Options for Soundproofing
How many times have you been woken up by an upstairs neighbor or family member going to the washroom in the middle of the night? Perhaps your office is located in the same building as a fitness center and the noise of crashing weights or aerobics music hinders your concentration. Or maybe you are just a really light sleeper and need an extra quiet bedroom. Noise pollution can be a very bothersome thing, especially if it is coming from a source within the same building. It interrupts our sleep patterns, interferes with our thought processes and causes stress. Let's take a look at a few ways to prevent noise from polluting our living and working spaces.
All noise transmits as vibration energy and can vibrate through a solid object such as brick or wood, and it will even radiate outward through the same rigid material. For this reason walls and ceilings are typically built with an air cavity and two solid outer surfaces. In many cases the belief is that adding simple pink batt insulation will make the wall or ceiling soundproof; this is not the case at all. Louder noise or footsteps can't be stopped by pink batts because as mentioned above the vibration (noise) travels through the rigid materials and will go around the insulation.
All walls need insulation to block some noise, but there is another key elements required for a really effective soundproof wall; we need to break the connection from one side to the other.
Effective methods to break the direct contact are to use a stud/joist isolation tape before the outer surface is attached, or to include sound isolation clips into the wall construction. Another simple method is to use a sound damping glue between two layers of regular drywall. This method make a heavier wall that will not transmit vibration.
Let's take a look at ceiling soundproofing. If your noise pollution is coming from a space above that is inaccessible to you, such as another office or living space, some say that adding acoustical ceiling tiles will work; this is false for the same reason explained above-ceiling tiles are lightweight, cannot block vibration, and won't help for footstep noise at all. For credible soundproofing you are going to have to invest in a solution that works. Fortunately, you have several reliable options. Adding another layer of drywall over the existing ceiling with a sound damping glue will provide measurable improvement and doesn't require any demolition. Another option when footstep noise is the primary complaint is to demolish your ceiling and start over with sound isolation clips and a new drywall ceiling; this is the key for footsteps so we can block the vibration. If your best option is a drop grid ceiling, with ceiling tiles, you can get results by adding just a few things. Use wire tie hangars to isolate the grid from the ceiling above, then select heavier ceiling tiles that are made for blocking noise. Some are foil backed, some have drywall added, and there are options for adding MLV over the existing drop ceiling to add weight. They are very effective and easily installed. Finally it is important to address any can lights, a/c ducts or other "holes" to prevent noise from getting through our soundproofed ceiling.