Having noisy upstairs floors can be a nightmare. No one wants to have their life constantly disturbed by the thudding of family members or housemates, and while apartment living can be amazing, noisy upstairs neighbors are a drain on your quality of life.
You could ask your heavy-footed friends to keep it down, but that could be a difficult conversation. What can you do to get some peace?
We’re here to help. There are several ways in which you can reduce the various forms of noise from upstairs floors, no matter where you live.
The first thing to do is to figure out where the noise is coming from and how it is being made. Once you’ve done that, you can choose an appropriate fix.
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What Sort of Noise Is It?
When it comes to hearing noise from upstairs, it is important to understand the two types of noise it could be so that you can act accordingly:
- Airborne noise
- Impact noise
Can you hear conversation, music, or television noise through your floor? Anything that is transmitted through the air falls under the category of airborne noise.
Naturally, people living above you make quite a lot of airborne noise (unless they live alone and own some good headphones).
Because airborne noise tends to be higher in frequency, it is often reflected or absorbed by floor coverings. Great solutions for airborne noise include insulation and on-wall soundproofing, which we will talk about more in the next section.
This is the type of noise that is most likely to cause you issues with your upstairs neighbors.
Impact noise is anything that is generated by something hitting a surface. Footsteps, moving furniture, and dropping cutlery are all examples of the sorts of impact noise you might find coming through your ceiling.
Solutions for dampening impact noise include adding mass to your ceiling, creating an air gap with a drop ceiling, or soundproofing the floor itself.
How Can You Reduce the Noise?
If your ceiling and the floor above are built with an air gap between them, you can add blown-in insulation to reduce the transmission of sound.
This method is very effective at dampening airborne noise and also has a muffling effect on impact noise. It is, however, something you really want to call in the professionals for, as doing it yourself is difficult and risky.
If you have access to the floor above, you can install other acoustic insulation such as foam or Rockwool beneath the floorboards. The insulation is often referred to as sound resilient channels.
Basically, a resilient channel is an additional layer placed between a current ceiling and the hard flooring in the apartment or level up above. There are strategically placed air pockets or channels that force any sound frequencies or vibrations to ping back and forth before moving downwards. This helps to dampen the noise as its energy force is lessened through this process.
Add Drywall to Your Ceiling
Adding an extra layer to your ceiling creates more mass, which absorbs more vibration and reduces the noise you hear through the ceiling. You can add a layer of drywall directly onto your existing ceiling.
You can even use a specialist acoustic glue such as Green Glue to attach the new ceiling layer, which cuts out even more vibration. This is a relatively effective method against all forms of noise transmitted through floors.
Install Acoustic Foam or Tiles
If you’ve ever seen pictures of a recording studio, you will have caught a glimpse of some oddly shaped foam on the walls and ceilings. This is acoustic foam, and it is excellent at reducing noise because that is what it’s designed to do!
However, it isn’t particularly attractive. If you are trying to soundproof an office, studio space, or other work areas, the acoustic foam may be an option, but it’s not the ceiling finish most people would choose for their lounge or bedroom.
There are acoustic ceiling tiles available that are more attractive than specialist acoustic foam, but they are less effective and still not that aesthetically pleasing, making them something of a compromise.
Replace Your Ceiling
A drastic option, but if you have noise from upstairs that you absolutely can’t get rid of, perhaps the construction of your ceiling is simply not up to scratch.
If you have the ability to replace your ceiling entirely, you can make sure that the new installation has the best-quality soundproofing built-in.
Options like resilient channels, which create spaces full of air that sound doesn’t travel through well, fixings that don’t transmit vibration, and flexible damping are all possible if you are doing a thorough rebuild.
Replacing a ceiling to a high acoustic standard is expensive and time-consuming, but it ensures that you have the best possible soundproofing.
An alternative to a whole ceiling rebuild is to install a drop ceiling.
A drop ceiling is like the ceilings you see in many offices or schools, where the visible ceiling surface is made of acoustic tiles that hang below the structural ceiling in a suspended grid.
This is a second ceiling layer that can be installed right over top of your current ceiling. The air spaces that will be between these ceiling levels can dramatically reduce all types of sound waves including airborne noises from the upstairs floors.
Since you will likely use acoustic tiles when building your lowered ceiling, this building material will dramatically lessen loud bangs, vibrations, and reverberations from people upstairs moving around as an added bonus and incentive to complete this home improvement sound reduction project.
However, drop ceilings naturally reduce the height of your room, are generally less attractive than the ceiling they’re replacing, and cost a fair amount of money, so this option may not be suitable for many domestic applications.
