Soundproofing a basement ceiling is the easiest way to make your basement a quieter, more peaceful retreat from the busy upstairs world.
There are a few simple, and less simple, things you can do to reduce the noise from upstairs being heard in your basement. Realistically it will take a combination of our soundproofing tips below to give you the best basement soundproofing results.
Maybe you want a games or a music room where you can turn up the sound or play drums without being shouted at, maybe you just want somewhere where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee while you lose yourself in a book, or maybe you just need somewhere to retreat from the world.
We get it, we really do and that’s why we’re going to guide you through the easiest ways to soundproof your basement ceiling. That way, when you do retire to the basement, you won’t disturb the upstairs world and it won’t bother you.
The Basement Noise Conundrum
It’s important to point out that you’re not actually going to be able to completely soundproof the basement of your home.
It’s an almost impossible undertaking to completely eliminate all of the noise that’ll pass into and out of it, and you’d need to hire a specialist designer and acoustic engineer to do it and it would literally suck every single cent out of your bank balance.
But if you can’t soundproof your basement, what can you do?
First it’s important to understand how sound can, and does infiltrate the basement of any home.
It’s Airborne - Sound travels in waves and those waves, travel through the air, so any air that gets into your basement (through the door, cracks, and gaps in the ceiling and windows), is going to bring noise into your basement.
Short of hermetically sealing (which we wouldn’t recommend under any circumstances) yourself in there, there isn’t a lot that you can do about air (and by default, sound) flowing in and out of it.
But you can reduce the impact that it will have, and we’ll go into detail about how you can sure up and seal the cracks and fill the holes in its ceiling a little further on.
Impact Noise - The basement is underneath the rest of the house, and the sound of any footfalls, dogs running around or furniture being moved will travel directly downwards.
While none of those things by themselves will probably ruin your day if you are hanging out in the basement, collectively they can spoil any downtime that you’re enjoying in the room below.
But with our help, you can dampen and drown out the worst of the noise from above and enjoy the silence.
How To Soundproof A Basement Cheaply
Here are 5 easy ways to soundproof your basement.
Carpets And Mats
If you’re looking for a straightforward, cost-effective way to reduce the amount of noise filtering into and out of your basement through the ceiling, you could lay some thick carpet on the floors of your home. This is a great way to soundproof any room.
It isn’t perfect and it won’t reduce the amount of noise that you’ll be subjected to by a lot, but it will rescue it as the carpet will deaden and dampen any footfalls, and will act as an insulating barrier. It will also reduce the amount of noise from the basement that might be making its way upstairs.
Okay, so carpets aren’t for everyone and if you’ve had vinyl flooring laid down, you won’t want to cover it with a layer of the carpet. If you’ve blown your decorating budget on vinyl flooring, you want to be able to see it.
You could put a couple of strategically placed, thick mats or rugs down that will cover up the worst of the sound. The heavier the rugs you put down the more of the sound that they’ll soak up and absorb.
As we said, it’s a quick, easy answer to the dampening conundrum, we just wish that it was actually more effective than it is.
How To Soundproof A Finished Basement Ceiling
It doesn’t matter how good the contractors who installed your basement ceiling were, there’s no such thing as a perfect job. And where the drywall in your basement ceiling meets the walls, that’s where you’re going to run into a problem or two.
Actually, you’ll probably run into a multitude of them, as the tiny cracks, gaps, and imperfections that’ll run all the way around that join line might not be visible to the naked eye, but they’re there.
And if there are cracks then air, and sound, can get through them.
One tip that we were given by a sound engineer from a local club that came in handy when we were filling in, and plugging all of the gaps was to identify as many of them as possible beforehand and mark each one with a strip of masking tape. This will help you to make sure that you get each and every crack and imperfection in the ceiling and around the join line.
We’re not going to lie, it will take you a while to find all of them, but it’s worth taking your time to do it, as just one gap can let in a surprising amount of noise.
If you take your time and get it right the first time you won’t have to go back and do it all over again.
Of course, you could go the extra mile and run a length of weatherstripping around the join line between the ceiling and the walls, as that will make sure that all the gaps are plugged and nothing will get through.
How can I soundproof my basement ceiling without drywall?
We were trying to avoid getting you to do the big job, but we’re going to heed our own advice and follow the rule that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
So, take a deep breath and make yourself a cup of coffee, because we’re going to suggest that you do something that you probably think sounds a little crazy, but it really will be worth it and you really will notice a big difference.
