How to Soundproof a Ceiling (DIY solution for noisy neighbours)


Nothing can cause dissatisfaction like having to listen your neighbors walking and chatting above your head.

Fixing this problem can do a world of good for your peace of mind and relaxation at home. I assume that’s why you bought the apartment in the first place.

I had the same problem with my neighbors and more precisely, their kids. The kids bedroom was above my bedroom.

They had an indoor basketball hoop and small electric cars. I was forced to hear every race and ball bounce that happened in that room.

I knew I had to do something about it, for my sake and their as well.

So if you’re in a similar situation, here is what I recommend:

What I used to soundproof my ceiling

Instead of removing drywall to add soundproof material between the joists, I installed these DOUBLE THICK acoustic foam panels (check out the price on Amazon) directly on the ceiling.

It’s not the most effective method, but it’s the simplest one. Since I’m pretty cheap and lazy I had to try it out before doing anything seriously hard.

They’re 2 inches thick, which is pretty good for foam panels, and so far so good.

How to install acoustic panels on a ceiling

Some experts recommend hanging acoustic panels. Others recommend spraying an adhesive on the ceiling and then pressing the panels on the wall until they stick firmly.

I decided to go with the second option, because hanging panels will inevitably limit their efficiency when it comes to blocking vibrations.

Sure, hanged panels will still reduce the sound to some degree, but all of those movements above cause vibrations which come through the hollow ceiling structure.

If the panels are not pressed against the ceiling, the space between them will allow most of the noise to escape through.

Also, it’s much easier to just glue the panels up there, rather than worrying about hooks and anchors. It took me less than 30 minutes to get them up there this way.

Here’s what I did:

Before placing the panels I used a marker on the ceiling to mark where each panel would go.

I then used the 3M adhesive spray. I sprayed it on the marked area and then placed the panel. I repeated the process until I filled up the entire ceiling with panels.

You can cut a remaining panel in order to cover any remaining areas on the ceiling.

How to install acoustic panels without damaging the ceiling

Even though I used the above procedure, because I plan to keep these panels on my ceiling permanently, there is a better way to add panels without messing up the wall. Also, it’s just as easy. You can read the full step-by-step installation guide in this article.

What if you own the room upstairs

If you own the upstairs room, soundproofing should be a piece of cake for you.

Let’s say that your kid’s room is upstairs and he/she is causing a lot of noise by playing an instrument or whatever. Instead of soundproofing the ceiling, you can soundproof the floor of the room that the noise is coming from.

In that case I recommend you get a thick rug first. Unless there’s some basketball action going on, you may find that it’s the only thing you need in order to hear a real difference.

You can also use:

  • acoustic underlay
  • carpet pads
  • interlocking floor mats

I’ve explained floor soundproofing in more detail in this article, so I encourage you to check it out.

What if the noise is really awful?

If the noise is really awful, placing foam panels on the ceiling might not work very well.

First you should determine if you’re dealing with impact noise or airborne noise.

Impact noise is low frequency sound caused by drums, washing machines, power generators and all kinds of other machines that vibrate a lot. This noise can easily travel through standard walls, and even standard soundproof materials.

In fact, it’s also called structure-borne noise because it gets amplified when it passes through the walls and doors!

Bouncing a basketball on the floor can also fit in this category. Luckily, the soundproof foam panels still worked pretty well in my case.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll work equally well for you.

If you’re dealing with some serious impact noise from a washing machine for example, you should install Mass Loaded Vinyl or rockwool boards on your ceiling. 

This is  more work than installing foam panels because you have to remove the drywall first. But both are very, very effective soundproofing solutions.

To learn more about Mass Loaded Vinyl and how to install it on a ceiling, check out this article.

To learn how to install rockwool boards on a ceiling, check out this article.

Mass Loaded Vinyl vs. Rockwool Boards – which is better?

This is an interesting question, and because it’s interesting it doesn’t have a straightforward answer.

Rockwool boards (link to Amazon) are better for combined soundproofing of impact noise and airborne noise (high frequency sound, like people talking loudly).

It’s arguably the most effective material for soundproofing walls in general. But the downside is that these boards need to be placed between the joists, which takes a bit more work than installing other materials.

You also need to use safety gear like gloves, glasses and a mask when installing rockwool boards.

In comparison, Mass Loaded Vinyl (link to Amazon) is primarily used for blocking impact noise. It works great for that purpose and it’s a bit easier to install than rockwool boards. Plus you don’t have to use any of that safety gear. But the downside is that it’s not as effective as rockwool for blocking airborne noise.

So if you’re dealing with both impact and airborne noise I recommend rockwool boards.

If it’s just impact noise, I recommend Mass Loaded Vinyl.

And if it’s just airborne noise, you’ll get good results by simply installing soundproof foam panels directly on the wall.

Conclusion

I’ve found that acoustic panels are pretty effective for low-to-medium strength noise. They also have the benefit of taking very little off the room’s height.

They usually look pretty nice as well. One downside is that they collect dust so vacuuming them from time to time is a good idea.

If you’re dealing with really nerve-wrecking impact noise, I suggest taking a more hardcore approach and looking into Mass Loaded Vinyl and rockwool boards. It’s a bigger project, but it’s guaranteed to work.

Having said that, I hope this article has given you some ideas and you’ll use them to your advantage.

Have any questions or suggestions? Tell me all about them in the comments section below! – Luka Baron

 

Luka Baron

Soundproof expert and a staunch opponent of noise. This website is a free source of information on how to 'keep it down a notch'. I update the content regularly to keep up with advancements in the soundproofing industry.

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