Dear PoPville – Insulating a basement to block out sound?

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“Dear PoPville,

How would one go about insulating a basement unit so sounds don’t pass btw the upper unit and the lower unit? I assume you can blow insulation in above the basement ceiling/below the upper level’s floorboards, but I’m not sure who to contact to do the work. Any leads would be appreciated!!”

15 Comment

  • blown insulation will help a little bit, but I think you’re going to find this is a pretty expensive (and complicated) endeavor. This type of thing is often done for home-theater installations.

  • We had this done, but the sound dampening was not as great as we hoped. Sorry, but I don’t remember who did the work. It was several years ago.

  • My understanding is that to do this well you have to do it with the actual construction of the walls, ceilings, and floors, not with treatments to the existing structure. It’s going to get pricey, as dat said, if you want to re-do ceilings walls and floors. Other things like rugs on the floor upstairs or blown insulation will help somewhat but I would temper your expectations.
    Having said that, I’ve never gotten specific information or quotes, so I’d be interested to hear what other people have to say.

  • I did a lot of work to insulate my bedroom from the unit above mine when I owned a condo in a row house that was converted to a condo. Bottom line – it’s costly and the results are less than satisfying.

    I had an added problem of the metal framing around my ducts moving when the person above me walked on their floor. It made a metal-on-metal sound. I worked closely with my contractor to come up with solutions. He tightened up the framing and used rubber and glue around the joints to stop the noise. We also:

    – Used denim insulation around the ducts, which supposedly is good at dampening noise
    – Put denim insulation on top of the old ceiling
    – Installed a new drywall ceiling on top of the old one (cheaper than taking the old ceiling out) using “hat track”

    I found that noise like voices, radios, etc. indeed was significantly dampened but noises from foot steps was not so much.

  • Don’t bother. The only meaningful thing you can do is rip up the floor above the basement and put down soundproofing/padding to decrease footfalls. We sold a place because our neighbor complained (harassed us, really) constantly about our noise, but our noise was us walking around in sock feet. There was literally no way to be quieter. In my opinion, this is about as close to an unfixable problem as exists.

    If you have overhead lights, I have been told that you can reduce noise by removing them, but that is not a step most people want to take.

    There is also sound dampening drywall that you can use to replace your ceiling, but that it a rather large undertaking too.

  • I haven’t tried this in the context of noisy neighbors (yet), but wonder how a white noise machine might work in cases like this. Obviously it’s not an ideal solution, but they seem to do a pretty remarkable job of blunting unwanted sounds in other contexts such as therapists offices and busy/city B&Bs.

    • I’ve had a ton of noisey neighbors, and white noise is good for blocking out sounds like talking and tv, but in my experience it’s not so great for blocking out foot steps and little kids running around and moving furniture around what I can only assume was bowling.

  • I’m in the process of doing this for the basement apt in my row house. From what I’ve read, airborne noise (voices, music) needs different treatment than footfall noise (vibrations from footsteps). Quietrock sheet rock is a good product for airborne noise but doesn’t help with footfall. Resilient sound tracks are the best way to reduce footfall noise. I’m probably going to get the RS tracks combined with Safe N Sound insulation installed. The contractor has to take down the entire basement ceiling to sound proof it.. It’s not cheap.

    • +1 solid info here. Also, closed cell spray foam insulation if money is no object or roxul if it is. Both of these require you to remove your drywall.
      Leaving your existing walls/ceiling your options are very limited and likely ineffective.
      Resilient tracks are also called resilient channel.

    • Good info. An additional consideration is that it may reduce your ceiling height by an inch or two, which may be a consideration in a basement. That depends on how your ceiling is currently hung, but you have to add space for the resilient channels and thicker/double drywall.

  • What I am doing in a condo conversion project that I’m currently working on is laying down a concrete topper underneath the 1st floor flooring that will deaden the sound between units. It’s not so bad if you’re starting from scratch and don’t have an existing floor but it would be much cheaper to go with RS and Roxul rather than rip out and replace your existing floors.

  • have never done it, but i do think that spray foam insulation would likely help more than blown in bulk cellulose. would also “tighten” up all the joints, reducing vibration at the same time.

  • Can be a pretty expensive task and results might not meet your expectations for sound proofing. several options that can be applied together:

    1) Drywall attached to resilient channel clips on the joists can help mitigate sound transferred through the floor joists above
    2) Soundproofing insulation – products like Roxul insulation can provide a level of sound absorption and fire protection
    3) Sound Transfer Resistant Drywall – products like Quiet-Rock are made from standard drywall or cement board can help provide high levels of sound attenuation (1 sheet of quiet rock is advertised to equate to 10 sheets of regular drywall for sound transfer – google Holmes on Homes sound proofing episode)
    4) Carpet & a solid padding are cheaper options as well

  • Closed cell spray foam insulation. I worked as an applicator one summer and people used it for sound proofing and water proofing. It’s expensive but works well. (And it has a very high R-value)

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