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Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

We own a condo in what used to be a corset and hat factory. The building was built in the 1800's and when it was repurposed a few years ago, the developers opted to stay true to the factory roots. We love the exposed brick walls, the old wood beams, exposed ceilings and original floors. The only problem is the noise coming from the people above us. There is no soundproofing material between our ceiling and their hardwood floors. We hear EVERYTHING, and our sleep has suffered. We want to do something to our bedroom ceiling to reduce footfall, TV and conversation noise enough to be able to sleep at night. I have no problem doing the work myself (as keeping the cost down is very important), but there seems to be a lot of methods and products out there and I don't want to spend time and money on something that will be ineffective. It doesn't need to be absolutely dead silent, but currently I can hear the guy clear his throat, going to the bathroom, rummaging through drawers etc. His phone conversations sound like he is in the room with us. Anyway, where do I begin? I've included pictures that show the ceiling in its current state.


Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling


I will venture the opinion of of former painting contractor who admits he is beyond his area of expertise in sound attenuation.

If you want to retain that original rustic mill look in your apartment, there is very little you can do to stop the noise. Your building appears to be of heavy mill construction which used very heavy wood beams and floors in order to support the heavy machines of the early industrial revolution. The very solidity of the structure is what transmits the sound.

I think to really dampen the noise, you will have to build some type of secondary ceiling which has little or no contact with the beams above. There are rail systems which allow drywall to be fastened to overhead structural members while minimizing the sound transfer. Alas, you will end up with a normal flat drywall ceiling, not the look you were interested in.

If you want to stay in your apartment and find peace, I would consider consulting with an architect who is well versed on sound reduction. He could certainly tell you what your options are and whether they are economically feasible.

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

I agree. I would point out that these massive floors should hold back a fair amount of noise just due to their mass. The fact that you can hear things so clearly makes me think there are cracks and holes. Flanking paths for the sound.

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

I have to agree with Ted. It is incredible how much noise can get through a tiny crack or hole. You might want to get up close to the ceiling and see if you can see any gaps or holes. I would be surprised if the flooing was not tongue and groove, however. I would look for gaps around the perimeter

It doesn't seem logical, but dense materials transmit sound badly. My first home was a townhouse with dual wooden stud party walls that did not touch one another. I could hear absolutely no noise from my neighbors. However, I could go down the basement and have a normal conversation with him through the solid 8 inch concrete foundation wall! So much for mass stopping noise!

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

Mass is about all you could do. Use drywall and framing, as this is about the least expensive source of mass

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

I don't mind closing in the ceiling. I love the exposed look, but I love sleep even more. Besides, it would only be in the bedroom, so we'd have the open ceilings everywhere else. I'm considering the QuietRock products...wondering if anyone has experience with them.

There are gaps where the ceiling meets the brick wall. In fact I can see into the unit above me in some spots. I purchased some expanding foam filler to spray into the gaps, hoping that will possibly reduce some of the television and conversation noise.

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling

You'll want dometing more massive for larger holes. Sound can pass through low-mass foam fairly easily. I'd suggest attaching heavier 5/8" drywall or plywood before adding insulation to the cavity and drywalling below.

Regarding the drywall selection, any pre-damped drywall is simply layers of standard drywall (a couple use drywall + cement board)and damping compound. There is simply no mystery to the materials. So the decision to use these pre-damped boards comes down to:

Price (less is better)
Mass (more is better)
Damping (more is better)

Generally you will always be able to field assemble a more massive, more damped and less expensive panel. An additional plus is that field assembly will allow you to overlap seams between the drywall layers.

Re: Soundproofing an old factory ceiling


If you can literally see into your neighbors apartment, it is no wonder you can hear him. Also, let me point out that if you can hear him with such ease, he can hear you too! You might want to meet your neighbor and discuss what measures you might jointly take to cut down the noise level. Simple caulking around those exposed perimeters, upstairs and downstairs, might make a big difference.

Personally, I would still seek some professional help from an architect or contractors who specialize in sound reduction.

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