I’m finally getting around to finishing the basement now that the kids are big enough to want their own rooms. I wondering if it would do any good to fill the space between floor joists with insulation to help stop sound transfer to the upstairs.
There are many choices on the market, but my budget is tight. So, what would be the best soundproofing insulation for my needs? I put together a list of possible options:
Best Soundproof Insulation Materials
- Mineral Wool
- Blown-In Cellulose
- Spray Foam Insulation
- Foam Board
With the list in hand, I took a closer look at the different types and what they do. If you want to know more about any of these options keep reading as I give my insight into every single one.
Typical Types of Residential Noise Problems
In most residential areas there are thousands of noises. They can be airborne, impact or flanking sounds. The type of noise and its frequency range are the factors that bother us.
Our hearing range is between 20 and 20,000 Hz, and it’s most sensitive to sounds in the 1000 Hz range. Sound insulation can help improve our comfort and even our health.
- Airborne Sound
Airborne sounds are noises that move through the air. Vehicles honking, radios, conversations, or dogs barking are examples of airborne noises.
- Impact Sound
Impact sounds are noises caused by something striking something else. For example, a toy or glass falling on the floor or people walking on a hardwood floor are impact sounds.
- Flanking Noise
Flanking noises are sounds that travel through, under or over a sound barrier. They are the most difficult to control as they take an indirect path. Sound waves can travel through ductwork, over or under the best soundproof wall, and through hollow core doors. Sound can even transfer through back to back electrical boxes!
Understanding the Basics of Sound Transmission
Sound travels through the air in different wavelengths. Wavelengths are measured from crest to crest or trough to trough and represent different sounds. The distance between crests or troughs represents different frequencies of sound.
The farther apart the crests the lower the frequency and the closer together the higher the frequency. Wavelengths we can hear are between 0.67 of an inch (17mm) and 55.77-feet (17m).
Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and represents the tone (frequency) or musical value of a sound. A flute has a high pitch of 2,000Hz and a tuba a low pitch of 29Hz. Most of us start out able to hear between 20 and 20,000Hz, as we age it becomes less.
Pitch is the sound frequency created, and the tone is the frequency we hear. The same frequency can be generated by different objects and produce different tones.
When a sound wave encounters a wall or objects it could be absorbed, reflected, refracted, diffused or diffracted, or transmitted. To control sound in a house, we want to either absorb part or all of a sound wave or block it so noise transmission doesn’t occur. The properties of different insulation material allow it to absorb sound or reduce its transmission through that material.
How loud a sound is, is measured in decibels or dB on a sound pressure scale. 0dB is the beginning of what we can hear, and 130dB will cause physical pain. A quiet home will be in the 40dB range.
There are several different scales used to measure the effectiveness of soundproofing materials. STC is the Sound Transmission Class, and NRC is the Noise Reduction Coefficient.
Understanding STC and STC Ratings
STC (Sound Transmission Class) is a method of comparing how well windows, doors, floors, walls and ceilings are at reducing sound transmission. It measures the decibel (dB) decrease as sound passes through or is absorbed or blocked by material or wall.
STC use began in 1961 and measures the sound decrease, or transmission loss (TL), of 16 common frequencies between 125Hz and 4,000Hz through a wall or barrier in your home. The results are graphed and form a curve.
Your curve is compared to a set of standard STC reference curves. The reference curve closest to your curve is your rating. The higher the STC rating, the better the wall or material is at blocking or reducing the noise transmission of the frequencies tested.
Measuring Sound Transmission
To measure the sound transmission of a barrier or room, 16 common frequencies are generated in one room and measured, the sound is also measured on the other side of the wall (outside the room). The difference in sound transmission results is graphed and compared to a standard set of curves. The result is the STC rating.
Recommended STCs for Your Home
A quiet home has an STC 40 rating. The International Building Code (IBC) recommends a rating of STC 50 for walls, ceilings, and floors as a minimum requirement. An increase to STC 55 or STC 60 would be better.
For residential locations, an STC 52 for bedrooms and STC 56 for bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens, are recommended minimums. A 2×4 wall with ½” of drywall on both sides, but no insulation, has an STC 33 rating.
NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient)
The Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) measures the amount of sound a material absorbs or reflects on a scale of 0 to 1. No sound is being absorbed or reflected at 0, and all sound is absorbed or reflected at 1.
It is based on 4 frequencies of 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, and 2000Hz which are the typical range of speech. It is rounded to the nearest 0.05 increment.
The NRC is often listed as a percentage based on its decimal. Drywall with paint on it has an NRC rating of 0.05, which means 5% of the noise is absorbed and 95% is reflected.
SAA (Sound Absorption Average)
The SAA is a sound absorption average with a rating similar to the NRC. Instead of 4 frequencies though, it uses 12 one-third octave bands in the 200Hz to the 2500Hz range.
It is presented as a value between 0 and 1, with 1 being 100% absorption of sound. It is rounded to the nearest 0.01 increment.
SAA and NRC can achieve values higher than 1.00 if the material being tested has large air spaces or is thicker than normal.
Insulation & Noise Reduction
When designing, building or renovating a building, or finishing a basement, it is important to include soundproofing in your walls and ceilings. There are three ways to reduce or prevent the sound transmission through walls at the time of construction.
Increase the mass with an extra layer of drywall, break the vibration link between rooms and improve the cavity absorption – or all three.
Standard insulation products absorbs some sound, and acoustic insulation absorbs more. However, insulation also reduces the reverberation which causes a sound to echo or bounce back into a room creating disturbing feedback. The insulation will reduce sound transmission through the wall, and also improve the sound within a room.
A typical interior 2×4 wall with 1/2” of drywall on both sides has a rating of STC 34.
Adding standard fiberglass insulation improves the rating to STC 39.
Adding sound rated insulation can improve that to STC 45.
Building the same wall using 2-1/2” metal studs with 1/2” drywall on each side you get an STC of 34; add same sound rated insulation can bring the rating to STC 47.
Using 5/8” drywall instead of 1/2” on the steel studs brings the sound insulated wall up to STC 49.
Types of Soundproofing
There are different ways to improve the sound (STC) rating of your home during the construction stage. Each will work independent of the other, but they achieve better results when working together.
- Sound Absorbing
Materials that absorb sound reduce or prevent noises from bouncing back into a room or going through barriers into other living spaces. They’re usually lightweight and porous and trap soundwaves.
- Sound Blocking
Sound blockers are usually thick, hard or heavy materials (they can also be flexible) that prevent or reduce nise transmission through walls, floors or ceilings. Their mass reflects sound and prevents it from entering or leaving a room and is usually installed in ceilings, floors, walls, and even doors.
- Sound Damping
Sound damping reduces or prevents vibrations from traveling through walls, so they can’t transfer noise, or as much noise, into other living spaces.
- Sound Decoupling
Is a construction method that decouples or separates one wall face or side from the other or the drywall from the framing. Staggered or double stud framing, the use of isolation clips or channels, are ways of reducing or preventing sound transfer between rooms.
Different Types of Insulation
Mineral wool is a spun fiber made from molten igneous stone or slag. It is incombustible and doesn’t absorb water.
It is a dense and porous material that slows the movement of heat and cold through walls, floors and ceilings. Additionally, it can absorb both airborne and impact sounds and vibrations.
