You don’t realize how loud people can be until you’ve lived on the first floor of an apartment complex. Even on average, every day sounds like walking and watching television can create more noise than a lot of people realize. And while the people upstairs may not know the strength of their own noise, those who have to live below them certainly do.
And that’s just for the regular amounts of noise that will have you thinking about types of soundproof ceilings. It’s even worse if you have a family member or an upstairs neighbor who happens to be, say, an amateur tap dancer who’s been known to shake the occasional ceiling tile loose. The good news is that you have solution options.
While no ceiling is 100% soundproof, there are several things you can do to cut back on irritating noises and keep that ceiling tile in its place.
Reasons to Soundproof a Ceiling
As you look at the different types of soundproof ceilings, you may ask yourself: Is soundproofing my ceiling worth it? It depends on your reasons for soundproofing and how often you have to deal with unwanted noise from above.
For instance, if your upstairs neighbor only practices his clog dancing once a week, then a full-blown ceiling solution may not be worth the time and effort. In this case, a pair of earplugs may get the job done, or you might just choose to walk your dog during practice hours. However, if you’re dealing with more consistent noise, then soundproofing your ceiling can help you create ideal levels of peace and quiet.
Likewise, you may have a specific, long-term reason for soundproofing your ceiling, such as the reasons listed below.
Reduce Upstairs Noise
First, there’s the most obvious reason, which is reducing upstairs noise. The average ceiling tile just wasn’t designed for sound absorption. If you own your home and live with multiple people, then you may want a permanent solution to create the most peaceful environment possible.
Excess noise can cause stress and insomnia, so soundproof ceilings can help create a more livable and enjoyable home environment. Soundproofing can be especially helpful in homes with children. If you’re a parent, you understand why.
Home theaters can make a great addition to people’s homes. They’re great for entertaining guests, family movie nights, and for staying occupied on rainy days. A good home theater needs more than a big screen and comfortable seats, though.
It also needs good acoustics. Now, having good acoustics means creating the best sound environment for your theater. You’ll want the audio to sound great coming out of the speakers.
While you’re thinking about the audio, though, don’t forget about blocking external sound. If you’re building a home theater on a lower floor of your house, then you’ll want to account for any sounds that may come down from the upper floors. By soundproofing your home theater ceiling, you can create the perfect entertainment space.
The events of 2020 led to a lot of people working from home, and not all of those people do office work. Many musicians, singers, podcasters, and other people who use recording equipment have had to make the switch to working from home. With the right acoustics, some home spaces can make great recording spaces, but even the slightest excess sounds can ruin an otherwise great recording.
Soundproofing a ceiling can reduce the risk of outside noise and make recording sessions easier.
2020 taught us the value of the home office. Whether at home or at work, a lot of people work best with as much silence as possible. That’s why soundproof ceilings make a valuable choice for many home offices.
The right ceiling can keep unwanted noise from getting into a home office, thus minimizing interruptions and creating a more productive workspace.
Soundproofed ceilings can also create better environments for people with specific sensory needs. For example, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, and ADHD can all come with sensitivity to noise. Excess noise can be overwhelming and make virtually any task difficult.
Soundproofed ceilings, as well as other soundproofing solutions, can help create a more sensory-friendly environment for those who struggle to deal with noise. Those who deal with migraines, anxiety, and other health conditions may also need quiet spaces, and soundproofed ceilings can make those quiet spaces possible.
Better Tenant and Guest Satisfaction
Ceiling soundproofing isn’t just for homes. If you own an apartment complex or a hotel, for instance, you might want to soundproof your building’s ceilings to create a more comfortable space for those who use it. When you can offer a quiet environment to your guests or tenants, then you’ll get better customer satisfaction, which can lead to better reviews. Furthermore, you can also use your soundproofed ceilings as a major selling point when you advertise your space.
As a result, soundproofed ceilings can make a great investment from a business perspective.
Types of Soundproof Ceilings
Whatever your reason for wanting a soundproof ceiling, you have lots of possible solutions. Now, as you look into these solutions, it’s important to remember that there’s a difference between airborne noise and impact noise. Airborne noise is any noise that travels through the air as sound waves.
It’s the kind of noise that comes from your upstairs neighbor’s television or your kids laughing in the playroom. Impact noise is the noise that comes from contact between two objects. This kind of noise includes the sound of footsteps across a floor or furniture being moved.
