One of the biggest problems that comes with living in an apartment is the noise created by nearby neighbours.
Depending on the type of flat or apartment you live in there are a number of solutions available. Much will depend on your budget, how much height you can afford to lose from the ceiling and the type of noise that is bothering you.
We are going to run through some of the more common solutions for soundproofing a ceiling in the article below.
Impact noise or airborne noise?
It is important to make a distinction between the types of noise interference you are experiencing. In turn this will help to identify the type of acoustic insulation you need.
Impact sound: This occurs through a vibration that is emitted as a sound once it passes through a structure and vibrates onto the surface of an object.
For example, if you hear something heavy hit the floor above you, the vibrations caused upon impact result in a sound being heard through the structure of the building. This could be other things like hearing footsteps or young children running across the floor.
Airborne sound: This is when the sound can be heard coming directly from its source. It could be anything from small holes in the ceiling, or the structure immediately around it. The type of airborne noise usually heard within the home are things like TV, music, human voices and pets.
How acoustic insulation can reduce airborne noise
Acoustic insulation slabs are recognised by soundproofing experts as one of the best ways to absorb the transmission of sound from one space through to another. The thickness of the material is key to achieving this while the use of thermal insulation rolls will not be sufficient due to their lower density.
Acoustic insulation slabs such as Rockwool RWA45 Acoustic Insulation Slabs can be installed into the cavities of the ceiling. These are compressed slabs which increases their density and ensures you receive maximum absorption possible.
The slabs are 0.72m² in size, and can be purchased with different levels of density, ranging from 45kg m3 to 100kg m3, depending on how much acoustic insulation is required.
When installing acoustic insulation slabs into the ceiling, they must be at least 100mm thick with a minimum density of 45kg/m3, which meets the current building regulation standards. At this level, the noise transfer between rooms can still usually be heard, so a density of 60kg/m3 is recommended in domestic buildings to reach satisfactory levels of sound absorption. Rockwool RW3 Acoustic Insulation Slabs are suitable for this function.
However, it should be noted that going higher than this will not necessarily offer better levels of performance. Increasing the density is also more costly, so it is worth trying to balance those two key factors out.
Using soundproofing panels to reduce noise
Rather than inserting acoustic insulation slabs into the ceiling to decrease the transfer of sound, another good alternative is to add soundproofing ceiling panels. By adding mass to the ceiling you make it more difficult for sound to pass through the structure with clarity. This is a good option if you are unable to create a false ceiling.
For example, you can add ceiling panels similar to the Karma Acoustic MassPanel to the existing roof structure which will help stop airborne sounds. This is done by simply screwing through the panel into the ceiling joists, before sealing using an acoustic sealant, re-plastering and decorating to add the finishing touch.
These panel comprise of cement particle board which offers a higher level of performance compared to acoustic plasterboard. This increases the density of the panel and ensures the level of vibration felt is lowered, meaning the room underneath hears less noise from above.
Building an independent ceiling
Similar to the common method used to insulate a wall, building an independent ceiling underneath the existing structure often proves to be one of the most effective methods available. This will require losing height within the room and in order to comply with building regulations, a minimum drop of 6 inches will be required.
This could be more depending on the structure of the property. Old Victorian houses are ideal for this solution as the ceilings are typically very high, while modern builds are more compact which may not allow you to consider this as an option.
The new ceiling will have no connection with the one currently in place and that design makes it far more difficult for noise from above to travel through into the room below. This is the case for both airborne and impact sounds.
In most cases, new ceiling joists will need to be installed, which means it is recommended that a professional contractor or company undertake this job. Sound breaker bars will not be required as the separation is already in place when a new ceiling is constructed.
How much room height will you lose?
The height you are prepared, and can afford to lose structurally, are two of the most important things to take into consideration when thinking about how to soundproof a ceiling. Different soundproofing systems will require their own alterations to ceiling height.
The higher the ceiling, the better the system will perform when it comes to blocking out sound. The added bonus of lowering a ceiling is that there is less space to be heated, which should lead to lower energy bills. These gradual returns can help you gain back some of the money spent on undertaking the soundproofing process.