Fiberglass is made of melted plastic spun into wool and reinforced with tiny fibers of glass. It is a porous material that traps air helping to keep a room warm or cool depending on the season. It absorbs airborne sound at similar levels to mineral wool.
Blown-in cellulose insulation is made of 75-85% recycle fiber from paper, with the remaining 15-25% made of a fire retardant material. The more loosely packed the fibers, the better their ability to absorb and dampen sound. It can be added to post construction partition walls much easier and cheaply than other materials.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is a polyurethane foam spray that makes a thermal barrier and minimizes air movement. It’s great for keeping the cold or heat in or out, but not a good sound absorber. There is however a sound control spray foam that works well as a sound blocker that can be used in post-construction walls.
Foam boards, whether blue or pink, are made from extruded polystyrene. The color represents two manufacturers. They are board rigid with an insulating factor of R 5 per inch of thickness.
Expanded polystyrene foam panels don’t insulate as well, and are more brittle or fragile. Polyisocyanurate (ISO) panels are also extruded, and better at insulating than the pink or blue panels, but more expensive.
Polystyrene boards can help reduce sound transfer and muffle sound in or out of a room by decoupling the layers.
Mineral Wool Soundproofing Insulation
High Performance Mineral Wool
High performance mineral wool is lightweight insulation with improved thermal and acoustic properties. It is manufactured from a mix of mineral wool from molten rock and slag, and combined with new glass wool process. It has improved sound damping and absorption properties.
With sound absorbing ratings of 95% and NRC of 1.05, high performance mineral wool provides improved sound reducing values. Much lighter in weight provides equitably with twice the density of multi-purpose mineral wool.
Use in select interior walls or ceilings and floors to reduce sound transfer, feedback, and echo. I’d recommend using the high-performance mineral wool insulation in the walls and ceiling of multi-media rooms and high conversation rooms like the living and dining room.
It will reduce sound transfer between rooms and add density to the walls to minimize feedback and echo making it easier to hear clearly in the rooms.
Multi-Purpose Mineral Wool
Multi-purpose mineral wool insulation is composed of spun fibers created from molten rock. The fibers make it more fire, moisture, water, and rot resistant.
The high-density multi-directional fibers also give it good acoustic qualities. It can be used for interior or exterior walls and has an NRC ratio of 0.852.
All mineral wool is denser and stiffer than fiberglass and is less likely to slump and create noise transfer zones. It doesn’t make you itchy with bits of glass and has no airborne particles that can irritate the eyes and breathing passages. It also has higher R values, preventing airflow, which also prevents sound transfer.
Use in exterior walls or ceilings and floors to reduce sound and echo. I used it on interior partition walls to reduce sound transfer between rooms, and it also helps reduce feedback within the rooms.
Roxul Rockboard 60 and 80
Roxul Rockboard is rigid panels made for use in ceilings and floors, as well as walls. It not only provides a thermal barrier, but also improves sound absorption, and impact vibration and noise.
Roxul is made from mineral wool spun from molten basaltic and igneous rock. They can be easily cut and even shaped. The 60 has a density of 6 lb/f³, and the 80 has 8 lb/ft³.
Rockboard 60 and 80 have similar acoustic properties. A 2-inch thick panel of Rockboard 60 has an NRC of 0.95 while 80 has an NRC of 1.0.
Both can improve a partition wall to between STC 45 and 52. Rockboard 80 is better with low range frequencies, and the 60 board is better at the mid and upper frequencies. Additionally, the panels are fire, water, moisture and rot resistant.
Rockboard can be used on exterior walls and covered with cladding, inside wall cavities, and even in ceilings. It can also be framed and covered in acoustic fabric for use as sound-absorbing panels in media or music rooms, or anywhere you want to reduce sound transfer and feedback.
- is made of mineral wool and available in 2” thick 2’x4’ boards. They easily fit into wall framing cavities or can be framed and covered with cloth to make movable noise reduction panels.It’s a rigid panel that can be cut and shaped for any use.It works well to trap mid and upper range frequencies, and is effective with low range too. It can even be used to make acoustic base traps.The heavier density of the 60 helps it reduce echo or slap back noise within a room, and because it’s insulation, it has an R-value that helps maintain room temperature better.
- Roxul Rockboard 80 mineral wool insulation panels are 2’x4’ sheets that are 2”thick. They have a density of 8 lb/ft³ and an NRC of 0.9, so are great for soundproofing.Mid to upper range frequency is excellent NRC 0.9 or better, and a respectable low range coefficient, make the Roxul acoustic panels a top choice to absorb or reduce sound transfer.They can be used inside walls, ceilings or floors, or as independent framed panels hung where needed to deal with echo and feedback. Additionally, the mineral has a great fire rating, is moisture and mold resistant, and improves the heating or cooling of a room.
- Roxul Acoustical Fire Batts (AFB) are made of mineral wool, so are also water, moisture and rot resistant. The 2” thick, 2’x4’ batts are a lighter 2.5 lb/ft³ which doesn’t prevent them from being a heavyweight in noise transfer reduction. The AFB has mid and high range frequency ratings of NRC 1.05 to 1.09 and can be used inside walls, ceilings, and floors or as framed panels. It is more flexible (less rigid) than the board products, so can be used to wrap as well.
Fiberglass insulation is spun from melted plastic with tiny shards of glass embedded into it. It is a loose material which traps air, which in turn can trap or absorb sound waves.
It doesn’t have the density though to block them. Fiberglass also has thermal properties that help to keep a room warm or cool, depending on the season, so it works well for home construction.
Using standard 3-1/2” thick fiberglass batts in wall cavities can improve the STC from a rating of 35 to 39. The sound that travels through drywall is further reduced before it transfers into the next room.
However, as the STC rating show, the improvement is marginal. However, they do perform well at reducing echo and feedback within a room.
Fiberglass insulation (the fluffy stuff) is not a rigid material and can experience slump and compression over time. It also has to be compressed to cut, reducing both its R-value and sound absorbing ability unless fluff-up again. 2-1/2” thick R8 has an NRC rating of 0.85, 3-1/2” thick R11 is NRC 0.95, and 6-1/4” thick R19 is rated NRC 1.05.
As you see, thicker the product, the higher the R-value, and the better its ability to absorb sound. However, any compression of the fiberglass reduces both the R-value and the absorption ability.
Semi-rigid and rigid 2” thick 2’x 4’ fiberglass panels range from an NRC rating of 0.50 to 1.00 depending on the product; the higher the cubic foot density, the higher the rating. Like the fluffy insulation though, it too is susceptible to moisture and mold.I suggest using the fiberglass batts to insulate exterior walls, interior walls, and ceilings to reduce noise transfer, echo, and feedback within all rooms. The semi-rigid is a good option for irregularly shaped cavities, floors, and ceilings, or between ducts and pipes to reduce sound and impact transfer.
The rigid panels can be used in walls, ceilings, and floors, on exterior walls to add both a thermal and sound barrier, and as moveable panels to absorb sound and feedback. Great for all room applications, but especially rooms you want to reduce feedback in and sound transfer from.
Products of Interest:
- Owens-Corning has a 23”x39’ roll of pink unfaced insulation that fits between trusses, joists or studs, adds 6-1/4” thick of insulation with an R-19 value, and an NRC rating of 1.05. It is moisture and mold susceptible though. It will improve the sound absorption between floors and walls if it isn’t compressed.
