Flooring in music room

September 20, 2019, 11:51 PM · My basement, most of which is dedicated to a music room, recently suffered some fairly serious water damage when drainage overflowed severely during a period of heavy rains. As a result, the flooring almost certainly has to be replaced.

The music room is 600 sqft (30x20) with a 9' ceiling, so it's quite spacious. It's outfitted in very thick, plush carpet on top of very thick floor padding. This dampens sound sufficiently that the room has a fairly nice, neutral acoustic. You can hear yourself play, and in a chamber setting, people sound good together, and everyone can hear each other clearly. It's also very neutral for recording, and dead silent (sufficient to record professionally; for work, a professional team sometimes shoots videos in this room).

I need to replace the flooring with something waterproof or pretty impervious to moisture. I was originally leaning to doing engineered hardwood and dampening the resonance with a lot of floor rugs, but that might not be waterproof enough. Now i'm thinking about doing LVT (luxury vinyl tile plank) or WPC/SPC (wood or stone plastic composite, another type of vinyl plank); I'd still need to put down padded rugs for comfort.

Has anyone used either type of material in a music room, especially a larger space? What is the sound like? Any suggestions for alternative flooring? (My husband wants porcelain tile, but that's cold and I suspect it will be unpleasantly echo-y, like playing in a bathroom.)

Replies (20)

September 21, 2019, 12:44 AM · What was the padded base before? Did you simply mean the padding that goes underneath wall-to-wall carpet? Are you wanting a padded floor? Or just a solid one with rugs on top?

Tiles with rugs on top sounds ok to me, but if you want some kinds of padding there are endless options.

Stuff I have used on floors include this:

https://www.audimute.com/peacemaker-soundproofing-isolation-antivibration-pad

While the most impact sound absorbing tile I have ever found, they have a rough surface, impossible to clean, so I covered them in rubber floor tiles from rubberflooringinc.com. Cimexa goes underneath the peacemakers to keep the bugs out too.

Tatami flooring tiles have also been useful to me, they can work on floors and walls. On floors you can't put anything heavy on them, and no shoes, so they have limited usefulness.

Besides a variety of floor pads, Audimute also has a lot of stuff for walls and ceilings, if you want a more professional look than tatami tiles glued to a wall. :-)

September 21, 2019, 10:34 AM · I have thick padding, carpet, and a rug on top in my studio. I can't remember what's under the padding but it's nothing special--if you wanted to take out the carpet, you'd have to put some kind of flooring in.

I can't imagine anything worse than tile in a music room. Yikes.

September 21, 2019, 1:41 PM · Cork flooring would work well. Good for soundproofing.
September 21, 2019, 1:53 PM · I think I'd stick with an inexpensive water proof hard surface and cover it really thick rug pad and rugs. You can also get carpet made into a rug and they'll bind the edges for you; it's just whatever the cost of the carpet per square foot. That could be the best of both worlds- movability when needed and sound absorption.
September 21, 2019, 2:15 PM · Thanks all. Cork can't be safely used in a basement since it's not waterproof.

I just had the regular sort of padding under wall-to-wall carpet, but the padding was the thickest you can get for residential use, and the carpet was quite deep for normal (non-shag) carpet.

We used to have a porcelain tile room in a glass-walled room that we intended to turn into a room for a grand piano, in a previous house. Playing in there was a lovely experience, but not a very useful one. :-) Everything sounded great.

Rug arrangements are an interesting question in a large room that is routinely reconfigured for different ensembles and uses. I practice in there alone, where I have a large L-shaped table close at hand. I play trios, quartets, and quintets, with and without grand piano. I sometimes host larger groups too (say, an octet). My teacher also uses it as studio space once day a week.

(Some aspects of the room were designed to accommodate different uses, i.e. there are groups of outlets spaced out along the floor intended for a quartet's stand lights.)

September 21, 2019, 4:52 PM · I'm so sorry this happened to you. We had the same thing happen in 2013 and I lost a ton of my music theory books. I know it is not entirely on topic, but we ended up putting in a rather expensive flood control system. It does its job, and we don't have to worry about flooding anymore.
September 21, 2019, 8:00 PM · That's exactly what happened to my violin teacher's studio. She pretty much put in the same type of flooring as before.

I have rugs where I practice mostly to keep my bow safe if I drop it.

