Soundproofing Ceilings in Flats: Can It Be Done?

Woman relaxing in her flat

Last updated: November 1, 2019 at 17:01 pm

Soundproofing ceilings in flats can be tricky, and there’s a lot of things you need to consider beforehand. I know what it’s like hearing footsteps all day long and how frustrating it can be!

It’s a big decision to soundproof a ceiling so learning what costs are involved, how easy (or hard) it is and the barriers you might run into is essential before making your decision.

Does Soundproofing a Ceiling Really Work?

Soundproofing a ceiling can be a little hit or miss depending on how loud the people above are. Blocking TV noise is a lot easier than footsteps, so identify what is making the noise then look at the options below to decide which one’s best for you.

TV and music noise is called airborne noise and travel directly to you through small holes or gaps.

Footsteps and banging is called impact noise created by vibrations through a structure.

I’ve seen people spend thousands of pounds soundproofing their ceiling with no improvements, whereas others don’t regret it for a second. So it’s worthwhile considering all your options before making any decision and using airborne or impact noise as a factor.

The Law When Soundproofing a Flat Ceiling

There are regulations in place to protect both sides of a noise dispute. This is called “Resistance to the passage of sound” and is a really long read. The section relevant to flats is E1. You can fine it here.

Ask the Council

Phone or visit your local council and ask for advise. Laminate is against the law for flats in a lot of councils so it’s worthwhile checking that first.

If so, ask what the next steps would be as your upstairs neighbours are causing noise issues within your flat.

Check Your Lease

Some leases have a clause in which every room in a flat above ground level (apart from the bathroom and kitchen) need to be carpeted. It worth checking if this is the case with your lease.

Invite your neighbour down to see how noisy it can be and suggest carpet as a solution. If landing on deaf ears, get the landlord/freeholder involved and come to a reasonable solution for all parties.

The leasehold advisory Service has a good guide on this.

Solution #1: False Ceiling

A false ceiling will essentially add an extra ceiling to your flat. You will also lose around 8-12 inches of ceiling height depending on the specifications of the work. The higher your ceiling the better this will work because you’ll have more room to play with.

The sound reduction with false ceilings is usually around 50%.

This solution is expensive and get go upwards of £1,500 for one room, but it is the most effective solution. This can most often then not be cheaper than moving if the noise is unbearable.

If this is the route you’d like to go down, I’d recommend getting various quotes from acoustic surveyors who specialise in this type of installation.

Another advantage of a false ceiling is insulation, where heat rises you’ll trap more within your lfat keeping it warmer for longer.

Solution #2: Extra Insulation Between Joists

This method involved removing your ceiling, adding insulation between the joists and replacing the ceiling.

Apart from adding false ceilings, this is the second best thing you can do but the soundproofing is hot or miss depending on the type of noise. It’s unlikely to eliminate footsteps or water pipe noise.

Overall this will cost about £2,000 for a ceiling of 30′ x 30′ but will vary depending on the size.

It will cause quite a lot of inconvenience with the fact your ceilings would have to be removed then replaced again. Maybe a few days at a hotel?

Solution #3: Acoustic Insulation Panels

The final way to soundproof your flat ceiling is to use insulation panels. These can be bought cheaply and are fairly easy to install. These simply work by adding adhesive to position the panels on your ceiling.

This is probably the least effective behind false ceilings and joist improvements but it is the cheapest. These can be picked up cheaply from Amazon.

Depending on how loud upstairs are, these can do the job just fine.

It might be worthwhile trying this first to see any improvement before investing in a more costly approach like false ceilings or insulating joists.

Note: although these look like egg boxes they are not! Learn more about egg box soundproofing.

What Upstairs Neighbours Can Do

It’s no secret it’s a lot easier to soundproof a floor than a ceiling. If you’re on good terms with your upstairs neighbour, it’s worthwhile mentioning things they can do to add soundproofing between the flats.

This will work better if they can hear you from downstairs as well, giving them added incentive to invest in soundproofing.

Laminate Underlay Boards

Green laminate underlay boards can be picked up fairly inexpensively and are really good at muffling noise. 10 square metres can be picked up for about £25 from places like B&Q or Screw Fix.

Acoustalay

Acoustalay is an underlay for laminate flooring (check if they should be using carpet) specifically designed to soundproof. Fully tested to meet industry standards, Acoustalay is used heavily within domestic and commercial building for soundproofing purposes.

A recent reviewer has mentioned it feels good under their floor and has made a considerable difference to sound. Another has mentioned it’s good quality and easy to use.

These will set you back about £2.50 per square metre.

Carpet with Good Quality Underlay

Sometimes a carpet and good quality underlay can do the trick. This is most effective if noise is manageable and not too loud. Loud should be treated with false ceilings or insulating joists.

This can sometimes be covered in your lease (as mentioned above) as some state carpets must be used for flats and laminate not permitted other than the bathroom and kitchen.

Alternative Solutions

Get to Know Your Neighbours

Noise always seems more bearable when you know someone. My son makes a lot of noise from playing with toys and just generally being loud, but because we’re on good terms with our neighbours no one minds.

Potentially inviting them down for a cuppa or introducing yourself can break the ice and get a conversation started. The worst case scenario is it can make getting things done, like asking them to install carpet, a lot easier.

Make Noise Yourself

This one is a little passive aggressive, but can get your point across. Being a good neighbour doesn’t always work out so making noise yourself can demonstrate how much noise can pass between flats.

Hopefully this will make them more considerate and try to make less going forward.

Conclusion

Soundproofing a ceiling certainly isn’t easy. The three main methods of a false ceiling, insulating joists or adding insulation panels all have a cost and all probably won’t work 100% (same as garden soundproofing).

However they can make a difference and make any left over noise bearable. Make sure to think what is causing the noise and look at a solution that fits. Acoustic panels may work for TV noise but won’t for footsteps.

Have you had any experience soundproofing your ceiling? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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About the Author: AJ

Hi, my name's AJ! I write about living a quieter life, soundproofing tips and recommending the best quiet products here on Quiet Living.