Soundproofing an Apartment
Soundproofing an apartment is a challenge, no doubt. You’ve found the apartment of your dreams — great neighborhood, great price, beautiful appliances. You move all your stuff in and settle down for the night when you realize… I CAN HEAR EVERYTHING MY NEIGHBORS DO.
You hear them upstairs walking around in heels on the tile floor, you hear them across the hall slamming their door, and you hear your neighbor’s favorite late-night TV shows through the shared wall in your bedroom. You know nothing about soundproofing an apartment, but something has to be done.
What do you do? You look up “how to soundproof” on the internet. The problem with this is that you will probably run into two things: myths that will waste your time (egg cartons, really?) and solutions that not only cost thousands of dollars but are also meant to be implemented during construction or require permanent modification of your dwelling (which your landlord may or may not be okay with.)
So if you want more information on how to soundproof and block sound, you may want to read:
- Soundproofing a Wall
- Soundproofing a Garage
- Soundproofing a Floor
- Soundproofing a Window
- Soundproofing a Door
After you’re done sorting through all this, you come to a few conclusions:
There Is No Temporary Soundproofing Fix
Anything that will actually yield satisfactory results when soundproofing an apartment wall or ceiling will not be easy to slap up and tear down when you move out. Noticeable wall and ceiling soundproofing requires that you add massive materials to the structures and make them airtight. No shag rug hung behind your headboard will keep you from hearing your neighbors watching America’s Funniest Home Videos playing at full volume.
Blocking the transmission of sound from one unit to the next will require some modification to the structure of the walls, floors, or ceiling. You hear the sound due to the fact that the existing structure is not massive or dense enough to block the sound. Additionally, they may also be connected structurally, allowing sound to be physically transmitted through the studs and drywall. When soundproofing an apartment that is rented, you will most likely not be able to modify the existing structure.
If you can get approval to have a contractor rebuild or add materials to the structure, you would be considering some of the following materials for use.
Examples of materials used to augment wall, floor, and ceiling assemblies to block sound transmission from one space to the next.
All of the below-listed materials require a contractor to install or modify the existing structure.
AudioSeal® Mass Loaded Vinyl Soundproofing Barrier
Mass-loaded sound barriers are rolled goods used to add density to wall, floor, and ceiling assemblies.
Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound
Green Glue is used to isolate multiple layers of drywall in order to improve STC values.
Resilient Sound Isolation Clips
These clips are used in a similar fashion to Green Glue, in order to help stop physically transmitted sound from traveling through the studs and drywall.
Iso-Step® Soundproofing Underlayment
Floor underlayments are used to reduce impact sound transmitted through flooring to spaces underneath. Iso-step will also improve the sound-blocking capability of the floor assembly.
I Am Doomed! (But You’re Not)
Your best bet is to identify where the sound is coming from. If it is clearly coming through one shared wall, focus on that area. If it is loudest near your front door or kitchen window, start there.
If the sound is coming through a door, you can purchase a solid core door if your current one is too lightweight and trade it out, putting the original back when you move again. Even with a heavy door, however, sound may still come through the gaps—in which case you may consider acoustical door seals.
If the sound is coming through a particular window, cover the window with heavy curtains. If the sound is still too noticeable, consider an Acoustical Window Seal Kit. These seals add an additional pane of glass and create a dead space, reducing sound transmission from outdoor noises. They do, however, need to be installed with screws. Read over your rental agreement and maybe talk to your landlord about whether adding screws to the window frames is acceptable. You can always fill the holes later when you uninstall.
Here is a trickier one — airborne sound like television, music, and speech coming through your shared wall. Mass and isolation are the two things that will definitely do the trick. Both of these are labor intensive, though — and require a level of modification that may be hard to sell your landlord on. Damping compound is then your best bet. Not that it doesn’t work — compounds like Green Glue, which are sandwiched between your existing wall and a new layer of drywall can take your wall’s STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating from 40 to 50. Just make sure that if you do go this route, you seal up the gaps in your new drywall with noiseproofing sealant and be sure to seal up any electrical boxes with putty pads. There is no point in putting up sound-damping material if you are going to leave weak spots.
The trickiest one is impact noise through your floor/ceiling assembly. Damping compound will likely help, but not eliminate the noise. Floor underlayment is normally what we’d recommend, but convincing your landlord or upstairs neighbor that it is necessary to rip up their floor to install may be difficult. Isolation clips can create a ceiling below your existing ceiling, but again installation is labor intense. If neither of these seems possible to accomplish for you, you may just have to talk to your neighbor about putting down a rug or taking off their shoes when they walk around above you. If they are not receptive then try going to your landlord. It couldn’t hurt to ask, especially if you are losing sleep or your quality of life is affected.
