Soundproofing Walls and Ceilings Without Removing Drywall
During the course of this passion project of mine, I’ve written about ways to eliminate every possible source of noise. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve devoted myself to figuring out how I would approach the soundproofing of various types of rooms. Today, I thought that I should take a crack at figuring out how I could soundproof walls and ceilings without removing drywall.
There are several reasons why someone might need non-invasive soundproofing techniques. Namely, if they were:
- Renting, not owners of the space.
- Trying to save money.
- Reluctant to damage their walls for aesthetic reasons.
- In need of quick and easy soundproofing solutions.
Fortunately, as your friendly (online) neighborhood soundproofing expert, I’ve got methods that should solve all of these problems. So let’s ease into them, going from the easiest and the least invasive one to the ones which require more construction. Here are all of the ways you can soundproof walls and ceilings without removing the surface-layer drywall.
SOUNDPROOFING WALLS AND CEILINGS WITHOUT REMOVING THE DRYWALL
If you’ve been following my work, you know exactly which methods I’m going to suggest first. After all, the easiest way to soundproof is by using things you already have in your home.
1. Use Decor to Your Advantage
The decor can be very helpful when you’re soundproofing your place. Firstly, because it’s incredibly effective, and secondly, because it blends in. However, there are also some weird ways you can use it in — especially on your ceilings. But first, let me remind you of how you could use it on your walls.
As I have pointed out in my article on cheap ways to soundproof walls, furniture and decorations are great for soundproofing. You can:
- Push wardrobes, bookshelves, and other furniture with sturdy wooden backs against the wall. Remember to leave an air gap though. That way, you’ll avoid having the furniture vibrate against your walls and cause impact noise.
- Fill the room with soft materials like sofas and textiles. You can hang up blankets, quilts, curtains, or even carpets against the walls. Additionally, even paintings can prevent some of the noise from reaching the walls.
- You can try something like this self-adhesive foam wallpaper (from Amazon) to soften the walls. It looks just like a brick wall, so you’ll even get points for style. In addition, it’s perfect if you have a small kid who’s prone to falling. However, it would mean having glue on your walls, which is something you might not want if you’re trying to keep your drywall intact.
- Shuffle the noise-makers around. Try to put your TV, the speakers, or the computer somewhere where the sounds they make won’t bounce.
The best part about playing with furniture is that most of the time, that’s all it takes to make a quiet home. But how can you use the decor to your advantage when you’re dealing with the ceiling?
2. Hang Fabrics on the Ceiling
Honestly, ceilings are notoriously hard to soundproof. Sometimes, all you can do is wait for the noise to stop and go about your day in the meantime. That’s especially true if you live under someone who really doesn’t care if you’re bothered by the noise. However, you may be able to use some of the same tricks you’d use on your walls.
For example, you could put fabric on the ceiling, though it might be a bit more difficult than just nailing or tacking it onto a wall. As always, I’d recommend using thick, heavy fabrics like blankets or even carpets. Lighter fabrics would probably look a bit prettier, though you’d have to layer a lot of them in order to hear a difference. In the end, the room might have a magical sort of vibe, which could be nice in its own way.
If you wanted to go this route, you could just nail the fabrics to the ceiling or use double-sided tape.
3. Level up with Soundproofing Materials
While we’re on the subject of fabrics, let’s also talk about soundproof blankets and curtains. Both can be very helpful when you’re soundproofing walls, and you could even use blankets on the ceiling.
Since I have written about both of these types of products before, you’ll be able to see my recommendations in the linked articles. Still, if you’ve ever seen a moving blanket, you’ll know that soundproof curtains are probably the more attractive choice here.
If you’re looking for something that can look pretty and absorb some noise at the same time, acoustic foam products might be it. After all, they do come in all shapes and sizes. And while they may not block all sound, they may improve sound quality inside of the room. You’ll even be able to use them on the ceiling, as I have demonstrated in my article about soundproofing basement ceilings.
Personally, though, I would avoid using foam on the ceiling. Instead, you might use styrofoam ceiling tiles to achieve a similar effect, with the added advantage of preserving an open white ceiling. The ones I’ve found that look great are:
- This plain white square tile from A La Maison Ceilings (link to Amazon)
- This Antique Ceilings tile with a lovely design (link to Amazon)
In fact, there are many similar tiles with various designs on them that can prevent sound from bouncing off of your ceilings.
