Author Topic: Soundproofing a condo  (Read 3399 times)

JuSp02

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Soundproofing a condo
« on: January 13, 2017, 07:34:59 PM »
I live in a multi-unit condo, 100 year old brick building. The building kind of looks like this: http://photos.zillowstatic.com/p_e/ISqh2rgujtg44h0000000000.jpg

We live on the ground floor unit. Our upstairs neighbor is not excessively loud, but we can certainly hear plenty of footsteps, muffled conversations, and soft music on a daily basis. She also has a large dog who enjoys racing from one end of her condo to the other.

What options do we have for cheap(er)ly soundproofing the ceiling? We are willing to put DIY what we can, but we're not the handiest people.

Quidnon?

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 07:40:28 PM »
A standard 2 foot by 4 foot drop ceiling grid like you see in just about every office is a sound attenuating ceiling.  This would work very well for your purpose, but it would be ugly and require that you lose at least a foot of your headspace; although you could still paint it.  Another option is to just collect a bunch of standard shower towels, and tack them up to the ceiling somehow.  That would require less headspace, but without some creative artwork over it, would be even uglier than a drop ceiling.

lbmustache

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2017, 09:16:50 PM »
I have super loud upstairs neighbors and I feel your pain. I've looked into this a lot.

There are a few different things you can do, but all of them time consuming and costly.

There's this: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/rooms-and-spaces/walls-and-ceilings/soundproofing-a-ceiling

https://www.houselogic.com/remodel/remodeling-tips-advice/soundproofing-ceilings/

Almost all of them (aside from say, attaching acoustic panels to the ceiling and then covering them with drywall) of them involve removing the existing drywall down to the beams and adding insulation and other soundproofing material, and then redoing the wall.

If anyone has a reasonable and affordable solution, I'd love to hear it.

Quidnon?

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2017, 10:58:44 PM »

If anyone has a reasonable and affordable solution, I'd love to hear it.

Layers of old shower towels is reasonably affordable, since they can be old and worn out as well as brand new, but it just would look ridiculous on a ceiling.  This trick has  been used by many a modern podcasting studio, and the consensus is three layers of towels is enough to kill almost anything.

stor_stark

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2017, 10:53:02 AM »

If anyone has a reasonable and affordable solution, I'd love to hear it.

Layers of old shower towels is reasonably affordable, since they can be old and worn out as well as brand new, but it just would look ridiculous on a ceiling.  This trick has  been used by many a modern podcasting studio, and the consensus is three layers of towels is enough to kill almost anything.

Not to pick on you Quidnon, but this is a common misconception. This approach would only work for absorbing sound within a room, and would not prevent sound from transmitting from room to room (or unit to unit in this case). As other posters have mentioned, there's not really any easy and cheap fix for this, and the OP would need to modify the construction of the floor/ceiling partition. In terms of money, by far the cheapest approach would be to discuss the problem with the neighbor and try to encourage them to moderate their behavior and be mindful of their neighbors, which I realize is rarely easy to carry out.

Let me know if you have any specific questions, OP. This is my bread and butter.

Koogie

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2017, 11:48:00 AM »
Let me know if you have any specific questions, OP. This is my bread and butter.

Love to hear your thoughts on ceiling soundproofing and soundproofing in general, if you have time sometime to type out a long(er) post.   We bought a house a couple years ago that has siding only (all prior houses have been brick or double brick).  Siding is shitty at blocking sound from the houses on both sides.

I've done a fair bit of reading on the subject. We're having the siding replaced this coming year (it is 30+ years old and done) and thinking about going with a cement board product (like Hardie) for looks and sound attenuation. On the inside, I'm only really interested in soundproofing our bedroom so will likely add a second layer of drywall with perhaps acoustic insulation in between.  However, like the OP, we have no idea what to do with the ceiling (and realize that it is pointless to soundproof the walls and not do the ceiling as well).


stor_stark

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2017, 06:49:22 PM »
Let me know if you have any specific questions, OP. This is my bread and butter.

Love to hear your thoughts on ceiling soundproofing and soundproofing in general, if you have time sometime to type out a long(er) post.   We bought a house a couple years ago that has siding only (all prior houses have been brick or double brick).  Siding is shitty at blocking sound from the houses on both sides.

I've done a fair bit of reading on the subject. We're having the siding replaced this coming year (it is 30+ years old and done) and thinking about going with a cement board product (like Hardie) for looks and sound attenuation. On the inside, I'm only really interested in soundproofing our bedroom so will likely add a second layer of drywall with perhaps acoustic insulation in between.  However, like the OP, we have no idea what to do with the ceiling (and realize that it is pointless to soundproof the walls and not do the ceiling as well).

