Whether you’re tired of hearing your upstairs neighbor’s every footstep, listening in on private conversations, or sick of neighbors’ alarms waking you up before dawn on your off day, there are plenty of frustrations that come with noisy upstairs neighbors.
But, with potentially limiting tenancy agreements, what exactly can you do about the noise?
Soundproofing the ceiling by using a combination of methods that are compatible with the type of sound being conducted, is the best way to deal with stomping by noisy neighbors.
Having to deal with noise from upstairs is certainly frustrating, and signing a lease may prevent you from soundproofing your place for good or undergoing effective construction to achieve quality soundproofing.
Here are some of the most effective non-demolition methods to reduce sound from upstairs neighbors, and achieve a much deserved quiet living space without the issue having to escalate.
What to do about Noisy Upstairs Neighbors Stomping
Before any soundproofing solutions are considered, the primary cause of the sound would need to be properly identified.
Move around your living space going from room to room and monitor the fluctuation in volume in order to narrow down the area(s) of concern – where the noise seems to be loudest. Once the area is identified, you will need to check all walls and structures which are nearby as well.
Going through this process may take some extra effort, but it is extremely important, as one could waste hundreds or thousands of dollars on various elaborate soundproofing methods, only for the issue to persist.
Various types of noise could leak into your space, and each of these noise types behaves in different ways and will need to be approached in compatible ways in order for soundproofing to be effective.
Air is one of the largest conductors for sound frequencies to travel.
Such noises would include sounds such as music or conversations and general movement or activity around their living space and can be relatively dulled with many soundproofing materials such as foam or fiberglass.
These soundwaves are caused by two objects (living or non-living) making contact with each other, and the sound of this contact, depending on physical properties, is transmitted through the floor via the vibrations that are created upon contact.
Such sounds include neighbors walking around, interacting with heavy objects such as furniture, or when an object is dropped onto the floor.
When such an impact occurs, it sends vibrations through their floor into your ceiling, and measures to control these vibrations would be a good approach.
Flanking/ Leaking Soundwaves
This kind of soundwaves is much more complicated to work with, as the primary cause is generally the traveling of sound vibrations through connected structures.
These sounds are transmitted to areas that are not close to the source of the sound. It’s essential to check for this kind of noise before tackling any of the methods.
Thus, methods that are most compatible with the identified type of noise should be used. From this point, you will be much more prepared for finding an effective solution to the issue, having a clearer understanding of the problem itself.
There are various methods that would be relatively effective in reducing the noise from upstairs neighbors depending on the type of soundwaves being transmitted. All of these methods should be considered against the source of the sound, and the type of sound being transmitted.
Soundproof the Ceiling from Impact and Airborne Noise
Reducing overall sound transmission from the floor above can be done by creating some form of a ‘floating ceiling’, which will assist in reducing both impact and airborne sound transmission.
This is created by placing a soundproofing barrier between the drywall and ceiling which has minimal contact with the adjacent two levels. This layer is sound absorbent, which allows far fewer means of transportation for frequencies and vibrations.
Using additional methods involving soundproofing insulation would greatly increase the effectiveness of such methods.
It’s also possible to attach joints to the ceiling in order to place additional soundproofing insulation and fixtures. There are various other methods which can be done as well, or in combination for effective results.
Use Soundproofing Sealant
During the construction of the structure, drywall mud is frequently used in the corners between ceilings and walls. But, this in fact allows sound vibrations from the floor upstairs to be transmitted down through the wall and amplifies the soundwaves.
Soundproofing sealant such as Green Glue is useful for these areas and is most effective when coupled with other methods.
Green Glue is incredibly effective at blocking soundwaves and has a great capacity to eliminate noise.
If even a small area allows for airwaves to pass through, such as visible cracks in the corners where the ceiling meets the walls or cracks in the ceiling itself, then it would act as a conductor for airborne sound frequencies and impact noise. Sealing these shut would be a great place to start off.
