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Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/25/2009 1:19 PM

I'm hoping that anyone with experience in sound-proofing a basement from footsteps can weigh-in on my problem. I have read a number of posts here but I want to make sure my plan is the best. I live in a basement apartment of a bungalow (which I own) and I am trying to find a way to ensure uninterrupted sleep from footsteps and other noise from above. I have looked into active noise suppression, for which the technology doesn't exist (unless I wear headphones to sleep). I'm sleeping with the sound of rain playing on a loop on my computer, but this is not enough to drown out the footsteps at 4:00 am.

I have been doing some research and have found that the way an acoustic-insulating material is installed is at least as important as its quality. As well, I have found that low frequencies are the most difficult to absorb. Correct me on these points if I'm wrong.

The sounds I am most concerned with are my tenants walking on the heels of their feet in socks. It comes through as a booming echo and I swear it comes up from my floor in addition to from above. My basement floor is a floating Ikea laminate on top of a padded under-layment.

From what I can tell from other parts of the basement the walls are constructed with 1/2" drywall on 2x3's. The concrete foundation comes up about 4' on two walls of the room. The flooring upstairs is 1.5" wide hardwood on plywood sub-floor which is on 2x8's. My ceiling is 1/2" drywall attached directly to the joists. The drywall was put up by a DIYer judging by the workmanship.

I understand that I need to disconnect the floor upstairs from the ceiling downstairs as much as possible so that sound can not travel through the material. However, I'm not going to consider gutting the basement. My idea is to put in hanging ceiling tiles, leaving the drywall above intact. Will this stop the low frequencies enough to make the time and effort worthwhile?

Optionally, I was thinking that I could cut a seam into the drywall where the ceiling and the walls meet. I would then fill this in with some acoustic caulk to provide an acoustic break (if that's the correct terminology). As well I was considering putting in rock-wool between the joists. But to do this would I have to put drywall back on the ceiling to hold the rock-wool up there?

I have a vent and some lighting to deal with as well. The air-intake grill by the door is actually an access panel to an electrical junction box. Behind the wall with the closet is another room with another closet beside this one if that matters.

Below are pictures of two opposite corners of my 14'x10' bedroom.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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#1

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/25/2009 2:43 PM

"disconnect the floor upstairs from the ceiling downstairs"

I don't know how this could be accomplished. Damping the effect of the sound coming from the ceiling is your only hope. Yes, low frequency waves are more difficult to attenuate. Your floor sounds like a great acoustic reflector.

A suspended ceiling might help. the space between the two should be as wide as you can tolerate, owing to the low frequencies. Unfortunately, mass is the best way to absorb LF noise. Or dense material, at least. The insulation may not help much.

Carpets for the floor will help. I cannot give any assurance that any of these things will give you relief.

Think of your ceiling as the cone of a giant loudspeaker.

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#2

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/25/2009 5:57 PM

There are a number of web sites that address soundproofing. The key is mechanical isolation which is a term that is inclusive of the fact that the steps of your tenants above are vibrating the soundboard formed by their floor which then vibrates and probably amplifies sound, because of the volume of the air spaces involved between their floor joists and your ceiling, as well as the fact that their steps are vibrating the joists themselves providing direct mechanical connection to your ceiling.

There may be, as you seem to surmise, also transmission via the vertical members of the structure but I would leave that alone until you deal with the main issue, their floor, the joists, and your ceiling.

The main trick with sound proofing is suspension and isolation.

Obviously you cannot do that with the floor above or the joists holding that floor up without half tearing the building apart. That means that you are going to have to remove your ceiling and along with other issues replace it as a suspended ceiling, i.e., a ceiling held up by the joists above but in a manner that will not allow transmission of their movement to your ceiling, either as a result of the direct motion of the joists or through the air between the joists.

After removing your ceiling I would fill those spaces between the joists with a sound proofing material made specially for that. Normal insulation might work but since you want to do this only once, putting in ceilings is laborious and expensive, I would check for insulation that has good soundproofing qualities and that itself will not be a mechanical transmitter.

A foam rubber might work well if cut so it wedges in and keeps itself in place without fasteners but you would have to ensure it is fireproofed.

