penetrate through the floor onto the room below.
Impact noise is a little bit more difficult to address because of the energy produced upon impact with the floor.
Airborne Noise, as the name implies, is transmitted through air.
While impact noise travels downwards, airborne noise travels upwards. These are sounds coming from people talking, television, music playing, or a flushing toilet.
Things to Consider
If you want to soundproof your floor, you have to put several things into consideration.
You can always hire a professional to help you soundproof floors. They could also help decide which method best suits your apartment floor. You wouldn’t need to buy any materials as well.
Though, professional installation can be way more expensive than doing it all by yourself.
Most of these professional work are permanent alterations as well (which is not recommended for those with apartments as it might violate your lease).
But if you have the budget and you own your apartment (or the owner allows you to do so), it is highly recommended to hire a professional.
If you proceed to do it on your own, you could always consult hardware stores and ask how to properly soundproof a floor.
Permanent or Temporary Method
If you’re a tenant, it’s preferable to choose the temporary methods for your apartment. It definitely does cost a whole lot more for permanent methods.
Your apartment complex might have strict rules that include modifications considered as hazards that may interfere with safety or devalue the unit.
Be sure to ask the owner of the building or the apartment room you are renting first before proceeding with your plans.
You want to make sure that you can make adjustments without infringing on anything that may be within your lease.
If they allow you to push through, let them know if you’re doing it on your own. Some buildings might prefer to have a professional do it.
New Floor or Existing Floor?
Are you applying new flooring or do you already have existing floors?
Some methods might require you to disassemble the floor layers. Decide if you’re going for a floor renovation or just adding material to soundproof your area.
The method you will use should depend on the kind of floor you already have.
Different Methods on How to Soundproof a Floor
If you have decided to soundproof floors by yourself, there are several ways to do so. Some of which are a bit more expensive and time-consuming than others.
Again, you want to be sure that in proceeding with these, you are not violating anything in your apartment lease.
Note that most of these methods require a bare floor to work with, but there are also ones that can be used on existing floors.
Here are different methods in soundproofing floors:
1. Hardwood Floor
Hardwood floors are very tricky to soundproof because of its hard surface.
Hardwood flooring material itself does not absorb sound very well and can easily amplify impact noise. But there is a trick to soundproof it by how it is installed.
Putting an impact barrier underlayment creates a gap between the subfloor and hardwood you install.
This creates a sound reduction barrier to deaden impact noise. Through this, the hardwood takes the pressure off the subfloor when force is applied.
If you really want your hardwood flooring 100% soundproof, install a special soundproofing membrane on top of the underlayment. These will block both impact and airborne sound.
When installing hardwood floors, glue it down rather than nailing it as nails can transfer vibrations to the subfloor.
If your floors produce a squeaky sound, you can use deck screws.
Remove the floorings to access the subfloor. Locate and mark the squeaky areas then proceed to drill pilot holes. The bit should be slightly smaller than the size of the screws.
Put a floorboard in position and put the sharp tip of the deck screw in the hole drilled earlier. With a driver, insert the screw through the board and into the framing. Gently apply pressure as you go.
Repeat the process until all screws are placed to secure all floorboards. Preferably, you should drill the joists.
2. Laminate Flooring
Similar to hardwood, laminate flooring also amplifies impact noise.
Laminate flooring also produces an echo effect. You may use the same flooring underlayment as the one used with hardwood when soundproofing laminate flooring.
Remember to always use adhesive instead of nails to attach the flooring as it is more effective in soundproofing.
Nails can transfer sound vibrations to the other floors making your soundproofing efforts useless.
3. Ceramic Tile Floors
Just like hardwood and laminate floors, the way to soundproof ceramic tile floors is in the underlayment.
It’s important you choose an underlayment that’s designed to be placed underneath mortar when working with tile and stone.
A good floor underlayment will not only lead to noise reduction but will also prevent cracking, which is a common issue with ceramic tiles after installation.
You can also add a thick, firm, and dense carpet that’s not too spongy as a top layer to add soundproofing effectiveness.
4. Acoustic Underlayment
An acoustic floor underlayment is a thin layer of insulation placed underneath a carpet (or interlocking floor mats mentioned above).
