How to Soundproof a Ceiling – Soundproofing Ceilings

On average, noise coming through a ceiling is the worst soundproofing problem you’re likely to encounter. The reason is two-fold. First, the hard flooring choices of today don’t help the noise control problem at all. Carpet and pad is used to reduce a lot of the noise. Hardwood, linoleum and tile are not the friends of the neighbor below. Second, a footfall introduces a great deal of energy into a very small cross section of floor. This can overwhelm many common soundproofing efforts. Here’s what you’re up against.

Sound Traving Through your floor

Imagine your neighbor’s footstep hitting the floor above. This large amount of vibration will race through the flooring above and start entering your ceiling framing. The framing is VERY conductive, so vibration passes through very easily. Your ceiling drywall is rigidly attached to this vibrating framing, so a millisecond after the footstep slams the floor, the vibration enters your ceiling drywall and then hits you.

soundproofing-flanking-through-walls

Another problem with vibration entering the ceiling framing is that your walls downstairs are holding up his framing. So his sound is also entering your room through your walls. This is known as flanking noise. Not as much sound will come through the walls, however perhaps 5% to 30% of the noise you’re hearing may be coming in through your walls in stereo.

soundproofing-flanking-through-ceiling

Lastly, there are generally holes in your ceiling for lights, ceiling fans and ventilation. There are also possible flanking paths that need to be dealt with.

Do I treat the noise from the floor or the ceiling?

When designing any soundproofing solution, we would always prefer to treat the noise at its source. This allows us to control and reduce the (sound) vibration before it enters the building’s framing. If the vibration enters the framing, the very conductive framing materials can carry that vibration a great distance.

Sound conducting along ceiling joists

If we could treat the floor above to immediately destroy the vibration before it gets into your ceiling framing, things would be a lot easier. With a hard finished floor above, however, this is generally not possible, and he probably doesn’t want to help you anyway. So really all you can do is treat the ceiling on your side.

How to soundproof a ceiling?

Rating System:

For this Performance Rating System, your existing ceiling is given a score of 1.

There are five levels of isolation that you can consider. We discuss each briefly below and give objective comments about the cost, difficulty and performance of each. Because ceiling isolation is a combination of airborne and impact noise, a general numerical Performance rating is assigned. This rating is simply a guideline to help assess the likely performance relative to the ceiling you have now.

SPC CEILING SOLUTION 1

One extra layer of 5/8″ drywall + one Green Glue damping layer on existing ceiling
spc-ceiling-solution-1

SPC Ceiling Soultion 1 Performance

Ease and Cost Performance
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Fast
  • The only issue is accurately
    finding the existing joists
SPC Solution 1 is a basic level of improvement. It does not address the vibration that remains in the subfloor and joists overhead, and therefore does not reduce the vibration that may flank from the upstairs floor directly into your walls. It will reduce airborne noise more than it will reduce the impact noise.

not-recommended
This level of isolation suggests adding one additional layers of 5/8” drywall to the existing drywall or plaster. This make the ceiling more massive and utilizes standard $8 drywall. Install a medium coverage of Green Glue between the layers. This will damp a great deal of the vibration, but not all, since the vibration is racing through the framing above the new drywall layer, with some of this energy entering your walls.

This method adds Mass and Damping, two of the 4 Elements of Soundproofing.

SPC CEILING SOLUTION 2

Two extra layers of 5/8″ drywall + two Green Glue damping layers on existing ceiling

spc-ceiling-solution-3

SPC Ceiling Soultion 2 Performance

Ease and Cost Performance
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Fast
  • One remaining issue is accurately finding the existing joists
SPC Ceiling Solution 2 is chosen by customers about 40% of the time. It is our single most common choice. It does not address the vibration that remains in the subfloor and joists overhead, however there is a great deal more thoroughly damped mass than the original ceiling had. While this solution does not reduce the vibration that may flank from the upstairs floor directly into your walls, it is an effective means to simply and inexpensively reduce considerable airborne noise and a good deal of the impact noise.

not-recommended
This solution adds an additional TWO layers of standard 5/8” drywall to the existing drywall or plaster ceiling. This make the ceiling quite a bit more massive (an additional 8 pounds per square foot) and again utilizes standard $8 drywall. Install a medium coverage of Green Glue between layers. This will damp more vibration than SPC Ceiling Solution #1, but still not all, since the vibration is still racing through the framing (joists) above the new drywall layers, with some of this energy still available to enter your ceiling as well as walls.