Once you have done that you have eliminated transmission of sound by soundboard and air vibration.

I would then look for some sort of device or material that would allow you to suspend your ceiling from the joists but not in themselves transmit vibration to your ceiling.

Next you will have to devise a ceiling grid or frame that can hang from those devices, probably strips of rubber, but that will not make contact with the walls of your room, this in keeping with the idea of isolating it from any contact with building members that might transmit vibrations from above.

For that purpose you will not be able to use the usual ceiling tile grid kind of stuff; not strong enough. At the same time that frame or grid cannot be too heavy.

Probably your best bet, if nothing is otherwise available, would be to lay out a frame/grid to be assembled and welded out of light aluminium T's such as will give you the same structure as normal drop ceiling grid but strong enough to hold together as a suspended unit and also carry the best insulating sound proofing ceiling tiles you can find. Obviously it will have to be built in sections small enough to get inside the room and then laid out and screwed together to give you a single unit.

In regard to that grid, after I have laid it out and know how many linear feet of aluminium T it will be comprised of I would want to know what it weighs and then, planning for the number of suspension points, figure out the load at each point. That will tell you what kind of material to use for suspension.

I would leave enough space from the joists so that in addition to the tiles, you can lay in above them and the grid, another insulation layer so that the frame itself is covered and nothing gets to the frame members to vibrate them.

I would bet that if the aluminium is a problem that there are available similar T structural materials made out of carbon fiber; probably lighter than aluminium.

You will want to seal the space between the edge of the ceiling unit and the walls, about one inch, probably with strips of foam rubber so that the entire ceiling is isolated from the walls.

But you get the scheme of the process from this description and no doubt can apply it elsewhere if need be.

If you were building that house from scratch you would of course have laid the flooring above on rubber and probably arranged connection so that movement of the flooring does not transmit floor motion to the joists.

This is the general scheme. If you find that there is sound transmission vertically along the walls you will have to put in walls that are spaced away from the existing ones and I would fill the intervening space with sand. Again the scheme is to install such walls so that they do not pick up vibration from other parts of the building structure which means as well standing them on rubber.

The main culprit, I am sure you will find, is the ceiling, solve that and you have solved your problem.

I have not taken the time to research on the web and identify specific materials and sources. No doubt you can do that for yourself.

Let us know what you do and the result.

j.

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#3

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 12:41 AM

Sorry, Sleepy, but ceiling tiles alone won't make it. What you have is a bunch of resonant chambers - the space between the ceiling studs/floor joists (depending if you're looking up or down) and the floor above; and your own personal ceiling, which is acting as a passive radiator. The resonant frequencies of the stoists (neologism alert: stud + joist = stoist) can also be non-trivial.

So, let's break it down. Minimize vibration of the floorboards. Hard to do, the only retrofit method I've seen work is to install dampers between the stoists. Essentially some soft foam (think sponge rubber from an upholsterer's shop) held in moderate compression by a run of plywood, particle, or MDF. This is easy enough to do - use something like nominal 3" foam rubber (go to commercial or automotive upholstery suppliers rather than furniture refinishers for a better price), and set cleats along the stoists giving about 1" compression of the foam. Set the cleats on one side, then swing the foam and MDF up and set the other cleat. A good heavy bead of caulk between the cleat and the panel is indicated so as to avoid just moving the problem down a few inches If you do it in, say, 2' long panels, the work goes pretty quickly, and you can leave some spaces to upgrade your lighting while you're at it. Some ceiling cans on a dimmer are bound to be better than the industrial flourescents you've got. (no offense intended.)

Cutting down the vibration of the stoists is easier. You still have enough space to run some 2x4 stiffeners (no Viagra jokes, please) between the bottoms of the 2x8s. Vertical orientation, of course, and use screws rather than nails, using the panel size of the compression units as a guide - you are going to need access to the space sooner or later, right? Don't be a piker - 2x4s are cheap.

So you now have a rigid, minimally vibrating, largely anechoic ceiling. You have additional crossing joists (the 2x4 stiffeners (I heard you snicker - stop that!) to which to attach the ceiling drywall, which has reduced the size of each passive radiator from 15 or 20 square feet to maybe 3 square feet. I think there's a square function that applies to the efficiency of passive radiators, so bully for us! These methods have worked for me in home recording/rehearsal studios.

