Have you ever felt that your upstairs neighbors must be having constant wrestling matches in the middle of the night just to stop you from sleeping? If so, you’ve probably wondered how to reduce noise from upstairs floors. You are not alone, and in this article, we will cover all the best ways for you to reduce or eliminate that unwanted noise from upstairs.
- Insulate the Ceiling
- Improve the Mass of the Ceiling (without demo)
- Replace the Ceiling
- Use Soundproofing Sealant
- Install Drop Ceiling
- Soundproof the Floor Above You
- Use Resilient Underlayment with Damping Compound
- Reduce Squeaking
- Add Anti-Vibration Pads and Mats
- Talk to Your Neighbor
Depending on what type of noise you’re dealing with and where it is coming from, each of these methods will be more or less effective at solving your problem. They each also require different time and money investments to implement. But before you can start installing new materials, we need to figure out exactly what kind of noise is offending your living space so we can determine how to reduce it best.
Determine What Type of Noise You’re Dealing With
Before you can even figure out what’s causing the noise, you have to understand the different types of noise that it could be. This will help you decide the best method of noise-reduction for your situation.
Some people may try to skip this step and start applying soundproofing methods. However, without properly diagnosing your problem, you may just be wasting money on things that won’t help reduce the type of noise that you’re dealing with.
Impact noise is transferred through physical contact. When two objects are in contact, they can transfer vibrations created by the impact, which manifests in noise on the other side.
Impact noise is the sound of your upstairs neighbor’s children wrestling and banging on the floor above you while you’re trying to watch your favorite TV show.
When the cabinet in your kitchen is slammed and you hear it in your office on the other side of the wall, that is impact noise.
Airborne noise is exactly what the name implies; sound being carried through the air. This can be almost any noise not transferred through direct contact.
Music playing through your neighbor’s speaker and bleeding through your wall is airborne noise.
When you can hear your neighbor’s conversation or their television interrupting your peaceful dinner, that is airborne noise.
Airborne noise is easier to deal with. It can be nullified with the use of soundproofing materials such as foam, fiberglass, or Rockwool.
Sometimes where you hear a sound is not where that sound was generated. When vibrations are carried through touching surfaces to a new destination that is not near the source, this is called flanking noise.
Depending on your building’s structure, you may be able to hear the hum of the air conditioners on the far side of the house from where they are installed. This is because of the vibrations traveling along connected structures.
With flanking noise, it can be very difficult to locate the sound’s source. It is also not easy to eliminate flanking noise.
If possible, check for flanking noises before purchasing or renting a living space. This will ensure that you won’t have to deal with the problems that flanking noise can cause.
Locate The Source of The Noise
Now that you know the three different types of noise that we will be looking for, it’s time to start locating the source of the offending noise.
Check from room to room listening for anywhere the noise seems to increase in volume.
Are there particular rooms that seem to be more affected than others? Is the whole level experiencing the same volume noise throughout?
Listen intently in all corners of all your rooms. Try to determine if the sound seems to be concentrated in a particular area.
If the sound does seem to be coming from a certain spot, you then know where to start looking for the source.
Check outside and on any walls adjacent to the area where you’ve determined the noise is loudest. Be sure to check on the roof or in the basement as well.
Does the noise seem to be about equal across the ceiling throughout your home? In that case, there may be more than one source.
Another possibility is that you’re experiencing flanking noise. If this is so, the sound may be generated from anywhere that has surfaces in a contact chain with your ceiling.
This could potentially make it much more difficult to identify the source of the noise. You will need to follow all adjacent structures and surfaces to see if anything could be creating vibrations against them.
Ways to Reduce Noise From Upstairs
At this point, you should have identified where the sound is loudest and most concentrated. You may even know the source of the noise you’re trying to reduce.
Each method of reducing the noise from upstairs will be more effective against one type of noise than another. Try to use only methods that will apply to the type of noise you’re trying to reduce.
1. Insulate the Ceiling
One way to reduce noise from upstairs is to add blow in insulation into the ceiling. This will add a lot of mass and density to the ceiling. This will result in increased dampening and absorption of sound.