With any soundproofing effort, it’s much easier to reduce airborne noise than impact noise. You may not be able to fully remove impact noise by soundproofing your ceiling, so it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. That said, you can absolutely reduce the amount of noise that comes through the ceiling by finding ways to absorb the impact.
Below are some of the choices you might consider.
Permanent Soundproofing Solutions
All of your soundproofing options will fall into one of two categories: permanent or temporary. If you own your home or building, and if you want a long-term solution, then a permanent option may be the best choice. Permanent soundproofing efforts will take longer to install than temporary options, but they can also come with a great return on your investment.
One option is to do a full ceiling replacement. The average ceiling isn’t built for soundproofing, which is why some homeowners choose to rebuild their ceilings with soundproofing materials. For example, you might remove the old ceiling and replace it using soundproof drywall.
Drywall isn’t the strongest part of your average ceiling. In fact, compared to other parts of the ceiling, drywall is fairly flimsy. As a result, it doesn’t stop a lot of sound waves from reaching the other side.
There is a specific type of drywall, however, that can help. Soundproof drywall is stronger than regular drywall. Being stronger and less moveable, soundproof drywall permits fewer sound waves to pass through it.
Now, the ceiling replacement option generally isn’t a DIY solution. Though it’s not impossible to replace your own ceiling, the safest bet is to hire a professional contractor to do the job. When you talk to your contractor, make sure that your contractor understands that your goal for your new ceiling is soundproofing.
Your contractor can then talk to you about soundproofing material options. If you do decide to replace your own ceiling, you’ll want to do all of your research before you get started, especially if you don’t have much carpentry experience. The most important thing is to finish the project safely. Y
ou’ll also need to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and materials before you begin. Also, remember that a soundproof ceiling will need more support than a regular ceiling because the soundproofing materials will add weight. You may need extra joists, for example.
Drop Ceiling or False Ceiling
If you have enough space, another option is to install a drop ceiling or a second ceiling underneath the existing ceiling. This type of ceiling is also sometimes called a “suspended ceiling” or a “false ceiling.” The false ceiling option is still time-consuming, but unlike the replacement ceiling option, drop ceilings don’t require the homeowner to tear down the first ceiling before starting construction.
Drop ceiling installation may be the best option for reducing impact noise since all of the impact noise will come from contact with the original ceiling, not with the drop ceiling or suspended ceiling. With the right soundproofing materials in the drop ceiling, you can further reduce the amount of noise that reaches the lower floor. Just like with a replacement ceiling, drop ceiling installation is best left to the professionals.
However, it’s not necessarily an impossible task for someone who is not a professional carpenter. As always, if you decide to take on this project yourself, do your research ahead of time, make sure that you have the right tools and materials, and put safety ahead of everything else.
Acoustic Ceiling Tiles
Next up is the acoustic ceiling tile option. Whether you replace your ceiling or install a false ceiling, you can reduce noise even further by using acoustic ceiling tiles. You might also opt to replace only the ceiling tiles with an acoustic tile option, rather than replacing the entire ceiling.
In any case, the acoustic ceiling tile, unlike the regular ceiling tile, is designed to absorb sound. An acoustic ceiling tile can help block sound from entering a room, and it can prevent too much sound from leaving the room as well. A good set of acoustic ceiling tiles can reduce unwanted noise anywhere from 50% to 70%.
That’s why acoustic ceiling tiles are a popular choice for home game rooms and media rooms.
You might consider soundproof flooring instead of a soundproof ceiling, or you might consider soundproof flooring in addition to a soundproof ceiling. With soundproof flooring, you can make sure that unwanted noises are absorbed or dampened at the source, which might make soundproof flooring an effective choice for dampening impact noise. One option is to install thick carpeting on your upstairs floors.
The carpeting may be enough to absorb sound and prevent unwanted noises from getting through the ceiling below. A soundproof underlayment can also reduce noise from the upper floors of your home.
Acoustic Foam Panels
Next, there’s the acoustic panel. Now, the acoustic foam panel option may not be the best choice for your entire house, but if you only need a soundproof ceiling for one room, the acoustic foam may be enough to provide the soundproofing that you need. If you have a recording studio or media room in your home, then acoustic foam can make a great choice for sound absorption and preventing unwanted noise.
Acoustic foam panels generally hang on walls, but they can also be attached to ceilings. These panels work best for sound absorption in small or medium-sized rooms. Because hard surfaces create the most sound, acoustic panels work by providing a soft surface to absorb that sound.
