Floors are often the last surface people consider when soundproofing a space. It’s understandable. It’s one thing to add some acoustic padding to the walls. It’s another thing entirely to pull up the floor!
But if you’ve landed here, you probably already know that floors are not to be ignored as a significant transmitter of sound.
Indeed, it’s easy to overlook floor soundproofing in your rehearsal space when we consider the two different types of noise.
Airborne noise is extremely familiar to us, and we often spend a tremendous amount of time and resources trying to contain it. Airborne noise travels effortlessly through the air. It’s what you’re hearing when someone speaks to you, or a dog barks outside your window, or your guitarist turns their amp all the way up.
Impact noise, on the other hand, is more physical in nature, occurring when something impacts a surface and causes strong vibrations to travel throughout that surface. Think footsteps, doors slamming shut, kick drums being struck.
When we account for impact noise, the case for soundproofing the floor in your rehearsal space becomes much clearer. We tend to move A LOT when we play.
Even non-drummers are guilty of creating loads of impact noise: tapping a foot to the rhythm, stomping on pedals, perfecting your very cool Angus-like mid-solo jump kick.
And how about those super fuzzy, low-bass riffs? Yeah, your bass amp could be generating some pretty strong vibrations too.
Stress not, fellow noise-makers. There are plenty of ways to minimize the sound that travels through the floor in your jam space. This guide will cover a few different methods, from thrifty and impermanent, to costly and robust.
Table of Contents
Stage One: Low-Impact Solutions
You probably already know how this guide ends: complete floor renovation.
But for renters with strict leases or anyone on a tight budget, we’ll begin with some low-impact solutions to floor soundproofing that do NOT involve tearing out the entire floor.
Rugs and Mats
The name of the game in any soundproofing endeavor is adding mass. Sound waves are best thwarted by density; that is, the more material they have to travel through, the less noise makes it out the other side.
Drummers are already doing this when they place a rug under their kits. You can help to reduce your impact noise by placing rugs or mats underneath your amps (if they’re not already on stands) and underneath the space where you play.
That said, some materials absorb sound better than others. A thin rug, while aesthetically pleasing, won’t do much on its own. Pair that rug with a pad, however, and you’re making soundproofing progress.
Many rug pads on the market are made of felt or rubber, or both. Rubber is generally revered as king when it comes to soundproofing, while felt does a fine job as well because of its density.
Again, mass matters in this application. A ½” thick felt rug pad such as this one will perform better than its ¼” counterparts, and a thick rubber-and-felt combination pad such as this one should yield even better results.
Similarly, you can set yourself up on an all-rubber anti-vibration mat such as this one for excellent results. Adorn with a rug, or don’t. This sweet mat is doing all the noise reduction work you need.
When individual play stations aren’t cutting it, consider covering the entire floor with interlocking mats. Because they fit together like puzzle pieces, they are super easy to install.
Again, the denser, the better. These popular mats from ProsourceFit are made of high-density ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and are available in thicknesses up to 1”. As a bonus, they come in a few different colors and they clean up nicely with just soap and water.
Stage Two: Next-level Flooring Solutions
Moving up the commitment ladder are a few projects that will require a higher degree of DIY ability and a bigger budget. For your investment, these solutions will have a more noticeable effect on the noise coming from your practice space.
But first, it’s time to get under that floor and see what you’re working with …
Insulating Floor Joists
It’s not uncommon for older builds to lack a subfloor. If you’ve taken a peek under your current finish floor only to discover no subfloor on which to add mass, don’t panic. You actually have a tremendous opportunity to insulate in between the bare joists.
Similarly, if your home is still under construction, consider insulating your floor joists before the subfloor goes in.
Rockwool makes an extremely popular soundproof insulation that is easy to install and offers superior fire resistance as well. You can certainly elect to use spray insulation; but when it comes to older floors and superior soundproofing qualities, Rockwool is a less messy, tried-and-true solution.
Just measure, cut, and stuff it in between your joists for optimal noise reduction.
Pro Tip: apply noise-proofing joist tape before installing the subfloor for extra soundproofing!