This method is particularly useful against airborne sounds. It will drastically reduce voices and phone ringing coming from upstairs.
It will also aid in reducing impact noise such as footsteps, though perhaps not as effective as other methods.
If you do decide to insulate the ceiling, you may want to call a professional. This is especially true if you want to do this to your entire home.
A professional will save you tons of headaches and hassle. If you decide to DIY this one, make sure you know what you’re getting into first.
2. Improve the Mass of the Ceiling (without demo)
By adding more mass to the ceiling, you can quite effectively help to block all types of noises.
The simplest method of adding mass to your ceiling would be to simply install an additional layer of drywall directly against the drywall on your ceiling now.
To improve the effectiveness of this method, you can apply Green Glue between the sheets of drywall. This will help to more effectively reduce vibrations, which blocks impact and flanking noise specifically.
For even more effective soundproofing, you can install a layer of Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV). This thin, rolled layer is very effective at reducing noise transmission.
You can also opt to use QuietRock instead of drywall. QuietRock is quite a bit more effective at reducing noise than regular drywall. This article has more information regarding QuietRock vs. regular drywall.
For maximum noise reduction, use QuietRock and Green Glue together with a layer of MLV. This will help block all types of sounds from penetrating your ceiling.
3. Replace the Ceiling
If you own your home and the noise is bad enough to warrant it, you can replace your ceiling. When you install your new ceiling, you can build it to optimal soundproofing specifications.
Start by installing sound isolation clips with hat channels, or resilient channels. Your first layer of drywall will attach right to these.
On the first layer of drywall, you will install your MLV. On top of the MLV will go a coat of Green Glue.
Your second layer of drywall will cover the Green Glue and MLV and will be your top layer.
For more information see my article on building a soundproof ceiling.
4. Use Soundproofing Sealant
If drywall mud is used in the corner between your ceiling and walls, it will transfer sound and vibration from the floor above you down through our wall. This essentially magnifies the sound.
Instead of drywall mud, you should use a soundproofing sealant. This comes in a tube similar to caulking. It will be applied by a gun the same way.
This will be especially effective if coupled with another method of ceiling soundproofing such as a resilient channel.
5. Install Drop Ceiling
A drop ceiling is a second ceiling that attaches to your existing ceiling. Inside your drop ceiling will be a dead air space that helps to kill noise transference.
A drop ceiling will help to reduce all the different types of noise. But It is a major investment in time and money.
However, one of the benefits of installing a drop ceiling is that you will not need to remove the existing ceiling. This makes it much less of a hassle than replacing your current ceiling.
Your drop ceiling will be built with acoustic tiles that will help reduce the noise coming from upstairs. An added bonus is that they will also help eliminate reverberations, helping you achieve better acoustics and a quieter room overall.
6. Soundproof the Floor Above You
If you live in an apartment building, you may not have access to the floor above you. In such a case, you may not be able to use this method of noise reduction.
If you can make changes to the floor over your head, then there are a few things you can do that will help stop noise from coming through the ceiling.
Tile, wood flooring, and any other hard surface flooring will transfer sound easily. To help alleviate this problem, you can instead install carpet with thick padding underneath.
The carpet and padding will do a lot to absorb impact noise vibrations, dampening the sound before it gets transferred below.
If you can’t or don’t want to install carpet on the floor, you could opt instead for large rugs. Be sure to pick the thickest rugs you can find for the best noise reduction.
Get a nice thick carpet pad to place under your rugs and give you as much sound absorption as possible.
7. Use Resilient Underlayment with Damping Compound
Resilient underlayment is a sound and moisture barrier that goes underneath your flooring. This is especially useful if you want to keep your hard flooring, but still, stop the sound from transferring to the level below.
By adding damping compounds such as Green Glue, you will improve the noise reduction even more.
When using the damping compound and resilient underlayment together, you will be able to reduce all of the different types of noise effectively.
Note: For much more information on underlayment, please see our article Best Soundproof Underlayment.
8. Reduce Squeaking
Squeaking is usually caused by the subfloor beneath your flooring becoming a little loose after settling. To eliminate the squeaking, you will need to gain access to the subfloor by removing the flooring.