When asking your landlord about installing any of these methods for soundproofing your apartment, make the case to them that noise does make it more difficult to live there, and that you’d be much more likely to renew your lease if treatment is installed. Hopefully, they will view soundproofing an apartment as an investment, saving them money as tenants stay longer.
Use These Materials For Temporary Fixes, Without Major Construction
AlphaSorb® Barrier Panels
These barrier wall panels contain a barrier septum between two layers of sound absorbing material. Use these to block sound by completely covering an existing wall.
PrivacyShield® Absorptive Soundproofing Blankets
Combination blankets utilize absorptive quilted fiberglass with a sound barrier septum or backing to block sound. Use these to cover walls, create enclosures, or as temporary barriers. We can customize these blankets to create a barrier panel to hang over a window.
Acoustic Door Seal Kits
Door Seal Kits can help seal door gaps. which can help to keep sound from leaking in or out.
PrivacyShield® Window Seal Kit
Acoustic Window Seal Kits are add-on window inserts designed to reduce noise through your existing window.
To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at acousticalsolutions.com.
I currently have a noisey tenant above me. I hear footsteps, talking, laughter and things sliding across the floor. I live in a prewar brownstone. My ceilings are tin. Doesn’t seem to have any insulation between the joists. I don’t want to remove the parquet floor above me. I’m ok with tearing down the tin from the ceiling. Should I use some kind of acoustic batt like roxul between the joists? Then add isolation clips and hang 1st layer of 5/8 drywall. Seal gaps with green glue acoustic sealant. Add 2nd layer of of 5/8 drywall with green glue. Seal gaps again with green glue acoustic sealant.
Project 2: The stairs going to the second floor run through my unit. Currently there is only 1 layer of drywall. What do you recommend to reduce noise from footsteps.
Thanks for this great site!
Without adding an acoustical underlayment to the floor assembly above, we are limited to one solution. Decoupling the ceiling and adding insulation between the floor and ceiling is going to help reduce the transfer of frequencies from the upstairs neighbor. Creating a floating ceiling and using Green Glue Damping Compound and Resilient Clips will assist in reducing the structural vibrations that have been turning your ceiling into a speaker of sorts. Here is another great blog that details sound proofing walls and ceilings.
I would also add an additional layer of drywall with green glue to the side wall closest to the steps.
To help reduce the footfall could consider pulling up the steps and installing our Iso-Step floor underlayment beneath the tread layer.
You could use green glue joist tape as well to reduce the creaking and footfall. Green Glue Noiseproof Joist Tape
Both will help reduce the vibration noise. Adding insulation below each step will also help reduce the noise by preventing the cavity from ‘ringing’.
I own a 1 bedroom unit which I have had 30 yrs. I am not retired and have a renter next to me. We share a common bedroom wall. He has sex all night long. I complained about their verbal noise and that stopped, but the vibration of my bed did not. I sent the Board many emails w/times of night. The met with him last week and he denied every thing. He is a cool talker, 36. We have a new Board so they don’t know me well. I have health issues and not getting much sleep is causing some problems. I have never had this problem in that unit before which I stated in my emails. I even stated my daughter has experienced the mattress movement, but they won’t take her statement. I feel like they are saying my complaint is not true and believing him. I have not found out how to record the vibration. You can’t feel it standing up on the floor. It is strange, but it sure causes little sleep. I put earplugs in my ears and I can actually hear their movements, but I cannot sitting up. I know, sounds crazy. I can’t afford to move and I should not have to sell my place because of a renter who is not telling the facts.
I have a house I’m renting an our music is sometimes loud but I don’t want to have it on I can’t hear it forever. Our house is too close to the other house an it is set back, in making a sound funnel of the two houses by us. I want the noise to stay inside the house not funnel out. Can you sound proof to keep the noise inside? How do you do it on a rental without wall damage?
My name is Justin and I just moved into a studio loft apartment with my girlfriend in NYC. The apartment is in a great location and was an amazing deal, and now I know why. The lofted bedroom is on the top floor of the building and sticks out of the top of the building when looking at the building from the roof. Next to the wall that sticks straight out of the building are 2 commercial grade exhaust fans from the restaurant that is in the building next door to us. Those fans run all night and the vibration and sound of them can be felt/heard from our bed. How do I reduce this sound/vibration? I have access to the exterior of the wall and the exhaust fans if need be, the owner of the restaurant gave me permission to find a solution. PLEASE HELP!