- Owens-Corning 703 Acoustic Insulation 2” thick rigid 2’x4’ panels are lightweight and can be used in ceilings, walls or framed and hung where needed to reduce feedback and echo. The panels should be covered with an acoustic fabric to prevent fibers from becoming airborne.As with all insulation, the density impacts its noise reduction ability, as does its composition. Within the 2” thick 3 lb/ft³ dense 703 products, the NRC ranges from 0.75 to 1.00, so check the product to ensure you’re getting what you want.
- Owens-Corning 2” thick Soundproofing Insulation has a density of 10 lb/ft³ and claims it will add an STC of 18 to your uninsulated wall with an STC of 35, to bring it to an STC of 53. It has an NRC rating of 1.0, performing better at the upper test frequency than the lower end, so low-frequency noise is still an issue.
Sound Deadening With Blown Cellulose Insulation
Cellulose insulation is composed of 75-85% recycled paper fiber with the remainder being made up of fire retardant mater. It has an STC rating of 44 and an NRC of 0.80 and can be added to walls, floors, and ceilings during or after construction. It reduces the vibration resonance within a wall or ceiling, absorbing, damping, and deadening sound.
Available in loose fill, wet, or dense pack, cellulose not only provides a sound reduction, but it is also an excellent thermal insulator. Loose filled is blown into wall and ceiling/floor cavities under a lighter pressure, while the dense pack is blown in under higher pressure creating a solid 3.5 lb/ft³ of density.
Cellulose traps air which in turn traps sound waves and helps deaden sound between walls and floor levels. Wet cellulose can be applied to walls, ceilings or around irregular surfaces to depths that reduce sound transfer and improve R-values.If you’re looking for a way to improve sound quality and reduce noise transfer in interior walls, go with cellulose. I’d even recommend it for use in exterior walls and ceilings too.
I’ve used it for all of those and am amazed at the differences it made not only to improve the thermal barrier but sound also. The echo, reverberation, and feedback within rooms and halls almost disappeared, and sound transfer between rooms and floor levels was lessened too.
Use it in multimedia and music rooms to improve sound quality and reduce sound transfer.
- U.S. Greenfiller LLC Fiber Insulation is loose fill cellulose for blowing into walls or attics. It has an R-value of R-19 at 4” thickness. The thicker, the better for both thermal and noise insulation. It has an STC rating between 44 and 68 depending on thickness and density.
- Acoustimac Acoustic Insulation ECO CELLULOSE comes in soft, yet rigid, 48″x24″x2″ sheets. With a density of 4 lb/ft³, it can be used in walls, ceilings or floors. It can also be framed and used as movable panels to maximize their sound benefits. They will deaden reverberation and echo, improving sound quality in a room, while reducing noise transfer through walls.
Soundproofing with Spray Foam
Spray foam is polyurethane foam that provides not only thermal insulation but also acoustic insulation. It is a dense material that blocks or resists sound waves or vibration.
Spray foam helps to muffle or reduce sounds from entering a room or building and do the same to sounds transferring out of a room or building. Spray foam can be used for new or existing construction applications, and are fire retardant.
Spray foams are better at blocking noise from moving between floors and rooms, than absorbing noise. The foam is available in open and closed cell formats.
The open cell is less dense than the closed, soft, sound damping, has a lower R-value, and is rated for indoor use.
The closed cell acts as a moisture barrier when cured, is hard, can be used indoors, and can act as a structural reinforcer. The closed cell also dampens sound, but since it cures hard, it can separate from wood frames causing sound transfer channels. Three inches of spray foam has an NRC of 0.70. The STC rating for open cell foam is 39, and the closed cell has an STC of 37.I’d recommend the spray in ceilings and inside wall cavities to reduce sound transfer and dampen sound. Combine it with mineral wool or fiberglass, and you’ll have an excellent sound absorbing barrier.
Use it in recreation areas to deaden noise and impact sounds, and multimedia rooms reduce sound transfer. Remember though; insulation is only part of the solution.
Products of Interest:
- Foam It Green 602 closed cell spray foam kit will cover 602 sqft to 1-inch thick under perfect conditions. The kit produces an excellent thermal barrier, plus an air, moisture, and sound barrier. The sound blocking ability can be compromised over time. It is also less temperature sensitive than the open cell spray.
- is a DIY product that allows you to add acoustic value to any wall, ceiling or floor space. In perfect conditions, it can cover up to 1202 sqft at 1-inch thick. It will make an air barrier, and thus a noise barrier to reduce noise coming in or going out of your room. A drawback is that the product is temperature sensitive which affects expansion and coverage.
Using Styrofoam Insulation for Soundproofing
Styrofoam is a brand name for a polystyrene foam board. Polystyrene boards, whether pink, blue, white, or another color, are usually used in construction, but it has other applications as well. Acoustically it can reduce and muffle, or help block noise from entering or leaving a room.
Polystyrene comes in extruded and expanded formats. The extruded are often pink or blue foam boards that are stronger and denser; the colors represent manufacturers. Extruded is the white, more brittle, foam that makes round snow when broken or cut.
Polyisocyanurate (ISO) is another extruded foam board. It has higher R-values per inch of thickness, which also makes it a better noise blocker.
It is also more expensive than the other products. The boards are also available to fit into drop ceiling grids too, to further reduce sound transfer between rooms and floors.
Polystyrene or Styrofoam products are used for camp coolers and coffee cups, so they have thermal properties. Those thermal properties translate into sound reducing or resisting properties.
Sound is a vibration; the foam boards reduce the vibration transfer, which helps reduce noise transfer. However, its real use is as a sound blocker.
Extruded boards are closed cell foam, so it’s safe to say it has an STC of 37. Expanded foam boards have a more open cell construction with air spaces which absorb sound waves, like another open cell rigid foam, its STC may be slightly greater at STC 39.
When used in standard partition wall construction, it can increase the wall STC rating to between 51 and 55. It also has an Impact Isolation Class (IIC) rating of 70.
Styrofoam or polystyrene boards work well for exterior wall applications or can be combined with mineral wool or fiberglass panels in interior wall cavities as an impressive sound absorbing, deadening, and sound decoupling barrier. The boards can also be wrapped and hung for use within music or multi-media rooms to dampen sound.
Products of Interest:
- Styrofoam Foam Sheets are lightweight and can be covered with acoustic fabric and used as sound blocking panels to reduce sound transfer. The material can also be used to fashion bass traps to absorb or deflect low-frequency sound.
So, What Type Of Insulation Is Best For Soundproofing? Comparison
What is the best insulation for soundproofing? It depends on a multitude of factors: pre or post construction, construction techniques, inside the wall, ceiling or floor cavities, hanging on a wall, whole house or select spaces, type of noise, and BUDGET. If soundproofing were only dependant on insulation, for the money, I’d pick cellulose.
Another variable is the literature you read. We’re talking multi-billion dollar industries competing for a bigger market share, so they’re going to make themselves look better and tell you how bad others are.
If you can find an independent lab that has done all the NRC, STC, SAA, and IIC tests on the products you’re looking at, AWESOME!