Once the floor is removed, walk along the subfloor and mark areas that squeak or creak under your weight.
After marking the noisy spots, you’ll need a stud finder to find the joists under your subfloor. Mark the joists so that you can easily screw into them.
Using deck screws, fasten the subfloor to the joists underneath near anywhere that you’ve marked as a squeaky area. Once you’ve added screws to the noisy areas, your subfloor should be solid and squeak-free.
Replace the flooring or install new flooring as desired.
Be sure to give a final walkthrough once flooring installation is complete to make sure that all of the noisy spots have been mitigated.
9. Add Anti-Vibration Pads and Mats
Some of the noise transferring through your ceiling could be coming from running appliances such as a refrigerator. If you’d like to learn how to quiet your refrigerator specifically, check out my article here.
If you have access to the room above and you believe a noisy appliance is the culprit of your bothersome noise, then anti-vibration pads or mats may solve your problem.
By placing the noise-making appliance on the thick pad, you are essentially decoupling it from the floor. The mat will then absorb much of the vibrations that were causing the noise.
10. Talk to Your Neighbor
If your neighbor upstairs is interrupting your peace, you may decide to try to talk to them about it. Many people will be understanding and be willing to try to reduce the noise they are causing.
Reducing the noise being generated is in everyone’s best interest, so it is likely your neighbor will be willing to work with you on reducing the noise. They may even be willing to add some rugs to their hard floor to help reduce the sound you hear from their footsteps.
If you do have to undertake some construction to reduce the noise, make sure you let your neighbors and landlords know beforehand. You don’t want to disturb your neighbors, and by keeping everyone informed, you’ll be creating better relationships with those around you.
Check Your New Home for Noise BEFORE Moving In
If noise is going to be a big problem for you, make sure you check your home before moving in. This may eliminate the need for costly soundproofing additions later on down the line.
- Ask if there is a policy regarding the playing or practicing of music in your building or area.
- If the floors are covered with hard surfaces such as wood or tile, it will create far more reverberations than carpet. This could lead to a noisier home, so it is something to consider.
- Bring a friend to create impacts on the floor above for you to hear.
- Listen for any noise in the bathrooms that may be caused by the pipes. These could be banging sounds, moving water, or even creaks and squeaks.
- How loud are the doors? How quickly do they close?
- Cabinets in the Kitchen can be culprits of impact noise, so be sure to listen to them. When they shut, listen for how loud of a bang it creates.
- Is your space touching or near to any loud noise generators such as elevators or garbage chutes? The vibrations can easily transfer inside and create noise.
- If you can hear anyone walking around above you, the floors/ceilings may not have enough soundproofing to provide you with a quiet home.
- Does the entry door have sound seals or bottom seals? Are there gaps in the weatherstripping?
- Are your doors hollow or solid core? This will make a very noticeable difference!
- Are the hallways noisy? Listen for echos and reverberations.
- If you’re on a flight path, the sound of planes passing overhead constantly could be a detriment to your quiet space.
- Take notes as you inspect your potential dwelling. Listen and look, believe your senses. Be sure to notice which areas are louder, have more reverberations, have external noises coming through, etc.
- Investing in a new home is a major decision, so take the time to be thorough during your inspection if a quiet space is important to you.
- Go next door and meet the neighbors that live on each side of you. Ask them about their experience living there.
- Check the noise transmission for yourself by using a speaker and listening on the other sides of the walls or floors while it plays. See how much of the music or speaking you can hear.
- Listen near windows for any external sounds bleeding through. These areas can be major culprits for noise pollution in your home.
- Sit inside the house in silence and listen for any noises. Make sure to listen in the quiet for long enough to be sure of how loud any external sounds may be.
- A good test to try is to ask yourself if you’d need earplugs to get a good night’s sleep.
- Ask the builder of your home for STC and IIC numbers for the walls and floors
- Ask about any loud pets that may be in the vicinity. A big dog barking late can be a real intrusion on your quiet.
Once you’ve determined the source and type of noise that’s affecting your home, you can decide which of these methods will be most effective for your situation. You may not eliminate the noise, but you can reduce it to a very manageable level.
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