Dear PoP – Contractor needed to soundproof ceilings in condo

Photo by PoPville flickr user caroline.angelo

“Dear PoP,

We’re looking for a reliable contractor to soundproof the bedroom ceilings in our condo. We have tried everything in terms of getting our upstairs neighbor to reduce her noise level, but we can still hear her quite regularly. Do you know of any contractors who do this kind of work in DC? I saw a thread from 2009 about soundproofing a wall of the home, but we need to soundproof our ceilings, and we would like to see if we can get a contractor to do it rather than having to do it ourselves.”

We looked at a few options here and here.

But does anyone have specific tips to soundproof ceilings?

16 Comment

  • A box fan set on medium or high. Works every time

    • I sleep with a fan, an air purifier, and a humidifier (during the winter) turned on and yet, if my downstairs neighbor lets her bedroom door close with a thud at 6 a.m., I still hear it. To the OP, I don’t know the answer to your question, but you have my sympathy and best wishes!

  • in the meantime- check and see if your condo assoc. has any rules re: requiring that occupants lay down area rugs on hard surface floors. i know that a lot of buildings do, and especially smaller apt buildings (like rowhouse conversions) often require that tenants use area rugs to cut down on the noise.

  • Yeah, every condo associations docs I’ve ever seen had a requirement that a certain percentage of the floors be covered with rugs/carpet…usually 50-60%.

    Other than that, there is no effective way to do it, especially without spending a fortune.

    The only real way you have is dropping your ceiling a foot and filling the newly created space with insulation which ain’t gonna be cheap.

    Noise coming in from the walls and ceilings was quite literally the single biggest factor that drove me out of condo living decades ago. Hearing your neighbors 24/7, smelling their smoking and cooking was just annoying.

  • Insulation doesn’t really do much for soundproofing but a cheap fix is taking 3/4 inch drywall and screwing it in to your current drywall and ceiling joists. Of course tape it all up and paint it and it should limit some of your noise. But most of your noice is likely coming from the movement of the joists from the pressure that footsteps make so there isn’t much you can do other than rip the floor out from the condo above and put in better sister joists.

  • The truth is that to actually make a worthwhile improvement, it WILL take major construction… AND even then you’ll get no guarantee from any contractor that it will elimnate the sound. It’ll be a gamble.

    No cheap $1K projects or blown insulation will solve the impact sounds of shoes, chairs, dog bones, etc on floors. It may help a bit with voices, but sounds will conduct through floors, joists, wall frames, etc unless there is something to absorb it at each level.

  • You need an acoustical engineer, not a contractor. Unless your contractor can tell you how the coefficient of absorption is defined. (hint: absorption coefficient equals sound power density absorbed by the material in W/cm2 divided by intensity impinging on the material in W/cm2). If that’s too hard, test if your contractor even knows what units are used to measure total absorption provided by a surface. (Answer: sabins)

    Easier yet, does the contractor ask you, or determine for you, what the frequency (i.e. sound wave) of the noise is that you want blocked. Not all sounds have the same frequency and different materials block different frequencies.

    What I’m really saying is have reasonable expectations. You can easily waste your money.

  • Take down the ceiling, install QuietBatt soundproofing insulation between the joists and reinstall a sound deadening drywall, like QuietRock.

    If someone is walking in high heals on a wood floor directly above you, it will be pretty hard to completely muffle the sound. If it’s something like a loud TV or conversation, it will do the trick.

    • very helpful.

    • This is excellent advice. If you are looking for something minimally invasive, tests show that simply installing a second sheet of drywall over your existing ceiling **using green glue** is very effective. Perhaps a maxed out system would be to tear the existing ceiling down, install a product like QuietBatt or Roxul Safe n’ Sound, then install resilient channels, install a layer of QuietRock drywall, then install a second layer with Green Glue in the middle.

      This won’t be cheap, but it depends on the size of the space. It is likely overkill, but should perform well.

  • For airborne noise (voice / tv) acoustic batt. For impact noises (foot fall, drumming, low frequency), drywall on resilient channels. Channels should be suspended with hangers (preferably spring ceiling hangers)

    Maybe a white noise machine.

    But I would try to encourage your neighbor to get carpet.

    • Forgot to mention to keep your existing drywall ceiling. The new ceiling should be suspended below. it.

  • A few years ago I had a soundproofing contractor soundproof my ceilings in my old condo. After a week of ripping out my ceiling, putting up Green Glue, insulation, and sheetrock I could still hear my neighbor’s walking and the floor bed squeak from above. Come to find out, the floors were old and even after nailing the joists from below the whole project only helped A LITTLE. Fixing the problem really requires the person above to do something about it.

    I spent about $15k. Honestly, if I had to do it over again I would have saved my money because after all of that I sold the condo.

  • Ok, you’ve tried everything — this is going to sound ridiculous, but try one more thing.

    Offer to buy the neighbor a rug with padding. (Or, even, just the padding!) This, in the end, might be the cheapest and easiest option. Who knows perhaps it will guilt her into providing for herself? It could create a more harmonious thoughtful relationship in the process either way it turns out.

    Once I was young and dumb, very, very dumb, and I did not want rugs because I liked the minimalist look on my hardwood floor. I also wore heels! I drove my downstairs neighbor apesh*t. (Dear Old Neighbor, I hope you see this: I am SO SORRY!)

    Eventually though, I did get large rugs with padding. He and I got along well after that.


  • Also remember that if you end up tearing out your existing ceiling you will likely need permission from your condo assoc. At my old place the individual owner owned the drywall in, so any monkeying with the joists wold require special permission. There’s lots of good advice here. the issue of footfall noise is a very tough nut to crack. We had a situation where our downstairs neighbor constantly complained about the noise from our walking around the apartment. We had rugs and padding down, always took our shoes off in the condo, and generally tried to be considerate neighbors. But it was terrible feeling like we had to tiptoe around our home. Eventually we moved to a SFH and it is such a relief to not have to worry that we are bothering anyone when we walk around our home. Good luck and hope you can find something that will help.

Comments are closed.