Basic info about the basement noise, three easiest and cheapest ways to soundproof a basement ceiling, plus six additional ideas for best results.
Are you an amateur musician? Maybe you can play like a pro, but you can’t afford to rent a proper studio. Or you don’t have the time to, or there just isn’t one anywhere near you.
Home studios aren’t as pricey as they sound. If you know where to look and you’re willing to bargain every now and again, you can build it fairly cheaply. And, assuming your basement isn’t crammed already, it’s a perfect place to set up shop.
However, noise is a major obstacle. Even if you’re out in the country, a mile away from your nearest neighbor, any roommates or family members that live with you probably won’t take too kindly to you rattling their eardrums every day. That’s why, before you can build the studio of your dreams, you have to soundproof the basement ceiling first.
With a Basement, the Focus Is on the Ceiling
It may come as a surprise, but soundproofing the basement tends to be a lot easier than soundproofing other parts of the house. With a basement, you only have one surface to worry about: the ceiling. A basement will usually have only one window – if it has a window at all. And, it can easily be covered, if it’s prone to leaking noise outwards or inwards.
Compare that with an average lounge room. With a lounge room, you have at least four or five surfaces to worry about. And, if it’s a bedroom or an empty guest room on the second floor, you have to worry about the floor too. That’s six surfaces you have to worry about if you want to soundproof a room on the second floor.
Soundproofing a basement ceiling won’t cost you a lot of money, and it isn’t as big of a hassle. So, to help you out, I’ll go over a few different ways you can soundproof a basement ceiling. I’ll go over the pros and cons of each, and I’ll also mention a few products I’ve used and recommend.
Type of Noise Entering and Leaving the Basement
In our day-to-day lives, we only ever come across two types of noise: airborne and impact noise.
Airborne noise travels through the air, whereas impact noise goes through walls, floors, the ground and other mediums. A conversation, sound from a television or a violin being played are examples of airborne noise. Footsteps, a wall being drilled into or an earthquake are examples of impact noise.
The methods I’ll talk about should, more or less, help reduce or stop both types of noise. However, they’re not all geared toward stopping noise from leaking outwards. Any musician will tell you that outside noise can just as easily ruin your day as your neighbors lodging a noise complaint against you.
Thankfully, this list covers both outwards and inwards noise leaks, as well as airborne and impact noise. Without further ado, here are a few cheap and (for the most part) hassle-free ways to soundproof a basement ceiling. They’re not all equally effective, but you can mix and match for the best results.
3 Cheapest Ways to Soundproof a Basement Ceiling
1. Lay Down Carpets or Mats on the Floor Above
Carpets and mats are a good way of stopping outside noise from coming into your basement. Specifically, the sound from footsteps, the TV, mixers, the radio and other everyday noises.
It’s also very cheap. Most houses already have carpets, so all it takes is a bit of rearranging to reduce noise leaks. Lay a few carpets or mats down in the noisiest parts of your house, where you can hear the most noise from downstairs. The thicker, softer and denser the rugs are, the better. Softer carpets can better absorb noise from footsteps and other impact noises.
You can also use a rubber floor mat in combination with carpets. Floor mats, like this one from Rubber-Cal (see on Amazon) are thicker and denser than your average carpet, which means they absorb noise better. I’ve used that Rubber-Cal mat myself, and it works surprisingly well.
It’s a cost-effective option, and as a bonus, floor mats are soft and comfortable to walk on. Not only will a rubber floor mat keep unwanted noise out of your basement, but it will make walking on tiles and hardwood floors more comfortable for you and your family members/roommates.
That said, there are a few drawbacks. The most obvious one is that carpets and mats won’t do much for the noise that’s leaking outwards. While a layer of thick carpets can slightly reduce the noise coming from your basement, it won’t be as effective as fully soundproofing the floor, for example.