Most partition walls and multi-story floor-ceiling cavities are not insulated. Adding insulation after construction, short of renovating, isn’t practical. However, there are two products available that will work for post-market wall and ceiling insulating, blown-in cellulose and spray foam.
The soundproofing comparisons here are based on information available, and the most credible sources found. No comparison is perfect since each brand has numerous products in every category.
Mineral Wool vs Fiberglass Insulation Batts
- Mineral wool batts (3.5” thick) have an STC of 45 and an NRC of 1.05, are more rigid and have a higher R-value/inch of thickness. It is water, mold, and mildew resistant too.
- Fiberglass (3.5” thick) batts have an STC of 39 and an NRC of 0.85, they are not rigid and tend to compress and slump, reducing their noise absorption abilities.
Mineral Wool Panels vs Fiberglass Panels
- Mineral wool (2” thick) panels have an STC between 45 and 52, and an NRC range from 0.95 to 1.09. They work well in walls and as panels to absorb sound, reverberation, and echo.
- Fiberglass (2” thick) panels have an STC of 44 and an NRC of 0.50 to 0.95 depending on the product. They too can be used as wall panels to reduce sound, echo, and reverberation.
Cellulose vs Fiberglass Batts and Panels
- Loose fill cellulose has an STC of 44 and an NRC of 0.8. It can be sprayed in during or after construction and is mold, insect and rodent resistant. Additionally, it is 75-85% recycled material and the least expensive option, especially for whole house applications.
- Dense pack cellulose has an STC of 44 to 68 and an NRC of 0.9. A pre or post construction product, it absorbs sound, feedback, and echo.
- Fiberglass batts have a lower STC of 39 but a greater NRC of 0.95. Their tendency to compress and slump reduces their noise absorption abilities. They are also a pre-construction or renovation option only.
- Fiberglass panels have an STC of 42 and an NRC ranging from 0.50 to 0.95, depending on the product specs. The panels are rigid and can be used on walls to dampen or absorb sound and echo.
Cellulose vs Roxul Rockwool
- Cellulose, depending on its density, has an STC range from 44 to 68 and an NRC between 0.8 and 0.9. Made of 75 to 85% recycled paper, it can be used in pre and post construction applications. It’s a good sound absorber, and reduces feedback, and echo.
- Roxul Rockwool batts are 3.5” thick and have an STC rating of 45 and an NRC rating of 1.05. It is more rigid than other batts but is a pre-construction product. Rockwool has good mid to upper sound absorption ratings, and even the low end is respectable. It also helps reduce reverberation and feedback sounds.
Cellulose vs. Spray Foam
- Cellulose has an STC range from 44 to 68 and an NRC between 0.8 and 0.9 depending on its density. It is 75 to 85% recycled material and can be used in pre and post construction applications. It’s a good sound absorber and reduces echo and feedback.
- Spray foam has an STC of 39 for open cell and 37 for closed cell, and an NRC of 0.70. Like cellulose, it can be applied pre and post-construction. It is less a sound absorber, and more a sound blocker. It is also significantly more expensive than cellulose.
Rigid Foam vs Roxul Rockboard Panels
- Rigid foam, depending on the product, has an STC between 37 and 55, an NRC of 0.70, and an IIC of 70. It isn’t a good sound absorber as much as a reflector or deflector. Sound can still go through it, but some sound doesn’t. It works best at preventing noise from entering or leaving a room.
- Roxul Rockboard panels are 2” thick and have an STC rating between 45 and 52, and an NRC between 0.95 and 1.09. They work well in ceilings and walls, and as moveable panels to absorb sound, reverberation, and echo.
Tips for Using Insulation to Soundproof a New Building
The main purpose of building insulation materials is to reduce air flow through the walls. It traps air to keep the heat or cold out or in, depending on the season. The greater R-value usually means it’s better at preventing air from moving through the wall and thus sounds too.
That doesn’t mean it stops all sounds. Noise is a wavelength which is also a vibration. Insulation is one factor in the sound reduction game.
New techniques, new materials, more time, means greater cost of building. The best way is to determine where you will need or want improved soundproofing.
I’m talking about exterior and interior walls. Residential areas can be very loud, and if someone needs to sleep when others aren’t, that can be a big problem.
Reducing the sound entering the house is the first step. Soundproofing exterior walls with rigid exterior insulation under the cladding is a good start.
Break the sound wave vibration path by staggering the studs.
Use mass loaded vinyl (MLV) to create a sound barrier will also reduce sounds. Insulate the wall cavities with a high R-value insulation; the higher the R-value, the more sound absorbed or blocked.
Don’t forget the attic and gable ends either. The more insulation the better for heating and cooling your home, plus reducing noise transfer.
Use sound sealing foams and gaskets around doors, windows, and any other openings through the exterior walls. HVAC, dryer vents, ductwork, and bathroom exhausts are the quickest way to destroy your soundproofing efforts.
They create a resonating tunnel for sound vibrations! There are duct pipes available that are designed to minimize noise transfer too.
Where floors, walls and ceilings meet is another area sound transfer will occur from outside in, or between rooms. There are building techniques that will minimize the transfer, discuss them with your builder; viscoelastic damping is one possibility.
Interior wall surfaces can have thicker drywall, double layers of drywall, or damped drywall. Damped drywall is more dense and better at soundproofing than regular drywall.
Metal studs transfer less noise vibration than wood and make a great sound barrier when insulated properly. Thicker walls with offset studs will break the structural sound transfer between rooms. Using resilient channels will also break the transfer if installed correctly. Even the placement and type of screws or nails can improve the soundproofing performance of a wall.
Remember, pipes and electrical boxes can transfer noise too. Offset electrical boxes in different wall cavities. They will transfer noise if in the same cavity and especially if back to back. Use acoustic caulking to seal all gaps or openings to prevent sound from penetrating the barrier.
The floor is another area sound reduction and impact isolation can occur. Using felt underlayment, insulating between joists, and installing a floating floor are some of the ways sound can be reduced within a house.
Leaving a mechanical break between the floating floor and walls is another method that will stop sound and impact transfer. Using a thick bead of caulking or sill plate membrane under interior walls can also reduce sound and impact transfer.
New products and techniques are always being developed and marketed, so if you’re building or renovating, keep up to date.
Other Ways to Soundproof Your Home
There are other ways to improve the soundproofing of your home. Acoustic paint properly applied can improve the STC of a room by 3-7points.
Soundproof caulking used between drywall and studs and around outlets can further reduce sound transfer. Sound blocking windows, doors, and weather stripping are also available.
- Roberts 70-193 Super Flooring Underlayment is a roll of 3mm thick felt for use under wood floors on concrete or wood subfloors. It is 60-inches wide and 72-feet long and covers 360 sqft. With an STC rating of 66 and an IIC of 67, it reduces sound transmission between floors and echo within rooms.
For more floor underlayment options please see our article Best Soundproof Underlayment.
- ATS Acoustic Panel are 2’x4’ and 2-inches thick. They can be hung in different areas to help control echo, feedback, slap and reverberation within a room. With an NRC of 1.0, they work well in music and entertainment rooms to absorb sound within the room. They can be used on walls and ceilings too.
- You can make your own using rigid mineral wool, fiberglass or bonded acoustic cotton panels. Frame them in a 2’x4’ frame and cover with acoustic rated fabric, and enjoy!
