They say you don’t choose your family, but most of the time, you don’t get to choose your neighbors, either — especially if you live in a residential building. If you’re having trouble with noisy upstairs neighbors, fear not — here are some ideas on how to reduce noise from upstairs floors.
When it comes to dampening the noise from upstairs floors, there is really no universal solution. There are many different approaches to sound insulation. The best way to go is to look into all those different techniques and choose the one you find most feasible.
Insulating your living area from upstairs noise will likely require you to invest some money, time, or a bit of both. However, in my opinion, you can’t put a price tag on having a quiet and peaceful living area.
Locate the Source of the Noise
Before you start any work or spend money on materials, you should figure out where the noise is coming from. Most buildings are constructed differently. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may or may not have to insulate the entire ceiling area.
If you’re lucky enough that noise is coming from a very specific area, then that is the place to focus on. However, in many cases, the structure of the building itself is the culprit in regards to transmitting noise. If that is the case, you will need to soundproof all the ceilings in your living space.
Determine the Type of Noise That Is Coming From Upstairs
Although they might be equally annoying and disruptive, there are, in fact, different types of noise. Realizing which specific type is causing you trouble can help you figure out the right approach. Mind the fact that you might be dealing with both main types of residential area noise.
If the sound is carried via the structure of the building, you are dealing with structure-borne noise. The most common type of structure-borne noise is impact noise. For example, whenever someone is physically impacting the building mass, the force of the impact creates a vibration. That vibration reaches you in the form of a loud thump.
Impact noise is what you get to experience when your upstairs neighbors are moving furniture or dropping items on the floor. Even walking can create a considerable deal of impact noise, not to mention stomping.
You can manage the levels of impact noise by altering and padding the surface of the upstairs floor. Likewise, you may use a number of sound-absorbing materials to eliminate the resulting echo.
All other types of noise which you can hear clearly and audibly, such as speech or music, are considered airborne. Airborne noise travels across the atmosphere and will easily reach you even through a tiny gap.
To protect yourself against airborne noise, you need to employ a combination of soundproofing and sound-absorbing techniques. Soundproofing refers to completely blocking the passage of sound waves, whereas sound absorption refers to the use of echo-reducing materials. But more about these two principles in the following sections.
1. Increase the Density of Your Ceiling
How resistant to sound a surface is can largely depend on its density. However, density and structure are both equally important. What that means is that you should construct a thick layer under the ceiling, using a material with good soundproofing properties.
A commonly used material for soundproofing walls and ceilings is drywall. Drywall is famous for its soundproofing qualities. If it is appropriately dense, a layer of drywall can completely block the passage of any incoming sound waves. If you are looking to buy sheets of drywall, remember that Sheetrock and drywall are one and the same product. Sheetrock is just the name of the brand (e.g., Kleenex).
If you want the best obtainable results, set up two to three layers of drywall sheets. Make sure you cover the entire ceiling of the room you are trying to soundproof.
Another important point is to know what to use to glue the sheets together. To make sure the drywall layer is airtight and really effective at dampening noise, you should use noise-proof sealant. A popular choice when it comes to such products is Green Glue, which is guaranteed to be effective. However, you can choose from a wide range of sound-insulating compounds, caulks and sealants.
The good side of this technique is the fact that you don’t depend on the help from your neighbors or anyone else. Apart from that, even though drywall isn’t that aesthetically pleasing, there are ways to make it look good. Some of these methods will even improve its soundproofing qualities. For example, you can coat the ceiling with sound-dampening paint. Other than that, you might opt for some affordable foam panels from our list.
2. Construct a Drop Ceiling
Another way to modify your own living area is to construct a drop ceiling. This additional ceiling will be hanging below your actual ceiling. The space between the ceiling and the drop ceiling is what you call a plenum area — a space where air exists under more pressure compared to the outside atmosphere. That layer of highly pressured air will act as an insulating component of its own kind.
The plenum area is very good for protecting yourself against impact noise. If any noise manages to get across that area, the actual drop ceiling should block any further passage. The ceiling should consist of appropriate acoustic ceiling tiles or panels. Nowadays, you have an extensive selection at your disposal, made from various materials.
Creating a drop ceiling takes time and money, and is definitely not something you can decide on overnight. However, if high levels of noise drastically affect your daily life, you might want to seriously think about this option.
3. Make Changes to the Floor Above Your Ceiling
It might be more complicated to make any changes to the upstairs floor than to work on your own living area. In many cases, that area will be inhabited by your neighbors.
However, some of the most effective ways to protect yourself against unwanted noise revolve around soundproofing the upper-level floor. If there is any possibility at all, you should seriously consider these options.
The easiest way to prevent walking noise is to soften the floor by carpeting it. Nowadays, you can easily find a number of special soundproof rugs and carpets which effectively dampen impact sounds.
If you want to create even more protection against unwanted noise, there are more steps to be taken. For instance, you can make a vast difference by filling the space between your ceiling and the upper floor with insulation. It’s best to have a professional company do that kind of work. You may also need your landlord’s approval and help to engage in such a project.
A simpler and cheaper way to achieve a similar effect is to install acoustic underlayment. Setting up underlayment under the floor surface requires less work than altering the construction of the building. It also takes less time, which is why many people find it a viable solution.
After all, you probably don’t need to isolate yourself 100% from all upstairs sounds as if you were in a music studio. What you want to do is to improve your living conditions, and this method might just be the key to that.
4. Insulate the Underside of the Floor-Ceiling Assembly
Altering the underside of the floor-ceiling assembly is an ambitious, but effective method of noise suppression. While it may sound similar to other types of work on your ceiling, there is a difference between these methods. This particular technique requires you to remove your ceiling and to make sure the underside of the floor above you is insulated.
Although the construction work involved with this method is complicated, you can still find relatively affordable solutions for soundproofing. For instance, once you remove the ceiling, you can install resilient channels to the underside of the upper floor.
Resilient channels are metal constructions which create small air pockets in the structure of the assembly. These air pockets can be extremely helpful when it comes to dampening noise from the upstairs floors.
Once you’ve installed the resilient channels, simply add your standard drywall panels on top of it. Your ceiling should look no different than before.
Keep it in mind that all the methods I’ve outlined here are nothing more than suggestions. There are always ways to change or improve the way soundproofing works for you. Besides, any work that you do should be suitable for your budget. Feel free to combine these techniques in any way you find convenient.
Contact Your Neighbors or Your Landlord
Although this tip should go without saying, it might serve you as a good reminder. I’m aware that everyone’s circumstances are different. Not everyone is in the position to cooperate with their neighbors. Besides that, you may or may not have a landlord to deal with.
However, soundproofing works both ways. If you do any work of this kind, your neighbors will have a quieter home, just like you. Since soundproofing is in everyone’s best interest, sometimes your neighbors might be more willing to cooperate than you would expect.
In most cases, any soundproofing work is definitely worth discussing with your neighbors and your landlord. You may end up splitting the cost of the materials or employing more techniques than you would otherwise.
Final Thoughts: No More Noise From Upstairs
It is an unfortunate fact that most people today spend their everyday lives bothered by high levels of noise. However, you shouldn’t take that lightly just because it has become so common. Constant noise can destroy your focus, limit your productivity and leave you tired and stressed out.
As long as you have options, it is always worth it to try and enhance your living conditions. Did you get any interesting ideas from this list? Don’t be afraid to get creative. Try to work out the perfect solution for your own needs.
And lastly, if all else fails, you might consider employing a more unconventional approach: annoying your upstairs neighbors to make them realize the issue. We have an enlightening article on this unique strategy.
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