How to soundproof a flat or apartment
Anyone who lives in a flat is going to hear some noise from properties above, below and to the side. But what do you do when it all gets too much, and it starts affecting your life?
With property prices at a record high and a shortage of available homes, especially in major cities and popular tourist hotspots, it is no surprise that vertical living has grown in prominence.
Many older properties, such as large Victorian townhouses or former office buildings, are now being converted to create flats, often very well equipped and marketed as a ‘high specification’.
However, given the number of enquiries we receive from apartment owners, the levels of acoustic insulation stipulated by the Building Regulations is clearly not always sufficient.
This can have a traumatising impact on the health and wellbeing of flat owners and tenants who suffer as a result of not being able to sleep well and feeling anxious in their own private space where they expect to be able to relax.
Can you soundproof your apartment cheaply?
The good news is that you can take steps to resolve the noise problems cost effectively. There are a wide range of products that can be combined to reduce the amount of airborne and impact sound that transmits between the floors and walls.
Impact noise, such as footsteps on a hard floor and the sound of furniture being moved, is best treated from the floor side, which we appreciate is not always possible.
Reducing airborne sound requires a combination of all elements in the equation of the floor structure that is allowing sound to transfer.
The aim is to add mass to the floor structure by using the correct acoustic products, but also create separation.
Without separation, sound will always find its way through the structure very easily through mechanical connections – it is crucial, therefore, to break these mechanical connections, such as by installing a lowered acoustic ceiling.
9 Crucial questions when soundproofing a flat
Having agreeable neighbours can make a difference when looking to sound-insulate your property, if you’re not on great terms due to the obvious reasons, it may be time to reach for the olive branch.
If you speak to any acoustic consultant, they will ask you the following questions to understand the level of soundproofing that can be done:
- Do you know if the owner of the flat above will be willing to insulate the floor?
This is a crucial consideration. It is possible to add acoustic insulation to the ceiling side only, but the most effective approach is to treat both sides. So, if you can get the owner of the flat above to cooperate, that will allow you to achieve the best outcome – which leads us to a few further considerations with regard to the floor.
- Assuming the owner of the flat above will work with you to achieve a solution, do you know what the floor finishes are on their floors?
The type of the floor finish will determine which type of insulation products will need to be applied. Is it tiled, carpeted, laminate, wooden or something else?
- Do you know what height increase would be acceptable for the upper floor?
Every acoustic floor treatment will add to the ‘build up’ or depth as you will be adding new layers to the existing. Some treatments are barely noticeable, but every type will reduce the floor to ceiling height and the interface with the floors in other areas of the property will need to be considered – i.e. matching the levels or a slight difference. So we need to know what additional thickness the other property owner will accept before proposing a solution.
- What is the floor structure between your flat and the property above?
This might not be an easy one to answer, but there is a big difference between the way we treat a timber joisted floor and a concrete or masonry floor. Any insights here are useful at an early stage.
There are a few ways you find out if you have wood structure or concrete; check for air vents outside the property, if you have vents that look like they’re at the floor level, it’s more likely you have suspended floors. These vents may also be air bricks which are a bit harder to notice.
Another method is to simple stamp on the floor and see if you can hear and reverberation from the furniture.
- Do you know how the ceiling is constructed within your own property?
If you live in a relatively modern property, chances are the ceiling construction will be relatively straightforward and easy to treat. But with older properties, particularly those with ceilings complete with ornate features, adding acoustic insulation may need a different approach.
- What floor-to-ceiling height can you afford to lose in your property?
As with the floor treatment, adding an acoustic ceiling to an existing will add depth to the ceiling construction to create that all-important separation. So think about how much room height you are prepared to lose
- What is the wall structure that form the areas you want to treat?
Sound waves will always find a way to pass through a structure and one of the ways that an acoustic floor/ceiling construction can be undermined is by ignoring the surrounding walls. The floor and ceiling treatments will need acoustic perimeter seals, but we may need to look more closely at the walls.
- What lighting is in your property?
Adding an acoustic ceiling will mean moving or refitting your ceiling lights, which in many cases is relatively straightforward, but may be more of an issue in certain situations. The type of lighting will affect the performance of the acoustic ceiling. For instance, with down lights, more holes are cut in the ceiling structure compared with a simple pendant, and these additional holes will transmit more sound.
- What are the measurements of your room(s)?
The final but most important question – how big is your room or multiple rooms? Working this out square meters will help you understand the quantity of the materials needed to help soundproof your flat.