For more information on acoustic panels, please see our articles How to Sound Treat a Room and How to Soundproof a Home Theater.
Soundproof Windows and DoorsHeavy solid core doors will reduce sound much better than an insulated exterior door. Remove the interior trim around doors and windows and fill all gaps with a high-density low expansion foam or caulking.
- Soundproof Weather Stripping Door Stopper kit has 16-feet of self-adhesive window strip and 30-inches of door sweep. Helps keep weather, sound, smells, and insects out of your house! Works for patio doors too!
- Changlian Self-adhesive Door Draft Blocker is a rubber weather stripping. It attaches to the bottom of exterior and interior doors and will help reduce sound, wind, bugs and odors.
For way more detailed information on soundproofing a door, please see our article How to Soundproof a Hollow Door.
69 thoughts on “Best Soundproofing Insulation for Noise Reduction”
What is the best option I can choose with my pre existing wall conditon? I live in an attached condominium and need to reduce the sound from my noisy neighbor. I believe injection of some type of sound deadening foam is an alternative to building wall panels! I live in Wisconsin and unable to find any companies with interest! An help is welcomed!
Good research!! So what did you end up using in the rumpus room ceiling??
What about lower end frequencies (stereo bass)?? What might be the best material for that? For apartments, townhomes that share a wall with a noisy neighbor?
Wondering if I could get some advice, I live on the first floor of a condo. The unit above has hardwood floors and we can hear muffled speech and their footsteps. I want to insulate the ceiling/floor cavity with blown in cellulose. I’m hoping this will reduce the deep hollow sound we get from their foot steps, I’m not trying to make my unit completely soundproof. In the cellulose section you said “The more loosely packed the fibers, the better their ability to absorb and dampen sound.” But it is also stated further below that the more dense product the better they are at noise reduction. I’m probably misunderstanding, but if it is packed in more wouldn’t it be denser?
Thanks for any help.
Could the Roberts flooring effectively sound proof a dog kennel? Thank you in advance.
Hello. I found your article very informative and hope you can offer some advice. I live in an apartment and a new HVAC unit was installed last year. The unit is located in a utility closet on balcony and the filter is accessed through a vented panel in the apartment. The vented panel opens up into a stainless steel ‘box’ through which the unit blower operates. The box is about 4’ deep 2’ high and 3 ‘ wide. The blower is very loud. The apartment management can’t do anything about noise but said other tenants installed insulation to reduce noise. Can you suggest best material to use? I was thinking either rock wool or Roxul. My husband and I can do it or we’ll hire a handyman.
I can send a picture if that helps.
Sent from my iPad
Hey Eugene, I am looking to sound proof an office in my new house to use as a music recording and practice room.
I’m trying to figure out the best route. I have a company that can blow cellulose in the walls and one that will do rock wool.
What would be your preference?
UltraTouch R-13 is a denim batt insulation which has excellent sound absorption quailities
Need some advice for impact sound noise from unit above me please.
Thank you for the most informative report on sound proofing and reduction Eugene. Wow, very informative. I have a question: My old family grandfather clock, 1929, has a pretty loud, penetrating, low pitched gong sound every 15 minutes plus strikes on the hour (Westminster style). It has several sounding dowels which are metal and about 3/16″ to 1/4″ in diameter. Inside the cabinet, nearly 6.5′ tall, clearances between the works, soundbars, and pendulum run 1/2″ to 2″ and in the very bottom of the case, 3″. Foam would not be practical but a tape-in or glue-in panel of something like foam or batting would be a possibility, if available in 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ thicknesses. The cabinet has a glass framed opening and solid oak sides (3/4″) and oak panel rear (1/4″). The bottom 1/3 of the cabinet is all oak and an oak panel back, it is very roomy and accommodates the three weights that drive the works. Anything gaining a 10% or higher reduction would help. Any ideas? The one “old world” clock repair person in town says there is little I could to without either destroying the value of the clock or diluting the gong sound to something that sounds horrible. Or, adapt to it or get rid of it. Not Good. Thank you, Gary
Very helpful. I will be using cellulose in the ceilings and now will use in in the interior walls and between floors for sound proofing. What do you think about floor underlayment used on the walls as sound proofing?
Hi Kevin, I’ve been looking all over the Internet for a consistent objective scientific examination of sound. THANK you for your analysis! I have been looking all over the Internet, for an answer to blocking garage door sound blocking. Can you please help with that? I have a home gym in the garage but live in a small cul de sac with no driveways
This was incredibly helpful. Thank you!
Hi. My daughter sleeps in a basement room which is directly below our living room. She is very sensitive to noise and sleeps very few hours in a day. What is the best way to provide as much sound attenuation as possible to her basement room? Thank you.
Heavy wool rug with RugPadUSA soundproofing underlayment in the living room. If you already have rug, you can just add to it. (See our article Best Soundproofing Underlayment.) I do not know what kind of ceiling finish she has in her room, but if it is drywall, you could blow cellulose into it. You can also add Sound Isolation Clips, Hat Channel, and 5/8″ soundproof drywall like QuietRock or Certainteed. The Isolation clips will decouple the ceiling from the floor. Another option is Resilient Channel for decoupling and then the drywall. Problem with Resilient Channel is keeping it level if the ceiling is textured.
Hope that helps,
Honestly, put a fan in her room. The constant noise of the fan will drown out the bumps and random noises that wake her up. We did this in our bedroom and after 1 day, we were used to the sound of the fan and never wake up from noise outside our room. I recommend a 20″ box fan. The noise is relatively low frequency and pleasant.
Hello – I live in a two story two-family home and want to provide blown-in rockwool sound insulation in the lower level ceiling for water pipe and voice transmission noise control. The ceiling is 12″ open trusses – quite a bit of material.
How do I find a competent installer with the expertise to install blown-in rockwool – which is different than other blown-in techniques?
I am not certain where to look for installers other than rockwool.com might be able to send you in the right direction. For blown in insulation, I am a Cellulose fan. I know it can be blown in, or on, wet and will stick without netting. You may want to check out Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association. I know that you can get referrals off the site. Just presenting another option.
Hope that is helpful,
Is there a chart somewhere I can give my remodeler on soundproofing materials.
We have an adjoining wall that is supposed to be sound proof but isn’t. We didn’t hear our neighbors refrigerator grind to a horrible end but do hear his sound system. Mostly just the bass notes. I have been in his home and the sound isn’t obnoxiously loud there, but the bass notes come through and so does sound from his TV – explosions, war scenes, sci-fi, etc.
There are 3 separate walls now. An open center 2/4 wall with sheetrock on both sides and then on each unit a 2 x 4 wall with cellulose blown in and 5/8s sheetrock.
I just want to eliminate those low bass notes from being heard throughout my main living area
Sounds like you have a pretty serious soundproofing wall. I wonder if the noise is flanking noise coming under, or over the wall. Through the floor or ceiling. It also sounds like you get along somewhat with then neighbor. Try suggesting he get some bass traps to install in all 8 the corners of the room. Bass noise seems to collect in corners and bass traps are designed to do exactly what the name implies. If his speakers are sitting on the floor there are bass absorbing pads he can set them on. Bass is not only noise but vibration so getting speakers off the floor helps quite a bit. Rug and soundproofing underlayment in both his and your rooms will help. If you google ‘Soundproofing Materials Chart’ then ‘Images’, you will find all kinds of charts. Just choose the one that applies to your situation. Also, see our article ‘How to Keep Bass from Going Through Walls‘. You will see that bass is easier to control at the source end than at the receiving end.
