Out of silence is born concentration and from that comes learning – Stephen Hough
In the age of man-caves, games rooms, dens, studies, and extra bedrooms, basements have taken on a new lease of life and become one of the most important rooms in any home.
They’ve also provided the space that fledgling bands and the aspiring rock superstars of tomorrow need to refine and practice their art.
Basements serve as a retreat from the world, a sanctuary to flee to in which we can all enjoy the things that we’re passionate about and the hobbies and pastimes that help us to unwind and give us a little breathing space.
But if you are intent on making as much noise as humanly possible in your basement or want to repeat to it to find some much-needed peace and solitude, you’ll either want to protect your family and neighbors from all the racket that you’re focused on making or isolate yourself from the discord of the macrocosm that exists upstairs.
And the best way that you can do that, is by soundproofing your basement.
It’s easy enough to soundproof the walls of any room in your house, and a quick online search will provide you with all the tools and information that you’ll need in order to shore up your home against unwanted noise.
The trouble with dampening and deadening the sound that comes out of, and makes its way into your basement is that most of the noise doesn’t enter into, or escape from a basement through its walls.
Almost all of the sound that’ll drift into and out of your basement and ruin your day or wreck the personal time of your family enters and leaves the room through its ceiling, and soundproofing a ceiling is a whole different ball game to soundproofing a wall.
Take a deep breath, calm down and try to relax. There’s no need to panic, different isn’t a euphemism for difficult, it just means that the way you do it is, well, different.
In fact, it isn’t any more strenuous or problematic to soundproof the drop ceiling in your basement than it is to soundproof its walls.
And we’re going to explain the six simple and straightforward methods that you can use to isolate the noise leaving, and prevent any sound from entering your basement, so whatever you use, and want to use it for, you’ll always be able to control the volume level in the all-purpose room underneath your home.
What Is A Drop Ceiling?
Right about now, you might be wondering what a drop ceiling is, and why we’re so focused on it, but if you already know, then you can skip over this part and jump straight into our how-to-do-it soundproofing guide.
For those who don’t know what one is, we’re going to take a couple of moments to explain what a drop ceiling is, and why your basement almost certainly already has one in place.
A drop ceiling, or suspended ceiling as it’s also known, is a secondary ceiling that’s hung underneath the main structural ceiling of a room or building in order to reduce the amount of noise emanating from above or inside the room that it’s fitted in.
Most basements are fitted with them as a matter of course for that very reason. To shield them against the noise from the rest of your home.
So whether you knew it or not, you’ve already got some level of soundproofing in your basement.
But you can improve the level of soundproofing that your drop ceiling already provides, and we’re going to explain how you can do it cheaply, effectively, efficiently, and simply.
Soundproofing vs. Sound Dampening
Before we go any further, we should probably explain that even if you implement all of the methods that we’re about to run through, you won’t completely soundproof your basement.
The amount of noise leaving and entering it will be greatly reduced, but you won’t be able to make it completely soundproof.
If you want to create a completely sealed, soundproofed environment, you’ll need to employ the services of acoustical and structural engineers and a team of contractors and it could end up costing you thousands and thousands of dollars.
It can be done, but your bank account will never forgive you if you insist on pursuing this path to a noise-free life.
But with a little know-how, and for a couple of hundred bucks, you can dampen and deaden the sound so that everyone can happily live with it.
Soundproofing and sound dampening are two totally different things, and for convenience’s sake, and your comfort we thought it would only prudent and right to point out that when we talk about soundproofing, what we’re actually referring to is sound dampening and deadening and making your life easier, by reducing the amount of noise the flows into, and out of, your basement.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can get on with the matter at hand. And with that in mind, it’s time to find out how with a little effort and some readily available materials, you can nullify and minimize the noise pollution in your home.
Increase The Density Of Your Drop Ceiling
As sound waves pass through air, that air vibrates and it’s that vibration that’s carried through the air around you that you hear, and that your ear and brain interpret as “sound”.
