Soundproof Ceiling Tiles: Do They Soundproof or Absorb Sound?

Most of the ceilings tiles we have at home do very little in soundproofing the ceiling. However, they do influence a room’s acoustics giving us the impression they work for soundproofing. What acoustical ceiling tiles actually do is sound absorption. Their capability to absorb sound dramatically reduces reverberation and echo by absorbing and stopping noise from leaking in or out of via the ceiling, which gives us the impression that they soundproof the ceiling.

Ceiling tiles that are capable of soundproofing are created uniquely, unlike traditional tiles.  They create a sound barrier that prevents sound from traveling in or out of the ceiling. This is the only distinguishing factor that makes them unique from the lightweight ceiling tiles which are common in drop ceilings.

For a drop ceiling to effectively block sound, it must, therefore, be made of sound resistant materials. The normal polystyrene tiles won’t do the soundproofing job.

Soundproofing versus sound absorption?

To better understand the difference, let me give you some good examples for each. If you live in an apartment and you can hear either downstairs or upstairs neighbors listening to his stereo or watching television, or you can hear your son or daughter playing music upstairs, then you will need to soundproof the ceiling.

On the other hand, a recording studio, cinema, a busy office or a lecture theatre requires good sound quality inside the rooms. For this reason, noise bouncing across the room will create echoes which can ruin your lecture lessons or music recording. For this case, you will need to add sound absorbing materials to absorb echoes and make your recordings or lecturer classes better.

Soundproof drop ceiling tiles

Searching for drop ceiling tiles that block sound is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The reason is that most of these drop ceiling tiles are made of polystyrene.

Drop ceiling uses a frame that creates a false ceiling. They are suspended about one foot from the actual ceiling. The frames used are lightweight and hence cannot bear much weight, and for this reason, polystyrene tiles are used.

But the fact is that the polystyrene doesn’t soundproof against sound at all.

If you are looking for a way to soundproof the ceiling, your best bet would be to look for something that does block and absorb sound for the best acoustic improvement.

You can pair the existing polystyrene tiles with noise blocking ceiling pads. The pads will help to block sound. You can also replace the existing ceiling tiles with acoustic tiles.

Acoustic ceiling tiles are however heavier than the normal polystyrene. But this shouldn’t worry you because most of the drop ceilings can handle the weights of acoustic tiles. If you’re worried, it’s important to consult a professional for detailed advice.

Pairing the tiles with insulated ceiling cavity

Soundproof ceiling tiles have proven to be more effective when they are paired with other soundproofing techniques. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of sound that travels through the ceiling is by sound insulating the ceiling cavity.

To achieve this, you will need the following

  • Rockwool
  • A step ladder
  • Insulation saw
  • Measuring tape

While it is possible to install a cavity insulation material without taking the ceiling frame down, this process can be troublesome.

However, if you have a large ceiling, you need to be insulated, its recommended to take the drop ceiling down to make the work easier.

One of the best soundproofing products is Rockwool. It is dense and full of air pockets that do an excellent job in trapping sound making way through the ceiling.

This product is also fire resistant. It won’t burn down unless temperatures exceed 1100°C making it safe to install it in the ceiling even where the electrical setups may heat up.

  1. The first step, measure the spaces between the ceilings joists using a tape measure.
  2. Cut the Rockwool materials such that it’s 10cm larger than the ceiling joists.
  3. Fix the Rockwool into the joists; you don’t need any nails or gluing because the extra 10cm will allow it to stay fit.

The reason why I recommended Rockwool is because it’s easy to cut into shape and to bend for electrical elements in the ceiling. When installing, make sure you leave about 2cm of space between the Rockwool and the boards above to create an air pocket that traps sound.

Pairing the Rockwool with soundproof ceiling tiles will surely make a huge difference and will dramatically reduce the sound traveling through the ceiling.

soundproof ceiling tiles with rockwool insulation

What kind of noise do soundproof ceiling tiles deal with?

Soundproofing a ceiling helps you deal with two types of noises. First, it’ll help you deal with impact noise which comes about from people footfalls from the room above you. Footfalls or furniture movement in the room above you send vibrations in the floor. These vibrations are then transmitted to the room below.

Airborne noise comes as a result of people talking, loud stereos, or TV from the room above.

These two types of noise coming through the ceiling through the part of the room that joins the upstairs room with the downstairs room. However, noises also travel through ceiling beams and joists.

What are the benefits of soundproofing using ceiling tiles?

Ceiling tiles can be cleaned using soap and water without affecting their efficiency and durability. So you won’t have to worry putting volatile kids, their snacks and toys in a room remodeled with acoustic tiling.

Bathrooms can are the most noise polluted parts of our homes with people blow drying, slamming toilet bowls, taking long showers, and slamming doors.  If your bathroom is soundproofed, the people below and above you won’t have to complain as much when the toilet seat bowl drops.

Basement ceilings are a host of an unsightly mess of wires, pipes and other ugly stuff hoarded in the basement. Fortunately, if you’ve soundproofed the ceiling, the tiles can hide the unsightly scene of those pipes and wires. These acoustic tiles also make it easier for you to make repairs or remodel when things at your basement party get out of hand.

Soundproofing a room with suspended ceiling

Most homeowners have the notion that a suspended ceiling can’t be soundproofed. But the truth is that they can.  It’s more than easy to sound isolate your house from noises above you when you have suspended ceilings.

Materials needed:

To sound insulate your room, in this case, you will need the following materials.

  • Soundproofing materials- in this case, heavy vinyl barrier or mineral wool
  • Measuring tape
  • Flexible sealant
  • Heavy scissors
  • Hanging wires- if the room has lighting fixtures
  • Power drill
  • Needle nose pliers

Measuring

The first thing you’ll need to do is to measure the exact size of the supporting beams. This is an important step you shouldn’t skip because it can be the thin line between material saving and wastage.  When you have the appropriate measurements, then you will know how to cut the vinyl or the mineral wool. To measure this, you can use the tiles. When inserting the mineral wool into the ceiling gap, ensure that it’s at least 5mm from the ceiling for better sound absorption.

The fixtures

If any fixtures exist on the ceiling, it’s recommended you disconnect them from the power source and remove them before applying the soundproofing material.

Installation

If possible, purchase some vinyl barriers with adhesive tape. This way, you will just have to apply them to the tiles. If you have the normal vinyl barriers or other soundproofing material, then you will need to have a sealant to secure the material to the tiles. To avoid any difficulties when fixing back the tiles, make sure that the soundproofing material doesn’t go over the edges.

Final thoughts on acoustical ceiling tiles

From the above write up, its evident that acoustic ceiling are different than traditional tiles. Its this uniqueness that make them perfect for soundproofing drop ceiling. Combining heavy acoustic tiles with other soundproofing methods will effectively block the amount of noise that travels through the ceiling. You can read this article to learn more about quiet metal and wooden bed frames .

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