I am pretty sure the noise is driving your family crazy. Probably keeping you up-all-night. Don’t sweat, this is a common Issue. This post is for you. You will learn to soundproof basement ceiling. Not just that, you will also learn some basics on sound, how it travels, materials to use, tips, and techniques that will come in handy.
I don’t know your situation, but I can tell you one thing. It irritates the hell out of you when someone walks upstairs. Or when the toddler makes noise while playing. Right?
You probably have a home office and can’t concentrate on work. Or have a library and can’t focus on reading.
Or you want to do your yoga routine and do some meditation and that’s when the noise bothers you so much.
I know exactly what you mean. Been there.
Don’t over think it. You need to soundproof your basement ceiling to cut the noise.
I am going to tell this too. This is one of those projects in the house that has very little RoI if anything.
You see, if you upgrade your bathroom or kitchen, or even put a new deck it has a return on investment.
For that matter, even just painting the damn wall will get a better price when selling. At least it moves the property rather quickly.
But, soundproofing is a project where you don’t see a return.
Actually, no one appreciates the presence of soundproofing. But surely everyone will get irritated when none exist.
Sound and Noise Basics
This is no science class. And if you hate physics, I promise this is going to super light.
Feel free to skip, but this is all going to be in plain English.
What is Sound?
The sound wave needs a medium to travel. Air is the medium here.
There are several different attributes of the wave such as the Wavelength, Amplitude, Pitch etc.
We don’t need to know most of it, except one – which is the Intensity or the Amplitude.
It’s measured in decibels or dB for short.
I am talking sound from only a soundproofing perspective.
So, I wanted you to focus on the few attributes or qualities, so that will help you in assessing the proofing method or material.
- Sound needs a medium – So you are not going to give the medium or find a medium that makes it harder for soundwaves to move.
- The sound is in energy form – you probably know that energy can be converted to a different form. Like sound to heat or electricity etc.
There is one more you need to know.
Sound frequencies – Bass, mid-range, and treble.
Now, why is that important?
Because each material absorbs or reflects different sound frequencies.
For instance, the bass is harder to reflect or absorb. While softer materials will easily absorb treble and most mid-range frequencies.
That’s it. No more science.
How Soundproofing Works?
There are just a couple of simple ideas that are going to be applied.
Reflect: You can reflect the sound, so it doesn’t travel in the direction where we don’t want the noise.
Dampen: You can use a medium which absorbs the sound energy. Essentially, the sound energy will be converted to heat.
There is a misconception when talking about sound dampening and absorption. They are two different concepts but mistakenly used interchangeably.
Both of these are techniques can be used to reduce the noise travel.
- Sound gets reflected by hard surfaces
- Sound gets absorbed by soft surfaces
Let me give you an example so you easily understand this concept.
Hardwood floors (hard surface) so you get a bounce-back of the sound when you knock right?
Now think of a padded carpet (Soft surface), when you knock on them, they just absorb the sound.
You should be used the following techniques or a combination of the below to achieve your desired level of noise reduction.
These techniques are common to any soundproofing project, I thought it’s a good idea to lay it down here. So, every time you use a technique or a product you know what’s working for you.
In a sound studio, they achieve a very quiet room. You want to know how they accomplish that.
Here is how:
- Multiple layers for sound dampening and absorbing
- With several different density materials to dampen or absorb different frequencies of sound waves
But that costs a lot – like in the $300+ per sqft. Range. Who wants to spend that kind of money. Let’s find something that’s cheap and good enough for your basement.
1. Adding Mass
Adding mass is the easiest. Knock on a quarter inch wood and then knock on a 2” wood. You will see that the sound produced by the 2” is much less.
Why? Because of the mass. Mass doesn’t vibrate easily and it conducts less sound.
2. Decoupling or Mechanical Isolation
Decoupling or isolating two objects is also a wonderful idea. TThis just means you are introducing air in between the two objects so sound transfer gets reduced.
Remember this when you are advised on using sound clips, staggered studs, resilient channels, and double studded walls.
Where you have cavities, you want to use some soft material that can absorb sound. When it does, it is usually going to convert that into heat.
Ideally, you want to cancel, eliminate, destroy or remove the sound altogether. However, this can’t be done for 100% of the sound. Because sound will always find a conductive medium and a few dB of sound will get transferred.
There is going to be resonance in the chambers between two objects. Having a filler material (like fiberglass insulation) is going to cut resonance too.
When you can’t get away with the sound traveling, you can put something on the traveling path that will dampen the sound.
Basically, dampening is nothing but changing and reducing the frequency to control the sound.
