How To Soundproof Drop Ceilings

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how to soundproof drop ceiling

As a homeowner, when you decide to soundproof your ceiling, it is because you do not want vibrations or sound waves transmitting from the underside of the roof to the floor.

Drop ceilings are originally made to be sound resistant. Adding materials to soundproof would make it even better to block noise out.

People always assume it will be impossible to soundproof a drop ceiling because of its design.

A drop ceiling, most time, represents offices, schools, and bungalows which are a considerably noisy environment.

Deciding to soundproof your roof can be because noise from above causes distraction and disturbance.

If you live on a property converted to accommodate multiple individuals, soundproofing your ceiling might be your only option to reduce noise.

It can be frustrating to arrive back home after a long day to the sound of noisy teenagers playing a video game.

Types of Noise – Drop Ceilings

The purpose of soundproofing is to reduce noise effect. There are two types of noise, the airborne and the impact.

Airborne Noise

Airborne noise is a direct transfer of sound from a source to a receiver. It is sound that travels through the air.

Airborne noise bounces either through the floor or ceiling, they come in through small holes or tiny openings in the construction of the house, ceiling cavities and along ductwork.

Examples of airborne noise are a conversation, blasting music, tv noise, barking dogs and screaming children.

Impact Noise

Impact noise is sound generated from directly hitting a surface. It’s a structural vibration transmitted from the point of impact through a structure.

Impact noise is an emitted sound from a vibrating surface. Impact sound occurs when an item hits the floor; the effect results in vibrations that travel through the building structure.

Generally, impact noise moves to the ceiling of the lower property. Impact noises include footfall, children running, items dropping on the floor or people walking in the room above.

Now that you know the different type of noise, you can be sure of the soundproofing type you want for your ceiling.

Take a look at things you can do to soundproof your drop ceiling

Acoustical Ratings For Ceiling

Two different ratings measure the soundproofing competences of particular ceiling tile materials.

The Noise Reduction Coefficient that ranges from 0 to 1.0 indicates how much the material sound can absorb. An NRC of 0 means that the tile replicates all of the sounds and send it back into the room, and an NRC of 1.0 means that the ceiling tile absorbs all of the sound effects.

The Ceiling Attenuation Class is used in measuring how well the ceiling tile can prevent sound from being transmitted through the slab.

The CAC is of more efficient rating if you’re worried about sound going through the ceiling to the room above.

A tile with a CAC higher than 35 is considered to be of high performance in terms of its sound-blocking competences, and among ceiling tile supplies, materials from mineral tend to have better CAC ratings.

How To Soundproof A Drop Ceiling

A drop ceiling can be made quieter by:-

  1. Adding mass
  2. Decoupling the ceiling
  3. Fixtures and mechanical system
  4. Absorbing sound
  5. Rugs and carpets
  6. Using soundproof Materials

1. Adding Mass

For sound to transmit through the ceiling, the material of the roof must be able to vibrate so that it can pass through the sound vibration to spaces above it.

One definite way to reduce a ceiling tile’s ability to vibrate is to increase its mass. By doing this, you make the ceiling resistant to the vibrating energy of the sound that hits it.

Some manufacturers suggest sound-reducing products, either a thick plate that will sit on top of ceiling tiles or specially designed dense tiles that will increase the mass of the ceiling and make it particularly resistant to vibration.

2. Decoupling The Ceiling

Before sound can pass through one side of your ceiling to the other, vibrations must be able to go through the roof as well.

When there’s a continuous physical pathway, it allows vibration through. One of the essential ways to soundproof your drop ceiling is to “decouple” one of the sides from the other.

What this implies is that the ceiling material in the room underneath is not connected directly to the floor of the room above.

We know drop ceilings are built with ceiling tiles suspended in a frame that is below the ceiling beams and the subfloor of the room above.

A drop ceiling design automatically provides built-in decoupling and the first step toward soundproofing.

