Soundproofing Secrets: Enhancing Peace and Quiet with a Drop Ceiling

Drop ceilings are an incredibly popular design style worldwide. We see them in schools, offices, and even homes. There are a number of reasons we utilize drop ceilings. From the fact that we can set our ceiling heights at any level we like to the easy access they provide when tackling maintenance or repair projects, there’s a lot to love. If you choose the right materials, you can even add soundproofing to that list.

Many people assume drop ceiling soundproofing is impossible due to the inherently low levels of mass and volume associated with their simple construction. While complete soundproofing may be tough to achieve, there are some things we can do to significantly improve their performance when it comes to stopping sound passage.

What is a dropped ceiling?

You’ve undoubtedly seen this type of ceiling before. You may have heard them referred to as false ceilings, drop ceilings, or suspended ceilings, but if you’re comparing a drop ceiling vs suspended ceiling, rest assured, there is no difference.

The most common type of drop ceilings consist of a t-grid system that’s suspended from the true ceiling and fitted with panels. This simple, modular construction hides overhead structures and allows for endless customization potential. 

All this leads to a ceiling that can be built to suit our needs, yet is easy enough to install without professional help. You don’t need any special drop ceiling tools or experience. You simply need to understand the basics of soundproofing and to utilize the right materials.

Drop ceiling soundproofing

Drop ceiling soundproofing is usually attained through a combination of simple steps and material swaps. The more you know about the factors you are fighting, the more effective your measures will be. For that reason, we’ll begin with some of the common noise issues that drop ceilings encounter. 

Impact noise

One major source of noise that leads to drop ceiling soundproofing projects is impact noise. There are a couple of main sources of impact noise that must be dealt with.

Upstairs neighbors

If you’ve got upstairs neighbors, you’ve likely experienced some noise resulting from overheard activities. The most common sources of these sounds are impact noise caused by people moving about the space. 

Since the noises we experience below are caused by vibrations passing through the overhead structure, stopping those vibrations will be key to keeping them out of the room being treated. 

People moving about in the space being treated

Upstairs neighbors aside, the people in the space being treated will generate a fair amount of noise through everyday movements. Footfalls, sliding furnishings, and the clickety clack of people typing on keyboards are all examples. We can reduce their impact with the right panels.

Since ceilings can be one of the largest reflective surfaces in any room, they perform better if they absorb some of the sound waves instead of reflecting them. Choosing absorptive panels will help reduce echo and reverberation, and generally contribute to a more peaceful, quiet space.

Airborne Noise

The second major type of noise we encounter is airborne noise. This type of vibrational energy passes through the air to reach our ears. The best way to tackle airborne noise is through sound absorption. This may be caused by people speaking or music playing, but there are some other common sources.

MEP systems

Another type of noise that originates from overhead is caused by our mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems. They aren’t usually super loud, but they produce just enough noise to raise the overall ambient room volume and create difficulties in communication. Luckily, this type of sound is easily canceled with drop ceilings. 

Using acoustical panels in the t-grid system allows the panels to absorb much of the sound created by your MEP systems before they ever reach your ears. Utilizing acoustic panels is one of the most effective solutions in any drop ceiling soundproofing plan.

Plenum resonance

This overhead noise source is one of the main ceiling details that catches a lot of people off guard. That’s because it’s caused by our next door neighbors. Not sure how that adds up? There’s a very simple explanation. 

Many commercial buildings are constructed with dividing walls that don’t go all the way up to the true ceiling. Leaving a gap there allows for increased energy efficiency for every tenant in the building, but can lead to overhead noise affecting our neighbors. 

When noise reaches the plenum, or the space between the drop ceilings and the true ceiling, it bounces around and increases in volume. If there’s nothing up there to absorb those waves, they’ll eventually make their way into neighboring units.

An effective treatment for this type of noise is acoustical insulation placed directly into the plenum. This allows vibrational sound waves to be converted into heat energy before they cause issues on the other side of the wall.

How to soundproof a drop ceiling

Now that we’ve looked at some of the causes of unwanted noise, it’s time to translate the problems into strategies for solving them. Since we’re after increased mass and density when soundproofing any space, the type of tiles or panels we choose will be the first step.

Soundproof panels for dropped ceilings

The mass and density associated with each specific tile will come down to the material it’s made of. There are a number of popular material choices that deliver solid drop ceiling soundproofing properties. The best soundproof panels for ceilings will depend on your specific use case. What are drop ceiling tiles made of? You’ve got some options.

  • Mineral fiber
  • Acoustical foam
  • Styrene
  • Styrofoam
  • Cork

Each type of panel offers different pros and cons, so the type you choose will have a specific impact on the aesthetics and acoustics in the space. You can even swap them out yourself. Simply familiarize yourself with how to remove a dropped ceiling panel, how to install a new one, and the rest will be fairly self explanatory.

If you’d like to learn more, reach out for a consultation. We can help point you in the right direction, no matter your ultimate destination.

