Noise in Bottom unit of up/down duplex

8 Replies

Hey everyone,

So I am house hacking the bottom unit of an up/down duplex in Denver. Overall, things have been good, but my biggest problem is that the ceilings are paper thin. I can hear EVERYTHING the upstairs tenants are doing. I won't go into details. 

They have a dog. So I do not want to put carpet in as the floors will be much harder to clean. 

Does anyone know the best (and most economical) way to mitigate this noise WITHOUT putting in a carpet upstairs? 

move to the upstairs unit

@Thomas S. - I have heard that the foam doesn't really work that well. Have you done this and it's been okay? 

@Max Tanenbaum - Not a bad idea haha. But this if more for when I move out and rent out this bottom unit. 

Sound typically travels through structural members in a wall/structure, not the dead air space (sort of opposite of heat loss). On a vertical wood framed wall, even with insulation between studs, sound will carry from drywall on one side, through the the studs, and be amplified a bit by the drywall on the other side like a crude speaker or like the old tin can and string "phone". I've seen designs for a soundproof wall where top and bottom plates are 2x6 and you put 2x4s on alternating edges every 8 inches (16" on center for each side). Then with fiberglass insulation woven between the studs through 100% of the wall, the sides are isolated, each stud only touches one side. True office style suspended drop ceilings are tacky and dated, but if you could research a noise isolation product or way to mount ceiling drywall, it may help greatly. It could be As simple as a specialty adhesive cushion/caulking type product applied before putting new drywall up, or maybe rubberized mounting strips or something. As it is, any insulation between joists won't help that their footsteps (and whatever else you hear) sends vibration through joists to your ceiling. Isolate your ceiling drywall and insulate between joists and it should help a lot. If you still hear them too much, a laminate floor up there floated over an acoustic pad/membrane may further separate the surfaces transferring sound. However, also keep in mind most renters in multi family understand the first floor of a multi story is noisy but they are free to stomp themselves and not worry. Top floor people should be considerate but don't hear lower neighbors. I lived on the second of three floors in a college apartment, that was the worst of both worlds!
There are also some ceramic sprayed on sound deadening multi-use products on the market. I believe one brand is called Lizard Skin. I've heard of it used in hotrod type applications to isolate the cabin from the road, but it has industrial and other uses too. A truck bed coating like "Raptor Liner" would likely also deaden the noise transfer. Either of those I bet you could call the companies to ask how it could be utilized. Lastly, there are peel and stick sound deadening sheets used in car audio. Stick some to the inside of an economy car's outer door sheet metal skin and it'll sound like a mercedes door 'thud' when closed. Stuck to the bottom of their subfloor, it would likely deaden much of the sound immediately. Somebody's bound to chime in with something they have done, but those are my ideas for budget sound isolation!
Originally posted by @Russell Holmes :
Sound typically travels through structural members in a wall/structure, not the dead air space (sort of opposite of heat loss). On a vertical wood framed wall, even with insulation between studs, sound will carry from drywall on one side, through the the studs, and be amplified a bit by the drywall on the other side like a crude speaker or like the old tin can and string "phone". I've seen designs for a soundproof wall where top and bottom plates are 2x6 and you put 2x4s on alternating edges every 8 inches (16" on center for each side). Then with fiberglass insulation woven between the studs through 100% of the wall, the sides are isolated, each stud only touches one side.

True office style suspended drop ceilings are tacky and dated, but if you could research a noise isolation product or way to mount ceiling drywall, it may help greatly. It could be As simple as a specialty adhesive cushion/caulking type product applied before putting new drywall up, or maybe rubberized mounting strips or something. As it is, any insulation between joists won't help that their footsteps (and whatever else you hear) sends vibration through joists to your ceiling. Isolate your ceiling drywall and insulate between joists and it should help a lot. If you still hear them too much, a laminate floor up there floated over an acoustic pad/membrane may further separate the surfaces transferring sound.

However, also keep in mind most renters in multi family understand the first floor of a multi story is noisy but they are free to stomp themselves and not worry. Top floor people should be considerate but don't hear lower neighbors. I lived on the second of three floors in a college apartment, that was the worst of both worlds!

 Great details Russell..

@Craig Curelop

My dad consider the foam insulation on his Duplex, but after hearing from other landlords that tried this method and didn't work he decided not to follow thru. I remember he getting some quotes and they weren't cheap..

This seems to be a common issue w old Duplexes... What he ended up doing after pondering on what to do is be more Pro-Active thinking on selecting who lives Upstairs and Downstairs..

Typically families w Kids or pets he rented downstairs, young Professionals he rented Upstairs. He was also not a fan of carpet, so instead he got a nice big rug I guess they are called Oriental Rugs? For upstair apartment  He put in the middle of rooms and it helped with footsteps. After a tenant moved out and stains couldn't be removed just throw out and put a new one.. Over time he also learned not to allowed pets to avoid issues.

Hoping another member can come up with better solutions, mines won't help much with your current situation.. 

Thick Area rug,, roll it up like a burrito and throw away when they move. 

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