This method adds Mass and Damping, two of the 4 Elements of Soundproofing.

SPC CEILING SOLUTION 3

Clips/Drywall Furring Channel + Drywall + Green Glue + Drywall

Adding Mass for damping

SPC Ceiling Soultion 2 Performance

Ease and Cost Performance
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Moderately
  • FastPrimary labor issue is associated with the removal and disposal of the original ceiling.
While this SPC Ceiling Solution is less massive than Solution 2, it introduces the highly effective aspect of decoupling. Consequently it is more direct and effective specifically against impact (footfall) noise.

This solution requires the removal of the existing drywall or plaster ceiling. Doing so will allow you to install R19 fiberglass insulation if there’s none there already. If there happens to be insulation up there currently, consider leaving it and not adding more. You have to take care never to compress the insulation, as compressed insulation can conduct a vibration quite effectively. This SPC Ceiling Solution 3 introduces the important element of decoupling with the use of resilient clips and channel. By physically disconnecting the ceiling drywall from the existing joists, we significantly frustrate the passage of vibration from the joist to the ceiling drywall. We then add two layers of 5/8” drywall and damp the drywall with Green Glue.

This method adds Decoupling, Mass, Absorption and Damping, four of the 4 Elements of Soundproofing.

 

SPC CEILING SOLUTION 4

One layer GG/DW on Subfloor + Clips/Drywall Furring Channel + DDW & GG

spc-ceiling-solution-4

SPC Ceiling Soultion 4 Performance

Ease and Cost Performance
  • More expensive than the other ceiling solutions Still simple and straight forward
  • Slower than the other ceiling solutions
  • Primary labor issue is associated with the removal and disposal of the original ceiling.
By directly addressing the vibration at the source (the subfloor above) we are able to reduce the vibration before it travels far.

This solution finally addresses the noise vibration right at its source by applying mass and damping to the underside of the problematic subfloor. Because this method directly addresses the vibration, there will be much less sound available to travel to the joists as well as your walls below. Keep in mind that your walls are holding up his noisy floor above.

This method adds Decoupling, Mass, Absorption and Damping, four of the 4 Elements of Soundproofing.

 

SPC CEILING SOLUTION 5

Two layers GG/DW on Subfloor + Clips/Drywall Furring Channel + DDW & GG

spc-ceiling-solution-5

SPC Ceiling Soultion 4 Performance

Ease and Cost Performance
  • Highest performance Ceiling Solution
  • More expensive than the other ceiling solutions
  • Still simple and straightforward
  • Slower than the other ceiling solutions
  • Primary labor issue is associated with the removal and disposal of the original ceiling.
By directly addressing the vibration at the source (the subfloor above) we are best able to reduce the vibration before it travels into the side walls. This is the most massive and damped solution. This option is chosen by those who want the most relief.

This is the highest level of isolation generally performed for residential noise levels. This solution is chosen about 30% of the time. It is the most effective solution for stopping vibration from footfall noise overhead as well as airborne sound from below. Far less vibration will make it through the subfloor to the side walls because the subfloor is now much more massive and thoroughly damped.

 

Have a Concrete Slab for a Ceiling?

How to soundproofing a ceiling with a concrete floor above the ceiling

A single layer of concrete poses a unique challenge for sound isolation. The ceiling is already massive, and adding more mass alone won’t help you. The only real choice is to:

  • Introduce an air cavity
  • Insulate the air cavity

Decouple the new drywall ceiling from the old slab ceiling with Resilient Sound Isolation Clips and Drywall Furring Channel. Add double drywall to the Drywall Furring Channel and one layer of Green Glue. The deeper the air cavity, the greater the sound isolation. A 3” air cavity is a minimum. There are various methods of securing this ceiling to the slab above. To help we suggest you give us a call. 800-397-8791