Here’s a good example (if it’s hard to wrap your head around this concept)
When a drummer beats the cymbal it produces a sound, but if he doesn’t want the sound after a few moments, he grabs on to the cymbal.
What the drummer is trying to accomplish is stopping the vibration, which reduces the sound.
Here is another example:
If you have a stainless steel sink in the kitchen, look under the cabinet. It will be coated with a rubberish material.
Without that rubber coating, you will heat too much noise when the faucet is turned on. Rubber attached to the underside of the stainless steel sink dampens the sound.
That’s dampening. There are products that will reduce the vibration of sound waves, thereby reducing the sound traveled.
What Noise are You Soundproofing?
There are two basic kinds of sounds that you should be aware of.
- Airborne Noise – You hear the chatter from the room above
- Impact Noise – Footstep noise from the floor above
Check which is bothering you the most and so you can work toward finding the right material.
Understanding this will help you strategize how you tackle the issue effectively.
Soundproof Basement Ceiling Without Drywall (i.e. Open Basement Ceiling)
A lot of houses have an unfinished basement. However, space is fully utilized for several activities.
Now, if you have a useful, spacious but unfinished basement, you are sure to hear a lot of noise.
Because you have just two layers above your head. An OSB subfloor and a finished flooring material.
You can soundproof without finishing the basement.
Here is how:
Step 1: Fill All the Holes.
So, the sound doesn’t travel directly through those holes.
Use an acoustic sealant to fill any holes or cracks. And you are done.
Benefits: Reduction in direct sound and airborne sound.
Step 2: Adding Acoustic Insulation Between Joist Cavities
Adding a soft but porous material is good. It has a lot of air pockets and it is going to dampen the sound.
“Believe it or not – Air is not a great medium to conduct sound”
Adding a fiberglass insulation itself is going to have some noticeable reduction in the noise level.
However, using an acoustic insulation pad is going to give you a better protection. It’s an easy installation. Just a compression fit is enough and nothing more.
Benefits: Reduction in airborne sound from the floor above.
Step 3: Adding Soft Flooring Layers
Since you’re talking about basement ceiling without drywall, this step assumes you are not going to finish the ceiling with a drywall.
So, you got a few ideas in the previous steps to control the airborne noise.
But you still have to work on impact noise – that is sound from footsteps.
If you’re in an apartment, you are out of luck. Unless your neighbor living upstairs is cooperative.
Assuming you own the floor above, then just put in a soft flooring layer.
Step 4: Multiple Layers of Soundproofing Drywall (with Resilient Channels)
Installing resilient clips and several layers of drywall is a wise option.
This will cut down on the impact noise.
Now if you don’t want to finish the basement ceiling, that’s a different thing.
When you do install drywall, you don’t want the drywall to be screwed into the joists. That will not help in cutting down the impact noise.
When you install the resilient channels or clips, what you are essentially doing is this.
Separating or Isolating the lumber and drywall.
There is a special type of adhesive that goes in between the drywall layers. The adhesive is specially designed to take some sound and absorb it.
The sound basically converts to heat- even though you wouldn’t feel it.
This setup is excellent. Let’s analyze why.
- Isolation – that is going to cut down on the impact sound travel.
- Mass – Multiple layers of drywall is going to provide Mass. Thicker the layer harder for sound to penetrate.
- Absorption – The adhesive between the drywall layers will absorb some sound.
Additional Ideas -Using Soundproofing Mats
These are high-density mats that usually has a special closed cell foaming layer or some form of a high-density layer.
It has some sound dampening and blocking abilities. But I have heard many say these mats are useless.
Soundproofing Existing Ceiling Without Removing Drywall
This is a tricky exercise. It’s not hard or expensive but you are limited in what you can do.
Hence, your output effect may not be the best you can achieve otherwise.
Here is what you do:
Step 1: Put holes in Ceiling
If you don’t have a layer of insulation between the floor joist you should do this.
Put holes at several places on your ceiling. Ideally, that will help you access all cavities between the joists
Step 2: Blow cellulose insulation
Then come back with blow insulation to blow through those holes.
Your idea here is to fill the cavity between the joists in the ceiling area.
Definitely, use a product that has a better soundproof rating. However, any insulation is going to provide some reduction in the airborne sound.
Step 3: Fill the holes in the ceiling
Fill all the drywall holes originally put blow the insulation.
Try to use a California patch in the drywall. You don’t need a backing wood piece.
Step 3: Add another layer of drywall (with sound dampening glue)
Follow the same procedure provided earlier.
Get another layer of drywall. Apply sound dampening or absorbing glue and fasten the drywall to the existing ceiling.