Very tired new apartment owner,
Hi Justin, the best thing to do would be to treat the sound at the source, if possible. It sounds like the restaurant owner would be open to modifying the fans, which is great news. This article may be helpful to you: How to Soundproof a Rooftop Ventilation System – if you have more questions, please feel free to give us a call. One of our architectural sales reps would love to talk you through your noise issue.
Colleen August 20th, 2013 3:44 pm
Hi, I have a neighbor that has ALOT of children living under me and I hear stomping and wall hitting. What are some materials to buy to eliminate that noise in the middle of the night.Thank You.
admin August 20th, 2013 5:25 pm
Hi Colleen! We received your question on our website contact form today also and we have an architectural rep who will be getting in touch with you shortly. If you need anything else please call us at 804 346 8350
This is Arlene – have a similar problem in a rental but did not see suggested solution for Colleen?
I was hoping you can help. I live in a prewar rental apartment landlord just keeps renting to lots of frat house kids . Recently a new group moved underneath my apartment and I not only hear the door slam I hear everyword they say from below. What would you suggest to sound proof my rental apartment above them. Please guide me to the proper site .
The best solution for you would be an acoustical floor underlayment beneath your existing flooring, or isolating your neighbor’s ceiling with isolation clips. If your landlord isn’t willing to do either of these things, you can try using heavy rugs over as much of your floor as you can. Unfortunately, if the landlord isn’t willing to improve the units, your best solution may be earplugs or a new apartment.
Since you are hearing so many different kinds of noise, it is unlikely that you can solve this issue without doing construction.
Green Glue is the easiest thing to install and will help with some footfall and a lot of the airborne (yelling, barking) noise transmission, but decoupling your ceiling with isolation clips will get you the best results. Hopefully this is something your landlord will be open to! Please call if you have any questions.
My wife and I live in an apartment complex. Our apartment is in the first floor and we have upstairs neighbors. We can hear noise coming from everywhere in our apartment but our main concern is getting rid of the noise that comes through the ceiling in our room. While we are in our room we can hear footsteps, floor creaking, kids running, dogs barking, and their upstairs plumbing. I want to solve this problem without construction since I am renting, is there any way I can solve it?
My daughter moved into a duplex. She can hear her neighbor who has a very loud voice through a door. The door leads to a small hallway and he has a door which opens into the same hallway. This is the only place she can hear him. There is a rather large area under the door which needs a door jam. But is there something to hang on the hall side of the door to drown out the noise. The door is solid wood. It is a 100 year old house. This common area has the door to the basement…Hope this makes sense.thanks.
I would highly recommend installing a door seal kit on the door, or at least a threshold and automatic door bottom. You can see all of these products here. You could hang an acoustical sound blocking/absorbing blanket on the hall side of the door, but it would need to overlap the entire door and surrounding gaps. This may be difficult to achieve if the gap causing most of the sound transfer is beneath the door. Please feel free to call in and speak to one of our architectural reps about any of these methods.
I live in a townhouse complex and have neighbours upstairs with a young child and they run a daycare.. strata refuses to assist in the matter, and the mats they have laid down just don’t help.. Nobody wants to buy my house because of the noise level from upstairs.. Is there anything I can do to help the noise in my ceiling?
Another option is to treat your ceiling by decoupling it with isolation clips and a new layer of drywall. Please feel free to call in if you have any questions about this method: 800.782.5742.
As far as making the window more soundproof, I would recommend an acoustical window seal – but as stated in the above article above, it renders the window inoperable, so you wouldn’t be able to open it as long as it is installed. Another option is to hang an acoustical sound combination blanket flush over the window. This of course would block your view, but if you are already using heavy curtains, this may not bother you.
Bass sounds are some of the most challenging because they are vibrations traveling through the physical structure of the building. There is likely little you can do without performing heavy construction. Isolating the wall facing the sounds would help, but this is something you would have to discuss with your landlord.
Please feel free to call in and discuss these and other options with one of our architectural reps.
I have recently moved into an older apartment complex that’s behind private homes with a lot of children (I have hung heavy drapes already and have to keep the window closed though there are the few occasions that doesn’t help. Additionally; I have inherited a charming next-door neighbor who enjoys base heavy music. Thus far he’s been accommodating; however, I’m curious, what recommendations you have?
