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How to Soundproof any Floor (even Apartments)

How to Soundproof any Floor (Even Apartments)

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Soundproofing a floor is an excellent way to improve the quality and comfort of your home. If you are beginning a new renovation project, this is the perfect time to upgrade your flooring materials and reduce unwanted noise from diminishing your beautiful new floor installation.

Whether for new construction, an existing build, or even an apartment unit, there are methods and products that can make your hardwood or laminate flooring not only look great but also sound fantastic.

In this guide, you will learn the basics of how to soundproof a floor using the best materials to reduce the unwanted and distracting noise caused by footsteps, music, voices, and more.

Soundproofing a Floor: The Basics

Before we get into some of the tactics and strategies for soundproofing a floor, it’s first important to know about the types of noise that we’re looking to address and how you can treat them.

Impact Noise vs Airborne Noise

There are two types of noises that you’re going to want to soundproof a room for; impact noise and airborne noise.

  • Impact Noise – Also commonly known as footfall noise, a noise that’s the result of a force applied to the floor from footsteps. Impact noise can also stem from moving chairs, furniture, and even machinery and appliances. These vibrations carry throughout the floor, eventually emanating through the floor joists and into the room below it. Impact noise is often the more difficult noise to address, just because there’s more energy entering the floor assembly.
  • Airborne Noise – These are the sounds coming from the television, radio, a flushing toilet, people talking or another source. Airborne noise can be a nuisance both in the room in came from and the rooms below the floor.

A good soundproofing project using sound absorbing underlayments and soundproofing insulation can help reduce both of these types of noises in your home.

Soundproofing from Above and Below

Soundproofing a Floor from Above and Below

New floors should be soundproofed from above (improving performance in both the room and any rooms below).

Existing floors can be soundproofed from below using insulation (like roxul/rockwool to address airborne noise between floor/ceiling), resilient channels and other noise isolating materials like Green Glue (to decouple ceiling from the floor joists, limiting impact vibration and noise from transferring.

So where do you start when it comes to soundproofing floors? You should be soundproofing from both the subfloor as well as from below it, as doing so can help lead to a complete soundproofing solution rather than just a partial one.

When it comes to soundproofing the existing floor, there are many things that you can do. The downside is that it may require some alterations to the existing subfloor base, which can be a challenge if you’re not looking to replace the current floors.

Soundproofing from below tends to be less invasive, as it typically involves installing insulation, and noise-isolating tools and materials to help minimize vibration from impact noise and the transfer of sound from airborne noise. 

How to Soundproof Floors (New Construction)

Soundproofing Laminate Flooring

This is the ideal situation to enact a soundproofing strategy for your floors, as it’s easy to address the subflooring, administer underlayment and add insulation where it’s necessary below the floorboards.

A close second to new construction environments for enacting soundproofing tactics is if you’re renovating or remodeling, and the job calls for new flooring.

How to soundproof a new construction floor you ask? Here’s a look at the different types of main flooring options and the considerations you should take into account when soundproofing for new construction:

Hardwood and Laminate Floors

Hardwood, specifically, can be a challenging flooring material to soundproof. This is because of its hard surface, which can amplify impact noise. What’s more, is that hardwood itself doesn’t absorb sound very well, so even airborne noise can be more significant with this type of flooring. So how can you soundproof hardwood flooring? It’s all in how the floor is installed.

For starters, we’d suggest putting down an impact barrier underlayment to help deaden any sounds from footfall noise. Underlayment helps to create a gap between the subfloor and the actual hardwood floor you install, meaning that the hardwood floor “floats” above the subfloor, which in turn takes the pressure off of it when a force is applied.

Additionally, some impact barrier underlayment also resists moisture, mold, and mildew. Furthermore, we’d also suggest installing a special soundproofing membrane on top of the underlayment. These membranes are placed directly under the flooring material to help deaden both impact and airborne sound. They’re also easy to install, as many are simply peel-and-stick, and they’ll further help to deaden sound and minimize the risk of damage to any flooring that’s installed over it.

