If you live in a condo with a ceiling that is somewhat on the thinner side, chances are you can hear your upstairs neighbors’ every move. You know what time they get up in the morning, what kind of music and TV shows they are into, and how often they call their parents.
However, you don’t have to put up with all this: with a little effort, you can soundproof your ceiling and make annoying upstairs noises a thing of the past.
So, how do you soundproof a ceiling in a condo?
Here is a quick and easy step-by-step guide on how to soundproof a ceiling in a condo:
- Expose the stud work.
- Install resilient channel or sound isolation clips.
- Add soundproof insulation or a sound-muffling compound.
- Attach two sheets of drywall.
- Apply three coats of acoustic paint.
These steps require some technical expertise, so if you are thinking of doing the soundproofing yourself, make sure to read the detailed explanations below. In this guide, you will also find alternative soundproofing solutions that are cheaper, easier, and do not require you to dismantle the whole ceiling.
What You Will Need
- Resilient channel, such as this Auralex Acoustics RC8 Resilient Channel in 25 Gauge Metal, or sound isolation clips like these Acoustical Solutions Resilient Sound Isolation Clips
- Soundproofing insulation like this Roxul Rockwool Acoustic Mineral Wool Insulation
- This Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound
- A drywall panel lift host like the FDW Lift Drywall Panel Hoist
- Acoustic paint, such as this Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions Acousti-Coat Sound-Deadening Paint
- This Arlington Industries Arlington BE1R Ceiling Box Extender or a similar air vent or fixture extender
Soundproofing Your Condo Ceiling in 5 Steps
Step 1: Expose the Stud Work
To soundproof your ceiling effectively, you first need to remove the ceiling texture and drywall to expose the stud work underneath. If you have experience in building and construction, you can try to do this yourself.
Otherwise, however, it might be a good idea to hire professionals. Some ceilings surfaces such as popcorn ceilings may contain abestos, which could be harmful if ingested or inhaled. For this reason, the removal work is best done by someone who knows what they are doing.
Step 2: Install Resilient Channel or Sound Isolation Clips
The second step involves installing resilient channel or sound isolation clips directly onto the stud work.
These help “decouple” the drywall and the stud work and create space between them. That breaks up the transmission of structure-borne noise, as it now has fewer and smaller entry points to the drywall compared to when its entire surface area is in contact with the stud work.
Resilient channel and sound isolation clips work best when installed right underneath the stud work. However, you can also use them on finished ceilings by attaching them onto the existing ceiling surface and then adding a second layer of drywall. Just bear in mind that this method will slightly lower the ceiling.
Typically, resilient channel is more affordable than sound isolation clips, but it can be somewhat trickier to install. If the fitting is not done right and the studs come in contact with the screws, you would lose all the acoustic and soundproofing benefits of the construction.
Sound isolation clips are more expensive but provide better insulation due to their lower resonance point.
So they might be a better option if they are within your budget.
Step 3: Add Soundproof Insulation or a Sound-Muffling Compound
Before attaching the drywall on the resilient channel or sound isolation clips, make sure to apply a generous amount of green glue or a similar product.
When sandwiched between two surfaces, these noise-muffling compounds help absorb and dampen sound. A good rule of thumb is to use two tubes of green glue per sheet of drywall.
What’s great about green glue is that it is relatively affordable, and it also can be used on finished ceilings by applying it between the original ceiling surface and the additional drywall.
Alternatively, you can use soundproof insulation, such as acoustic mineral wool. While it tends to be more expensive, it has superior soundproofing qualities. Unfortunately, you can only install it on unfinished ceilings between the stud work and the drywall.
Step 4: Attach Two Sheets of Drywall
You want to finish things off by installing two sheets of drywall. If you are working on an unfinished ceiling, attach the first sheet onto the stud work after adding green glue or sound insulation as per Step 3. Then, glue the second sheet onto the first using green glue and a caulking gun.
If you are working on a finished ceiling, simply attach the second sheet directly onto the existing surface using green glue as well. Finally, screw the panels to the ceiling joists using 3’’ (7.62 cm) drywall screws.
Ideally, the second drywall sheet should be 5/8″ (15.9 mm) thick and not 1/2’’ (12.7 mm). The thicker panels will both help block more sound and will look better.
Installing drywall ceiling panels can be tricky and time-consuming, so you might want to hire or call someone in to give you a hand. However, if you plan to do it all on your own, consider buying or renting a drywall panel lift host.
If you have any leftover drywall after you complete the work, do not throw it away but use it in other areas of your home.
Step 5: Apply Three Coats of Acoustic Paint
Last but not least, make sure to apply at least three acoustic paint coats on the finished structure.
Acoustic paint has both sound-blocking and sound-absorbing qualities and will further boost the soundproofing qualities of your new ceiling. When applied properly, acoustic paint can decrease the noise of certain frequencies by up to 30%. What’s more, acoustic paint is also an excellent thermal insulator.
However, if you want the paint to work, don’t try to save on it. Painting fewer than three coats is going to do next to nothing in terms of soundproofing.
Furthermore, bear in mind that acoustics paint takes a lot longer to dry than a conventional one. It could be more than 16 hours until it is dry to the touch, and you should wait at least 32 hours before adding the next coat. If you want to speed up the drying process, though, you can heat the room.
Once you are done with the ceiling, you can use any leftover paint to soundproof other parts of your home, including walls, doors, and window frames.
Extra Tip: Use an Air Vent or Fixture Extender
Any air vents or light fixtures in your existing ceiling will be very difficult to move or get around when doing soundproofing work. The best solution to this problem is to install a vent or fixture extender.
Soundproofing a ceiling makes for some of the most expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive building work out there. However, the end results — and the peace and quiet — are well worth the effort. The main steps to soundproofing a ceiling include:
- Exposing the stud work
- Installing resilient channel or sound isolation clips
- Adding soundproof insulation or a sound-muffling compound
- Attaching two sheets of drywall
- Applying three coats of acoustic paint
For best results, you want to work on an unfinished ceiling. But if that is impossible in your condo, the steps above can be adapted to also accommodate a finished ceiling.