Acoustic Foam Panels
Various soundproofing panels such as acoustic foam panels or tiles can be effective in reducing noise. These can be fixed directly to the ceiling and will dull the sound vibrations and frequencies being transmitted through the floor.
The surface area of the ceiling which needs to be soundproofed will need to be measured, and cardboard panels should be tailored before the foam is attached. This allows the possibility of switching at a later stage without damage to the actual ceiling.
The foam will need to be attached with ample adhesive spray for a firm clamp, and the panels should be fixed using pin nails.
However, it’s not the most aesthetically appealing option, and many find its appearance a deterrent for using this option. But, they are available in various designs, and can actually add to the room’s overall visual appearance.
Ceiling Clouds and Acoustic Fixtures
Such ceiling clouds and acoustic fixtures are frequently used in large commune structures such as auditoriums and restaurants – they are quite pricy and would require permission from the owner of the property or landlord since it requires quite a secure fixture to the ceiling.
Ceiling clouds are flexible, extremely fashionable, come in a variety of designs, have soft lined shapes which are suspended parallel to the ceiling, and are effective for reducing sound. They work by dual absorption, handling sound within the room as well as from outside of the room.
Floating sound panels are best since it utilizes both the back panel and the fabric face, and acoustic fixtures can be fixed close to the sound panels making them more effective. However, these should not be fixed near sprinkler heads, lighting fixtures, or HVAC pipes on the ceiling.
Otherwise referred to as a ‘popcorn ceiling’, acoustic ceiling tiles are bright white in appearance, and are sprayed or painted on for an elegant finish.
They are durable, improve the acoustics in the room, and reduce noise levels. They are also quite easy to clean, which makes them ultimately quite a sophisticated and convenient – yet, a fairly pricey option.
Add a Layer of Drywall
Adding an additional layer of drywall to your ceiling will increase its mass and density significantly and will assist in reducing the transmission of soundwaves through vibrations moving through the ceiling.
The capacity for noise reduction is slightly higher with options such as QuietRock as opposed to standard drywall.
It’s advised to use resilient channels to create a space between the layers in order to isolate soundwaves, as well as soundproofing sealants such as Green Glue in between the layers of drywall.
This noise-proofing solution has been designed to dampen sounds and act as an acoustic barrier, reducing vibrations, impact soundwaves as well as some flanking soundwaves, and the effective application of this method can reduce noise by approximately 80%.
Such methods have proven to be effective in reducing sound transmission through ceilings. It’s done by coating drywall in Green Glue before fixing it over the existing ceiling, and multiple layers of drywall can be added.
If multiple layers of drywall are added, then decoupling mounts should be used, preventing the soundwaves from vibrating and traveling through the layers.
Although this method is pricey and more time consuming, it is quite effective since it adds mass to the wall through-thickness and density, and would fill any minuscule openings which remain.
Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)
Mass loaded vinyl (Amazon link) is available in an extensive range of types and price varieties and is an exceptional solution to soundproofing the ceiling for its source of non-resonant mass.
It’s comprised of vinyl which has high mass and the physical properties of this material are suitably dense yet flexible in nature.
The mass relative properties of MLV make it effective in reducing sound conduction and coping with excess noise whether it’s airborne or impact noise.
Some types of high-quality MLV are extruded, containing polymeric plasticizers which offer strength and stability to the MLV.
It can be installed in a variety of ways, and this should be based on your own suitability and the needs of the ceiling in question.
It’s effective at reducing noise when positioned slackly as well as when fixed firm against the area of the ceiling being soundproofed, and is useful for framings or between layers of the drywall as well.
Mass Loaded Vinyl will provide even more effective results when used on quality drywall or QuietRock with Green Glue used in between layers and will be effective in reducing impact noise as well as airborne noise. It can also be used between drywall layers in order to greatly reduce the overall noise transmission.