3. Fixtures and Mechanical System

A mechanical system such as ductwork, light fixtures, vents, and others within a drop ceiling serve as a pathway for sound transmission through the roof.

Using a Sound-block to cover light fixtures and air returns would help to prevent sound from transmitting around and through the accessories. Read my article on soundproofing vents.

Introducing sound-damping paint or coatings into ductwork helps to prevent the ducts from vibrating.

Acoustical baffles inside the duct hole can help stop sound from moving through the air inside the tube.

4. Absorbing Sound

It doesn’t matter if there is a direct connection between the drop ceiling and the floor above it, any sound that manages to pass through the ceiling tile is still going to make the air in the space between the roof, and the floor above vibrate.  

Causing the effect of the vibration to pass sound to the room overhead. Consider filling the area with a sound-absorbing material such as the fiberglass insulation.

It will help to absorb the vibration while stopping it from passing to the floor above. However, insulation soundproofing method is not as effective as decoupling or adding mass.

5. Go Fluffy with Rugs or Carpets

it’s an option for homeowners who have control over the upper and lower part of their building.

If you are the type that works from home and your kids have their room right above your office, the noise can be distracting.

Introducing fluffy rugs will significantly help to reduce the impact of footsteps or noise from kids in the room above.

If the room already has carpeting, you don’t necessarily have to get a rug, all you need to do is get some padding to place between the carpet and the floor to ensure more sounds are absorbed.

In place of the padding, mass loaded vinyl is another option to reduce noise transmission between the carpet and the floorboards.

6. MuteX Soundproof Material

If you are considering going for something more straightforward than the acoustic foam rating, then your best choice is the MuteX soundproof material.

MuteX material has its design in the form of a mat that can be used to soundproof your drop ceiling. It’s lightweight and comes in a roll of black material.

The composition of the MuteX soundproof material is vinyl and a high mass element.

The plastic makes the mat flexible, while the high mass element provides enough density to the MuteX material to act as a sound barrier.

The MuteX material is versatile and allows for pairing with drywall for maximum effect. Staple the MuteX material to drywall and place above your drop ceiling.

The above methods are the possible ways soundproof can be done for a drop ceiling.

DIY Methods To Make Drop Ceilings Soundproof

For homeowners who prefer DIY style, below is a breakdown on how to go about soundproofing your drop ceiling yourself.

Measurement

Measure the width and shape of your supporting beams, or work with a ceiling tile. With scissors or razor blade, cut into shape the mineral wool or vinyl barrier to equal size of the ceiling tile.  

Leave a gap of at least 1/4-inch between the material and the original ceiling. The reason for this is to allow room for absorbing the transmission of sound.

For old buildings, the suggested gap size of 2 1/4-inch is necessary. If you have your doubts, consult with your local building agency.

Let me remind you that if you have ceiling fixtures, you will need to detach the respective holes in the soundproofing material.

Ensure that when you are through, you will still be able to secure the fixture to the support beams and hang it from the original ceiling.

Adjust Ceiling Fixtures

It’s important that you disconnect power from any circuits that connect to existing lighting or other electrical fixtures in the suspended ceiling. Remove accessories.

Installing the Material

Installing the material is the most important part of soundproofing your drop ceiling.

Some vinyl barrier materials come with adhesive glue on the bottom. If that is what you have, remove the cover and stick to the top of the ceiling tile (the part not visible from the room).

If your vinyl barrier does not come with adhesive tape on one side, use the sealant to stick in place the mineral wool or vinyl barrier onto the top of each ceiling tile.

Ensure the material do not go beyond the edge of each tile, or you will have issues putting it back in place. Allow the caulk dry for at least a day (or longer if in a cold environment).

As soon as the caulk is dry, replace the tiles into the ceiling. Ceiling fixtures that you removed can be replaced.

Thanks for reading! Before you go  check out my top recommendations for soundproofing.

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