Ceiling soundproofing is the final touch to create a complete soundproof room. Techniques to help soundproof your ceiling are also helpful if you live in a shared space with noisy neighbors. Feeling annoyed because of noise is a common experience. According to a study published in BMC Public Health, it can lead to negative health outcomes as well.
Noise Concerns for Ceiling Soundproofing
There are different noise types that you should consider when soundproofing a ceiling: airborne noise and impact noise.
- Airborne Noise – Airborne noise, also called acoustic noise, is noise that travels through the air. These noise waves travel through the air until they meet with something solid like a floor. The air waves create vibrations that carry the sound through the floor and ceiling.
- Impact Noise – Impact noise, also called structural noise, is created when someone impacts a surface and creates energy that bounces off the structures around it. This means that the energy created when someone walks on the surface above you, creates vibrations that travel through the floor to the ceiling through the hard surfaces between.
Understand Your Ceiling Types Before You Begin
Whether you are starting from scratch or working with an existing ceiling, knowing your ceiling is a good starting place. There are two main types of ceilings, solid using drywall/plaster and a dropped ceiling. Solid ceilings are easier to work with because there is more mass in drywall or plaster than with suspended ceilings. Also, suspended ceilings have more space between the levels and components like pipes for sound to travel through.
Deciding the Scope for Ceiling Soundproofing
Strategies for soundproofing ceilings can be the same for new and existing ceilings depending on the scope of your project. Decide how much the noise from above bothers you to decide how much work you should do to mitigate it. Also, if you own the space above your ceiling, you can employ measures to dampen the floor noise. This means that the methods you use on the ceiling need not be as extensive.
How to Soundproof a Ceiling
If you want to create a soundproof ceiling from scratch, there are great products that can help you create a more peaceful space.
Decoupling is a strategy that involves separating the floor and the ceiling so that vibrations do not travel from one to the other. You can do this in several ways, but resilience channels and isolation clips applied to ceiling joists are two effective strategies.
- Resilience Channels – These are metal bars that you attach across the wood framing. The drywall is attached to the metal bar rather than the joists. This separates the path of vibrations between the drywall and the joists causing less sound transfer.
- Sound Isolation Clips – These attach to the joists in the ceiling and form a separation between the joists and the drywall.
Insulation is an effective way to absorb sound that is generated between the ceiling and the floor.
- Soundproof Insulation – Add specialty soundproof insulation, like mineral wool insulation from Rockwool. This type of insulation is the best at absorbing sound of all the existing insulations. If this kind of insulation is cost prohibitive, use a thick fiberglass insulation.
- Acoustic Panels – If you are installing a drop ceiling, you can install acoustic panels to absorb noise. You attach these panels to a metal grid that hangs below the floor joists.
Increasing mass is another good way to soundproof a ceiling. The more mass a sound must pass through, the less force it has. You can increase mass with dense ceiling products or with specialty acoustic products.
- Soundproof Drywall – Soundproof drywall is a specialty product that combines standard gypsum panels with an internal barrier or viscoelastic or ceramic. One soundproof drywall panel like this one from QuietRock is denser than standard drywall which makes it more difficult for sound to travel through.
Dampening noise eliminates or reduces it from the form of energy created by sound. These products convert noise into different forms of energy like heat and which then dissipate.
- Mass-Loaded Vinyl – MLV is a vinyl sheet that is loaded with elements like metal particles to increase its mass. Layering it between two sheets of drywall is an effective way to dampen noise from the floor above.
- Green Glue Compound – This is a liquid visco-elastic compound that dampens sound similar to MLV. Layer Green Glue Compound between two layers of drywall to get the best effect.
Soundproofing Tips for Existing Ceilings
Soundproofing ceiling areas works best when you can begin at the level of the wooden joists. Yet, there are some strategies that work for existing ceilings. Some of these require construction and some of them do not.
Drop the Ceiling
If you are serious about soundproofing your existing ceiling, you can install a drop ceiling below to increase the sound absorption materials on the ceiling. You can do this in a couple of ways.
- Acoustic Ceiling Tiles – First, you can install a perimeter around your ceiling using L-channels and then T-channels to complete a grid. Add acoustic ceiling tiles to absorb the sound from the floor above. Consider products like these acoustic ceiling tiles from Armstrong.
- Add a Solid Ceiling – You can also add more sheetrock to your existing ceiling to increase the mass. Build a wood frame on the existing ceiling. Add resilience channels or sound isolation clips. Complete with a layer of soundproof sheetrock.
To get an even greater benefit from increased mass, add MLV or Green Glue Compound between two layers of sheetrock. The disadvantage of this strategy is that the more layers you add to your ceiling, the smaller your room becomes.
Add acoustic absorption panels to the ceiling like these cloud panels from Primacoustic. Pair them with wall panels to get the best effect.
Fix the Problem from Above
If you have access to the floor above, work to control noise on this level. Do this by installing large area rugs with thick rug pads. Or, use a thick rubber mat with interlocking pieces. These are easy to install and more inexpensive than other ceiling soundproofing strategies. They will limit the sound from impact noise and absorb acoustic noise from above.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How can I soundproof ceilings in flats?
If you live in a temporary space with people who live above you, your options for soundproofing the ceiling are limited. Try installing acoustic panels on the ceiling and the wall to absorb extra sound. Also, add more soft furnishings to your room like soft rugs, acoustic curtains, and cushy sofas to absorb extra sound. If the sound from your neighbors is driving you crazy, try talking to them and seeing if there are some ways they can cut down on the noise or add rugs to their floor.
What is the least expensive way to soundproof a ceiling?
The least expensive way to soundproof a ceiling is to do the project yourself. If you call in contractors, the price will increase. Adding another layer of standard drywall to your ceiling with an acoustic barrier like MLV is a cost-effective choice. You can also consider acoustic panels which average between $2-$5 per square foot.
What is the best insulation for a soundproof ceiling?
The best insulation for soundproofing a ceiling is mineral wool insulation. If this is too expensive for your project, use thick fiberglass insulation.
Is soundproofing a ceiling worth it?
Soundproofing a ceiling is worth it to some people more than others. If the noise from above is causing you mental distress, it is worth it to spend some money to soundproof your ceiling. Yet, if you live in a temporary space, you need to make sure that your expectations for soundproofing the ceiling are not too high. There are ways to mitigate the noise from above, but it will not disappear.
Ceiling soundproofing is difficult since it sometimes is more dependent on the area above it than on the ceiling itself. There are strategies that can absorb and dampen the sound. Some of these methods will improve the acoustic quality of an existing ceiling, but you will be more successful if you are willing to take on a more extensive construction project.