Try this method out yourself and see if it works for you. Here are the pros and cons:
⦁ One of the easiest ways to reduce noise
⦁ Good for stopping noise from leaking inwards
⦁ Doesn’t work as well for preventing noise from leaking outwards
2. Rearrange the Furniture Above Your Basement
This one may come as a surprise to you, but it can work. Rearranging your furniture can affect the acoustics of your house, so it’s not far-fetched to think that it can also be used to reduce noise leaking in your basement.
Ideally, you want to place heavy furniture like closets, shelves, and couches directly above the basement. Try to find the area where it’s the noisiest when you use your basement and move the furniture there. Of course, if it doesn’t make sense to move your furniture there, don’t. Continually moving a closet around will only damage your floor. If it can’t stay there permanently, then there is no point in moving it there.
It’s a clunky solution, that’s for sure. But, at the same time, it’s completely free, and you can try it without too much hassle. If it helps you, all the better.
⦁ Can help reduce noise if you position your furniture in just the right way
⦁ Isn’t too much of a hassle to try
⦁ A clunky solution, won’t work for every household
3. Install Soundproof Panels
If you’re more serious about soundproofing your basement ceiling, then you can invest in soundproof panels. They may look expensive, but they are actually really cheap. Even more so when we only have one surface to worry about.
When it comes to soundproof panels, there are many options to choose from.
Soundproof foam panels
Burton Acoustic’s panels (link to Amazon) are a great choice for a fair price, and they work very well. The panels aren’t very thick, but they’re a lot denser than wedge foam.
What’s more, each panel only weighs about 31 oz, which means you can easily mount them to a ceiling with just a bit of heavy-duty mounting tape. I use the VHB bonding tape from 3M, and it has never failed me.
Another option is the MusiQ Resource’s RESON8 foam, which is a “peel and stick” soundproof foam. I’ll admit, this foam looks very good and can add a lot to your sound environment. But, personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of it. It’s a little bit on the thin side, and as a result, it doesn’t cancel out noise as well as the more expensive (and thicker) foams out there.
That said, the “peel and stick” feature works great and is a welcome addition. These puppies will stick to the ceiling on and won’t ever fall off.
All in all, I’d say this foam work better for echo reductions – which is also important! – than it does for soundproofing. But, give it a try yourself and see how things fare for you.
Acoustic Wood/Fabric Panels
Lastly, if you have a little more money to spare, these wooden panels wrapped in fabric are another option to think about. They’re heavy and will look good mounted on your basement ceiling.
But, honestly, I’ve always felt a little wary of the idea of having heavy, wooden panels attached to the ceiling above me. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’d always worry about having one of those fall on my head one day.
They’re not the easiest to install either, as they need to be affixed onto the ceiling. Altogether, these wooden panels aren’t ideal for ceilings.
Pros and Cons of Hanging Acoustic Panels
⦁ An effective way to stop noise from leaking outwards
⦁ Reduces echo and adds clarity to recordings
⦁ Doesn’t work as well for the sound that’s leaking inwards
⦁ Fairly expensive
Soundproofing a Basement Ceiling Without Drywall
1. Acoustic Insulation
The first option with an open ceiling (without drywall) is to insulate the joist cavities. If you want to save some money, you can use regular ceiling insulation. In fact, there is little practical difference between regular insulation and so-called acoustic/soundproof insulation (assuming they are of the same thickness).
But still, there is a difference. If even the smallest difference matters to you, then I would recommend you check this acoustically rated Mineral Wool Insulation from Roxul.
It is a compression-fit product, which means you won’t need any fasteners. To put it in place, you need to cut the insulation panels (using a utility knife) to the size that fits the joist cavities. Then, just simply press them in-between the joists.
TIP: Make sure you don’t pack the insulation. It needs to installed lightly and not jammed. Bend it around the wires but don’t let it be too tight to the ceiling (create an air pocket where you leave at least an inch of space).
2. Soundproofing Mats for Ceilings
Not many DIY soundproofing projects go by without utilizing a sound blocking material called Mass Loaded Vinyl.
What makes it such a popular choice are the countless ways of using it, and the fact that it works.
