Dealing with noise problems in your home or your building?
Before you can begin soundproofing the floor, wall, and/or ceiling, you have to understand the type of noise you’re dealing with as well as where the sound is coming from.
If you suspect the loud sounds are caused by impact noise, then this guide is for you. Read on to learn…
- How to distinguish impact sound from airborne noise
- How to reduce transmission noise, and
- How to improve the acoustics in any room!
What Is Impact Noise/Transmission Noise? — Definition and Causes
A ball bouncing on a floor, footsteps on your ceiling, heavy objects being pushed across the floor — these are all causes of impact noises.
What do these situations have in common?
The sounds are created when two or more solid objects interact. The vibrations created by one object travel or transmit through a structure (such as a wall), emitting sound waves on the other side. This is also why it’s called transmission noise.
For example, when your upstairs neighbor drops something on his floor, the interaction creates a vibration that enters your ceiling in the form of sound energy.
Of course, the impact sound will be softer than its volume at the source, but most people who experience it still get disturbed.
Basically, any sound resulting from a physical collision can be classified under impact noise/transmission noise.
Difference Between Impact Noise and Airborne Noise
Now that you know what impact noise is, how is it different from airborne noise?
Here’s all you have to remember: Impact noise is transmitted through a structure, while airborne noise travels through the air.
Here are some examples of impact noise/transmission noise:
- Loud footsteps
- People moving furniture
- Doors opening/closing
- Objects dropping to the floor
- Machinery and construction work
- Impact of an air pellet gun hitting its target
Meanwhile, here are some ways airborne noise is generated:
- People talking to each other
- Car horns, sirens, and other traffic noises
- Loud music playing
- Animal sounds
- Mobile phone alerts
Both impact noise and airborne noise are caused by vibrations, but they travel through different mediums.
Most people need soundproofing products for their floors and/or walls because of impact noise, which is the hardest to address.
Explaining How Sound Travels
Still a little confused? Let’s talk a bit more about how sound transmission works.
- All types of sound (including impact noise and airborne noise) are produced by vibrations.
- Because this vibration causes nearby particles to vibrate as well, a sound wave is created.
- Now, once this reaches your eardrum, your brain is able to interpret it as a sound. Bigger vibrations = louder noise!
Like we mentioned earlier, sound can travel in different ways.
Sound waves travel quicker through solids and liquids because their particles are closer together. Vibrations transmit slower in gases like air, but it’s also much easier to create a sound wave!
When a sound wave collides with a surface such as a wall, three things happen:
- Part of the sound is reflected back
- Part of the sound is absorbed
- Part of the sound passes through
The Effect of Different Materials on Sound
Materials that reflect sound well (like hard walls) produce echoes, while materials that absorb sound well (like a soft wall or flooring) create a dampening effect.
The remaining waves transmitted through the walls make up the noise you hear on the other side.
Therefore, the way your house was built will affect the acoustics in each room.
Wood vs. Metal Studs
For example, a home constructed with metal studs will have less impact sound than a house with wooden studs. Wooden studs are more rigid than metal studs, so airborne noise and impact noise travel through them more easily.
This is why metal studs are contractors’ preferred products when building a home.
Bigger Mass = Better Soundproofing
If the wall or ceiling in your home has a large mass, such as multiple layers of drywall, it will also resist noise transmission much better.
A good tip is to use a tapping machine to test the impact sounds before finishing up construction so you can make any adjustments, if necessary.
Ultimately, soundproofing is all about minimizing the amount of sound energy that passes through surfaces (such as a wall, floor, or ceiling). To reduce the impact noise and airborne noise that enters your room or space after construction, you’ll have to use effective soundproofing products.
How to Reduce Impact Noise From Neighbors and Upstairs Floors
The best and easiest way to reduce impact noise on floors is to install soundproofing materials directly at the source. But since you don’t have access to your upstairs neighbors’ space in apartment buildings, you’ll have to find a product for your ceiling instead.
Here are the steps to reduce noise coming from above:
Soundproofing Impact Noise Against Your Ceiling
Step 1: Determine Your Ceiling Type at Home
Figure out what type of ceiling you have at home. Is it drywall or a suspended/drop ceiling?
A standard ceiling is usually flat, smooth, seamless, and made out of drywall.
Meanwhile, a drop ceiling has a secondary layer below the main one for aesthetic purposes, functional purposes, or both.
Besides hiding wires, piping, and plumbing, suspended ceilings can also add a decorative touch to your rooms at home.
Different acoustic materials are used for these two different types, so make sure you know which one you have!
Step 2: Choose Your Soundproofing Materials
Choose which soundproofing products you want to use.
Usually, the best ones fulfill four purposes: Noise absorption, damping, decoupling, and adding mass.
Products that exhibit these characteristics will significantly cut down impact noise (and even airborne noise!) so that overall noise levels in your room are very low.
Here are some ideas:
- For a drywall ceiling, use soundproof drywall. Because this material is thicker than regular drywall, it can reduce airborne noise and impact noise in your rooms. However, if this project is too difficult and/or costly, you can opt to add extra layers of drywall instead for soundproofing.
- For even better results, you can install spring ceiling hangers, resilient channels, and sound clips to reduce the transmission of these vibrations.
- Another thing you can do? Add insulation to your ceilings. Besides regulating the temperature in your building, this will also absorb impact noises. Just make sure to use quality materials such as fiberglass!
- Lastly, both drywall and drop ceilings could benefit from acoustic tiles. Usually made of fiberglass or mass-loaded vinyl (MLV), acoustic tiles are popular soundproofing products that are aesthetically appealing AND functional!
Step 3: Install the Soundproofing Product
The installation process depends on the soundproofing material you choose, but generally, you’ll need to secure them using screws, nails, and construction adhesives.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have much experience with these things, you can always call a professional to help you out!
How to Reduce Impact Sound From Your Own Floor
Although soundproofing the ceiling will help moderate noise, the most effective way to improve the acoustics in your rooms is still to soundproof the floor above you.
One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to reduce noise is to use soft carpets and pad cushions on your flooring.
Thick, soft, and dense fabrics like these will effectively absorb noise and prevent it from transferring to the room below. Test it out!
If your budget allows it, we recommend getting soundproofing underlayment, specifically designed to reduce impact noise and improve impact insulation class (IIC).
Good quality underlayment (usually made of rubber, fiberglass, or foam) will block most sounds from passing through the floor.
This is also a neat way to lessen airborne noise from your downstairs neighbors.
Impact Noise Reduction: Final Words
Before starting any soundproofing project, remember to consider ALL sources of noise (walls, floors, etc.), so you can properly address the problem!
Soundproofing is not easy, but it’s definitely worth learning about it to get the peace and quiet you deserve.