People living in condos or apartments often complain about loud thumping footsteps, muffled voices, or music blasting from upstairs. It’s a common concern especially for those who live in apartment complexes.
Ceilings are solid and unlike doors, windows or walls, need more mass, decoupling, and absorption. Perhaps the best way to soundproof a ceiling in a condo/apartment is to build a room within a room. It can, however, shrink the room a little but would block every kind of sound.
Soundproofing a ceiling in an apartment or condo requires close attention to detail. You need to take care of every opening including air vents or light fixtures and make sure you don’t lower the roof too much.
Types of Ceiling
To successfully soundproof a condo/apartment’s room you have to know the kind of ceiling you have. The type of ceiling will dictate the type of soundproofing that’s more appropriate to eliminate both airborne and impact noise.
There are two main types of ceilings commonly found in condos and apartments: Drywall ceiling and Suspended ceiling.
Conventional construction type ceilings have a standard drywall finish and are quite easy to install. It is made from low-cost materials, is flat and plain in appearance, and usually stands 8 or 9 feet high.
Drywall, also called sheetrock or plasterboard, has gypsum as its main component. And because of that, it possesses soundproofing qualities. However, gypsum alone cannot create an effective noise barrier.
Suspended or Dropped Ceiling
Dropped ceilings are also considered secondary ceilings because they literally “drop” or “suspend” down from the structural ceiling above them.
Suspended ceilings are not that common in apartments. You’ll usually see them in condos, houses, libraries, and hotels. This kind of ceiling hangs from a metal grid below the existing roof and offers many opportunities for aesthetically incorporating soundproofing solutions in it.
Designers usually love the suspended kind because it allows them to perfectly conceal wiring, lighting fixtures, or plumbing above the dropped ceiling. They effectively decouple the space, which means they create a space between the room/apartment above you and your apartment/condo.
How To Soundproof a Ceiling
After you know what type of ceiling you have, you can choose from these options to effectively soundproof it.
5/8” Soundproof Drywall Layers
You can replace the standard drywall if you have a conventional type ceiling or layer upon it with a soundproof drywall. Make sure that the drywall is not ½” if it’s the second layer. Your second layer should have a thickness of 5/8”.
Soundproof drywalls require no more than two or three persons to install. You can even do it yourself if you have a drywall panel lift host. But if you hire a professional, which is the recommended approach, it can get a little costly.
This material absorbs both impact noise as well as airborne noise. And in addition to soundproofing, you get the benefit of extra insulation.
Note that this solution is not ideal for dropped or suspended ceiling types. Because they’re designed to engulf other structural elements like lighting fixtures, wires, or ductwork.
This is the perfect way to soundproof a ceiling in a condo. However, it’s not suitable for an apartment. Resilient channels decouple the structure-borne noise by using a thin metal channel. The design of this channel will provide and improve the sound insulation of other materials used in the ceiling.
Ideally, this kind of soundproofing is done during construction where you can easily attach the channel directly to the stud work in an unfinished ceiling. This attachment creates a separation between the drywall and the studs.
However, you can directly attach the metal channel to the existing ceiling if you have a finished ceiling and then proceed to add a second layer of drywall.
Acoustic tiles are effective for suspended as well as drywall ceiling types. They’re composed of materials like Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV), sound interrupting foil or fiberglass, etc.
These tiles hold their place on the ceiling either by metal grids (in case of suspended ceiling) or specialized clips (in case of drywall ceiling).
You can also secure them in place on a drywall ceiling with the help of a construction adhesive, some screws, and nails. They add density and mass to the ceiling to cease the transmission of impact and airborne noise.
If you plan to soundproof the ceiling using a second layer of drywall, a green glue noise-proofing compound is a must.
It is a viscoelastic compound formulated to kill noise when sandwiched between two layers of drywall. It can effectively reduce the amount of sound transmission through the ceiling of an apartment/condo.
Green glue compound works by creating an air void between the layers and by absorbing every sound wave that hits the ceiling.
Soundproofing a ceiling in a condo/apartment requires a balanced combination of adding mass, absorptive material, and decoupling.
Figuring out the kind of ceiling you have in your apartment or condo is the first and most crucial step in the whole process. Additional layers of drywall and acoustic tiles are the perfect solution for conventional ceilings. Whereas, resilient channels are perhaps the best choice for suspended or dropped ceilings.
However, for the best results, you must consult an expert and obtain their opinion on what’s best for the size, kind, and soundproofing ability of your ceiling. You can even install acoustic panels on your ceiling by following this article.