How to Soundproof a Floor (Cheap DIY Solutions for Apartments)
If you’re looking to soundproof your apartment floors, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you have noisy downstairs neighbors, or you’re the noisy neighbor, this article will show you how to avoid noise complaints on either side. So, let’s talk about the reasons why someone might want to soundproof their floors first.
If you see yourself in any of those reasons, continue reading to see cheap and easy ways to soundproof an apartment floor without your building supervisor’s permission. You’ll also learn about the exact materials and specific products you might want to check out before starting your soundproofing projects at home.
Why Would You Need to Soundproof the Floor?
Well, there are many answers to this question. Namely, as we mentioned, you could have loud downstairs neighbors, or be loud yourself. You might even want to improve your apartment’s acoustics, for your own sake.
You could even have a pet you leave alone during the work day and don’t want to disturb the neighbors with the sounds of claws on wood. Basically, if you’ve got any of the following issues, you might want to consider soundproofing your floors.
- Preserving your own privacy
- You’ve gotten noise complaints
- Noisy downstairs neighbors
- Improving acoustics
If you’re looking to prevent TV noises, music, or your dog’s barking from traveling around your apartment complex, you’re dealing with airborne noise. As the name says, this is the type of sound that travels through the air. That means it probably goes through small holes, under your doors, or directly through the floors and ceilings.
The other type of noise you’re trying to prevent is structure-borne or impact sound. These types of sounds happen when force is applied to the walls, floors or ceilings. So, impact sounds are your footsteps, or kids throwing plastic bricks and dribbling balls on the floor. You can learn more about different types of noise here.
No matter what the source of the noise is, there are some quick and easy steps you can take that will make it at least a bit quieter. You probably know that noise pollution can mess with your productivity and mental health, as well as actually damage your hearing and increase your blood pressure. So, it’s best that you work on suppressing sounds that contribute to the noise pollution you’re already dealing with.
Cheap Ways to Soundproof the Apartment Floor
As we mentioned, there are simple and easy ways to insulate your apartment floor. The ones we’re about to list should be okay to do without the permission of your building supervisor. In fact, you might have already implemented some of these methods without knowing it.
So, how can you soundproof your floors? Well, you can try any of the following techniques.
1. Lay Some Carpets
I did say you might have already implemented some of these. See, the simplest thing to do to prevent airborne or impact noise is to line as much of your floor as possible with carpeting. Thicker and denser materials will work best here, as sound will have more difficulty while passing through denser fabrics.
However, if you’re using loosely-woven rugs around your apartment, you might want to replace them. More tightly-woven carpets will be better at preventing sound from passing through them.
2. Place Rubber Floor Mats
If you already have thick and dense carpets all over your floors, and noise is still finding a way to pass through – you’ll want to try soundproofing mats.
You should place these rubber mats underneath carpets for a more secure soundproofing solution. Naturally, dense rubber will work better than most woven materials, as it has less holes for sound to travel through.
My favorite soundproofing mat is a Rubber-Cal product (Amazon). Rubber-Cal mats are made of recycled rubber, and you can use them in a bunch of different ways. And yes, you’ll need them to soundproof your apartment. However, they’re also great with shock-absorption, and they don’t slip, which makes them ideal for gyms, too.
Alternately, having these mats under the carpets at your apartment will make it easier to get some exercise done at home. Besides, soundproof floor mats are usually fairly affordable, too, which is why they are among cheap and easy ways to soundproof your floors.
3. Install Soundproof Material – MLV
If you’re looking for an even better soundproofing solution, you could also layer mass loaded vinyl, or MLV, under your carpet. In fact, you can achieve a really high level of noise reduction if you use all three of these methods. So, lay down MLV, then rubber, then a thick carpet, and your neighbors won’t hear a sound pass through your floors.
MLV is a high-mass, high-density material that can create a sound barrier on floors or walls. Since the rubber already has the density you’ll need to ensure sound can’t pass through your floor, and the fibers in woven carpets will absorb some of the noise, what you get from the MLV is its mass. Together with density, mass is one of the key components of soundproofing materials. And, as it happens, all of the materials listed here have either or both density and mass requirements.
