Living in an apartment under rowdy college roommates or ungovernable children can be incredibly grating, to say the least. If their loud music and rambunctious conversations don’t infuriate you beyond belief, their heavy footfall certainly will. However, there are several ways to protect yourself from your noisy upstairs neighbors’ incessant stomping.
So what exactly can you do if your neighbors are determined to practice their tap-dancing skills at all hours of the day? Before we get to that, you should know what you’re dealing with. So let’s start by defining the type of noise you’re hearing.
The Transmission of Impact Noise
No matter what surface or space you’re soundproofing, you’ll be dealing with two types of noise. Airborne noise travels through the space around us. Conversely, impact noise is transmitted through the solid materials that make up the spaces we inhabit.
The sound of conversation, music, and animal noises all belong to the former type. However, the kind of noise you’re trying to prevent — namely, stomping footsteps — belongs to the latter group. Every time your upstairs neighbors tread on their floor, the impact of the movement is vibrating through the layers of materials between their feet and your ceiling.
If the sound is really resonant, your neighbors’ feet are probably hitting a thin kind of flooring such as laminate. If they don’t have substantial underlayment or padding beneath that surface, the impact would transfer to the subfloor, which is connected to your ceiling joists. Then, if the insulation between your ceiling joists isn’t adequate, the sound would be further amplified and transferred to your ceiling drywall.
Worse still, if you have some kind of hanging light fixture, your neighbors’ movements might cause serious calamity in your apartment. So what can you do to prevent noise — and avoid swinging chandeliers?
Soundproofing Principles That Can Help You Deal With Stomping
Now that you understand the kind of noise you’re dealing with, let’s talk about the soundproofing principles you can use to defeat it. As you may know, most soundproofing projects utilize one of four principles by adding mass, absorptive materials, or dampening and decoupling surfaces. So which of those methods will work in this case?
Your best bet would be to decouple the ceiling drywall from the joists that are holding it up. So you’ll need to take the existing drywall off and put in a flexible component between the joists and the surface of the ceiling. Alternatively, you could construct an entirely new ceiling starting lower on the wall, thereby separating it from the joists that are connected to the upstairs floor.
To be fair, the principle of absorption might work too, but not on your side of the ceiling. Simply plastering acoustic foam all over the surface won’t prevent impact noise from coming through. Instead, you’ll have to ask your neighbors to pad the underside of their carpets or floors.
Aside from these techniques, there may be a few others that might help you soundproof your ceiling. However, these are the main ones you can use to stave off impact noise.
Ways to Stop Hearing Stomping Sounds From Neighbors
Having established the kinds of tricks that might help you insulate your ceiling, let’s take a closer look at some of those methods. Of course, before you start breaking and remaking your ceiling, you could simply ask your neighbors to stop trampling above your head.
Ask Your Neighbors to Be Quiet
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best course of action. So before you waste your time and money trying to soundproof your ceiling, ask your neighbors to keep it down. Chances are, they aren’t purposely trying to make you mad, so they’ll stop stomping around if you ask nicely.
If you go this route, remember to be respectful, especially the first time you talk to your neighbors about the noise. They might have unruly children they’re dealing with or pets that keep scrambling down the hallways. So give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t go in with a confrontational attitude right off the bat.
If the neighbors are unaware that they’re being loud, arrange a signal that will remind them to quiet down. You can tap on heating pipes that pass through both of your apartments — though that might disturb other neighbors as well. Alternatively, you could knock on the ceiling or simply text your neighbors when you need a moment of peace. Or, since you do live only one flight of stairs away, you could explain your need for silence in person.
Whatever signal you decide to use, make sure your neighbors are in on it. If you start knocking on the ceiling right away, they could become spiteful enough to start stomping around on purpose. Of course, if it comes to that, you could notify the landlord or the building manager of your neighbors’ misconduct. Worst case scenario, you might have to call the police — but reserve that option for when something really goes wrong.