Using this soundproofing material will provide you an extra layer of a sound barrier. It is advised to use this acoustic floor underlayment on top of either hardwood or vinyl flooring.
This acoustic underlayment is composed of a vapor barrier. It is 3mm thick which makes it a good and effective soundproofing material.
It’s easier to apply this with a naked floorboard. If you already have an existing floor, you would need to pull them out to install the floor underlayment.
Before installing, you have to make sure the naked floorboard is smooth. There should be no dirt, no protruding nails, and no cracks. If there is damage, it has to be fixed before installing anything.
There are different instructions depending on the manufacturer, as well as the material and texture. The method provided here is a general process of installation.
You will need the following materials to soundproof a floor with this method:
- Acoustic Underlayment and Mats
- Broom and dustpan
Has the underlayment material rolled out with the adhesive side facing down.
The adhesive edge on the wall and the other side facing outward to the room. Cut off the excess once it has covered the room. Place the acoustic mats over the underlayment and install the flooring.
This process is mostly for laminate or hard floor. For carpeted floors, the acoustic mat is placed first with the underlayment in between. Then lastly, the carpet goes on top of it.
5. Carpeted Floors
The soft and dense texture of carpet padding is great for sound absorption making it one of the easier flooring materials to soundproof.
Besides its soundproof nature, there are a few things you can do to further soundproof a carpet pad.
You can put it on another thick, quality carpet padding underneath. The thicker the carpet padding, the better the sound barrier.
If you want to take the soundproofing to another level, you can install an additional flooring underlayment beneath it.
You can also add rubber floor mats underneath the thick rugs for a stronger sound barrier. The more material there is to absorb vibrations, the more effective it is for soundproofing.
The most effective rubber mat would be neoprene, which has a very similar composition to mass loaded vinyl.
Both of these materials are highly dense and do not have gaps, effectively preventing sound from seeping through.
Though rubber is flexible enough to cushion any footfall, memory foam is still more absorbent. You can use the rubber foam mats that are usually used in gyms if you want to add a little bounce to your floor.
6. Interlocking Floor Mats
This material is usually used in a school classroom or a playground but you can definitely use these for soundproofing your apartment.
The use of interlocking floor mats is the easiest way of floor soundproofing.
You can cut the edges of interlocking floor mats to fit the corners of your room.
They’re durable, easy to clean, and one of the cheapest materials listed in this guide. These are also usually used in gyms and studios.
Interlocking floor mats achieve a lot but they do not give the full-sound deadened effect.
To have the full deadened effect, you need to use these along with other soundproofing materials for your floor underlayment. You could also put carpets on top of it to add to its effectiveness.
7. Soundproof Floor Insulation
The hollow space between the subfloor and the ceiling drywall amplifies noise. To prevent this, you need to stuff that area with insulation or any type of absorbent material.
Underneath the subfloor level, you’ll see the floor joists. You can put some dense acoustic insulation in between. After stuffing the empty spaces, secure the floor to the joists using nails.
8. Floor Joist Isolators
Floor joist isolators are thick pieces of rubber used to separate floor joists from the subfloor. These are cheap and compact.
These floor joists are easy to install. You just slip them on the standard joist frame making them 12-24 inches apart. Put the layers back in place and secure the floor using nails.
9. Green Glue
The Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound is a sound dampening compound made for floor soundproofing. It’s applied to an existing subfloor or between two hard surfaces.
It reduces noise from either side of the floor. By adding an extra layer between two hard surfaces, it effectively prevents noise from entering and escaping your apartment.
Green Glue is non-hazardous and odorless. It’s easy to apply and easy to clean. Green Glue also effectively reduces up to 90% noise. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely effective.
In using this substance, you need to use a caulk gun to distribute the compound all over the subfloor.
After layering the subfloor with Green Glue, you then place the underlayment or a cement board on top.
You can also use medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Install your flooring and carpets for a full-deafened effect.
NOTE: Green Glue takes at most 30 days to reach peak performance.
You can use this to secure materials like your acoustic underlayment and soundproof carpet padding to a hard floor. Besides being an adhesive, this compound also provides its own noise-canceling capability.
It is more preferred to use adhesive over nails. Metal nails cause echo vibrations which create more impact noise compared to when you use compounds.