Are you ready? Okay, you’re going to tear down your old drywall ceiling and you’re going to fit a new one.
Before fitting the new drywall though, and while the underneath of the floor is exposed, you’re going to fit sound deadening material on the underside of the floor - which when you’re looking up at it is actually the ceiling of your basement now that you’ve stripped the old drywall down.
It’s designed to stick straight to the floor of cars and deaden road and motor noise, and literally peels off the backing and can be stuck straight down. Best of all? It’s easy to cut and shape and slide underneath any electrical wire so that you’re not covering up anything that you or a contractor might need to access at some point in the future.
Before you stroll into your local hardware store and ask for quarter-inch drywall for your ceiling in order to replace the old material with exactly the same newer material, you need to slow down and take another deep breath.
You’re going to replace your old drywall with a double layer of light, five-eighths fibreboard which is going to put a massive dent in the amount of sound that can and will drift down into and up and out of your basement ceiling. Hold on, and wait another minute, before you fit the ceiling, you’re going to need to know how to prepare it.
Prepping The Fibreboard Ceiling
First of all, because you’re to ask the hardware store clerk for a lighter, five-eighths firebird, the double layer won’t pull the ceiling down and you don’t have to panic or worry about load-bearing weights or the framework of your floor collapsing because it has to hold a double-layered ceiling instead of a single-layered. As we said, the fibreboard is lighter, it’ll hold up just fine.
This is where you need to remain focused and sharp and alert. You’re going to line the first layer of fiberboard, the side that’s going to face the underside of the floor of your home with a layer of mass loaded vinyl that can be stapled in place and which will absorb more of the sound that flows from your home into your basement and vice versa.
It’s what it was designed to, it’s a purpose-made, non-toxic sound dampening material. And even though it’s heavier than normal vinyl (hence its name), it’s nowhere near heavy enough to be a problem.
There are two ways to double-layer the fibreboard before fitting it as your ceiling. You can either glue the two layers together before you fit it, which makes it heavier and slightly more awkward to fit, or you can glue the second layer to the first after you’ve already fitted the first layer as your ceiling.
We’d recommend the former as it’s easier on your arms .
The glue that you’re going to use to create your double-layered fibreboard is green glue which is the same compound that you would have used to seal the gaps in your old ceiling if you hadn’t torn it down to fit this new one.
Use a paintbrush to coat the fireboard that HASN’T been layered with mass load vinyl with green glue, and then slowly and carefully, making sure that all the edges meet and there are no gaps, glue the two layers of fibreboard together, and while you’re leaving them to dry, go and make yourself a cup of coffee.
As it’s going to take a while, you’ll have the time to drink three or cups, and you’ll probably want to top up your caffeine levels, as you’re re going to need all the energy that you can get for the next part of the job.
Once the glue is dry, you can then fit the fibreboard ceiling, making sure that the side with the mass-loaded vinyl on is facing toward the ceiling of your basement.
It’s a slow, labor-intensive job, so be patient and it should go well and everything should fit without a problem. Providing you’ve measured and cut everything to size beforehand of course.
Hold On… You’re Not Finished Yet
As much sound as your new ceiling is going to cut out, you’re not quite finished yet. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but before you step back and congratulate yourself on a job well done, you’re going to have to re-caulk your ceiling all over again before you can approach the final hurdle and sign off on your soundproof basement ceiling.
After the ceiling is in place and the caulk has dried, there’s only one thing left to do. And that’s paint your new basement. But you’re not going to use any old paint, you’re going to paint the ceiling and the walls of your basement with soundproof paint.
Okay, so like everything else in the process, the paint isn’t really soundproof, but it will help to deaden and dampen noise, and that’s why you’re going to apply three coats of it to the ceiling and walls of your basement.
One to deaden the sound, one to dampen the sound, and one to make sure that it does what it’s supposed to do.
Right about now you’re probably wondering why we said that you should also paint the walls of your basement, and that’s a good question that has a simple answer.
Because sound echoes and bounces off walls and the more sound that you can deaden and dampen inside your basement, the more effective your “soundproof” ceiling will be. You could also hand some soundproof curtains across the walls to further dampen the sound or even some soundproof wallpaper.
After you’ve finished, you can finally sit back and enjoy the peace that an almost soundproof basement ceiling will provide you with.
Separately, all of the materials that you’ve used would only have reduced the noise coming in and out of your basement by a little. When used together your efforts to soundproof your basement will have noticeable results.