A final consideration is how you install the hardwood floor. While hardwood is typically either nailed in or glued down, we strongly suggest you choose the latter option when it comes to soundproofing. This is mostly because nails can transfer sound to the subfloor. It’s especially important if you’re using the rubber underlayment that we’ve discussed here, as the floor is designed to “float” on top of it and not be nailed into it.

Like hardwood, laminate flooring can also amplify impact noise. What’s more is that laminate or engineered flooring can often produce an echo effect, which can amplify both impact and airborne sound. When soundproofing laminate flooring, use a similar flooring underlayment as you would with hardwood.

Ceramic Tile Floors

Similar to hardwood and laminate flooring, the key to soundproofing ceramic tile floors is all in the underlayment. However, unlike a more traditional underlayment that you would use for hardwood and laminate, it’s crucial to choose one that’s designed to be placed underneath mortar when you’re working with the likes of tile and stone. A good underlayment will help to deaden sound. It will also help prevent cracking, which can be an issue with ceramic tile after install.

Carpeted Floors

Carpet is one of the easier flooring materials to soundproof, as its soft, dense nature helps it better absorb both impact and airborne sound. Because of these properties, it already has built-in soundproofing. But there are a few things that you can do to further soundproof carpet.

One, you can ensure that you’re installing it with a thick, quality pad underneath it. Carpet padding doesn’t just provide a softer surface to walk on, it also serves as a sound barrier. The thicker the pad, the better the barrier.

Secondly, if you really want to ramp up your soundproofing efforts, you can install an additional flooring underlayment beneath the padding.

Other Considerations

A new construction environment presents the perfect opportunity to not just soundproof from above, but from below as well. Like we mentioned earlier, ideally you wan,t to soundproof above and below the subfloor. So if the home has more than one story, consider the following when it comes to creating a more silent living space:

  • Damping Compounds: These compounds usually come in glue form and are applied between drywall, plywood and other building materials. It’s applied similarly to caulk and works to dampen sound between walls and floors. In a new construction environment, it should be included as part of a complete soundproofing job.
  • Floor Joist Isolators: These U-shaped products are typically made of foam or plastic, and they’re installed right over floor joists to help dampen impact noise. Essentially, these isolators help separate flooring from the structure that supports it.
  • Resilient Channels: Resilient channels are somewhat of a step up from floor joist isolators, and they’re ideal in situations where drywall will be installed for a ceiling. The channels screw directly into the floor joists, and then the drywall can be directly screwed into the channels. Similar to the isolators, resilient channels help create a gap between structural supports.

Soundproofing Existing Floors

Like we said earlier, new construction or renovation/remodeling situations are the ideal times to enact the proper floor soundproofing strategies and tactics. However, that’s not to say that you can’t take measures to soundproof existing floors. Here’s a look at some limitations, considerations and more when it comes to soundproofing existing floors:

Limitations

The main limitation compared to new construction and renovation/remodeling situations are that the floors are already in place. Because of this, there’s a greater potential to have to become more structurally invasive when it comes to soundproofing. What’s more is if you’re unwilling to replace the subfloor or take a more invasive approach in your soundproofing efforts, then you’re unlikely to create a total soundproofing solution. However, there are some key things you can do to minimize impact and airborne noise, even with existing floors in place.

Soundproof From Below

If your home has a finished or partially finished basement that family members spend a lot of time in (or if you’re in the process of finishing your basement), then it may make sense to minimize the impact and airborne noise coming from the ground floor.

If you have ceiling tiles in the basement, it’s quite easy to install a sound barrier and/or insulation above these tiles and underneath the first-floor floorboards.

Additionally, if you have access to the joists, you can consider installing joist isolators to help reduce any vibration and sound transmission. If you’re installing drywall as a ceiling, one thing you can consider is adding a resilient channel.

As we mentioned earlier, these parts screw into the bottom of floor joists and are designed so that drywall can be screwed directly into them, essentially isolating drywall from the home’s structural framing.