They generally come in dark colors like black or gray, and they’re often shaped like waves or egg crates to help with sound wave absorption. Acoustic foam panels can also work for home offices. However, if you do choose this route for your home office, look for a lighter-colored acoustic panel choice.
Darker colors will absorb light and create a darker working environment. Lighter colors, on the other hand, reflect light, which may make it easier for you to work, especially if your home office doesn’t have windows.
The acoustic panel is a type of soundproof barrier, but it’s not the only kind of soundproof barrier. Other soundproof barriers are made out of vinyl, fiberglass, and other materials. Acoustic foam is usually the “go to” when it comes to soundproof barriers, but the right choice depends on your budget, your aesthetics, and what kind of noise prevention you want.
Vinyl, for instance, is a lot more expensive than acoustic foam, but that’s because it’s quite effective at creating a sound barrier. While foam panels absorb sound, vinyl barriers repel sound, bouncing it back toward its original source. Because of this difference in sound reduction properties, vinyl soundproof barriers may work better when placed against the floor of the upper rooms rather than the ceiling of the rooms below.
Fiberglass, meanwhile, is generally used as insulation, both for soundproofing and for heating and cooling purposes. Like foam barriers, fiberglass barriers absorb sound rather than repelling it. However, because it carries a risk of skin irritation, fiberglass panels are generally used on the inside of a structure rather than the outside.
Foam panels, in contrast, are generally placed directly over walls and ceilings.
Acoustic Ceiling Baffles
Acoustic ceiling baffles, also called hanging baffles, are sound-absorbing acoustic panels that hang from ceilings. Some movie theaters, large arenas, and similar structures use ceiling baffles to create the best sound quality. If you have a room with an especially high ceiling, then hanging baffles may be a good choice for creating good overall acoustics and reducing unnecessary noise.
Temporary Soundproofing Solutions
Not everyone can make permanent changes when they need more peace and quiet in their lives. For example, maybe you rent your home, or maybe you live in an apartment. Or perhaps a permanent solution just isn’t in the budget right now.
If any of those scenarios apply to you, then the good news is that you don’t have to give up on soundproofing altogether. You still have several options for turning the volume down.
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Acoustic blankets are blankets created specifically for soundproofing purposes. These blankets are larger, thicker, and heavier than the kind of blankets that you’d use to keep yourself warm. Like fiberglass insulation and foam panels, acoustic blankets absorb sound.
With the right tools, you may be able to hang some acoustic blankets from your ceiling. This option would be a challenging project, and it would probably require more than one person to finish. However, it would certainly be easier than installing a new ceiling.
Soundproof curtains act a lot like acoustic blankets. They absorb sound, preventing excess noise from getting to the people on the other side. Soundproof curtains are designed for windows, but you might also find a way to hang them from your ceiling.
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Acoustic caulk is often used for soundproofing windows, but it can also be used to dampen the sound coming from the ceiling, especially if some of that sound is coming from cracks in the ceiling. Although acoustic caulk will do very little for impact noise, it can be helpful for getting rid of airborne noise.
Analyzing Other Sound Sources
Finally, if you’re not sure about the above solutions for soundproof ceilings, take a look at some other areas where you could reduce noise pollution. For example, could your home benefit from soundproof windows? Would your home be a quieter place if you put a draft-stopper underneath your front door?
You may not get rid of all of the ceiling-specific sounds, but by finding other sources of noise pollution, you may create an overall healthier, less stressful environment. Noises from above may not bother you quite as much if they’re not paired with noises from other directions.
Non-Structural Noise Solutions
We’ve looked at some structural solutions, both permanent and temporary. If none of those solutions fit your current needs and situation, then you may benefit from a non-structural solution instead. These solutions don’t focus on the structure of your home or apartment.
Instead, they focus on portability, providing ways for you to take the soundproofing with you. These solutions are relatively inexpensive, and they don’t come with a risk of damaging walls or ceilings.
Freestanding Acoustic Panels
Freestanding acoustic panels work just like the type of acoustic panels that you’d hang on a wall. They absorb sound and minimize the amount of noise that reaches the other side. These panels, however, can stand up on their own, and you can move them from place to place.
They come in a range of shapes, sizes, and prices. Freestanding acoustic panels can make a great solution if you want to sing, play an instrument, or record a podcast without dealing with outside noise. You can even create a temporary soundproof “room” by setting up acoustic panels in a circle and then draping an acoustic blanket over them.