It's great to hear that you're thinking of this factor now before starting your projects; one of the biggest problems I've observed is that most people don't think about noise before their project is designed/built and then have an issue that is much more difficult to treat after the fact.

If you're a more technical kind of person and want all of the nitty gritty details regarding some lab data related to your siding project, then this Canadian research report is the most comprehensive document that is freely available that I'm aware of: http://nparc.cisti-icist.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/view/object/?id=b516cfdd-0170-4427-9532-77daf90974d5

Regarding some of the overly technical stuff: STC (Sound Transmission Class) and OITC (Outdoor-Indoor Transmission Class, same as STC just includes lower frequencies in the range of what a subwoofer produces) are single number laboratory ratings that characterize the ability of a wall/partition to reduce the transmission of airborne sound. A higher number is better in both cases and loosely estimates the amount that noise is reduced by a wall. For example, a high performing wall with an STC of 50 would reduce a noise of 80 dB (quite loud) on one side to approximately 30 dB (perceived as pretty darn quiet) on the other.

If you don't want to look at that report, then hey, I don't really blame you - it's kind of dry :) What it comes down to is that you will want mass to help increase sound attenuation for a building facade, especially at lower frequencies. Think of a motorcycle driving past your house in the middle of the night - you don't want to hear that! So that's why brick or a cement board product is effective - because it's heavier than a lot of alternatives like vinyl. That's why thicker (Type C or X) or extra layers of drywall are commonly recommended as well for interior spaces. You'll also see that fenestrations, such as windows and doors, will be the weakest spots of the composite wall. Sound is a lot like heat or water in that it will take the path of least resistance to leak through to the other side. If electrical, plumbing, etc. penetrations aren't properly sealed then the wall's performance can be severely degraded, even with gaps that appear pretty small to the eye. Details matter!

Some other thoughts that are more or less unrelated to your siding project:

1. I already mentioned that mass helps attenuate airborne sound, especially at low frequencies. The other big factor when it comes to sound transmission is "stiffness", which pretty much boils down to how much internal damping a wall has; which is to say how well will it transmit vibrations through the wall assembly (from the drywall to the studs and out the other side). Stiffness is more of a factor at higher frequencies and for floor/ceilings. This is why it's commonly recommended to decouple or mechanically separate a wall with resilient channels, staggered studs, or other specialty products that make it more difficult for vibrations to travel unimpeded through a wall. Stiffness is also why you reach a point of diminishing returns with adding layers of drywall alone to your wall (assuming no other isolation treatments).

2. So now on to the floor/ceiling problem. Unfortunately, sound doesn't travel the same way in air as it does in structures. For example, this is why a concrete slab can be pretty effective at blocking airborne noise (music or voices) but not so great at blocking out impact noise, such as the footsteps of your neanderthal neighbors or the Crossfit gym located directly above your apartment. This is where the isolation or decoupling of the structure really comes into play. Another poster has touched on this, but drop ceilings with resilient hangers, specialty elastic floor underlayments, etc. are all very helpful for making it more difficult for vibrations to transmit through the structure and back out the other side into your house as annoying airborne sound. Aside from the products I mentioned, I would recommend looking into Green Glue and isolating fiberboards such as the ones made by Homasote or Blue Ridge, as products that should hypothetically help improve an existing wall or floor by adding the product + more drywall. Installation is generally a pain for this type of stuff, but they all work pretty well when done properly.

3. New topic - I'd generally recommend insulating interior walls with fiberglass batts (or your fibrous insulation of choice) if you have the chance and value peace and quiet/privacy for the members of your household. You also get the added bonus of having better control of your "microclimates" with respect to heating and cooling the various rooms of your house. A lot of people only use insulation in exterior walls, but I'd argue that it's also important in a lot of interior walls too.

4. Again, to reiterate the path of least resistance point, sound will travel not only through an adjacent wall but also through the adjacent floors and ceilings. If there are weak points in the design, then they will probably be exposed if acoustic performance is important. Ducts and ventilation systems are common things where this pesky detail can come into play once sound enters your duct and completely bypasses that beefy wall you just built to block out noise from an adjacent room.

I can keep going if you want me to. Or you can say uncle if you've had enough of my rambling!

stor_stark

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2017, 06:55:34 PM »
Stor_Stark will have better info no doubt. 

Our personal experience:
We had this system installed in a bedroom below another condo owner's living room where they had hardwood:
http://www.tmsoundproofing.com/Resilmount-A50R-Sound-Isolation-Hangers-For-Drop-Ceilings.html

Not cheap, but worked to reduce sound transmission about 80%?  He hung the isolators from hooks higher up on the floor / ceiling joists so the assembly was still free-hanging but lost less head room.

