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A suspended ceiling in the process of construction, with pipes and wires and lights.

How to Soundproof a Drop Ceiling (6 Tactics)

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Drop ceilings are extremely popular in residential basements and commercial office buildings. They are cost-effective for finishing basement ceilings and offices and great for easy access to wiring, lighting, and ducts. But they are not always great acoustically or reducing sound.

Fortunately, you have plenty of options at your disposal for soundproofing drop ceiling rooms. The following lays out some common drop ceiling noise problems. You’ll also see some nifty solutions for bringing peace and quiet to your home or office.

Drop Ceiling Noise Problems

Drop ceilings are not great for reducing noise. The actual tiles are usually very thin and lightweight. The tiles are also suspended on a lightweight frame. Not great for adding mass which we know is needed for absorbing sound.

  • Airborne Noise from Room to Room – Voices, music, machinery sounds, etc., can pass through drop tiles over partition walls into neighboring rooms.
  • Impact Noise from Above – Foot traffic and moving equipment from above directly transmit down through the ceiling.

In offices especially, partition walls dividing up the rooms will have large air passageways for airborne sound to travel between rooms. Not great for privacy.

The light fixtures create air gaps in the tile framework, a major sound transmission area.

The lack of mass makes drop ceilings susceptible to impact noise from the floors above. Unless the floor itself is properly soundproofed, the impact noise will be challenging to eliminate but can be reduced.

1. Use Acoustic Drop Ceiling Tiles

Audimute – Wide color selection to add warmth and life to offices.

Acoustic drop ceiling tiles are a good option for reducing unwanted noise. These soundproof drop ceiling tiles take the place of ordinary tiles, absorbing sound and echoes transmitted throughout the room.

Audimute is one of several soundproof suspended ceiling options to consider. Made from cellulose and recycled cotton blend, Audimute AcoustiColor Drop Tiles have an NRC of 0.95, which means 95% of the sound is absorbed by the tiles, and 5% is reflected. Compare that to an NRC of 0.7 for even the best standard drop ceiling tiles.

Audimute comes in a 1.5” thickness and 2×2 or 2×4 sizes. This means you can retrofit any standard-sized drop ceiling with acoustic drop ceiling tiles. Custom sizes are also available to accommodate non-standard drop ceilings.

These dense tiles also come in a variety of colors so you can design a vibrant space. Instead of boring sterile white ceilings, you can give any room a welcoming vibe. The end result is a comfortable and warm experience with fewer noise issues.

Some acoustic drop ceiling tiles can be painted over while others can’t. Again, that depends on the manufacturer and the materials used to create the tiles. Fortunately, Audimute’s impressive color selection eliminates the need to paint over any tile.

Advantages

  • Offers effective and affordable soundproofing for home and office spaces.
  • Available in a variety of styles and colors to suit most spaces.
  • Easy to install and retrofit basement ceilings as needed.
  • Check Price at Audimute

2. Acoustic Ceiling Tile Barriers

Acoustic ceiling tile barriers can also reduce echoes, footsteps, and other noises in home and office spaces. These consist of a scrim-faced fiberglass decoupler bonded to a sound-blocking mass-loaded vinyl barrier. Foil-faced jacketing not only provides fire-rated protection, but also impressive sound transmission class (STC) ratings.

The combination of materials results in a lightweight acoustical barrier capable of absorbing and blocking sound. The duct liner absorbs the initial sound waves while the MLV barrier reflects sound wave components.

These barriers can be installed over existing drop ceiling tiles. Simply fit the barrier securely over each tile. Most barriers come in 24×24 or 24×28 to accommodate standard ceiling tile sizes. For smaller tiles, cut the barrier to size and friction fit the pieces into place.

One example is Soundsulate Ceiling Tile Sound Barrier. Available in quantities of 10 16×30 pieces, this barrier comes with a 1” thick fiberglass duct liner decoupler and a 1/8” thick foil-faced mass-loaded vinyl barrier.

In addition to offering superb thermal and acoustical performance, it also outperforms 1 lb. of MLV. It’s also Class A fire rated with an STC rating of 29.

Acoustic ceiling tile barriers can be used as a standalone soundproofing option. They can also be used in conjunction with acoustic ceiling tiles and other soundproofing measures. Soundsulate barriers are lightweight, meaning they add very little weight to the rest of the drop ceiling system.

Advantages

  • Very simple installation. Just fit tightly over the existing drop ceiling tile grid throughout the entire room.
  • Can be used to treat existing drop ceiling tiles as well as supplement soundproofed tiles.
  • Most barriers are fire-rated, thus reducing flammability concerns.
  • Made from recycled materials for added environmental sustainability.