Thanks for a great article – sums up my search perfectly! I know I can’t do much about this situation, but I wonder if anything would help slightly. My son is in a shared rented apartment (no fixing allowed) with his bed (long side) against an exterior wall that is adjacent to steel stair access and head end against an interior wall that is next to the entrance. He’s hearing a lot of airborne noise if he tries to sleep early with other people coming back after nights out etc. Would making a screen of some description and putting against the wall (there would be a baseboard between them so a small air gap) around the bed dampen the sound at all (like putting your head under a pillow)? If so what would be the best thing to use please? I suspect I should cover the gap at the top and sides of the screen too. Thanks.
Hi Helen, the material I would recommend using is a sound combination blanket – I’m trying to understand your application from your description, but photos would help. Please contact us with more information so one of our acoustical sales consultants can give you more detailed advice.
I had to move out of my condo due to loud footsteps, hearing people talk, slamming dressor drawrs shut, heavy things falling on the floor, This noise comes from the unit ABOVE. They are up most of the night due to their work schedule So i was constantly woken up during the night. I was so frustrated i moved!
In the meantime im searching for soundproofing the ceilings. The condo was built in 1979. I wonder if the ceiling wall could be taken down and have sound barrier installed?? And then new dry wall installed back.
I want to move back there in the future but not until i can get this noise problem fixed. My tenants dont say anything because they say they are deep sleepers. I need my sleep at night.
Can someone help me? I will need help when my tenants move but looking NOW to get this lined up. I really want to move back to my home!I dont like where i live now and want my condo back! The condo is in San Carlos, near Del Cerro and Allied Gardens. In southern California.
It would be very appreciated for someone to contact me! And i would need to be refered to a contractor to do this for me. Thank you!
Hi Anita, if the ceiling is a traditional drywall and joist construction, you can open it up, install a sound barrier like AudioSeal, and close it again. You could also use Green Glue and isolation clips to ensure the highest soundproofing performance. If you have any questions about these products, please give us a call.
Im having the same problem as Dawn. Massive thumping and banging coming from my neighbors above me. Also need advice on sound proofing an inside wall which is up against outside ac units. Very loud..sounds like a train running through my bedroom. I need help please. And I live in the VA area.
Without any additional information, we would recommend isolating your ceiling with isolation clips, and two additional layers of sheetrock with Green Glue sandwiched between them. Green Glue could be used on our inside wall as well. Please give us a call if you have more questions.
Want to soundproof my son’s apartment. He records hip hop verse and plays music in the apartment which has resulted in complaints from the upstairs and next door neighbors. The apartment has one bedroom, a bathroom a living/dining room and kitchen.
Each room has at least one window. What is the least expensive way to sound-proof the apartment? Do you recommend or send out installers of sound-proofing?
If the upstairs and next door neighbors are complaining, the sound is probably going through the walls and ceiling, not the windows. The most cost effective way to soundproof walls and ceilings is Green Glue compound. We do not recommend installers, but we do installations for customers near Richmond, VA. Please contact us for more information.
Hi I live in a apt and the people that live over has 2 big pit bulls and has no rugs on their floors and will not put one down the landlord has spoken to them as well as myseft and husband I have live here for many years and don’t have the money to move and I know the landlord won’t put them out because he needs the income because we ask if they can keep the noise down just
A little with a smile it’s now being done just because. PLEASE HELP ME
I’m sorry you’re dealing with a noisy neighbor. Properly soundproofing the floor-ceiling assembly will not be cheap, so your best option is to try to convince the landlord to use one of the methods described above (damping compound, floor underlayment, or floating ceiling). Hopefully you will be able to convince your landlord that this is a good investment (it is!) that will result in happier tenants who stay longer. If he can’t do this, earplugs or moving are, unfortunately, some of the next steps.
I’m sorry to hear about your situation! If he is hearing footfall noise from your apartment, the fastest solution would be to put down some heavy rugs. If that still doesn’t help, then you need to talk to your landlord about implementing one of the permanent solutions listed above in the article such as installing an underlayment, or using either damping compound or floating ceiling in your neighbor’s unit. Please feel free to give us a call if you have more questions.
I have a new person under me he says the noise is to loud the floors in all the apartments make this noise help I do nOt know what todo
Hi. I just moved into a new apartment and have now found out that I can hear everything my upstairs neighbor does, whether it is just walking across the apartment or what TV show he is watching. I am assuming part of this is that the floors are hardwood. I am trying to understand what I can do to my ceiling to somewhat dull the sound. What would be the least intensive solution?