Welcome, now, to the Wide World of Underlayment! In the spirit of adding mass to reduce noise, underlayment is where you can get a big bang for your buck.
Underlayment is the layer between your subfloor and finish floor, and it offers a golden opportunity to do some serious soundproofing to your floor. The type of finish floor you choose may dictate what kind of underlayment you must use. But here is a general rundown of noise-reducing underlayment options.
- Felt underlayment is a superb choice for noise reduction, due to the material compression and density. Many are made out of recycled material making it an eco-friendly choice as well. It’s easy to install and works best under engineered wood or laminate finish flooring.
- Cork offers natural sound absorption properties and as such makes for a solid soundproofing solution. In addition, cork is hypoallergenic, moisture resistant, and insulates well for optimal energy efficiency and comfort. You can use it under a variety of finish floors, including tile, stone, laminate, and engineered wood.
- Foam underlayment is popular and widely available. Just know that not all foam underlayments are created equal. Some are actually designed and graded for noise reduction, such as this one by FloorMuffler. Just remember: the higher the density, the better the noise reduction. You can use foam under laminate, engineered wood, and solid wood flooring.
- Harness the noise-slaying power of rubber with an acoustic rubber underlayment, like AbsorbaSound. Where cork and foam will degrade over time, rubber underlayment is known for durability and longevity. Often made of recycled products, it is also surprisingly eco-friendly. Best of all, rubber underlayment is indicated for just about any type of finish flooring, including laminate, engineered wood, solid wood, tile, and stone.
Pro Tip: Remember that adding mass is key, you can reduce noise transmission significantly by doubling down on your subfloor material before installing the underlayment. In between the two layers of the subfloor, use a soundproofing compound such as Green Glue for maximum soundproofing effect.
Bonus Pro Tip: Use a finish flooring with a high STC (sound transmission class) and IIC (impact insulation class) rating for some added noise reduction. Cork and carpet have some of the highest ratings, but wood, composites, and laminate rank highly as well. Rubber is the ultimate and could aesthetically land really well in a practice space!
You may have mixed feelings about having a wall-to-wall carpet in your band’s practice space. It’s tough to clean and it absorbs frequencies at different levels, making for a somewhat dead-sounding space.
Regardless, it will indeed absorb noise, and if that’s the aim, a simple carpet job can be easier on the budget than many other flooring solutions.
If carpet is your solution of choice, there are some measures you can take to improve its soundproofing qualities.
First, choose a dense carpet pad. The best options are foam or rubber, for the reasons described above. However, some proprietary carpet pads are designed with soundproofing at the top of mind such as this one by QuietWalk.
Second, choose a dense or high-pile carpet for added noise reduction. The shaggier, the better when it comes to soundproofing.
Stage Three: Extreme Floor Makeover
For the absolute best results in soundproof flooring, of the caliber found in many recording studios, consider building a floating floor.
Don’t let the term fool you — floating floors don’t have to be quite as extreme as they sound. Essentially, a floating floor is any floor where the finish flooring is not connected to the subfloor or underlayment.
That is, no nails and no glue. The finished floor simply rests, or “floats”, on the subfloor and underlayment.
The benefit of not being physically connected to the structure of the house is that it removes the channels by which impact noise travels.
Vibrations that can’t be transferred to the joists are simply absorbed by the finish floor, whichever high-quality underlayment you chose from the list above, and the subfloor.
Ironically, this method can be easier and cheaper than affixing the floor.
It should be noted, however, that your subfloor must be impeccable (i.e. squeaky clean and level) if you choose to install a floating floor. This will require the patience of a saint but can pay off in the end when it comes to soundproofing your rehearsal space.
It’s easy to forget floors when taking on a soundproofing project. But when you think about all the contact we make with the floor during practice, it becomes easy to see why it’s so essential that we take steps to reduce our impact noise. (They aren’t called “stompboxes” for no reason!)
Whether your budget is big or small, your time finite or free, there is a floor soundproofing solution to suit you. From foam mats to acoustic grade underlayment to floating floors, the possibilities for soundproofing your floor are vast — and effective!