Have Them Lay Down Some Carpets and Underlays
If your neighbors aren’t able to stop making noise, perhaps they’ll be open to making a compromise. If they pad their floors well enough, the poor construction quality of the surface shouldn’t matter much. Once again, this method exemplifies the fact that sometimes, budget-friendly tips can be as effective as pricier solutions.
Your neighbors will just need to lay down some carpets in the areas where you hear the stomping. They could also stack them on top of each other — even in fully carpeted rooms. Still, if that doesn’t cut it, or if the rugs they have are too thin, they’ll need to use underlays.
Luckily, any material can act as a carpet underlay if it’s thick enough. Your neighbors can use exercise mats, MLV, or products that are made for just this purpose. Even old blankets will do if they stretch them out and put bits of rubber at the corners to prevent skidding.
Of course, no amount of carpeting will save you if your neighbors have loose floorboards. In that case, you might want to recommend more substantial work — or even help them nail their flooring down.
Decouple Your Ceiling With Resilient Channels
As we have established, decoupling the surface of your ceiling from the wooden joists that hold it up is the best way to prevent impact noise transfer. To do that, you’ll have to replace the existing drywall and attach it to resilient channels instead of screwing it directly into the joists.
Regular resilient channels are single-leg strips of metal wherein one side is screwed into the joist while the other hangs loose. When you attach drywall, you’ll screw it into the loose side of the resilient channel. So when the impact of footfall travels through the subfloor and joists, the loose strip of metal should act as a shock absorber.
On the other hand, you could use double-leg resilient channels, also known as hat channels. Those usually come with sound clips, which are an additional decoupling component. So the sound clips go into the joists, and then you snap the hat channels into place. After you put up the drywall, you’ll just have to conceal the screws and fuse the individual sheets with joint compound and paint the ceiling.
Of course, that may be easier said than done if you’re renting your apartment. Even if you own it, you may not have permission to do construction for this or the following method.
Build a Suspended Ceiling
Making a drop ceiling is another way to separate the surface of your ceiling from the structure of the building. You’d just have to set up a T-bar grid all around the top of your walls, a few inches under the existing ceiling. Then, you could finish the surface off with drywall or use acoustic ceiling tiles instead.
The key is to make the initial ring you construct near the top of your walls completely level. After you finish setting up, you’ll attach parallel bars about four feet apart. Keep dividing the grid until the individual spaces are as big as you need them to be for your ceiling tiles or drywall. Generally, tiles will need a more extensive grid, since they require individual slots.
Ultimately, building a suspended ceiling can be a great solution against impact and airborne noise. But, as we have established, this project will almost certainly require permission from your landlord. Even if you own your place, you should consult local building codes before starting the project.
Still, if you get permission, you should know that the process of decoupling your ceiling will require loud drills. So if nothing else, that will probably annoy your upstairs neighbors. But if you want to make them as miserable as you’ve been, I do have one last tip to share.
Give Them a Taste of Their Own Medicine
If you’re feeling petty, there are plenty of legal ways to get revenge on your noisy neighbors. As long as you don’t go overboard, you can make them aware of your displeasure by:
- Using a metal spoon to tap on shared pipes or bouncing a basketball against the ceiling
- Doing a string of noisy chores one after the other and practicing your best poker face if they question you
- Playing an instrument you can point at the ceiling (may I recommend the didgeridoo?)
- Leaving a Bluetooth speaker hidden near their door and playing annoying sounds every time your neighbors start stomping around
And those are just some of the ways to drive the point home. However, most of these pranks won’t make your neighbors stop tap-dancing over your head. So don’t be petty unless you’re preparing to move out.
The more layers of materials you have between your neighbors’ careless feet and your ceiling, the better. If they have carpets, underlays, flooring, underlayment, and subfloor on their side, and you have insulation, resilient channels, or a suspended ceiling on yours, the sound of footsteps will be greatly reduced. It’ll be as though your neighbors are three floors above you, not dancing right on top of your head.
But there’s no need to jump right to construction work. If you and your neighbors are willing to compromise, they could limit the stomping to specific days and time slots. Alternatively, you could get them some carpet underlays, if they’re open to that solution. Either way, the noise should become less bothersome.