You could, of course, just work from the top side. Thick, luxurious carpets with heavy padding might be quicker and easier, as might discretion in choice of tenants. I suggest coeds from the local ninja university. Your mileage may vary.

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#4

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 7:15 AM

Why not live upstairs and rent out the downstairs?

As I personally cannot see a cheap or quick solution to your problem.......its the way the house is built and you need (as you pointed out yourself) to somehow disconnect the ceiling downstairs from the floor above.....

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#5

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 10:15 AM

I suggest that you contact a Mr. Josef Fritzl in Austria. Apparently he is quite handy at sound proofing the basement. (Google Josef Fritzl and see what you come up with)

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 11:13 AM

Not funny......Morbid sense of humour!!

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#16
In reply to #5

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 3:30 PM

Classic response and absolutely funny. Give yourself a GA.

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#7

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 1:29 PM

I wasn't expecting such a varied range of strategies. I'd say I'm even less sure about what to do now.

So lylynch says I should keep the cavity as large as possible if I use a suspended ceiling. I remember reading about speaker setups and they said that you don't want parallel walls that are whole numbers of wavelengths apart because then you get standing waves. But I should buy them a rug.

On the suspended ceiling manufacturer's website they seem to suggest that these panels are not good at stopping sound that is coming perpendicular to them. Is this accurate? Although, aren't low-frequencies sort of without direction? (I'm not an engineer).

Jack, if I suspend these tiles from rubber or springs or something else bouncy, I would think that they'd sag over time. Does such a product exist? If I put rock-wool on top of the tiles, won't they break or sag? Not that I want to do this because it eliminates the whole advantage of a suspended ceiling--easy access to wires and stuff.

ktel60 suggests stiffening the joists with foam rubber wedged between covered with some caulked drywall. That foam rubber sounds like it could be expensive. I thought I could use the rock-wool stuff. But I guess the purpose of it is to absorb the lateral vibrations of the joists?

I worry about whether the improvement from any of these options will be worth the time and effort. Has anyone heard the "before and after" of such a project?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 4:40 PM

What I have given you are pretty much standard methods of sound proofing. I have provided as much suppression of sound from vibration of the upstairs floor and separation of your ceiling and suspension of it in a manner that will eliminate anything that gets beyond that floor and suppression.

I had assumed you had a sense, i.e., that you have worked with materials and construction but your questions and hesitancy suggest that is not so.

There is of course another solution and that is to adapt, do what I do living in a two hundred apartment building with all night traffic in the halls, learn to live with it and sleep through it.

What I gave you were essentially the means I would use to soundproof the ceiling of a sound studio. You can suspend that ceiling as I set out, and get somebody with materials sense to choose a suspension material. I would cut up (Or use full length if short enough) a bunch of those thick black rubber strap downs (The ones with holes in their enlarged ends, not the hook type) that are sold to use in holding materials in pickups or trailers.

Suspend the ceiling with enough of those and you need not worry about extensive sagging. The rubber hangers will not transfer vibration to your ceiling turning it into a sounding board.

There are other ways, something they call a resilient strip which I think, looking at them on the web, are useless or next to useless not providing the amount of vibration isolation you would get with rubber hangers.

If I were you I would spend some days reading everything on the web that goes to soundproofing to get a better sense of what you are into.

But, again, if you have not worked with construction tools and materials, not had to make those kinds of decisions, coupled with the nature of your hesitancy and questioning, you would be best off getting professionals to do it for you.

That will cost a lot of money so be sure you get a written contract specifically stating what the end result will be, i.e., the installation will not allow transfer of noise from above, best written by your attorney.

Nonetheless, after spending time reading on the net, if then you realize what this is about, absorption and isolation, you will understand what I set out for you.

Doing piecemeal what some have set out will have you going back seeking to improve on the steps that were inadequate to start with.

Piecemeal there are things you can do but they are expensive and no guarantee.