Fireproofing the edges w caulking (the ceiling is free-hanging with this system) was the most troublesome part for the contractor.  Doubled one wall's drywall using channels, and also installed mineral batts in one other wall (between bath and bedroom).

Had an acoustical engineer consult w contractor so he knew what he was aiming for / doing.  Total costs <$2.2k (I think, incl acoustical engineer, 2 consults).  YMMV.  If you're not an owner you can't do this likely nor would you want to unless your sleep is critical.  Would not bother doing the whole apartment.

Lower cost: Ambient noise generator for your space?  Soft music / indoor fountain?

Wow, I'm impressed that you went to these lengths to treat your problems. See my post above if you'd like for all of the excruciating details, but you basically took the best course of action. Well done! Since you own your home you have the agency to make the decision to decrease the ceiling height for additional peace and quiet. Often architects or building owners will balk at anything that causes them to lose square feet or headroom in a unit and will then value engineer out designs with superior acoustic performance, even if their tenants will be happier and benefit in the long run from the thicker interior partitions. Frustrating.

I agree that trying to change your neighbors' behavior and using sound masking (white noise, fans, noise generators, etc.) are by far the cheapest approaches. But they're not always enough of course.

Goldielocks

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2017, 08:14:03 PM »
Can you buy your upstairs neighbor a rug or two?

Something down a long hall where the dog runs, or an area rug under furniture..  Something they give back to you when they move out so you can try again with the next tenant?  Absorb sound in the room it is generated..

stor_stark

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2017, 08:40:23 PM »
Can you buy your upstairs neighbor a rug or two?

Something down a long hall where the dog runs, or an area rug under furniture..  Something they give back to you when they move out so you can try again with the next tenant?  Absorb sound in the room it is generated..

This seems like a good idea provided the neighbors are fairly easygoing people. I've also heard of people requesting that the neighbors not wear heels or any hard-bottomed shoes indoors as well. That can make a noticeable difference.

Koogie

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2017, 04:43:29 PM »
Our personal experience:...


...

Wow.. thanks to you both.  Quite a bit to read and process there. 

I believe we are going to proceed with the external siding first and then assess from there (not least because it would be me doing the inside versus a contractor having to do outside)   Are there any additional ways to add mass/attenuation from the outside before the cement board is added ?  More layers of sheathing perhaps ?  Or a better system of house wrap ?

Cheers again.
 

BlueHouse

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2017, 06:21:37 PM »
I feel your pain.  I definitely have some form of Misophonia and get very anxious over loud or repetitive (or just not MY) noises.  I would have to get to know (and like) the upstairs neighbor and their dog and then every time I heard the noise, I would have to associate it with something pleasant, like your friends just got home after work and now they are upstairs starting dinner.  Or the dog is having a grand time playing ball.  If you're able to turn it into something that makes you smile and have warm feelings instead of dread and annoyance, then that's a win.  You may notice that when it's YOUR noise, or YOUR friends, it doesn't bother you as much.  If so, then try to make everyone your friend. 

Source:  My mom used to live below a woman who took tap-dancing lessons.  Once we got to know Molly (an 80+year old widow), we loved hearing her walk around in her high heels and yes, even her tap shoes too.  She was an interesting lady! 

stor_stark

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Re: Soundproofing a condo
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2017, 09:35:36 AM »

Wow.. thanks to you both.  Quite a bit to read and process there. 

I believe we are going to proceed with the external siding first and then assess from there (not least because it would be me doing the inside versus a contractor having to do outside)   Are there any additional ways to add mass/attenuation from the outside before the cement board is added ?  More layers of sheathing perhaps ?  Or a better system of house wrap ?

Cheers again.
 

Hey, sorry it took me a while to get back around to responding to this. As far as noise is concerned, foam sheathing or other types of membranes for air and water sealing normally don't do much for sound transmission loss performance because they're generally quite rigid (stiffness again) and much lighter (mass) than a cement board or most other exterior cladding materials. You might get a small mechanical "decoupling" boost from adding sheathing or similar board products, but I would expect the effect to be small in comparison to adding mass via a heavier cladding material. I would consider adding another layer of interior drywall if you're going to be going all the way down to the studs (which you probably aren't, but thought I'd mention it), which is normally the easiest way to beef your wall up.

All that being said, since you're in Canada I think you'd be well served to insulate the hell out of the stud bays and add sheathing in order to maximize thermal performance, regardless of the effect on acoustic performance.