Acoustical backers and microperforated panels

If you want to stick with your current panels, you can retrofit them to better handle sound reduction duties. The addition of acoustical backers on top of the tiles allows panels that don’t perform well acoustically to absorb a decent amount of your unwanted noise. 

When paired with microperforated panels, acoustical backers can take both your sound control and interior design to the next level. Microperforated panels are typically made of metal or wood veneers that are pierced with thousands of tiny holes. The holes are small enough that most people won’t see them unless very close, but large enough to allow a decent percentage of sound waves to pass through. 

Microperforated panels on their own will help reduce some echo and reverb by keeping the waves that pass through on top, but that can still leave open the opportunity for plenum resonance. The optional acoustical backer ensures that those waves and others above the drop ceiling are absorbed and don’t cause noise problems for those below.

Microperforated panels are also resistant to a variety of common types of ceiling damage like water, mildew, and fire. They’re a great choice for improving acoustics as well as personal safety.

Decoupling clips

To prevent vibrations from traveling from the true ceiling to the drop ceiling, installing decoupling clips is a big help. These decoupling and damping clips provide separation between structural elements and absorb sound waves, converting them into heat energy before they make their way down the suspension wires and into the overall structure. 

Acoustical insulation

When sound waves do make it into the plenum, you’ll want insulation capable of damping them. Standard fiberglass insulation is great for thermal purposes, but won’t do much to eliminate sound. For that, you’ll want acoustical insulation.

Acoustical or soundproof insulation works as a damping material, meaning it converts vibrational energy into heat energy. They don’t produce enough heat to cause any issues, but the noise reduction improvements are substantial. 

Reducing MEP system noise

The easiest way to control noise is to ensure it doesn’t make it into the space in the first place. A great way to accomplish this with your MEP systems is to use sound damping paint, coatings, or wrap. By applying these products directly to your ductwork and pipes will prevent the vibrations that cause noise, and reduce the workload placed on your panels. Reinforcing these materials with acoustical panels in the ceiling will pretty much eliminate any sound they produce.

Benefits of drop ceiling soundproofing

If you’re on the fence about drop ceiling soundproofing, there are some great reasons to take this project on. Excessive noise can affect our health, productivity, and even our relationships. Here’s how you’ll benefit from reducing the amount of unwanted noise in your spaces.


Miscommunications can cause a lot of issues in our interpersonal relationships. They’re worth avoiding. When we can’t communicate effectively, it can lead to misunderstandings. That’s an unfortunate side effect of living and working in loud environments.

As echo and reverb build in indoor spaces, communication becomes more difficult. That’s both because we have to compete with the repeated sounds when we speak and because the increased overall volume causes us to speak louder to be heard. As we communicate through this catch 22 of increasing room volume, we open our conversations up to miscommunication and our bodies to possible health issues.


Chronic exposure to noise can have a number of adverse effects on our health. Some people think that only exposure to very loud noises is harmful. That’s not true. Chronic exposure to even lower level noises can lead to the same kinds of issues associated with very loud noises. It just takes longer.

With prolonged exposure to noise, the first thing that we may notice is irritability and increased stress. As the exposure continues, that added stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart issues, and a host of more serious conditions. 

Noise is also known to affect our hearing. Long-term exposure to noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and hearing loss. If left untreated, there is science to suggest that people with hearing loss experience an up to 22% increased chance of developing dementia.

All these health ramifications can be avoided by taking some steps to reduce the amount of noise we’re exposed to each day. If your health isn’t enough to justify drop ceiling soundproofing, a few things will be.


The workplace will experience a few additional issues that impact the way it operates. Chronic exposure to noise can negatively affect things like concentration and productivity. That’s bad news for the business’ bottom line and the health of the employees. 

If you’ve ever had someone continually click a pen or hold conversations nearby when you’re trying to concentrate, you already understand how disruptive noise can be. If your office experiences unwanted noise on a daily basis, employees are more prone to make mistakes and miss deadlines than they otherwise would. 

Introducing acoustic treatments to the workplace will positively impact the business and everyone who works there. 

Make sure it’s done right

If you don’t have a lot of experience with noise reduction, it’s helpful to reach out to professionals to make sure you’re using the right products in the right places. We know how to insulate a drop ceiling properly and have experience in all kinds of drop ceiling soundproofing projects. Tapping that knowledge will save you time and money by eliminating the guesswork that can lead to underwhelming results. Don’t leave the acoustical performance of your home or office ceilings to chance.


Can you soundproof a drop ceiling?

Yes. With the right combination of acoustical treatments, you can add significant soundproofing ability to your drop ceiling.

Is a drop ceiling more soundproof than drywall?

When treated with the right combination of products, a drop ceiling can meet or exceed the soundproofing performance you get with drywall.

Can you soundproof inside a drop ceiling?

There are multiple ways to add soundproofing products to your drop ceiling, including the use of acoustical insulation inside the cavity above a drop ceiling.

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