You got married a couple years ago, living in an apartment.
Now you are thinking about starting a family, so the two of you save up and purchase a condo. A generously sized three bedroom in a good school district. Best of all, the building is quite new, only a couple years old.
The big day comes, you get possession and move in – how exciting. You have not met the neighbors yet, perhaps you should take over an apple pie and introduce yourself? Maybe later in the week, once you have finished unpacking.
After a few hours of unpacking you are both exhausted and sitting on the couch quietly, looking over the mountain of unpacking you still have left but very content to be in your brand new home.
Then you hear it.
The neighbors upstairs must have just come home. You clearly heard them open the door and voices talking. They are talking about a new toothpaste they purchased while out getting groceries for the week.
Now they are unpacking the groceries, you hear the fridge door open and close, the cabinet doors banging. The voices continue, they just can’t stop talking about that new toothpaste.
Then you hear it, a massive FART from upstairs! There was no mistake, it was as clear as day.
A female voice says ‘excuse me’.
Your first thought OMG, did she just FART?
Your second thought, how can you be hearing every word and every FART from the unit upstairs?
Has your new condo not got any sound proofing between units? If you can hear them, can they hear you? Did the builder not follow sound insulation standards?
If your new condo is wood construction, odds are good the builder did follow the minimum sound insulation standards. Unfortunately, builders rarely do more than the minimum.
The end result is you end up living in structure that has very annoying sound issues and lack of privacy for everyone.
What can do you about the sounds from the neighbors upstairs, you can’t expect them to whisper and walk on their tip toes all the time.
There are two types of sound, the first is airborne sound such as speaking and the mids and highs of music or TV.
The other type of sound is low frequency, this is sound such as bass from music, your neighbors footsteps or dropping things on the floor.
To attack these sounds issues you must take a multi prong approach and it is not cheap, if you skip some steps you can greatly reduce or totally negate the benefits of your attempt to sound proof. Sound is like water; if you have any “leaks,” it will find a way in.
Lets take a look at what options are available to property sound proof your ceiling (their floor) to hopefully give you back as much of your privacy as possible. We assume that the unit on top is not willing to make any changes to their property, such as sound deadening or alterations to their flooring.
Remove the existing drywall from your ceiling. Remove any insulation that exists (hopefully there was some!).
If you are careful when removing your existing drywall, you can recycle it. This increases the mass and will help reduce sound – a much better use for it than tossing it out. Cut strips of drywall to fit in between the ceiling joists. Apply Green Glue on the strips and screw into the underside of the sub floor, sandwiching the green glue between the sub floor and drywall.
You can double up by doing the same thing with another strip of drywall over the first.
Install Roxul SAFE’n’SOUND which does an excellent job at stopping the mids and highs but does little to nothing to stop the low frequency sounds of footfall or items dropping on the floor.
All light boxes or electric junction boxes that exist in your ceiling need to be encased with an acoustical sealant or sound will leak right through those boxes – negating all your hard work and expense. Consider products such as QuietPutty or ATS Acoustics Putty Pads.
If you have any holes in your ceiling for cables, smoke detectors or recessed lighting, everything must be protected with acoustical protection. Even one hole will allow sound to easily pass.
Now comes the important step to block low frequency noise.
You need to install your ceiling again but it must be decoupled from the walls and floor above as much as possible. You can use a product such as Green Glue Noiseproofing Clips, The WhisperClip or Kinetics Wave Hanger. For those budget conscious, consider the Resilient A237 clip. All things being equal the Whisper Clip delivers an STC score of 60, A237 delivers 57 vs using no clips delivers a score of 42.
Install your choice of clip in conjunction with drywall furring channel, the clips are expensive ranging in price from $5.00 – $10.00 for each clip.
Next mount a double set of 5/8″ drywall onto your furring channels. If you have lots of cash available for this project, consider adding Green Glue between your 5/8″ drywall sheets or even use QuietRock 530 for maximum noise reduction.
Here is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART to stopping the low frequency noise. Your ceiling must not touch the walls – yep, you read that correctly. You must leave a 1/8″ gap between your ceiling drywall and your walls. Fill the 1/8″ gap using a non-hardening, paintable, resilient acoustical caulk such as QuietSeal Pro (it is blue) or OSI SC175 (it is white).
Do NOT tape or mud the ceiling drywall to your walls. The acoustical caulk must the the only connection, this prevents the low frequency sound from traveling down your walls.
The general consensus among sound experts is to use the lowest price clips and spend your savings adding more mass in the form of additional layers of drywall.
- You will need to lower any lights or fans that existed in your ceiling as your new ceiling will be several inches lower as a result of the clips, furring channel and double drywall.
At this point you should have a massive improvement in sound blocking, you are ready to tape, mud and paint your ceiling.
With a little luck, you will no longer be able to hear your neighbor FART!