The combined darkness and soundlessness can create a safe space for people who may need a sensory break. If you do use this solution, just make sure that you leave enough space for airflow.
Noise Canceling Headphones
For more portable soundproofing, you can’t go wrong with a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Not only do these headphones block sound, but they also actively counteract sound by providing a counter-frequency. If you need total silence to work or study, then active noise cancellation can provide a quick answer to your needs.
Generally, soft surfaces absorb noise, while hard surfaces amplify that noise. That said, take a look at your furniture. Do you have a lot of soft surfaces in your home?
If not, your furniture may be playing a part in your noise problem. Try adding some pillows and throw blankets to your decor. Hanging wall tapestries can also act as a soundproofing material.
Help from the Landlord
If you live in an apartment, and you feel that your neighbors are being unreasonably loud, you can always try talking to your landlord. Your landlord can then ask your upstairs neighbors to keep the noise down. This is an especially important option if your neighbors are making noise late at night or early in the morning.
Frequently Asked Questions
It takes a lot to create a decent sound barrier, and soundproofing a ceiling can take a lot of time and research. If you’re thinking about acoustic insulation, acoustic tile, or any other form of ceiling soundproofing, then there’s a good chance you have a lot of questions. Below are some of the most common questions we get about ceiling soundproofing.
Take a look at the questions below to see if you find yours.
Can You Soundproof an Existing Ceiling?
Yes, you can soundproof an existing ceiling. Some soundproofing options include replacing the current tile with acoustic tile, adding an acoustic foam panel, and using acoustic insulation. Keep in mind, however, that these options will work best for reducing airborne noise. They’ll be less effective at reducing impact noise.
A drop ceiling or false ceiling may be your best bet for reducing impact noise.
Does Ceiling Insulation Reduce Noise?
Yes, ceiling insulation can reduce noise. Insulation such as fiberglass insulation can reduce noise because it absorbs sound, thus preventing much of that sound from reaching the room below. Again, however, insulation works best for airborne noise rather than impact noise.
Can You Soundproof a Ceiling in an Apartment?
Yes, but that answer is complicated. If you own an apartment complex, you can absolutely use the options listed above to soundproof the ceilings in your apartments. These methods will make your complex more appealing to potential tenants.
If you rent an apartment and want to soundproof your ceiling, then you’ll need to use temporary, damage-free soundproofing material options rather than more permanent solutions. Those options may include soundproof curtains, blankets, and other temporary barriers. You might also fill your apartment with rugs, pillows, and soft furniture to help absorb the sound from above.
If all else fails and your neighbors are being unreasonably loud, talk to your landlord about asking your neighbors to quiet down.
Does Soundproofing Foam Work to Block Noise?
Soundproofing foam doesn’t block noise per se, but it does help to reduce noise. Instead of blocking noise, soundproofing foam actually absorbs noise. If you specifically want a material that will block noise rather than absorbing it, then you might choose something like vinyl acoustic paneling instead.
Otherwise, soundproofing foam can be a highly effective way of reducing the noise in your environment.
How Can You Reduce Noise in Your House With High Ceilings?
A high ceiling can be especially challenging when it comes to soundproofing. Not only are high ceilings difficult to reach, but the tall space beneath them gives the sound a lot of opportunities to bounce from wall to wall. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to reduce the noise in a house with high ceilings.
First, don’t just soundproof the ceilings. You should also focus on the floors directly above those ceilings. Thick carpeting and soundproof underlayment can help reduce the noise that comes through your ceilings.
Another option is to install false ceilings in rooms that require extra quiet. The false ceilings can reduce both airborne noise and impact noise, creating a more peaceful environment. If you’d rather stick with your existing ceilings, then you can make some changes to reduce incoming noise.
Those options include acoustical ceiling tiles, acoustic insulation, and similar options to help with sound absorption. A high ceiling can bring a lot of challenges when it comes to soundproofing, so you may want to use a variety of options to get the most out of your efforts. You may see some success with a suspended ceiling along, but you’ll probably get even better results when you combine that suspended ceiling with acoustical ceiling tiles, foam insulation, soft furniture, and other solutions.
How Can You Soundproof a Room Cheaply?
It’s not easy to soundproof a room cheaply, but it’s also not impossible. Cheap soundproofing options tend to be temporary rather than permanent. Look for low-cost soundproofing options like the acoustic foam panel, acoustic curtains, acoustic caulk, and similar choices.
You can also make sure that the room has a lot of soft furniture, which absorbs sound much better than hard furniture.