So, the more something vibrates the more noise that it’s going to allow to pass through it. The simple solution to this obvious problem? Make your ceiling heavier by increasing its mass, as the more mass it has, the less it’ll vibrate, and the less it vibrates, the less sound it’ll allow to pass through it.
When we talk about mass, what we’re actually talking about is heavier, denser ceiling tiles and padding, rather than piling as much “soundproofing” (old newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes) as you can in the space between your drop ceiling and the primary ceiling.
Placing too much weight in that space can cause it to collapse which is an additional financial headache that you don’t need, or want.
Padding and tiles are ideal, as they’re designed to be used in conjunction with your drop ceiling and won’t exceed the weight limits and tolerances that it can, and will bear.
Remember, the thicker the tiles that you use, the more mass they’ll have and the more mass they have, the less they’ll vibrate. Less vibration means less sound pollution.
Isolation Through Insulation
Even though your drop ceiling provides an additional layer of soundproofing just by being there, there’s still a gap between it and the primary ceiling.
And that gap is full of air, and as soundwaves vibrate through air… Well, you can probably see where we’re going with this. The air pocket, layer, gap, or whatever else you want to call it can be, and is a soundproofing problem. But, it’s easy enough to deal with, and the solution is incredibly straightforward. Ceiling insulation.
Like us, you’ve probably heard about the health concerns and how long-term exposure to fiberglass might be problematic, and as you’re likely to be spending a lot of time in your basement, you might be concerned or worried about having a layer of fiberglass directly over your head.
That’s why we’re not suggesting that you do use it, as we’ve found that natural fiber insulation works just as well as fiberglass does and it doesn’t have any of the same slightly worrying potential health issues.
Easy to fit, and cut to size, and made from recycled materials, this natural insulation won’t just reduce the amount of noise coming into and going out of your basement, it’ll also help to reduce your heating bills, which will leave a few extra shekels in your pocketbook at the end of every month.
All of which you can spend on all of the things you enjoy doing in your basement.
A Lick Of Paint
It sounds a little crazy and a little far-fetched, but painting your ceiling can help to deaden and dampen the level of sound that drifts in and out of your basement.
There is, as you’ve probably already guessed, a catch and the fly in this particular acoustic ointment is the type of paint that you’ll need to use to cover your ceiling.
Sound deadening paint does exactly what it says it will on the tin. It’ll reduce the amount of sound that enters and leaves your basement by deadening tinny, ringing, and echoing noise.
It’s also ridiculously easy to apply, as it works exactly the same way as any other paint does and all you need to coat your ceiling with it, is the paint, a brush, and a roller.
It’s also non-toxic, eco-friendly, easy to wipe down, and clean with soap and water, and while it might not be available in a wide-ranging number of colors, and by that we mean it’s only available in white, it should be able to match any existing decorating scheme or idea that you have in place.
And even if it doesn’t, who’s going to spend too much looking at the ceiling of your basement anyway?
The Gap Problem
Did you ever hear that old saying that nothing in nature was uniform or perfect?
The same is true of most ceilings, and while the tiny imperfections that can plague their fitment won’t have any ill effect on their structural integrity, they can have a significant impact on how much sound can and will travel through them.
The imperfections that we’re talking about are, of course, the cracks and gaps that exist between your drop ceiling and the walls of your basement.
The problem is, air can travel through those cracks and gaps and if air can travel through them, so can sound, and the best way that you can stop sound journeying back and forth through them is by sealing all of them with acoustic caulk.
Again it’s simple to use, non-toxic, and quick-drying and as soon as it’s in place, it’ll expand to fill every millimeter of every gap you apply it to, and stop the traveling sound dead in its tracks.
One tip that we were given and that we’re going to pass on to you because we think it’s something that everyone should know and bear in mind before they embark on their caulking adventure, is to locate and identify every crack and gap before you begin.