And of course, you could also use acoustic panels like this one from ATS Acoustics (on Amazon) on both the walls and the ceiling. Actually, you could make one yourself. All it would take is some wood to make the frame, insulation to stuff it, and some fabric to wrap it all in. You can suspend it from the ceiling using screw hooks and string.
Do a Bit of Construction Work on Top of the Drywall
I promised you we wouldn’t remove the drywall — but what about building on top of it?
4. Build on Top of the Existing Wall
Building a wall on top of the wall you’ve got is actually pretty easy if you want to go that far. You’ll need wood to make the stud frame on top of the wall. Nail a board to the ceiling, and another one to the floor. Add some evenly-spaced vertical boards.
After you have the frame in place, you can follow the instructions I gave in my article on the best way to soundproof a wall. Basically, all you need to do is stuff the studs with soundproof insulation, cover that with Mass-Loaded Vinyl if you’d like, and top it off with drywall. Plug the remaining gaps with acoustic sealant and you’ll be done!
The linked article actually has more steps, but if you want to boil it down, simply adding a layer of soundproof insulation should be effective. In fact, you can do a similar thing to the ceiling — build a whole new frame, add insulation, MLV, and another layer of drywall. However, when you’re soundproofing a ceiling, creating a dropped ceiling is much easier than doing all of that.
5. Drop the Ceiling
This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended this, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Still, since I’ve never really explained how you would drop a ceiling, I might as well take the time to do so now. The best thing about this technique is that you won’t have to touch or even come near the ceiling itself.
You’ll start by lining the perimeter of all of the walls a few inches under the ceiling with L-channels. These are L-shaped metal pieces that will hold your grid, so you need to screw them exactly where you want them, minding the corners. Generally, you shouldn’t build a ceiling that’s less than 7.6 feet tall.
Once you have the L-channels in place, you’ll install the T-channels to complete the grid, using wire to hang the construction off the hook screws in the ceiling. When your grid is secure, you should be able to easily put ceiling paneling onto it. Even some of those foam panels might be great here, and the air between your ceiling and the suspended ceiling should allow sounds to disperse.
6. Soundproof the Floor Above If You Can
If you’re looking to soundproof your house, it’ll be easy to do some work on the floor above:
- Lay down thick carpets, covering as much of the floor as you can.
- Put MLV and/or rubber underlay under the carpet.
- Or use a memory foam carpet underlay or a felt one with a rubberized bottom side.
- Maybe even open the floor up and lay down some soundproof underlayment.
However, if you’re living in an apartment building, a neighbor brings another set of problems along. They could have a small kid who loves to run around the place or a dog whose claws you can hear tapping above you. Either way, you could politely and respectfully ask them to implement some cheap floor soundproofing methods.
Actually, I’ve also already written about the specific issue of dealing with loud upstairs neighbors. Honestly, if all else fails, you can go speak with your landlord too.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOUNDPROOFING WITHOUT REMOVING DRYWALL
As you’ve seen, there are many ways to soundproof your walls and ceilings without removing the drywall. Still, some of them may leave either adhesive residue or nail holes in the wall. As they say, if you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to crack a few eggs. So expect to see at least a few nail holes in your wall.
However, at this point, you should have your original drywall underneath whichever method you’ve chosen to use to soundproof your walls and ceilings. So that has to count for something.
Finally, I’d like to get back to the reasons as to why someone might have to use non-invasive soundproofing techniques. At the beginning of this article, I’ve mentioned some of them. So let’s see which of the methods I talked about today is the most suited for each of the reasons.
Firstly, if you don’t have permission to alter the walls and ceilings because you’re renting the space, you’ll obviously want to steer clear of the last few tips. Instead, go for the ones I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the list. Shift the furniture around and use removable mounting putty if you want to put up blankets.
If you’re trying to save money, you can stick to the blankets you have lying around the house. However, if you want the best results, it’s best to get more substantial soundproof blankets.
Still, even moving blankets may not be the best solution, especially if the reason why you’re looking for non-invasive soundproofing techniques is that you want to keep your space pretty. Instead, you may use soundproof curtains or hang tapestries or paintings on your walls. There are plenty of options for everyone, so you should never feel like you’ll need to wreck your walls to achieve something.