Step 4: Seal the perimeter with Acoustic Sealant.
Now fill in any void or gaps between the ceiling and wall drywall.
Do fill with an acoustic sealant.
Cheapest Way to Soundproof a Basement Ceiling
If you are thinking of “how to soundproof a ceiling on the cheap”, just wait. I am going to give you all the options (not just one method) which also includes a lot of cheap ones.
Some are going to repeat from the steps provided above.
1. Reconfigure Your House for Optimal Activity
It’s easy to not have a music room above a bedroom right.
If possible, optimize the rooms to have quitter rooms over quitter rooms.
Like a bedroom over Closet and Noisy room over a laundry space etc.
2. Fill and Seal all the Gaps
Even a small opening, hole or gap is going to make the airborne noise travel easier.
Fill all the holes and gaps with an acoustic sealant for maximum sound protection
3. Use a Softer Floor Material (on the floor above)
Find rugs and use them on a heavily trafficked area.
If you put a thick underlayment and plush carpet over it, in bedrooms that’s even better.
Even people walking over it is going to feel it comfortable.
Carpet for one is not going to create noise. At the same time, it is going to absorb some of the sounds in the room.
4. Add Objects and Rearrange Furniture
Echo and reverberation in a room are going to amplify the sound and make it odd.
Now that sound will travel to other rooms and the rooms below it.
Rearranging the furniture will block, and some of the upholstery fabric will absorb the sound.
Test by moving heavy furniture to a few different spots to see which one has the maximum noise cancellation effect.
Now if you have a finished basement ceiling this will be helpful. If the sound is traveling through an opening and you’re not sure where it is, then this will help.
Because you will keep your furniture over it and provide a layer over the floor opening.
5. Use Soundproof Acoustic Insulation
Insulation itself has some good sound dampening qualities.
Using an acoustic insulation is going to make a big improvement in the reduction of noise.
6. Use Soundproofing Mats
These mats have a couple of layers. One layer blocks the sound and the other dampens.
One product in the market uses vinyl and a high-density layer attached to it.
This makes the product very flexible and applicable to multiple situations.
Don’t quote me on this. I am not a fan of this product. Some say it works and some say it’s just a waste of effort.
7. Add Mass to Ceiling with Multiple Drywall Layers
This and the next two items are covered in detail earlier.
Adding mass is going to make it tough for waves to vibrate. Denser the object less it vibrates.
Adding another layer or two of drywall will surely give you great results.
8. Use Resilient Channels and Clips for Isolation
Isolation is a sure technic that everyone should try to use.
If you isolate two mediums (wood and drywall) you are making it hard for waves to travel.
They have to transform that impact sound from the wood into the air. Then the vibration from the air is then transformed back to drywall.
To provide isolation between drywall and wood, use resilient channels and clips.
9. Use Soundproofing Adhesive
When you have multiple layers of drywall, you are providing mass in the first place.
Second, there is a thin layer of air in between, so ideally the two drywall layers are isolated.
Third, if you add in a soundproofing adhesive between the two layers, you are going to maximize the effort.
The glue, once it cures, will absorb and dampen the sound the passes through them, making it even harder for sound to travel.
10. Drop Ceiling and Acoustical Tiles
Drop ceiling in certain part of the country is also called suspended ceiling.
I don’t prefer this method for a couple of reasons.
One this drop ceiling will give you more of a commercial look and not very aesthetically pleasing.
Second is this. Most basements have an 8-foot ceiling and if that is the case, dropping it further will eat into the vertical space and wouldn’t look good.
But in any case, if do use it.
You will have to fill the cavities and use a special tile for the ceiling.
These acoustical tiles are made of porous material that traps sound in the voids and dampens to some extent.
While the Acoustic tiles are good to some extent, the sound can get past that and go around to the neighboring rooms.
Because of the gaps in the light fixtures, vent fans and such.
Especially, if you are in an office setup, you know what I am talking about.
In that case, you should use a ceiling tile barrier on top of the drop ceiling. That is one on each tile.
It has a mass loaded vinyl barrier coupled with a fiberglass backing. Then you use the same mass loaded vinyl barrier to wrap around vents and other objects in the space above the drop ceiling.
And finally, caulk the edges of the wall where It has gaps.
Soundproofing a ceiling is not that difficult.
It’s time-consuming if you are going to do the whole nine yards.
Here is what you need to think about.
How to block the sound, then how to absorb the sound and how to dampen any remaining sound.
Once you can figure the sound that is bothering you – that is airborne noise or impact noise – then you can use the right method and material to reduce it.