Install a Drop Ceiling
Installing a ‘drop ceiling’ is works by attaching a second ceiling, which is fixed to the existing ceiling at a lower height.
Your drop ceiling may be built with acoustic tiles, which will add more resistance to incoming soundwaves from upstairs by disintegrating the balance of the noise before it gets into your space.
The space between these layers otherwise referred to as a plenum area, is more compressed and will assist in reducing noise transmission.
Sound vibrations will not vibrate the drop ceiling in the same way that vibrates and transmits through the original ceiling.
For an even more effective application of this method, a thin layer of attenuating rubber can be added to the ceiling followed by sheetrock. The drop ceiling can be fixed after this, and the plenum area should be filled with insulation.
Drop ceilings are created with resilient channels and insulation for more effective soundproofing.
This method in particular is quite effective at reducing the transmission of all kinds of noises from upstairs and may resolve your issue entirely. But, it is a rather expensive option and requires much more commitment in terms of time and effort.
Insulate the Ceiling with Blow-in Insulation
It would be best to have this done by a professional since this is quite a complex process. But it’s relatively inexpensive and isn’t too much of a lengthy process.
If you already have a drop ceiling, you can drill holes in it at approximately 16 inches from each other, and use blow-in insulation. The holes would be patched up once this is complete.
There are two major types of popular insulation, including fiberglass which dries quickly, and cellulose which is an eco-friendly option.
The insulation is blown through a pre-drilled hole with a specialized machine or pump. Blow-in insulation is available at varying densities which all provide varying degrees of sound reduction.
This method is particularly useful for handling airborne soundwaves which are penetrating the floor above and will work by adding more mass to the ceiling which will increase the ceilings capacity for dampening and absorbing soundwaves.
Soundproofing paint is comprised of fillers, hollow ceramic microspheres, and resins which are sound absorbent, and is painted onto the ceiling much like standard paint would be.
It’s quite simple to apply since it merely necessitates a paint roller for hefty areas and an angled brush for lesser areas. A minimum of two layers should be applied for effective results, as it adds dense mass to the surface of the ceiling, dampening sound, and reducing noise by up to 30%.
Of course, when trying to stop sound from seeping through the ceiling, and dealing with issues or disputes relating to noise complaints with neighbors and such, it’s best to try and be cooperative about it.
Budget is also a major factor when it comes to resolving such issues, as some methods require far more monetary investment, as well as time and effort commitments.
These methods – particularly in conjunction with other methods that are supportive – prove to be quite effective in reducing overall noise levels which are transmitted via potential mediums of sound conduction.
Working with a balanced combination of the basic physics of soundproofing– absorption, damping, mass, and decoupling methodology, these materials, and combinations work to support each other in resolving the issue.
Reducing soundwaves at its source
It should be noted that the most effective solutions would in fact be resolving the initial transmission of sound vibrations and waves at the very source.
This would require cohesively working with neighbors in order to resolve it. In the event that they were able to lay down some soundproofing solutions themselves, it would be the most optimal solution.
Such methods would include the floor above undergoing soundproofing means, possibly using resilient underlayment with damping compound, reducing the squeaking of the floor above, and installing anti-vibration pads and mats.
Additional floor padding and soundproofing used in their space would be beneficial for you. Perhaps, asking them to even invest in some carpets and rugs may be a good start – at least softening impact noise.
If one has access to the floor above, then replacing the very ceiling itself, although it will be quite an investment, it may even be a viable option for reducing the noise.
Of course, there are means where things are not at simple, or neighbors perhaps will not cooperate – some going as far as to be stubborn or spiteful. In these cases, of course, there are a few ways you can resolve the issue within your space, within your budget, and within the boundaries of signed agreements.
With a combination of various methods, there are quite a few ways you could get a good night’s rest and avoid sleeping with earplugs.
But, what would work best would ultimately come down to the type of noise that is bothering you most, the location of the noise, what you are permitted to do within the space, as well as your budget.