How to Soundproof a Finished Basement Ceiling

Now THAT’S what I call a creepy picture!

But creepiness and humor aside, soundproofing a basement ceiling can be very rewarding. Especially if you play drums or have similar loud hobbies that bother the folks upstairs. Or maybe they’re the ones bothering you, the basement dweller! Either way, the following methods can fix the situation entirely.

In this article I’ll focus on ways you can soundproof a finished basement ceiling. In other words, if you don’t want to reconstruct the ceiling by adding fiberglass or mineral wool batts between the joists, use resilient channels and make a big mess that costs thousands of bucks. This is the easier way to do it:

1. Install acoustic panels on the ceiling

Acoustic panels can reduce the echo in the basement and also provide some sound insulation. There are 2 main types of acoustic panels; soundproofing foam panels and fiberglass panels. Both can be installed directly on the ceiling.

Soundproofing foam panels are pretty affordable, but they only reduce airborne noise, and only to some extent. This type of noise is produced by mid to high level frequency sound waves that are transmitted through air. Talking, shouting, playing music loudly (without a strong bass) all belong to this category.

However, for airborne AND impact noise you’ll need to use stronger, fiberglass panels. Impact noise is produced by vibrations. Drum bass, a loud washing machine, throwing heavy weights on the ground, kids jumping around… all of these belong in the impact noise category.

You can install both of these types of panels on the ceiling with Command Strips or a regular adhesive. I recommend using Command Strips. They are sticky on both sides, so you stick 2-3 to each panel and hang the panel on the ceiling. They’re easier to remove afterwards and will keep the surface clean, unlike regular adhesives.

For only reducing airborne noise, I recommend using standard 2 inch thick foam panels.

But in order to block impact noise and airborne noise to a significant degree, you’ll want to use fiberglass panels. The most convenient option, but a bit expensive, are fiberglass panels, which are already designed for on-wall installation.

The second option is to make your own fiberglass panels. This option costs less overall. To make effective acoustic panels you’ll need:

  • fiberglass panels
  • acoustical fabric
  • a spray adhesive 

So once you’ve bought enough fiberglass panels to cover the ceiling, and you also have enough acoustical fabric to cover each panel, spray each panel with an adhesive and cover it with the acoustical fabric. That’s it!

IMPORTANT: When you’re working with fiberglass, always use gloves, glasses and a mask to cover your mouth and nose. Until it’s covered with the appropriate fabric, fiberglass will shed small particles that can irritate the respiratory system and skin as well, upon direct contact. Those are the standard safety measures that are worth following.

2. Install Mass Loaded Vinyl on the ceiling

Installing Mass Loaded Vinyl on the ceiling is another great option at your disposal. MLV is an extremely popular soundproofing material used in vehicles, walls, floors, and small objects like generator boxes. I love this material for multiple reasons:

  • it’s affordable
  • it’s not as thick as acoustic panels (therefore doesn’t take a lot of height away from the room)
  • works great for blocking airborne, but especially impact noise
  • it’s durable and can withstand high temperatures (can be used to soundproof engines)
  • the installation is simple and straightforward

Mass Loaded Vinyl comes in a big wrap. You can roll it out and cut it to size easily with a knife. You can screw it, nail it or use an adhesive to place it up on the ceiling or any other surface.

Here is an example of how it’s done. These guys nailed the MLV on the studs, but it’s a similar process whether you’re installing it on the outside or inside of a wall.

As you can see, you’ll need at least one more person to install it on the ceiling. Someone has to hold the material while the other person is securing it in place.

That’s really all there is to it. Once you’ve installed MLV on the ceiling, you’ll notice an immense reduction in noise coming in and out of the basement. It will also cut down on the echo and improve acoustics in the room.

3. Add another layer of drywall

Drywall can really help with reducing noise. However, it can be expensive and it requires more work than the previous methods, while also taking more height away from the room. But if you decide to do this, add a layer of 5/8” fire-rated drywall for the best results.

Hanging the drywall by yourself can save you a lot of money. Check out this detailed guide from Family Handyman if you want to learn how to hang drywall by yourself.

4. Soundproof the floor instead

Instead of soundproofing the ceiling, how about soundproofing the floor above it? If you’re trying to block impact noise from upstairs, caused by kids running around and jumping on the floor for example, this could be the easier and more effective option.

You could use a soundproofing adhesive like green glue and place an additional layer of plywood, OSB or MDF panels to add density to the floor. Or perhaps something easier like covering the floor with soft but dense material that can absorb foot traffic noise. Here is a full guide on how to soundproof a floor where I explain all of this in more detail.

Final Thoughts

Inserting soundproofing material inside the ceiling will always be a better option than installing it on the outside. However, fiberglass panels and Mass Loaded Vinyl installed directly on the wall will still produce significant noise reduction.

So those are the top two methods I would suggest if you don’t want to tear open the ceiling and spend thousands of dollars on mineral wool batts, resilient channels, soundproofing tape, and all the rest of it. Not to mention the time and the mess that a project on that scale requires.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful. If you have any soundproofing tips for other readers or questions for yours truly, you can leave them in the comment section below. It’s always appreciated. – Luka Baron

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