You would install this material a bit differently than rubber, as you’ll have to nail or screw it to the floor. However, you might not get permission to pierce your floor. If that’s the case, you can make sure that the MLV covers a smaller surface than the rubber, as rubber is a non-slip material.
The best mass loaded vinyl you could use is the Trademark Soundproofing MLV (it’s very thin, odorless, and a perfect deadening material for many different areas). You can read a comprehensive review of the product, and the material in general, here: Mass Loaded Vinyl: What Is MLV, Installation Process, and Reviews.
4. More Ideas for Padding the Floor
There are also many really cheap carpet padding options available at your local home improvement store or online. These products are like under rugs you could either lay down instead of a normal carpet or use underneath a carpet. It’ll give you a much softer walking area, but if you spill something, the padding will absorb it. So, if you’re prone to spilling liquids on the floor, keep a budget for padding replacements.
On the other hand, you might just be looking to soundproof a small area for your child to play in. If you have a small child who likes to throw plastic toys around, puzzle piece floor mats will do the trick. That is, if your child is able to play in just that one area.
They can have letters, numbers, or pictures on them, and they’re typically made out of a foam material that’s great at shock-absorption. In fact, it’s great at absorbing just the kind of shock that comes with having a child who loves throwing toys on the floor. Even if you don’t have a child, you could use a foamy material like this one for exercise, if you’re trying to be quiet about that.
Alternately, you could stock up on actual exercise mats, which are also made of foam and sometimes rubber. If you only need to insulate a small area or are just looking to have soundproofing while you’re doing “jumping jacks”, this is a good option for you.
The Best Way to Soundproof a Floor
The best soundproofing methods involve taking your existing flooring up and laying down floor underlayments (read more), such as foam, cork, rubber, or felt insulation. Underlayment materials can also be used under your carpet, or you could use it under your floors and top that off with all the other methods already mentioned here, for extra security.
To lay down underlayments, you’ll need to get to the subfloor. That will entail lifting the flooring and laying the underlayment on the subfloor. Then, you’ll glue two layers of plywood to each other and lay them down over the underlayment. After you’ve installed hardwood over everything, your floors will be layered in the following order, top to bottom:
- Hardwood floor
- Green Glue
If you’re looking for an excellent underlayment material, Robert’s Underlayment (Amazon) is the way to go. It’s very affordable, and it was specifically made to provide a cushion between concrete and wood or laminate flooring. You can even use the underlayment directly under your flooring if that’s easier for you.
However, the plywood and green glue technique make a big difference when you’re soundproofing your apartment. The Green Glue compound is a soundproofing material that works as the glue between two surfaces. It doesn’t work as a noise deadener by itself, but it does when you put it in between two boards. If you’re on the fence about using plywood and green glue, you can avoid it for this step. However, if you’d like to to learn more about Green Glue products, click here
As mentioned, if you have permission, and you opt to completely insulate your floors, you can and should do all of the steps listed here. Still, using all the methods and materials is not entirely necessary for your floor soundproofing, though I would recommend it.
As you have seen, there are many ways to soundproof your apartment floors. But, some ideas are less effective than others. For example, your exercise mat will insulate some impact noises, but it certainly won’t eliminate airborne sounds.
However, our more serious suggestions stand. If you start implementing them one by one, starting with the underlayment, you’ll be surprised at the difference in noise levels. The plywood and green glue technique is also excellent if you want to try out something a bit different. You also won’t be able to hear your downstairs neighbors at all, and you won’t bother them, either.
And, if you continue on layering MLV, rubber, and carpeting on top of the underlayment, you’ll find that the sound inside your apartment will greatly improve as well. This will be especially beneficial to people who’ve already been the subject of a noise complaint or two. Also, while having great acoustics is pleasant for everybody, musicians (especially drummers) with home studios will be especially pleased with the results of our cheap and easy soundproofing methods.