You can buy a product called mass-loaded vinyl (2 lbs/sq. ft.) which is very expensive, and lay a sheet of that under the upstairs rug. My bet is that won't eliminate those heel thumps.

There were some other limited suggestions.

The best, and in the long run the cheapest way to do this is to take the problem as a whole and not get in deeper and deeper each time a single measure is inadequate.

But if you are not that familiar with materials and means, do not have that construction sense (No insult intended) either get it done using the system I set out (As indicated above I am suspicious of some of the "modern" means, such as metal resilience strips, as more beneficial to contractors than the object) or simply learn to live with it.

j.

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#17
In reply to #8

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 3:49 PM

I appreciate your suggestions and I think that the strategy makes sense. My hesitancy is due to laziness rather than inability though (like so many students). I'm very capable with framing, drywall, electrical etc. and unorthodox ways of building stuff. I had imagined elastics which stretch more than those tie-down bands which are very stiff. I just figured that there would be a specific elastic for this purpose that is optimized for the application.

I'd love to know how people sleep through noise. I'm a very light sleeper.

I learn by asking questions. Unfortunately this comes of as doubting the questionee's expertise which is not the case. I'm sure I'd do a better job if I understood how the strategy works.

And I definitely wouldn't want to do anything piecemeal and have it fail. That would be the ultimate in frustration.

I just moved here and have a million other things that need fixing so I was hoping for a quick fix.

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#25
In reply to #17

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 12:01 PM

Alcohol reduces noise sensitivity. Start with a six pack of cheap beer. If that does not work, progress your way up to cheap liquor. You just have to work at it.

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#9
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Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/26/2009 4:52 PM

Sleepy,

"Not that I want to do this because it eliminates the whole advantage of a suspended ceiling--easy access to wires and stuff."

The above really suggests you are in over your head and need, at least, a consultant.

What I had described to you was in fact a suspended ceiling, specially constructed so it was strong enough to float, but which would allow access, by pushing up drop in sound proofing panels, to the space above.

j.

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#10

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 5:18 AM

Impact and structure borne noise is generally the hardest noise to eliminate. It will not only be coming through the ceiling but also through any walls or floor coupled to the floor above. Even if it all appears to be coming from the ceiling you could be deceived by the Haas precedence effects which leads the brain to assume the sound is coming from the direction from which you first heard it even if the later arrivals are louder.

Since it is generally impracticable to build a floating room (although widely done for studios) it is best to eliminate the noise at source. This would generally be done by sealing the existing floor, laying a resilient mat and then a solid sealed floor over that with a carpeted surface. Resilient matting to support flooring is available from specialist acoustics material suppliers.

Don't be tempted to put any old matting underneath as it won't be effective unless tuned right. GlobalSpec's Noise and Vibration section has a wide range of companies advertising these materials.

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#11

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 10:13 AM

How about sound canceling headphones hooked up to an small amplifier. Direct the earphone pickup(s) toward the ceiling & the headphone output to the amp. Iam sure there are difficult particulars to iron out. But if you can figure this out you might consider seeking a patent. Good luck Carlos

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#18
In reply to #11

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 3:51 PM

Yep, I looked into that. It sounds like it's technologically next to impossible. There was a long thread about this very idea on Slashdot.

I think you'd be an instant billionaire if you figured that out.

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#12

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 11:05 AM

I wont bore you with the details of how I know this work. (Well help alot!)

But tear down your ceiling and then pay one of those spray foam insulation companys to come in and fill the spaces with the spray foam up right even with the joist. then just trim it off flush and put your drywall back up.

Good luck. I feel your pain. Lived in an apartment that the people downstairs played the radio LOUD at all hours of the day and night. That is until I built a transmiter and pumped about 10 Watts of polka music on every station they tried to listen too! They moved out shortly after...

bill12780

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 11:49 AM

I am sorry, this really won't solve impact noise problems such as overhead foot steps or low frequency airborne sound, although it would help a little with medium and high frequency airborne noise such as from a radio.

Germany has led the way in noise control regulations for housing. As a result floating floor systems such as I described earlier have been in widespread use for some time. They are now becoming much more common in new build multi-occupancy buildings in the UK.