To be an effective sound blocker with an STC of 27, MLV consist of two main elements. The vinyl part provides flexibility, and a high mass element (usually small metal particles) acts as a sound barrier by giving the material enough density.
If you are looking for an alternative, then you can try MuteX Soundproofing Material instead of MLV.
Even though it is basically just a thick and compact paper, it has an excellent STC rating of 32. Just like MLV, it can be used not only when soundproofing ceilings and walls, but also for dishwashers, washing machines, air vents, cars, speaker boxes,… You name it.
The installation process of either MLV or MuteX is pretty straightforward; however, it requires two people to do it. Ask your spouse or a friend to help you out and hold the mats in place while you are fastening them to the ceiling. Start at any corner but always make sure the sheets are straight along the ceiling.
INSTALLATION TIP 1: Regarding fasteners, any type can work (for example roofing nails or a pneumatic stapler). Place them every 10 inches or less, but not more.
INSTALLATION TIP 2: Also, try to end all seams on joists. Where the seams fall on the joist, you can add a strip of Vinyl tape and butt pieces together.
3. Resilient Channels and Soundproof Drywall
Sound transfers from solid objects to solid objects. If the drywall is installed directly to the ceiling joists, this means the sound will transfer from the joists to the drywall and vice versa.
Resilient channels create a gap between the drywall and the structure and consequently disable the transmission. The channel bar is suspended, so the drywall is actually hanging.
By installing resilient channels, we are actually distributing the sound through the small channels within the bar, so that the sound has to travel back and forth – losing the energy before it hits the drywall. For more information, read the article in the link.
Here’s a good video that shows how to install channels and drywall:
More Ways to Soundproof a Finished Basement Ceiling
1. Seal the Cracks in Drywall
Every ceiling or wall will eventually develop cracks and gaps, even more so in the basement. They are an issue because they provide a gateway for air (and noise) to travel through the ceiling into your basement.
To find them you need to inspect the basement ceiling very keenly. You won’t have a problem with spotting bigger holes, but smaller ones might need a more thorough look.
Start the inspection by rubbing your hands against the ceiling surface. Then clean it and visually check for cracks that you might have missed.
After they are spotted and marked, you can seal them with this 3M 4-in-1 Patch (Available on Amazon) that contains everything you need to erase a hole in your basement ceiling or to complete other small repairs of your home.
It is a cheap tool that is easy to use. It includes a putty knife, spackle, primer, and sanding pad. And the best thing is that the repair won’t be seen after you put some paint on it.
You might want to read Acoustic Caulk vs. Regular Caulk
2. MLV or Mutex (Applied Over the Drywall)
When possible, soundproofing mats like MLV or MuteX should be applied directly to the ceiling joists, under the drywall. Although, you don’t have to tear down drywall if you have it already installed. In this case, attach these materials directly on top of it.
Whether you place them under or over the drywall, it doesn’t influence the installation process. If you missed it, check it out above.
NOTE: These mats come in one color and one color only – black. If you mind the look of your basement, then they might not be the best option for you.
3. Green Glue Compound and Second Layer of Drywall
You can install another layer of drywall and double the thickness of the ceiling. Before the second round is applied, back up the drywall sheets with an acoustic compound called green glue. It is a practical and cheap soundproofing product designed for different types of soundproofing projects.
It can be used as a sealant to seal the corners around the ceiling, and the edges between the drywall sheets, or as a sound dampening compound utilized between the two layers of material. Read The Guide to Green Glue Soundproofing article for more information.
While a thin layer of green glue may look useless, different tests have demonstrated an STC of 56 when used in a standard wall with ordinary drywall. It remains flexible throughout the time, making it an excellent longterm soundproofing solution.
As you see, the basement ceiling can be soundproofed in numerous ways. It all depends on how effective you want it to be, and how much money and effort you are willing to put into it.
Bear in mind that no soundproofing project can eliminate the problem entirely. But with the right materials, some smart plans and a few dollars spent, you can fix the problem for long time.