SOUNDPROOFING A BASEMENT FOR FUN AND PROFIT!
Basements have been found to be havens and useful spaces for added living. Here we’ll explore the issues in converting this relatively useless space to important use. This is not only about soundproofing, which is important for reducing fun annoyance, (rec room, home theater) in adjacent areas, but for privacy, above and below, especially if the space is to be used for everyday living by family or rented out. We don’t get into the details of sound proofing these specific items. There are other pages here giving full detailed noise control info. Just click on the links.
Scope of soundproofing work.
- Essential areas at issue:
- Heating- Air conditioning
Aircon (Heat pump)
- Electrical – Plumbing
Floor: Little needs to be done to the floor if a standard concrete slab is involved, except consideration given to the cold and damp that may come from it.
Ceiling: Usually the ceiling in a basement is bare rafters and if left that way, substantial sound will transmit through it in both ways, up and down. A ceiling must be in place to have any kind of soundproofing. Not a drop ceiling, with is virtually worthless for sound control. What kind of ceiling depends on the noise transfer that is anticipated. If it’s just airborne sounds like people talking, above and below, a simple soundproof ceiling made of of 5/8” “Fire code” Drywall may suffice, with sound isolation tape on the bottom of the joists, depending on what the floor topping is above.
If its carpet and pad, it’s far better than tile/ wood or laminate flooring, as these hard surfaces make the floor above almost invisible to sound waves. Even so, a layer of sound barrier material called MLV (Mass Loaded Vinyl) is recommended in case your floor ceiling doesn’t have much sound blocking capability.
In the event it’s people walking, sound transmitted is down below, (Impact sounds), the vibrational sound, much like electricity, must have its path blocked. This can be done with “Sound Clips” a rubber grommet device
that attaches to the bottom of floor joists and mounts metal rails for the new drywall ceiling. Resilient channel, a 1970’s system, it not used anymore except by unknowledgeable contractors. But if you must use it, it’s here.
Walls: The walls will not be much of a soundproofing problem if the basement is deep enough where the walls are buried outside. Finish of the walls can be easily done by imitation wood paneling, etc.
If, like many basements, the outside ground level does not completely cover the wall, leaving space for basement windows, the soundproofing issue will be the sound coming in or going out the windows and perhaps the wall now left, which may not have much sound blocking ability. In that case a double layer of drywall and a layer of MLV should suffice unless there is a loud source of sound nearby. If so, add a layer of “Green Glue” to the sound proofing equation.
Windows: Unless light is needed, it’s may be simpler to wall them off to prevent sound in or out. If light is needed a secondary window can be simply added over the window opening as shown here.
Doors: Many basements have at least one doorway, maybe more for ingress/egress. It’s best to put in doors, not only for sound control but for privacy. Use the thickest MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) doors for this as MDF has superior sound blocking and are cheaper than wood or steel faced doors anyway. For what we know about soundproofing doors, go here: Details.
Heating- Air conditioning: Usually there’s this appliance in the basement feeding heat and/or cool air throughout the house with ducting. This unit must be walled off into it’s own room with a door to keep it quiet enough to live with and the ducting feeding to the rooms above in the spaces in the ceiling must be walled off. If they are square metal or round flex plastic ducts, use foam mat first then box them in with drywall. This is to prevent sounds from the rest of the house from coming in (down) and sounds from the basement from going up to the upstairs room vents.
If you are planning to use a window or through the wall aircon, be aware they are internally open to the outside and will pass sound easily. If you must use one, consider placing it where a noise source is not nearby.
Electrical – Plumbing: Some want to make accessibility panels in their ceiling to have “access in case of an emergency”. Best advice is to avoid this idea as it will not be needed in an emergency. The leak, etc will be quickly evident and you’ll be accessing it through the damaged ceiling. Just make sure the wiring and plumbing is in good condition before closing up the ceiling.
A provision for lighting must be made and the rule is to not cut holes in your noise control ceiling to accommodate it. “Can” lights are out as well as recessed fluorescents. A better choice is indirect lighting or low profile tube fluorescents. If you must use Can lights, etc, forget about the soundproofing as there won’t be any.
You can use ceiling fans as long as they are mounted to the bottom of the joists and not the ceiling. Caulk the through the ceiling holes for them with acoustical caulk.
If there are any noise control issues with the plumbing, (water gurgling, toilet flushing), now would be time to cover the offending piping with pipe insulation to quiet them down. If you do your laundry here, put a protective drain pan under the washer to prevent major damage to your living space if it overflows (Same with the water heater). If possible drain the pan to a floor drain.
How to do it all? Best way is to be your own contractor, as most contractors don’t know much about it anyway. We have a list of some who do, inquire. You can hire “Can do” kind of guys or handymen or you and your friends can do it. The key is to not make the mistakes of the unknowledgeable. That’s where we come in, to answer your questions and advise. See also: (How to select).
If you are planning use this space for music practice see here for additional soundproofing info.
Questions? Use the box below for a rapid reply! Talk to us about your project.