When you find each imperfection, mark it with masking tape, so you’ll know how many gaps you have to fill and exactly where they are, and you’ll get it right the first time.
Deadening and Dampening The Ceilings
It’s important to remember that your basement effectively has two ceilings. The floor of the room(s) above it and the drop ceiling.
By carpeting, laying flooring, and strategically placing rugs on the floor of the room(s) above your basement, you’ll be adding another layer of dampening and will reduce the amount of sound that will be transmitted through the primary ceiling and reduce the level of noise emanating from the basement at the same time.
Another clever and easy way to deaden and dampen the sound in your basement is with mass-loaded vinyl.
If you take the existing tiles down from your drop ceiling and cover the back of each of them with mass-loaded vinyl, it’ll significantly reduce the amount of sound that travels into and out of your underground lair.
Less than an eighth of an inch thick, it’s perfect sound dampening material and is simple to cut to size and apply to the back of each tile with some industrial strength glue. It’s an afternoon’s work that’ll give you a lifetime of peace and quiet.
Creating An Acoustic Ceiling
It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But it’s actually staggeringly easy to create an acoustic ceiling, and all you need in order to make your own is some free time and the right tools for the job. And in this case, the right tools for the right job are some acoustic panels or tiles.
Strictly speaking, acoustic panels are designed to line walls, but as they’re fitted with hooks, they can easily be jury-rigged to hang from a ceiling.
If we’re honest, the paneling option isn’t our favorite as, even if you’re technically gifted and can work all sorts of handy work magic and miracles, the end never justifies the means and the finished acoustic ceilings never really look “right” or the way they should when you picture how you’d ideally like them to look in your mind’s eye.
Will it work? Absolutely, but your acoustic ceiling (if you line it with panels) probably won’t look as good as you hope it will.
If it were up to us, every basement ceiling would be deadened using acoustic tiles.
They’re easy and straightforward to fit and the end result is always astonishing. If you want to make sure that you quickly and effectively reduce the amount of noise filtering it’s the way in and out of your basement.
The only problem that you might have is choosing the right tiles, as the performance of every acoustic tile, and how much sound they can, and will effectively dampen, is governed by three factors
Ceiling Attenuation Class
The Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC) defines how well a tile can prevent sound transmission, so if you’re looking at blocking the sound coming from your basement, this is the factor that you’ll need to pay close attention to.
Any tile with a CAC rating above thirty-five is considered to be an effective and efficient medium for blocking sound transmission, but if its CAC rating is anywhere below that its sound dampening abilities won’t be anywhere near as effective as you’d like them to be.
Noise Reduction Coefficient
The NRC (acoustic engineers love their abbreviations) is the measurement used to determine how well a tile can absorb sound, and the rating system is used to determine how well it performs, is measured between zero and one.
Any tile that has an NRC rating of one is considered to be an effective and efficient damper as it will absorb almost all of the sound directed at it, but the closer to zero a tile is, the less sound that it can and will absorb.
Sound Transmission Class
The STC rating governs and determines how much sound a tile can block, and the higher the rating is, the more effective the tile is at blocking any sound that’s directed toward it.
The STC rating system is based on a simple one to one hundred score, and the higher the score (or rating if you prefer, but we’ve always thought the score was a better way of marking the STC measurement of a tile), the better the tile is at blocking sound.
A rating of sixty or above is considered to be ideal, and anything above that means that the tile in question will effectively and efficiently block almost any noise that it comes into contact with.
Obviously, we don’t have to tell you that when you’re searching for the right acoustic tile, you’ll want to find one that scores well on all three criteria, as the higher its ratings are, the better it will be at blocking and deadening any sound that tries to invade or escape from your basement.
The Final Soundproof Word
So, now you know as much about soundproofing your basement as we do.
Six simple, cost-effective methods that won’t hurt your pocketbook or damage your bank account too badly that can and will provide a lifetime of noise-free pleasure and fun. But the choice of which of them you’re going to ultimately use is entirely up to you.