Hope that helps,
Sound proofing existing exterior wall. My neighbors runs his motorcycle for at least 1/2 hr anywhere from 5:30 AM to 6:15 AM. Since it is approx 40’ from my bedroom wall, it wakes me Up from a sound sleep every morning. I’m 81 yrs old and don’t think I can deal with this much longer. Just to add… I have spoken with him about this.
I would be willing to remove drywall and existing insulation and rebuild however necessary. Could you recommend a solution . Thank you
Assuming that rounding up a couple of large friends is not an option that you are interested in, try the following:
Remove the existing drywall, insulate with Roxul 80 soundproofing batts, hang Mass Loaded Vinyl on the studs, and install new drywall–either soundproofing drywall like QuietRock, or a double layer of 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between. That should do the trick. You can also just add another layer of 5/8 drywall with Green Glue for a less expensive, but not as effective solution. You can also hang sound suppressing moving blankets on the wall (not real cute, but fairly effective).
Hope this is helpful,
Mask the noise with a fan. A large box fan pointed at a wall is a cheap and easy solution. I promise it will work better than ripping out drywall and trying to attenuate external noise.
If the motorcycle is 120dB 1 meter away, at 40′ away it is approximately 100dB. A well constructed wall attenuates approximately 50dB. That means the motorcycle sound inside your room is still 50 decibels! And that’s assuming no windows and that you’re actually getting an STC of 50. A fan that is producing a constant 60dB will likely drown out most of the noticeable volume of the motorcycle, and you will sleep soundly.
Sorry you’re going through this.
I am looking to enclose my generator outside to tamp down the noise when the power is out. We live in a woods/neighborhood, so rodents are an issue. Suggestions for a wood fence enclosure?
Do you have any insight on injection foam for retrofitting an existing house with insulation?
Injection, or spray foam is great for insulating, but not so good for soundproofing. It creates a solid bond with the framing without the mass of drywall so the sound vibrations pass through quite easily. For a better all-round product without removing drywall, give some consideration to blowing dry cellulose between the studs. A small hole in the drywall near the ceiling and a long hose you can snake down to the bottom of the cavity, and low pressure on the blowing machine should allow you to slowly withdraw the hose while blowing and fill the cavity to the top.
I have 1″ closed foam in my walls with blown fiberglass over that. I also have blown fiberglass in my attic. I live by a busy highway and the noise can be irritating. I can’t do anything with the walls but I have wondered if either adding more blown in glass in the attic or removing the fiberglass and replacing with cellulose would help dampen sound. Any thought’s on this would be greatly appreciated.
Blown-in cellulose will work better than fiberglass in your attic. If you have the room, why not just add about 4″ over the fiberglass instead of raking it out. More is better for both soundproofing and insulation value. Just a random thought: You can add 5/8″ drywall and Green Glue to both the walls and ceiling. Or QuietRock soundproofing drywall either with, or without, Green Glue.
We have a finished basement, but the noise from them furnace Interupts tv sound. What type of insulation would help reduce the fan blowing sound of the furnace? There is unisukated drywall between the two areas and also an open unfinished (but painted) ceiling bw the two areas. Thanks!
You might want to check out our article How to Quiet a Noisy Furnace Blower and How to Quiet a Noisy Air Return for a few ideas. You can use Roxul 80 soundproofing rockwool batts in the wall between rooms. If the ceiling joists are open between the 2 rooms, you need to close that off with insulation batts, drywall, or even Styrofoam SM–anything to close the holes.
I have an issue where I have hidden fire sprinklers with plastic covers throughout my house, what would be the best sound insulator between floors since I have a lot of holes in the ceiling drywall? I am planning to replace the subfloor so I would be doing this from above. Thanks for the help!
If you have access to the backside of them, give some serious consideration to wrapping Sound and Fire Rated Acoustical Putty Pads around them. Manufactured by Trademark Soundproofing and available on Amazon, they have and STC rating of 49.
Hope that helps,
I am renovating a 150 year old mixed use multi family/commercial building. It’s a traditional Main Street set up with a storefront on the first floor and residential units above. I want to keep the original hardwood floors for looks but it concerns me with sound transfer from floor to ceiling. Additionally, there are side by side apartments in which I want to reduce noise transfer.
For information: This is a full renovation. We will be hanging 5/8” drywall over most existing hollow stud walls adjacent to common hallways or common walls between apartments. The ceiling is likely going to be framed below existing lathe and plaster ceilings.
What product(s) And practices do you recommend for walls/ceilings/floors to help control noise transfer between units? Costs are already high on this project so I need to balance performance and economics. Thank you for the great resources and information provided in your original post.
You did not mention homosote. I am told by folks who understand acoustics that layers of different materials is an effective way to dampen sound (sound waves losing power with each transition) Anyway, I just covered 2 ancient plaster walls with homosote and will shortly add sheet rock over it. Am I doing the right thing? Appreciate your input.
Closed cell foams, such as Styrofoam and polyisocyanurate, are horrible for acoustics. I am an acoustic engineer that deals with sound isolation of building construction. These foams are largely acoustically inert. You are better off with fiberglass, mineral wool, or cellulose insulations.
Great piece & very helpful – Thanks. I’m building a small room in the basement w/soundproofing in mind and have a couple questions:
1) The piece didn’t directly address adding air gaps. On the ceiling, I was thinking of adding a small air gap between the floor above and the insulation. Is this better that putting the insulation right against the floor & if so, what’s the optimal gap – Obviously the bigger the gap the less room for insulation.
2) What’s the recommendation for the small space (¼-⅜”) between a pre-hung door & the trimmer studs?
You should not need an air gap. The insulation is basically dead air and you are not going to gain any decoupling because the joists are attached to the floor above and whatever finish you decide to use – drywall, ceiling panels or suspended.
As for the gap around the door I always want a minimum of 3/8″. Preferably 1/2″ because out of the hundreds of doors I have installed, it was rare to find a rough opening with a perfectly level floor and perfectly plumb framing. 1/2″ gave me enough room to level and plumb my door and frame without major surgery. Although they sometimes ended up almost touching the 2 x 4 at the top on one side and at the bottom on the other.
Hope that helps,
Thanks for the great article. I want to finish my attic which is roughed to have two adjacent bedrooms. From the article, I thought about styrofoam with mineral wool, metal studs with foam around them, and thicker drywall . Does that make sense? Too much or too little?
It should be very quiet, but if you want to save a little space, you could use Mass Loaded Vinyl instead of Styrofoam. You could also consider 5/8″ QuietRock drywall instead of regular drywall. It is more expensive, but has a soundproofing viscoelastic polymer sandwiched between layers of gypsum that helps dissipate noise.
Hope I did not make it more confusing,
Hi Terry, I transferred in new ground floor house, on the first floor family we became close friends and their biggest problem is the 2nd floor family with three children. My friend told me that those people in 2nd floor really too much for the noise not only children but the wife. Midnight she will do the house chores instead during the day. I want to help them because they suffering of stress and they work still. What best work for my friend ceiling to avoid noises day and night. More foams for half meters??? Our building the ceiling is higher and we can create styles every room.