Short of wearing earplugs in your apartment or asking your upstairs neighbor to put down a heavy rug, there is not quick and easy solution. The easiest thing would be to use Green Glue damping compound and an additional layer of drywall on your ceiling. A more labor intensive solution for heavy footfall is to mechanically isolate your ceiling with isolation clips.
Thank you and Please contact us if you have any more questions.
Hi! First of all great post! I have a HUGE issue: I live in an apartment (ground floor) in a two-story apartment building, where each floor is an apartment. My biggest complaint is not the neighbors, though I can hear them when they raise their voice and sometimes their footsteps, but it’s the constant drilling of the light rail passing by every 5-10 minutes from 5:30am through 12:30am. Every day. The building sometimes vibrates as well when the lightrail goes by. I believe the noise is amplified because our entrance to the building is a long narrow shared hallway. Any recommendations for diy soundproofing as well as repairs to recommend to the landlord? We can’t sleep. We’re 2 months into our lease and I’m at the end of my tether.
I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that. It sounds very stressful! First of all, if the whole building is vibrating, there is not much you can do about that. But if you are getting airborne noise that you believe is amplified by going down the hallway, I would recommend to your landlord installing some of our fabric wrapped acoustical wall panels.
As is stated in this post, making the door to your apartment more soundproof would help stop noise from the hallway from entering your unit.
Thanks and please give us a call if you need more help!
If Green Glue with an additional layer of drywall (method recommended in this post) is not an option for you, it is going to be a lot of improvisation and trial and error. You can put massive or dense materials over the shared wall which may help some, but unless all gaps are sealed you will still have sound transmission. There are always earplugs! Good luck and please feel free to give us a call if you have any more questions.
I’ve just moved into a great townhouse with three others. The house itself transmits a bit of noise, but it’s not too bad. The only problem is that two of the bedrooms share a wall and a lot of noise comes through this wall. As a rental, we can’t do any major adjustments, can you suggest anything else?
I’m not too familiar with this heat system so some photos may help. I would suggest more soundproof ceiling tiles, damping compound on the metal part of the system making the noise, or soundproofing at the vents with plenum return silencers. Please contact us with photos so we can figure out the best solution for you!
I do not have any neighbor problems but I DO have a heinous case of water hammer from a ceiling-mounted steam radiator in my apartment (it’s kept behind some drywall ceiling tile). I’m not sure what I can do to soundproof it without obstructing the vents, any thoughts? Thanks!
Hopefully the above post will help you out, but if you have more specific questions please contact us.
Hi Bill, like the article says, Green Glue and additional drywall would do the trick for your walls and ceilings – but if you can’t make any permanent modifications, just try the best you can to add mass and seal any gaps. We suggest acoustical caulk. Please contact us if you’d like to hear more about the permanent modifications that can significantly soundproof your space.
I have neighbors below me, and they always allow their door to slam, which rattles the living room and is felt in my easy chair. Talking with them and going to the landlord (5 written complaints) are not working. How can I sound= and vibrate-proof that area so that I don’t hear or feel the door slamming? This has been going on for 9 months now.
This is a tough one, Whit. Obviously if you could get the neighbors to install something on the door to negate the slam your problem would be solved, but it sounds like this isn’t possible. The vibration is probably traveling through your floor/ceiling assembly so either mechanically isolating their ceiling which I’m sure they won’t do – or you installing a floor underlayment would help. This involves you taking up your existing flooring, though. Another possibility is that the vibration is traveling up the walls in which case stud isolators would help. This also involves doing some construction, though. The only way to keep you from feeling the vibration without doing construction would be to put your easy chair on something that absorbs the shock – something like our vibration isolation pads would probably do the trick.
As far as not hearing the slams anymore, there is no easy solution. If you are willing to do some construction, please contact us and one of our technical sales reps will talk you through your noise issue.
That is definitely a challenge. The first step is to identify where the sound is coming in. Through the cinderblock walls? through cracks in your door? The window? Is it airborne like speech, or impact sound like footfall? Identify these important points first and then please contact us.
One of our knowledgeable sales reps can talk you through your noise issue and offer any possible solutions.
HI I live in a family dorm on campus that has cinderblock walls and a no drill policy but I hear everything. I want to get back to recording how can I do this without messing up anything.
Hi Colleen! We received your question on our website contact form today also and we have an architectural rep who will be getting in touch with you shortly. If you need anything else please contact us.