Indoor noise pollution deprives our home of the comfort and peace that we need to unwind and relax. Staircases allow sound to travel throughout the house, alongside generating an awful sound themselves. Most staircases are noisy and creaky because of their construction, which transmits sounds from one floor to the other.
Soundproofing the stairs is not an easy task. In fact, it is the most challenging soundproofing initiative that requires a lot of elbow grease and research. The right soundproofing solution depends entirely on the location and construction of the staircase. Luckily, various methods are effective at reducing noise if not soundproofing your staircase entirely.
Soundproofing a Staircase: Why is it Challenging?
Why is a staircase so difficult to soundproof? This challenge stems from the construction of the staircase and the framing that is firmly joined with the overhead joists. This construction creates a tunnel-like structure that allows sound to travel through the framing without encountering any barriers.
Have you ever tried knocking on the staircase to communicate with your family from the basement? It’s a very effective method because knocking on the staircase will cause vibration throughout the house. Staircases are distinctively conductive because of the intimate connections in the framing—most people construction heavy doors on top of their staircases to reduce noise pollution.
As logical as this strategy is, it doesn’t work. You see, the saturated vibration and sounds in the framing structure are carried upstairs and throughout the house. Keep reading to learn more about my staircase soundproofing strategy.
Step by Step: How to Soundproof a Staircase
I will walk you through a step by step method to soundproof your staircase effectively. However, before you begin, be sure to carefully examine each stair for potential damages. It is important to address all creaking and squeaking before beginning with the soundproofing method.
I recommend nailing the stairs to eliminate the creaky sounds. If there are any gaps, I recommend using acoustic caulk to fill them up. You can begin with the technique once all the stairs are in pristine condition.
These steps will walk you through a practical and cost-effective method to soundproof a staircase. I strongly recommend covering all the steps mentioned below for effective results. However, it is vital to begin after understanding the intensity and source of the noise problem.
Homeowners focus too much on the stairs and neglect the spaces around the staircase. It is vital to focus on both the staircase and nearby spaces to find an effective solution to reduce sound transmission.
Step 1: Dampen the Staircase
The first and most integral step is to dampen the staircase. This will help reduce the intensity of the impact noise. You must be wondering, what is impact noise? It is a common issue with concrete, stone, or even hardwood stairs. I believe the easiest way to fix or at least reduce this issue is by installing dampening materials.
In my opinion, a thick and dense carpet is the best material to dampen the staircase without overspending. It will also create a cushiony surface and elevate the overall aesthetic charm of the staircase. However, it is vital to choose a springy and dense material to place underneath the carpet for additional dampening.
I advise the use of cork tiles or acoustic underlay; both are equally effective and easily available. However, those who are looking for a sturdier and high-end dampening solution will find deadening mats a great pick. Vehicle sound deadening mats are self-adhesive and the ultimate sound-busters to ensure effective soundproofing.
Many homeowners complain of creaky and noisy staircases despite fitted carpeting on their stairs. In such a case, I recommend adding an extra dampening layer or fitting deadening mats underneath. Adding another layer of carpet or a rug on the existing carpet will also do the trick splendidly.
Step 2: Insulation
The next step involves insulating the stairs, and this will help gain access to the structure underneath the staircase. Installing insulation on the underside can work wonders at reducing sound transmission and noise pollution. I recommend mimicking the methods of insulating and wall decoupling but on the underside of the staircase.
It’s hard to conduct insulation without experience or relevant skills as it requires more than elbow grease. I recommend calling a professional if you’ve never done this before. However, if you’re confident about the DIY route, you’ll need the following materials:
- Acoustic caulk
- Mineral wool insulation
- Mass-loaded vinyl
- Wall studs
- Start by attaching a layer of MDF straight to the underside. Don’t worry about aesthetics. Just make sure it’s fully secured.
- Attach a neatly-cut layer of vinyl atop the MDF layer.
- Now, attach several studs to the MDF piece, and use acoustic caulk to seal away all gaps.
- Use the mineral wool insulation to fill up the cavity. Then, use acoustic caulk to firmly glue it in place.
Attach a layer of vinyl to a sturdy layer of MDF, and screw it on to seal all gaps and creaks. This will serve the purpose of adding additional mass to the structure. This will make the framing structure
heaver and reduce its ability to vibrate and transmit sound. A thick layer of mineral wool insulation is instrumental in boosting sound absorption and ensure sound waves don’t pass through the structure. The vinyl, MDF, and mineral wool insulation offer a solid density to thicken the structure.
I strongly advise repeating the same process on the staircase landings if they’re not properly insulated. Adding hat channels and resilient chips to the outer layer of the MDF is another great strategy. It will help make the structure much more flexible and improve its ability to absorb sound waves.
Step 3: Soundproofing
It is important to note that the walls in the staircase reflect sounds and vibrations. As I explained above, they also transmit sound waves across the house and rooms near the staircase. Soundproofing a wall is very simple and straightforward because large and flat surface areas don’t pose many challenges.
The goal is to add density and mass to the walls to reduce the transmission of sound. You can achieve this through various techniques, including:
- Add sound deadening mats
- Add additional drywall
- Add mass-loaded vinyl
I strongly recommend working with the drywall as it is incredibly easy and simple. It is also very accessible. However, it doesn’t carry sufficient mass when used as a standalone product. You can combine it with sound deadening mats or mass-loaded vinyl for effective soundproofing results.
What’s the easiest way to do this? Simply attach a thick, high-density material to the rear of the drywall before the installation process. This simple technique offers many benefits. It will not only ensure effective soundproofing, but more amazingly, it will create an aesthetically-pleasing surface. This technique also makes it easier to decorate the surface.
Hat channels and resilient clips are an easy way to hang the newly installed drywall lear. However, it is pertinent to mention here that this strategy is only effective if there’s insulation behind the drywall. Naturally, this will take up an enormous amount of space in any staircase design.
First, you must examine how much space you have and plan how you can work with it before reaching this stage. This step requires meticulous planning and thorough examination. Each staircase design and construction are unique, and there are no one-fits-all solutions.
Step 4: Reducing Reverberation
In this strategy, I have focused on installing sufficient mass to thicken the structure and reduce reverberation effectively. Each step has focused on adding more mass to the structure to reduce its sound transmission abilities. However, reverberation will continue to remain an issue until there are untreated areas in the structure.
Fortunately, reverberation has an easy fix. I recommend the use of acoustic management products as opposed to soundproofing tools and materials. You see, most people focus too much on blocking sound. But what about sound’s ability to reflect off flat and hard surfaces? That’s the aspect that will help reduce sound transmission and ensure effective soundproofing.
Acoustic foam and bass traps are great products to work with for this purpose. Their open-celled structure encourages the sound waves to enter, but it makes escape impossible. The sound waves then utilize their energy to travel through the fiber of the material. These sound waves are then converted into heat energy.
Isn’t that incredible? Acoustic foam and bass traps are highly effective at absorbing sound waves and eliminating noise.
I strongly recommend identifying the early reflection points of the staircase to ensure an effective reverberation fix. Attaching sound-absorbing acoustic foam to the reflection points will eliminate reverberation entirely. If you’re having trouble, consider watching a video on finding the early reflection points. It’s not that difficult.
If acoustic foam is not an option, I recommend adding heavy drapes or curtains. You can also work with heavy furniture on the landings. However, these strategies will not prove as remarkable as acoustic foam. Trust me, this is an investment worth making if you want a noise-free and peaceful bode.