Please help me . Because I imagine their situation lacy of tranquility. I’m grateful to Our God because Iam in ground floor because of my mortal accident until now still need two more delicate surgeries. Even Me I heard the noises. Lack of discipline and Respect to the neighbors.
Thank you so much and keep safe. God bless you.
Here is what I would do.
Install Resilient Sound Isolation Clips on the ceiling joists. You can find an installation guide at Acoustical Solutions along with the clips (or on Amazon). Install them as per the directions and illustration. Install hat channel into the clips. Then install 2 layers of 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between them. Tape, mud, and paint.
The Isolation Clips will isolate the noise.
The drywall will add mass to help prevent sound vibrations from passing through.
The Green Glue provides sound damping by turning sound vibrations into heat and dissipating them before they pass through.
Hope that is helpful,
In my last email, I forgot to suggest looking at our article How to Soundproof a Ceiling: Best, Cheap, and Effective DIY Solutions. Hope it is helpful.
Wow! What a plethora of great information! Thank you for taking the time to compile it all and share with the world.
I am converting an existing 2 car garage into a quiet room. I suffer from chronic migraines and also had a brain hemorrhage, so I hear noises that do not bother most folks. The garage door will be removed, walls framed and 3 windows installed which are as sound proof as I could get from Anderson in today’s environment. My primary noise nemesis’ that I am trying to block are leaf blowers, lawn tractors, weed eaters and generators.
I plan to remove the drywall, reinsulate, use a hat channel and hope for the best. Sounds like from your article you may recommend the dense pack cellulose insulation with the hat channel and 5/8″ drywall? Is double drywall an effective solution or would quiet rock be a better option? I am open to any and all solutions. Should I also consider the Mass Loaded Vinyl barrier?
I am a cellulose fan from way back. If there is someone in your area that blows walls–either behind netting or wet, I would certainly talk to them. Then 1 lb. Mass Loaded Vinyl, hat channel and drywall. Double 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between layers gives you more mass than a single layer of QuietRock.
Your windows and door are still probably your weak point. Check our AcousticCurtain and AcousticDoor from Residential Acoustics for a reduction of 21 – 25 decibels or Shuteye Shutters for a reduction of up to 50 decibels.
Hope that helps,
Thank you for the detailed guide – very interesting.
I live in a semi-detached house built in 1960 and the party wall leaks sound.
I plan to lift the floorboards along the party wall, seal any gaps where the joists enter the wall, then lay mineral wool batts between the joists, and maybe lay a membrane between the joists and floorboards or above the floorboards.
Could you please recommend a mineral wool product (I was thinking Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound looked good) and a thickness that would work well?
Many thanks, Richard
3 1/2″ Roxul Safe and Sound should be sufficient. For your membrane, give some consideration to 1 lb. Mass Loaded Vinyl. It has and STC rating of around 27 by itself. Between the two products you should about eliminate sound leaks.
Great article, thanks! I am renovating a lower level bedroom that is very noisy when people are walking in the kitchen above. Sounds like stomping when its walking above. I may replace drywall ceiling and have a 12″ depth of joists to work with. 40 year old fiberglass batts were there until now. What is your advice for best soundproofing? Insulating is not that important in this case. Thanks! Chris
Whether you remove the drywall or not, blown in cellulose would be one of your best choices. It can increase your STC rating by 44. See more on cellulose STC and NRR here.
If you remove the drywall, the cellulose can be blown on wet. When it dries, it will still be stuck to the plywood. If you leave the drywall on, make sure you get a professional installer who knows how to fill the complete cavity–which includes shoving the hose the complete length, turning the air down, and slowly removing the hose leaving a complete blanket. You do NOT need some stud muffin sticking the hose 2′ into the hole, turning the air up, not filling every nook and cranny, and wondering why half a bag blew back out through the hole.
If you remove the drywall, you can use Roxul soundproofing insulation and add Mass Loaded Vinyl before drywalling. Or you can install double 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between. Or 5/8″ QuietRock.
Thanks for this great article! I’m renovating a basement rec room, just below our living room and family room. I framed in a steam pipe in the ceiling on one side of the room; I had it dry-walled before thinking to insulate and sound-proof it. Sound travels from the family room like crazy there. Sounds like you’d recommend blown-in cellulose? Any concerns with the steam pipe (it’s wrapped in fiberglass insulation)? I’ll also be installing canless, airtight LED ceiling lights – any problem with that and the blown-in cellulose?
The remainder of the ceiling is currently exposed joists; I’ll be installing a drop ceiling with a sound blocking of “CAC 30”. I’m contemplating putting in Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound Stone Wool Batt insulation above the drop ceiling. Make sense?
I don’t think you should have any problem with the pipe or the LED lights. Steam pipe is insulated and probably not running constantly. The LED lights run cool. And the cellulose has a fire retardant. You should probably check with a local cellulose contractor or the local authorities just to make sure your insurance company will not be hard to get along with if you ever need them.
The Rockwool is a great idea. And it should stay where you put it. Being a little anal (or maybe a lot anal), I would use strips of lath between the joists to keep the batts snuggly in place. I am old and gravity has worked against me occasionally.
Built a house ~ 4 years ago, used spray foam insulation not knowing the poor sound absorbing / dampening quality it had. The thermal insulation works great, however, the sound travels very easily though the walls.
We live about 2 miles from the interstate and can hear the constant hum of the traffic. Our front street has increased in traffic and the sound is just constant.
What is my best option to cut out the noise pollution in my house?
Should I go room to room and remove sheet rock and foam insulation and redo with Rockwool batts? We are just so frustrated with the noise and would like peace.
My daughter has a home with self supporting metal roof panels 50mm thick, aluminium both sides and foam core forming raked ceilings. It is extremely noisy with heavy rain and we are wondering if you have a suitable product that would help reduce the noise, and potentially heat and cold. It would be installed on the inside of the home so it would need to be either self adhesive, or able to be adhered in some way, and also be attractive as it will be the finished surface of her ceilings. The area is approx 38 metres square.
The home is at Lennox Head on the far north coast of NSW.
Regards …. George Leslie 0414935951
There are lots of self-adhesive acoustic foam panels, but unfortunately they work well at absorbing sound produced inside the room. Do very little for incoming. Unfortunately, I have no quick, easy, good-looking answer.
To be able to accomplish serious soundproofing and/or insulation, I really think you will have to consider framing in a ceiling that has enough strength to have drywall screwed to it and insulation installed above it. (Preferably blown in cellulose.) You should be able to accomplish this by installing a ledger board on the walls at the height needed to hold the joists you will put up there. Then it becomes dependent on spans and codes and your daughter’s ability to accept loss of head space. And being in Alberta, Canada I am not much help with any of those. You might want to look at our article How to Build a Soundproof Room-Within-a-Room for some ideas.
Sorry I cannot be more helpful,
I am on the second floor of a four-story condo in Florida. I hear every footstep from the unit above when they are walking on their floor. The walls, floors and ceiling of the building are concrete and the ceiling height is 8 feet. What soundproofing material do you recommend I should put on my ceiling to block out the noise, I am limited for space. I would like to find something that will not take up more than 2 or 3 inches.
What do you suggest?
