Hard surfaces reflect sound waves; soft surfaces absorb them.
Materials that help control sound within a room are familiar to most homeowners. If you want to minimize sound bouncing around a room, opt for “soft” materials such as acoustic ceilings and padded carpeting rather than hardwood, tile, or laminates.
Companies such as Armstrong World Industries have a wide range of acoustic ceiling materials. Acoustic tiles and drop-ceiling systems offer excellent acoustical properties; people who think the conventional styles are a bit too institutional will like some of the newer styles available.
For example, Armstrong offers 2-by-2-foot panels that have a step-edged detail or look like embossed or molded plaster. “These are very good for blocking noise generated in the basement and keeping it from invading upstairs,” says a spokesperson for Armstrong’s residential ceilings. “They will give your basement ceiling an STC [Sound Transmission Class] rating of about 35 and even better performance if you install batt insulation between floor joists,” he adds.
With ceilings, as with the entire house, the most effective way to minimize noise is to combine a number of different sound-blocking and sound-reduction methods.