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How do you reduce the sound transmission through a floor? Using "green glue" between a couple layers of plywood subfloor seems to work well. Are there any other tricks or suggestions?

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Do you mean transmission through a floor to a part of the building below it, or carrying through a floor to another part of the building on the same level? –  tnorthcutt Aug 23 '10 at 3:29
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To the level below. –  jlpp Aug 23 '10 at 14:51
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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Recording studios have to solve this problem all the time. You may find good information by hunting under that aegis.

One thing to take note is that transmission of high frequency and low frequency have very different solutions. High frequency it's mostly a matter of stopping the air motion; since you're taking about floors, you want to damp out low freq:

  1. Large mass helps by converting vibrations to lower (subsonic, inaudible) frequencies. The extra layer of subfloor you added is extra mass. The canonical solution to blocking lowfreq is a big bookcase full of heavy books; think about that on its side.

  2. Physical isolation with a sound-dampening substance also helps--reducing the amplitude of the transmitted vibration. For example, rigid foam strapping over the joists before nailing the subfloor down might assist with the noise transmission through the wood. This sounds like your 'joist isolators'. Or a thick pad under a carpet (if there is a carpet).

    Ironically by tying your subfloor tightly to the joists, you have increased sound transmission.

  3. Spoiling the emittance of the listening side also helps. The ceiling of the floor below is acting as a big, taut speaker, magnifying sounds from above. This is what QuietRock does--it absorbs energy as it flexes, turning it to heat instead of sound. Putting irregular structure behind the wall might help alter its resonance, prevent booming noises from transmitting.

  4. Sound diffusers help break up the sound. Because the sound you are creating is things like footsteps, this is harder to do--but be aware that the upper level can be amplifying the sounds by aiming them at the floor (think of the extreme case of a dome, which will reflect noise straight back at the floor). Acoustic tile in the upstairs room might help with high freq reduction, or baffles in the corners--or just more bookcases and sofas upstairs.

    You can also add diffusers to the downstairs room, but you run the risk of making it sound 'dead' or making it quiet enough the muffled noise from upstairs becomes more annoying. ;)

Hope this works out!

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Insulate between the floor joists.

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This will reduce echos, but it does little to really reduce the sound transmission. –  Eric Petroelje Aug 23 '10 at 17:40
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Different types of insulation will be more effective than others. For example the "cellulose" insulation is very effective at reducing sound, though it does not usually come in easy to use battes. Also look for insulation products specifically designed for reducing sound. –  auujay Aug 23 '10 at 17:51
    
@Eric Petroelje Can you elaborate? I've never heard (no pun intended) that. –  aphoria Aug 23 '10 at 23:09
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I've heard that fiber glass can reduce airborne sound transmission to some degree, so could deaden peoples voices a bit, but has little to no effect on foot fall sound transmission through the floor to the joists to the ceiling below. So insulation seems to be one effective component but should be combined with others. –  jlpp Aug 24 '10 at 12:10
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@aphoria - The sound will still be transmitted through the floor joists to the ceiling below. The only way to really prevent that is by isolating the floor above from the ceiling below. Carpet padding will help, glue between subfloor layers, a drop ceiling, a floating ceiling with hat track & sound isolating clips are all things that will help with that. –  Eric Petroelje Aug 24 '10 at 14:09
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Carpet + underlay works well.

If you are laying laminate flooring then using a laminate underlay is a good idea too.

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Here's what we've done so far. I'm curious whether there may be better techniques...

  1. R-19 batts between joists to reduce noise transmission through air
  2. liquid nails on top of joists to reduce squeeking subfloor
  3. first layer of 1/2 inch plywood
  4. "green glue", a gummy substance to reduce foot fall noise transmission
  5. second layer of 1/2 inch plywood
  6. rosin paper
  7. hardwood planks

Actually we haven't installed the hardwood floor yet but we tried walking around on the subfloor and talking in fairly loud voices and neither could be heard in the floor below. Adding another layer of wood should only help.

One option that we skipped is to use joist isolators which are pads that go between the joists and the subfloor.

I've been told that there are three principles at play when trying to reduce sound transmission:

  1. the denser the floor the better (ie concrete is better than wood)
  2. the thicker the floor the better (ie 3 inches of wood is better than 1)
  3. the fewer (and softer?) the points of contact between floor and ceiling the better (eg green glue and joist isolators)

The first two are pretty clear. One example of the third is if the ceiling below is dropped and does not use the joists above for support. Instead the ceiling uses only the walls on either side, and ideally the wall studs aren't connected to the joists either.

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I see several specialized products to mitigate sound transmission mentioned on HGTV almost daily.

One of them is always used above basement apartments by the contractor on the show Income Property. It connects to the joists and isolates the drywall below so it's only connected to them through a few screws. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what it's called, but Kinetics IsoMax looks like it may be the product they use. If not, it's similar.

The other product I saw mentioned yesterday on an episode of Holmes on Homes is called QuietRock. It's drywall product that blocks sound transmission as much as 8 layers of standard drywall.

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I've edited my answer to add links to a couple of products. I'm not sure if I have the right sound isolation clips, but Holmes was definitely using QuietRock on the walls. –  nstenz Aug 26 '10 at 2:59
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I have seen sheetrock that is advertised as "sound-damping". Using this as the ceiling downstairs may help. Not sure how good the claim is - it was vendor advertising.

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