Soundproof the Floor Above You
Clearly, this isn’t an option if you don’t own the floor upstairs! However, if you do, one of the best and easiest ways to reduce upstairs noise is to stop it from transmitting in the first place.
Carpet the floors of your upstairs rooms, or install thick acoustic underlay beneath tiling or wood flooring.
Thick rugs in upstairs rooms and felt pads on the feet of furniture also help cut down on noise without having to make any alterations to the ceiling below.
Otherwise, it’s worth trying to ask the upstairs tenants to throw down decorative area rugs in the places where the ruckus is the loudest. Strategically placing furniture to block walkthrough traffic over squeaky floorboards can also help immensely in creating a peaceful quiet everyone will appreciate.
Try Anti-Vibration Mats or Other Methods to Soundproof Ceiling
Some other fantastic methods to reduce noise from neighbors involve using adhesives, like green glue, to create sound seals by blocking tiny holes that commonly develop in older or cheaper doors, ceilings, walls, and floors. The sound may also be transferring through window cracks as well. There are some great sound-blocking window treatments and drapes that may help to reduce noise from upstairs or outdoors.
If you plan on moving into a new apartment, it is worth the time and effort to investigate whether you can hear noise from upstairs prior to signing a lease. Try to tour the place at different hours when neighbors are home to get a realistic idea of whether you will be bothered by vibrations traveling through a floor, ceiling, or wall.
If you hear some sound frequencies but not really loud, it may be possible to do some simple measures before moving in to reduce noise. The apartment owner or manager may be open to doing some noise-blocking measures, such as installing mass-loaded vinyl onto the ceiling.
These work and are installed in a similar fashion as the acoustic foam panels, but these vinyl options are thinner and come in pleasing colors and patterns to blend right in with the existing decorative style. The apartment manager may also be willing to let you do the work and reimburse you for the time, effort and materials. Some materials, such as green glue, are relatively inexpensive and deliver on their promised results.
There are some special anti-vibration mats and pads that are designed to reduce much of the vibration shakes and thumps that can transfer to other locations from heavy traffic areas and poorly constructed or older building elements.
Utilize White Noise to Drown Out Sound from Noisy Neighbors
After determining where the noises seem to be coming from, it is necessary to find effective strategies to reduce that noise. Sound waves tend to travel far in an apartment building, and neighbors often hear undesirable noise from the upstairs floors due to heavy foot traffic.
This does not usually account for all the noise problems, as sound can be pinged off physical structural components hidden in the ceiling, floor, or walls. This type of noise is usually contained inside something hollow or in the open space pockets between structural components in the ceiling or other locations.
Some kinds of sound vibrations can be made more bearable with the use of white noise.
All noise has a frequency, and many individuals have learned to blend these noise frequencies by running white noise as a background sound. This blended white noise can help diminish the troublesome frequency noises by providing a soothing sound that can be easier to deal with on an ongoing basis.
Many people use old-fashioned fans that can provide a background noise that will distract the person from focusing in on the annoying sounds, especially when trying to sleep. This noise is similar to when a television station goes off the air and creates sounds that seem like static waves.
Additionally, people often use music as a background sound, and there are many different sound machines that play soothing sounds like ocean waves, sounds of a forest, or bells ringing in the wind.
All of these sound machines can help minimize the distraction of different noises heard and many use sound machines and other white noise options to sleep better during the nighttime hours.
Sound machines can also be used in yoga, meditation exercises, and deep relaxation tones to decrease overall stress and anxiety.
Talk to Your Neighbors
The best way to deal with how to reduce noise from upstairs neighbors is to talk to them. If you’re lucky enough to know your neighbors and have a decent relationship with them, you can always see if there’s anything they can do to help. This could be an uncomfortable conversation, but it might be the best way forward.
Tell your neighbors about the loud sound that you hear from within your apartment. They may be totally unaware of how their routine is causing disruption to others in the building. Oftentimes, pinpointing the times and types of noise can be helpful in figuring out measures to take for reducing noise levels.
Talk to your neighbor when you are calm and can articulate your concerns in a non-confrontational manner. This could be your best bet at solving your noise problems without having to deal with the extra cost of other sound reduction measures. Let other people in your building know about using white noise if they are experiencing sensory overload too.
Living with upstairs noise is difficult and disruptive. There is a wide range of possible solutions to the problem, ranging from DIY fixes to large-scale renovation.
Hopefully, after considering what sort of noise you are dealing with, your budget, and your situation as far as homeownership and access go, you can find a solution that gives a peaceful and attractive home.
If possible, you should take the time to discuss your concerns with your property management. They may be willing to foot the extra cost if it keeps their residents happy enough to stay. If all else fails, it may be time to consider moving elsewhere to get the peace and quiet you deserve.