How To Block Noise From an Elevator

When I was visiting a friend a few months ago I noticed their apartment building’s elevator was very loud. But this got me wondering how to block noise from an elevator. Here’s a quick answer:

The best option for how to block noise from an elevator is either to add mass to the adjoining wall or to decouple it. The best solution will depend on how close you are to the elevator, and which kind of noise you need to block.

How To Block Noise From an Elevator

In this article, I’ll look at what we actually mean by elevator noise and will offer some solutions for blocking it from your apartment. Hopefully, you’ll find a solution that’ll effectively solve the problem for you.

Also read: 6 Ways of Reducing Impact Noise From the Floor Above

What Makes Noise In An Elevator?

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Elevators can be surprisingly noisy things. Well, this might not come as a surprise if you live right next to your apartment’s elevator shaft.

In order to understand the best ways of blocking elevator noise, it’s important to first understand what makes the noise. Only then can you work out the best solution for your situation.

Like all electrical devices, elevators have plenty of moving parts. But unlike a lot of devices, some of these moving parts aren’t static. Add to this the echo caused by the elevator shaft and you have an interesting soundproofing problem.

Your two main sources of noise from an elevator are the motor room and the elevator itself.

The motor room is fairly self-explanatory. It’s where all of the components are located that move the elevator up and down the shaft. Typically it will be on the first floor of a building, but could alternatively be at the top.

Then there’s noise from the elevator and the cable system that moves it up and down the shaft. For many looking to block elevator noise, this will likely be the more common problem. Luckily it’s the easier one to solve.

A study by Acentech found that motor rooms are definitely the bigger problem, but that shaft noise is a more common complaint. Much of this is down to the fact that the motor room is only a single location, whereas the elevator shaft runs throughout the entire building.

Working out which issue you’re trying to solve shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, you’ll know if you’re living next to the motor room or the elevator shaft. But your solutions will be determined by where in your apartment the noise is heard and the level of alterations you can actually make.

To work out the most effective solutions, it’s necessary to understand the different types of noise you’re dealing with.

What Types Of Noise Come From An Elevator?

What Types Of Noise Come From An Elevator_

This might sound like a strange question, but there are different types of noise. Sure, sound waves are all vibrations either through the air or solid objects, but they can have different effects on the environment.

Sound waves are typically split into 2 kinds:

  • Impact noise
  • Airborne noise

Airborne noise

Airborne noises are fairly obvious to work out. These are sounds that travel as waves through the air from the source to your ear. Common examples include:

  • Talking
  • Sounds from a TV
  • Dog barking

Airborne noises can travel through solid objects but will lose a lot of their volume in the process. This is why your neighbor’s TV sounds muffled if you can hear it through the wall.

In the context of an elevator, the cable system and shaft will be typical sources of airborne noise. This is because none of the components will be directly attached to the wall you can hear them through.

Impact noise

Impact noises are simply those you hear when an object makes direct contact with a surface. The impact causes vibrations, which you hear as sound waves. Some common examples are:

  • People walking on the floor above you
  • Furniture being moved
  • Knocking on a door

Impact noises are generally harder to soundproof against because they’ve already made contact with the surface. This means the vibrations are stronger than with airborne noises and so they can travel further through an object.

In the context of an elevator, you’ll typically get impact noises from the motor room. The motor’s moving parts create vibrations that travel through walls and floors for you to hear in your apartment.

But the motor room will also be a source of airborne noise, meaning you have 2 issues to deal with. That said, the impact noises will definitely be the bigger problem to solve.

How To Block Noise From An Elevator

Hopefully, now that you’re aware of the common sources of noise from an elevator, and how you classify these, you should be able to work out which is the best solution.

If you can, try more than one as this will increase your chance of success. But start with the least invasive and move up as this will save you work.

Here are my top suggestions for blocking elevator noise in your apartment.

1. Add mass loaded vinyl to the wall

If one of your walls is shared with the elevator shaft, a quick and simple solution is to put up some mass loaded vinyl.

As the name suggests, this is a product with high mass – around 2lbs per square foot. What’s more, it’s flexible and easy to work with, making it the first choice for soundproofers everywhere.

By adding more mass to the wall, you’re decreasing its transmission ability. Airborne sound waves lose energy when they come into contact with a surface, and so adding more mass means they lose more energy.

Mass loaded vinyl can also be used for impact noises, but you’ll probably need a lot more of it. Adding more mass to the wall means it won’t vibrate as easily, so it’s harder for vibrations to pass through.

You can stick the mass loaded vinyl directly to the wall, but I’d recommend fitting it onto a wooden frame or something first. This just makes the application easier and means you can take it down with less damage to the wall.

Be sure to seal any gaps with acoustic caulking to stop sound from leaking through.

2. Add more drywall

Add more drywall

Adding another layer of drywall is another way of adding mass to a structure. Granted, it’s not as dense as mass loaded vinyl, but it’s a cheaper and more accessible option.

Plus you can attach drywall directly just by using nails. Again, you’ll want to seal any gaps with acoustic caulk, such as Green Glue (Amazon), in order to get the best results.

3. Decouple the wall

Decoupling a wall is definitely the most effective option for blocking noise transmission. This will be a good choice if you live next to the motor room, but you can also use it for blocking elevator shaft noise.

Simply put, decoupling is the process of separating 2 sides of a wall so that vibrations can’t pass through. There are various ways to do this with different levels of success.

If you have the time and budget, installing separate wall joists for each side is the best option. This ensures there’s absolutely no connection between each wall, meaning no vibrations can pass through at all.

You can do this by either staggering 2 sets of joists or just building 2 stud walls. Both work, but it just depends how much time you have.

Be sure to fill the wall cavity with insulation, such as fiberglass insulation or Rockwool. This will ensure any sounds that make it into the cavity can’t leave again.

4. Use resilient channels or sound clips

If you can’t get away with building an entirely new wall, using resilient channels or sound clips will be almost as good. They basically provide the same results but with less work.

Their purpose is to isolate one side of the wall from the joists, meaning any sound waves are prevented from transmitting through into your apartment.

To install them, do the following:

  1. Remove the drywall from your side of the wall to expose the joists.
  2. If the area isn’t insulated, fill the cavity with fiberglass now to improve noise reduction.
  3. Screw the resilient channels to the wall studs, ensuring they’re secure.
  4. If using sound clips, screw them to the joists and then fit a Hat channel, which is essentially the same thing as a resilient channel.
  5. Screw the drywall onto either the resilient or hat channel and seal gaps with acoustic caulk. Repaint as needed.

Using either of these components is fairly easy; the most complicated part is taking down the drywall. They provide the same flexibility as a decoupled wall but with much less effort.

Some Final Thoughts

Hopefully one of the options above will work for you. Knowing how to block noise from an elevator is about understanding the type of noise you want to block.

Of course, if you have to choose one of the less invasive options, understand that it may not be as effective as something like decoupling. Taking the time to add some soundproofing options will make a big difference either way though.

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