3. Wrap & Insulate the Ducts

HVAC ducts are a common, noticeable source of excess noise, especially for rooms with drop ceilings in place. Sounds can travel from room to room via ductwork. The HVAC system itself also creates its own noise during operation. Air rushing through the ductwork can also impact overall

One way to tackle HVAC noise is by wrapping the ducts with mineral wool or fiberglass insulation. An insulation wrap not only suppresses sound by a considerable degree but also provides potential energy savings by reducing heat and cold losses.

Use mass-loaded vinyl sheets to seal gaps between HVAC vents and ducts. Cut each sheet to size and fit around the vent, using PVC tape and additional MLV pieces as needed for a complete, secure fit.

Rigid sheet metal ducts can still transmit unwanted noise. Instead of using rigid ducts, consider using flexible fiberglass ducts instead. These offer better noise-reducing qualities than traditional rigid ducts.

Advantages

  • Reduced HVAC noise in addition to other transmitted sounds.
  • Also provides noticeable energy savings on heating and cooling bills.
  • Relatively simple installation.

4. Cover the Light Fixtures

Ordinary light fixtures create air gaps in the drop ceiling framework, allowing sound to leak through. Sealing these gaps can prevent excess noises from making their way into and out of the room.

Some options for sealing light fixture gaps include using mineral wool, which is both fire and heat resistant. However, it may also prevent the lights from shedding heat. Noise dampening sealants like Green Glue can also be used to stifle sound waves.

For large light fixtures, a cover made from breathable, fire-rated mineral wool helps absorb unwanted sounds. Simply lay the cover over the light fixture. Make sure to notch out the cover to accommodate all wires and penetrations prior to installation.

Advantages

  • Prevents sound from leaking through gaps between light fixtures and drop ceiling framework.
  • Simple and cheap to install, making it perfect for DIYers.
  • Fire-rated for added protection.

5. Partition Wall Barrier

Photo: Hush City

Partition walls may divide rooms, but the walls themselves don’t extend all the way to the ceiling structure above. As a result, there’s still a large space where sound can travel through and easily leak into adjacent rooms.

A partition wall barrier solves this problem by effectively extending the wall with a soundproof barrier. The Hush Isolation Board system is one product that reduces unwanted noise transmission effectively and without significant construction needed.

The Hush Isolation Board consists of two components, starting with a rigid foil-faced fiber panel that’s 1” thick and Class 1 fire rated. In addition to being 100% recyclable, the partition wall also takes less time and effort to install than other options, including gypsum wallboard.

The other component is a pre-fabricated return air silencer made from 28-gauge galvanized metal for structural rigidity. The return air silencer also comes lined with a 2” thick mineral fiberboard and a Class 1 fire-rated acoustic liner.

Return air silencers help minimize noise transmitted through return air grilles and non-ducted plenum spaces.

Advantages

  • Enhances privacy and productivity by significantly reducing sound transmission.
  • Do not interfere with HVAC return airflow or data cable installation.
  • Easier to install than gypsum wallboard extension walls.

6. Fiberglass Batts Between Partition Walls

Polyester and Rockwool acoustic batts offer an effective and cost-efficient way of reducing noise transfer between partitioned rooms. Simply stack the batts above any partition wall, up to the ceiling slab.

You can arrange the batts around wiring, conduit, and ducts, and fill the space completely. This can cut down on sound passing up and over the wall into the next room. Just make sure they are fire-rated.

Advantages

  • Relatively cheap compared to other soundproofing drop ceiling methods.
  • Easier and more efficient than suspending soundproof drop ceiling tiles.
  • Easy to cut and fit to accommodate wiring conduits, plumbing, HVAC, etc.
  • Can be used in conjunction with other soundproofing methods (soundproof drop ceiling tiles, etc.)

Final Thoughts

Noise doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence if your basement or office uses drop ceilings. Hopefully, this guide gives you some ideas for soundproofing your drop ceiling.

These ideas not only reduce echoes and other unwanted noises but also provides a greater measure of privacy. That’s a boon for office workers wanting to carry out discrete conversations with clients and coworkers.

Cost is also an important consideration for soundproofing drop ceiling tiles. This explains why Audimute drop ceiling tiles and the Hush Isolation Board are part of our recommendations. Both offer cost-effective ways to finish a soundproof suspended ceiling project.

*Last updated 2022-05-18 at 09:11 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Tom Davidson

I'm a Design Engineer, husband, and Dad to two. I have a taste for building, playing bad golf, and tackling all kinds of home improvement projects.

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