How to stop sound from carrying up a staircase

If you're building a soundproof room in your home, it's often in the basement. And more times than not, soundproofing the basement stairs becomes an issue.

Many people want to use the stairwell wall as the back wall of their new room. Others want to use the space under the stairs for an equipment rack or other storage. Unfortunately, the open spaces around or behind many staircases present soundproofing challenges.

Dealing with Stairs when soundproofing

Why are stairs hard to soundproof?

The framing of the stairwell wall is rigidly connected to the joists overhead. If you have a two-story house, the same stairwell framing is attached to the second floor and walls as well. This creates a "tunnel" of sorts that picks up sound and carries it throughout the framing with nothing to deaden it and no barriers to stop it.

Picture this: If you're ever trapped in your basement, the best way to communicate upstairs is to knock on your stairwell wall. It will conduct that vibration throughout the house, and someone will hear you. Try it. Because of the intimate framing, the stairwell is uniquely conductive.

Many people have the stairwell with plans to put a heavy door on the top of the stairs. It seems logical, but by the time the sound reaches the door, the stairwell framing is saturated in vibration and the sound carries right into the upstairs.

How do I soundproof my stairs?

Basically, noise needs to be stopped at the source. In the case of a basement room, this means the sound needs to be prevented from reaching the stairwell in the first place. Some things you can do to that end are:

  • Enclose the staircase completely to avoid creating an echo chamber.
  • Put a heavy door at the base of the stairs AND at the top.
  • Use acoustical insulation around the staircase walls and under the stairs.
  • Lay carpet or a carpet runner on the stairs to deaden footfalls and traveling sound.
  • Use carpet or large area rugs in the basement room.
  • If a remodel isn't in the cards, hang a curtain over the bottom entrance and open stair case area.