Soundproofing an up-down style two family home in RI

9 Replies

Anyone know how to soundproof an up-down 2 family home?  I'm located in Rhode Island and my 1st floor tenant is worried about the noise from upstairs, mainly walking around seems to bother them.  I have about 8-9 feet of ceiling height and I'm not sure if I can put a barrier 6inches to a foot to reduce the noise transfer.  If anyone knows a contractor who may be able to help that would be awesome!  I could tell them they have to deal with it but I'd rather give them a quiet space.  Thanks!  Also I heard that spraying insulation may help but only slightly, I'd prefer to do it the right way once.

The only good way to eliminate noise is to eliminate the echo chambers and direct connections that transfer noise. Spray foam is fantastic at eliminating noise, but even plain old insulation batts do a good job. When I spray-foamed my mechanical room, I cannot even hear the furnace kicking on any more. You could conceivably spray 6 inches of foam on the existing ceiling and then put a drop ceiling below it for the unit downstairs. Honestly, however, what did they expect when they moved into a duplex? One of the downsides of living with other people is hearing them. Unless you're getting some kind of crazy rent from this place I don't know that I would mess with it unless the place was already under rehab. 

@jdmartin, sounds good, thanks for the advice!  I do agree that people should expect some type of noise, but I'd like to see if I can reduce the noise and in the future charge more for rent/keep long term tenants.

I'm glad @JD Martin added the "what did they expect" comment - I was thinking the exact same thing. It might be cheaper to let them move out and get less sensitive tenants on the first floor. Or if the 2nd floor tenants are actually unreasonably noisy, send them a warning letter and then if no change, ask them to leave.

That said, if you want to placate the first floor tenants you could have an "energy audit" by RISE Engineering where they look at the house especially in terms of heat loss and come up with a proposal to add insulation and other energy-saving features (and give you free LED light bulbs :).

I'm not saying that insulation is the same as sound proofing at all. But it might be something you consider doing  for your property anyway, especially if you are paying for heat/utilities, and either way it may be "something" that you do in response to the complaint which buys you some time with the tenant.

My first reaction though was, "Welcome to apartment living" :D

I think it's worth asking them. It may be the kind of thing they don't usually do, but if they're on site with all the materials anyway they may be willing to do it at the same reduced rate they do the other work.

Usually their proposals are about half the cost if you hired someone to do it separately, because they get state money. Basically, we're all paying for it anyway with our taxes, so it's seriously worth considering doing, especially on your primary residence if you own it and are going to be there for at least a few years.

The energy audit is free, then they send you a proposal and you decide whether to go forward.

The only thing I will say is, they do have a long waiting list so it could be a couple months before you can get an appointment. On the other hand, that's always the case, so the sooner you call, the sooner they'll come out.

Sadly I don't have personal experience with soundproofing to answer the original question, but I did want to post the "other ways to placate the tenant" perspective.

Managing tenants is like dealing with children. Sometimes you don't know who's at fault so you punish both of them, sometimes you give them what they ask for, sometimes you substitute what they ask for with something you'd rather give them, etc. :)

Insulation is a huge help as was mentioned earlier.  After that, you may consider an acoustic ceiling tile that has noise absorption built right into each tile.  Another alternative would be to install double sheet rock to the ceiling after you insulate.  This serves two purposes.  1.  If will help to deafen sound, and 2, it will act as an additional fire barrier if you utilize double 5/8 sheet rock.