I think your best bet to stay within you 2 – 3 inches is to strap the ceiling with 1 x 2 or 1 x 4 wood using Tapcon screws or another type of concrete anchor. Then install 2 layers of 5/8″ drywall with Green Glue sandwiched between them. That will do it in about 2 inches. Make sure you use acoustic caulking to seal any gaps around the perimeter of the ceiling/wall junctions. (Concrete anchors at 16″ on center.)
I have an apartment with an 100 year old steel ceiling panels nailed to a framework with a 12″ empty cavity to the apartment above. There is a fair amount of sound transmission (mostly walking, sometimes voices) so I would like to insulate. Because of the corrosive affects of the boric acid on the steel used in cellulose I have been advised to use blown-in mineral wood. The mineral wool is difficult to find and will be more expensive than blown-in fiberglass. Do you think I am making the right decision to hold out for mineral wool? How much more effective do you think it will be over densely blown in fiberglass? Do you have any advice for the installer? Thanks in advance.
Kudos to whoever alerted you to the effects of boric acid on steel. From my quick search, it looks like it could get real ugly real quick.
I would hold out for the mineral wool. You are only going to do this once, so you might as well get the best and quietest product possible.
As far as installer advice: Make the smallest holes possible, have a plan for repairing them before cutting, turn the air down, and be patient. Too much air pressure is the enemy. It will not fill the cavity properly. The hose has to be shoved all the way to the end of the joist cavity and withdrawn slowly, filling as it comes out.
Great article! There’s a lot of information to process, thanks for taking the time to package everything into digestible chunks and answering questions.
We recently purchased a 1980’s house that’s under a flight path. The plane noise is irritating and we’d like to do something about it. Half the house has 6″ fiberglass batts. The other half has 3″ blown-in fiberglass.
I’m very interested in using Rockwool, however won’t we have to remove the existing insulation to properly install the Rockwool? So the budget conscious side of me is saying, maybe just add more blown-in insulation and see if that’s enough. The planes register between 50-65db. The risk is if the additional insulation isn’t enough we’d have to remove everything to install the rockwool. All our windows are currently single pane, but we are moving forward with upgrading them to impact windows.
Do you have any suggestions on the best way to reduce airplane noise? Are there good, better, best options? Thanks in advance!
I assume that we are talking about your attic/ceiling insulation–because of the plane thing. You do not need to remove the fiberglass to add insulation. If it was my house, I would blow about 6″ of loose cellulose over everything and call it good. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find someone who blows rockwool. I also think that Lowe’s sells blow-in rockwool and rents machines. (I mention the blown-in rockwool second because it got a bad health reputation years ago, and is having a bit of a time recovering.) Blowing cellulose or rockwool blankets over everything should quiet the planes down significantly.
Thanks for the reply. Yes, attic insulation. I received a few quotes and cellulose is twice the price of fiberglass for adding R30 ($5.9k vs $2.7k, 3k sqft). I’m trying to decide if cellulose is that much better than fiberglass for soundproofing plane noise that it’s worth the extra money. I’m in Florida. Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks!
If I recall your original comment, your airplane noise is only around 65 decibels at the top end. So you may not need more than fiberglass. A 3 decibel reduction represents a halving of the perceived noise level. Check out the 3 decibel rule explanation from Pulsar Instruments.
Is this where I submit my soundproofing question?
My wife and I bought a condominium but there is a lot of road noise coming through one exterior wall. The outside wall is stucco, then metal studs and then a layer of dry wall which I think is 3/8 or 5/8 inch thick. We are replacing a window on the wall with a double pane or triple pane window if I can get one. My plan after researching your website, short of removing the drywall is to blow in dense pack cellulose insulation, add another 5/8” thick Quiet Rock drywall with Green Glue sandwiched in between. Any suggestions, am I on the right track can I make any improvements?
I think you have a great plan. A couple of suggestions:
– Try to find a window with on pane of glass laminated for better soundproofing. The window will be your weak spot for noise, so give some consideration to AcousticCurtain by Residential Acoustics (Reduces noise by 21 – 25 decibels) or Shuteye Acoustic Shutters (Reduces noise by up to 50 decibels.)
– When blowing the cellulose, make sure you cut the holes at the top, get the hose all the way to the bottom of stud cavity, turn the air down on the machine, and slowly retract the hose to get full coverage.
Hi Terry, thanks for putting together such an informative article.
Our internal walls are plasterboard (like drywall I’m guessing) without any insulation between the plasterboard. To reduce the noise transmission between our kids rooms, I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll need to remove the plasterboard on one side and install insulation. I’m planning on using a high-density glasswool insulation (eg. a product called Earthwool). I’m wondering if I would get an improved reduction in noise transmission by doubling up on the amount of insultation in the wall (ie, using two layers instead of one, make it more dense). Is that worth doing? Do you imagine that would improve the outcome, or make it less effective due to the insulation being compressed within the wall?
Extra compaction will not help very much. Also a quick search of Earthwool tells me it may absorb sound. Roxul rockwool will absorb sound. A few suggestions:
– Instead of compacted Earthwool use rockwool and a layer of Mass Loaded Vinyl (reduces noise transfer by 23 decibels) on one side of the studs, then drywall.
– Double up the drywall on both sides for the mass and sandwich Green Glue between layers. No demolition.
– Take a look at our article 15 Ways of Soundproofing Interior Walls Without Removing Drywall for more information about non-demolition soundproofing.
i work in insulation every day for a living. this article is correct on paper but wildly misleads the average homeowner. cellulose can not be dense packed when wet because it expands as it dries. it also cant be dense packed with compressed air. so wall cavities, since you cant get a rod in to dense pack, settles about 30%. the ONLY time cellulose makes sense is when it can be dense packed and that is ONLY the case for houses with vinyl or hardy plank siding by drilling through the subwall to get a rod into the cavity or for a room over a garage with knee wall spaces. other than that it doesnt help for sound at all. this article also takes no consideration to the fact that loose blown and batting insulation do nothing but filter air. they do not stop air at all. so when you have air leakage around the insulation you have a stc of ZERO. in practice.. or real life i should say… rockwool and spray foam are the best and stop about 90-95% of noise while anything else comes between 30 and 50% at best. im not faulting the genleman that wrote this article, just keep in mind that the numbers on paper are not always what works best in a home.
I own a home on a small lot subdivision, so my home stands on its own, but only has a 3” air gap that is capped off between my neighbor and me. So it’s two freestanding separate structures that each have their own interior walls with fiberglass insulation, then each their own waterproof sheathing, but no hard finishing (ie. stucco) on either structure inside of that capped off air gap. We are having a sound issue where music (mostly bass but some music as well) travels through to each home. Would blown cellulose into the 3” gap be a solution for minimizing the bass and music coming through? How much improvement might we see with that solution? It will be difficult to install any panels since the area is so large and the capping can’t easily be removed in all areas, so blown-in is our only option. Thanks very much for your advice.
Very informative thank you
Any tips for condo owners? I live on the main level and recently had water damage from above so there are holes in my ceilings. I would like to do something to improve sound transmission from above while the ceilings are open but unsure as to what might work. I’m unable obviously to attach to unit above so perhaps a fibreglass above my gyprock. Would that have any benefit? It also gets unbelievably warm in here so I’m wondering if that would trap the hot air even more resulting in even warmer temps in my unit.