With its industrial strength, it will keep carpeting layers in place. It has been put through multiple frequency tests to assure its noise-canceling ability.
Soundproofing an Apartment Floor
Apartment units are usually built quickly with low-quality materials.
To add to that, you have a lot of neighbors condensed in one area. You’ll be hearing different noises coming from every direction.
Apartment living is great for a lot of people, but there’s one big problem with apartment floors. You’re usually not allowed to freely modify any part of the unit as a renter. But that doesn’t mean you have no options for your soundproofing solution.
Here are a few tips and tricks to soundproof your apartment:
- Furniture: Having an empty apartment room will amplify all types of noises due to the lack of sound insulation. Adding any type of furniture will help absorb any sound but with the small space, you also don’t want to crowd your room with couches, chairs, and tables. Upholstered furniture is best for absorbing sound. Having throw pillows and curtains can help as well. To aid in lessening more noise, add foam in between your furniture and the wall. This helps in absorbing vibrations that enter and leave your room.
- Cover Bare Walls: Apartment units usually have very thin bare walls where it’s possible for you and your neighbor to hear each other’s slight movements. It’s highly recommended to install acoustic panels on walls. These come in different designs to match the aesthetic you want for your room.
- Rugs + Underlay: You can lay a carpet or a thick rug on your apartment floors to make sure all sound vibrations are absorbed. Similar to how upholstered furniture is effective in absorbing sound, a throw rug can help lessen the noise and soundproof floors. Adding a carpet padding with the rug will help. The thicker the rug and the carpet padding, the better. This tip is perfect to pair with appliances like quiet washing machines.
- Window Treatments: Drapes, curtains, and other window treatments (window film, window plugs, etc.) will help keep airborne sound from entering. The thicker they are, the more effective they will be in lessening the noise.
- Door Coverings: Apartments usually have very thin materials used for the doors. Because of this, simple footsteps and chatter can easily leak through. Similar to your windows, hanging a towel or a blanket when the door is not in use can help block noise. You can install a door sweep or a draft stopper to prevent sound transmission from seeping underneath it too.
You do not need to limit yourself to one material in soundproofing your apartment flooring. You can combine different soundproofing materials and products.
For example, combining interlocking pads with carpet padding and acoustic underlayment will effectively soundproof your apartment floor.
The layering of the flooring should be done in this order, from the bottom to the top:
- floor base (hardwood or tile)
- carpet pad or acoustic underlayment
You have to make sure there are no gaps between the floors and walls of your apartment. Otherwise, the noise will still seep through these spaces.
If you want your floors to be fully secured, you can have your carpet pad come up a little on your wall so it would level out with the top layer of carpeting.
This helps seal the carpet mat to the wall with a compound.
Tips and Precautions
- Consult a hardware store or a professional before making any changes to your floor. Make sure you properly describe your floor or subfloor so they can assist you with the right tools, products, and the appropriate method to use.
- Wear gloves and goggles throughout the whole process. Prevent the small bits and dust from getting into your eyes. Keep your hands from harm when handling screws, saws, hardwood, and other compounds.
- Even though some of these methods are easy to do by yourself, it’s best to have someone help you with this. It will definitely help make the process easier and quicker.
- To have fully effective soundproofing, coordinate with your downstairs neighbor. If they agree, you can purchase materials for them and have it installed in their space.
- Lastly, DO NOT make drastic changes to the floor of an apartment or building that is not yours. Always ask the owner first before pushing through with soundproofing and coordinate. Take the necessary permissions from the owner first. Some might only grant permits for work only if it is done by a professional.
We really can’t avoid noise, especially if you’re living in a dense and populated city.
The different methods of soundproofing laid out in this guide can help prevent unnecessary sound from entering and leaving your apartment.
It’s highly recommended to get a professional to soundproof your area, especially if the space or building owner says so.
But if you still insist on doing it yourself, there are a lot of different methods you can turn to which are not that complicated and are affordable. Remember to consider the already existing flooring you have in deciding which method to go with.
With the small and condensed spaces that apartment units have, soundproofing can be applied not just on floors, but also on walls, doors, and windows.
You can also combine some of these methods for more effectiveness in protecting your space.
Secure your privacy as well as your neighbor’s by soundproofing your area!
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