Detailing is the key to success in sound isolation, a single rigid connection across a floating boundary will destroy its effectiveness and a single small hole or crack through an acoustic barrier will drastically the isolation no matter how well specified.

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#13

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 11:47 AM

What about investing in a good pair of ear plugs?

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#19
In reply to #13

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 3:53 PM

I wrote-off that option long ago and forgot about it. It's sounding really good right about now.

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#22
In reply to #13

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 3:05 AM

My wife did that years ago when we lived near a busy road.

Wound up with deep seated ear infection. Specialist bills were substantial.

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#26
In reply to #22

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 2:24 PM

That's exactly what I was worried about but I wasn't sure of the likelihood of that happening! Thanks for mentioning it.

I also wonder about the health effects of sleeping with (white etc.) noise. I have to research these.

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#27
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Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 2:33 PM

I also wonder about the health effects of sleeping with (white etc.) noise

Something about that heard in lyrics of a 'Pink Floyd' tune...

In another post I described sound proofing a space. It wasn't foot steps that were bothersome it were the F-14's landing on the deck above

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#15

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 12:26 PM

I HAVE A DAUGHTER THAT STILL PLAYS DRUMS IN THE HOUSE.

You do not mention weather there is any floor covering in the above apartment. That combined with the sound deadening padding mentioned should be your first step. It does not have to be wall to wall, just a nice thick area rug that covers the foot traffic.

As I look at the walls of your apartment, I notice a lack of noise absorbing materials. Do you have a rug on your floor? How about thick drapery hanging from the walls.Even a large couch that is upholstered will absorb some sound. Whatever comes from the ceiling can not be allowed to bounce off the bare surfaces. I have installed carpet on the walls of a music studio to silence the noise. ( teaching studio)

Good luck.

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#20
In reply to #15

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 3:56 PM

Yeah it is quite echoey. I need to decorate the place with rugs on the walls or something.

I don't think they have any rugs on the hardwood above.

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#21
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Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/27/2009 4:41 PM

I've experienced an resolved this type problem in the identical situation actually.

It may be corrected by application of sound reduction materials directly to the ceiling and walls in the basement. This type sound proofing can be taken too far too. Once I used materials removed from and old data processing center and is was so quiet I couldn't even hear my own heartbeat

I've good experience ordering acoustic products and advise here

You may find the sound reduction materials need only be applied in the immediate area of where you sleep...those panels can suck of all sound

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#23

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 3:14 AM

Two suggestions.

1. Leaded vinyl fastened to the joists of the ceiling above then put in suspended ceiling.

This is good for absorbing low frequency as well as high frequency noise. (as good as any low frequency absorption anyway). Basically mass is required to absorb low frequencies.

2. A series of inclined plates between your ceiling and the floor above will attenuate almost all noise.

If the space between is filled with fiberglass, speech frequencies and some impact noise will be absorbed even better.

The baffles will reduce low frequencies simply because each reflection, absorbs some sound.

If you also put in the leaded vinyl, it should deaden the noise a lot.

Of course, if the people above carpet their floors with a good, soft carpet; impact noise will be reduced at source and a lot of your problems will probably go.

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#24

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

07/28/2009 8:46 AM

the problem is there is the source, the medium and the receiver.

you are attacking the problem at the medium, trying to muffle or eliminate the transmission of the noise into your room below. but you should also consider the source. if you cannot request them to please avoid walking loudly at 4 a.m., then you can reduce the sound of feet impacting the floor by applying sheet virgin rubber mat, and then carpeting the whole floor. it'll make the floor feel bouncy and even more comfortable for them, while eliminating the noise right at the source. once you do this, this will get the message across, that you'd want them to walk more silently, too.

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#28

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

08/12/2009 9:09 AM
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#29
In reply to #28

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

08/12/2009 9:28 AM

can one comfortably sleep with those on?

I can imagine the heat, and the discomfort when one turns to the side...

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#30

Re: Sound-Proofing Basement Bedroom

04/11/2015 8:53 AM

You need proper acoustic solution for it.There are so many products available in market like wall absorbers,Ceilings and insulation also.You can also try for acoustic panels and carpeting for it.

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