It’s also possible to add some level of soundproofing even if you don’t have manageable access to the floorboards. However, you’ll likely need to hire a professional contractor to perform the task. We’re talking about adding blow-in insulation into the ceilings, something that’s carried out by cutting a small hole in the drywall and then pumping in insulation throughout your space. In addition to improving your home’s energy efficiency, you’ll also create more of a sound barrier between floors. It’s an invasive option, but it’s minimally invasive.

How to Soundproof Apartment Floors

Apartment units are typically constructed quickly and inexpensively. Furthermore, many units make up a building, and when you combine numerous neighbors with low-quality building materials, the sound is bound to travel to your specific unit of residence.

This can be frustrating. After all, you don’t want to hear music blasting from your neighbor down the hall, be able to hear a flushing toilet from the tenant on the other side of the wall and footsteps from the apartment directly above you.

But there’s one big problem when it comes to apartment living: You’re typically not allowed to structurally modify the premises as a renter. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to create more of a sound barrier between your apartment and everyone else’s to make renting better. They just may not necessarily have to do with making alterations to the floor. Here’s a look at some tips and tricks:

  • Utilize Furniture – An empty room is going to be louder than if it were filled with furniture and other items. Adding any furniture to your apartment unit helps to absorb sound – and while we don’t want you to cram your apartment to the point where it becomes an interior design nightmare, the likes of couches, chairs, and tables can help squash sound. The best types of furniture to absorb sound are upholstered furniture. Throw pillows and curtains can help too. For bonus sound dampening, pick up a piece of foam and place it in between your piece of furniture and the wall that it’s up against. To maximize this, make sure that your furniture is placed against the wall (or walls) where the most unwanted sound emanates from.
  • Cover Bare Walls – We suggest purchasing acoustic panels and installing them on the walls where you get the most unwanted noise from. Acoustic panels today are available in a range of colors and styles to complement any interior design look you’re going for.
  • Use Window TreatmentsCurtains, drapes, and other window treatments are ideal ways to dampen the sound coming into your apartment unit. This is especially true in apartment settings, where the windows are likely to be single-pane. When it comes to curtains and drapes, the thicker they are, the better they’ll dampen sound. Even something as simple as hanging a blanket or towel from your window can make a big difference. If you’re willing to pay up to $10 a square foot, acoustic blankets do a nice job blocking sound. As an added bonus, you’ll also likely save on energy from doing this.
  • Use Door Coverings – Another common byproduct of apartment living is thin doors. But these thin doors don’t just come up short when it comes to energy efficiency, they also don’t do a very good job of dampening sound. The good news is that you can treat your apartment door(s) just as you would your apartment windows: Hang a towel or blanket across them when they’re not in use and be sure to install a door sweep to prevent any sound from coming in underneath it. If you don’t want to install a door sweep, a door draft stopper works well too. Just like treating your windows, treating your doors will also help save on energy and keep your apartment more comfortable.
  • Thick Rugs with Underlay – If your apartment has hardwood floors, then a nice throw rug will do far more than just bolster the interior – it’ll also serve as a sound dampening tool. Much as how upholstered furniture is ideal for absorbing sound in an apartment unit, a throw rug can help keep your unit quieter too. For an added bonus, consider backing the rug with padding designed to absorb sounds. The thicker the rug, the better it will dampen sound.

What is the Best Flooring for Noise Reduction?

  1. Carpet with a nice thick pad looks great, is durable, and is great at reducing noise and foot impact transmission.
  2. Laminate Flooring can be an economical choice for noise reduction, especially laminates with an attached pad on the bottom.
  3. Cork Flooring is a beautiful option with a naturally high STC rating.
  4. Engineered Wood is typically installed as a floating floor and can be enhanced with a quality underlayment for reduced noise transmission.
  5. Vinyl Flooring is low cost and work wells to reduce noise, just be sure to buy Vinyl with a foam pad backing to get the best performance.

*Last updated 2021-12-06 at 13:41 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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