September 21, 2019, 9:26 PM · Thanks. We actually have a pretty extensive drainage system (with both interior and exterior drainage tile) but the window wells leaked.
Edited: September 22, 2019, 9:00 PM · Lydia, one option is just wall-to-wall vinyl, and then rugs. For the rugs, look at olefin material. Vinyl isn't trendy, but it sure is practical.

The first rule of any basement is: Don't put anything you can't part with within a foot of the floor. Okay we can argue about the exact distance, but it's a pretty quick calculation to determine the water level you're going to have if your 50-gallon hot-water heater lets go in a 600-square-foot room. Sort of like Greenland melting, only smaller.

September 23, 2019, 2:27 AM · do they make treated wood flooring that's waterproof??
September 23, 2019, 7:35 AM · Lydia, since it is a basement, I would recommend a ceramic tile floor (on a waterproofed cement foundation). Since you want fixed carpet in the end, the looks of the tiles is not important and you can take something decent but not too expensive for that. Then the fixed carpeting goes on top of that.
September 23, 2019, 11:16 AM · Lyndon, the closest thing to that is WPC, which uses wood fibers in a composite matrix. Engineered hardwood has some moisture resistance but isn't waterproof.

Jean, a double layer of flooring is undesirable for cost reasons. The entire basement is about 1,800 sqft so there's a lot of square footage to cover.

Edited: September 23, 2019, 11:39 AM · Lydia, I have had very good luck with WPC floors. I live in a duplex-down unit, so I primarily "live" in my "basement". They are extremely stable, waterproof, and are quite rigid. The good ones look good enough to fool people.

US Floors makes one that has treated cork backing (they claim it's treated to be waterproof, although in the case of a flood, you may still want to pull them up and dry them out). They recommend installing it with vapor barrier to reduce any moisture that's coming up through the slab into your home.

If you're really uncomfortable with cork, Shaw makes a product that uses a rubber backing instead of cork, but is a very similar hard surface.

Both of these products are pretty darned scratch resistant, and the composite core and soft backing layer actually dampen sound quite well (well, way better than polished slab or ceramic at any rate), and they definitely feel warmer than ceramic tile, plus it doesn't feel like you're walking on a hard concrete slab. For this reason, I went with WPC instead of SPC (which is harder and more durable, but doesn't flex as much underfoot).

Granted, I just call my installation "floor" and not "music room".

The price will also run cheaper than other products since the install is click-lock, much like engineered hardwood.

Edited: September 24, 2019, 5:49 AM · Lydia, I'd expect that vinyl or non-porous rubber flooring would be among the best in resisting moisture damage. Either would be less destructive than ceramic tile if something is dropped on it, with rubber being the far superior of the two in that regard. Neither will damp sound nearly as well as your thick carpeting.

A friend has the rubber flooring in his violin shop (and thinks it's great), and my gym has it wall-to-wall, getting high traffic, and it seems to wear very well.

What is your ceiling made of? Some sound dampening (even carpet) could be added to that surface to make up for what you're losing on the floor.

September 24, 2019, 11:12 AM · The ceiling is just a standard residential ceiling. I figure I'll be getting padded rugs over whatever else is on the floor, hear what it sounds like, and if necessary, do acoustic tile on the walls.
September 24, 2019, 12:27 PM · I will presume "a standard residential ceiling" to be drywall. If so, that could be covered or replaced with acoustic tile in addition to the walls, if needed.
September 24, 2019, 12:37 PM · I believe so, yes. We discussed the possibility of installing acoustic tile with the builder when the house was first constructed and we decided to hold off and see what the acoustic was like with just the carpet, but the existing normal ceiling should support it if we wanted to do so.


September 26, 2019, 5:43 PM · As David mentioned, any tile floor is death to bows and instruments that get dropped on it. Rugs that can be taken up in rainy weather and moved to higher ground would be a real good idea.
October 7, 2019, 12:07 PM · i have vinyl planks that lay on the floor. They are non glued for the most part. Warmer than porcelain. If the basement floods, the impacted tiles can be lifted to get to any water that may have gotten underneath, without taking the entire floor apart. There is no wood involved, so the tiles themselves are waterproof.
October 7, 2019, 2:57 PM · Thanks. I've decided to go with wood-appearance multiwidth LVT plank, and layer rugs as necessary. I'm thinking about anti-fatigue mats, which I have in water-absorbent form in my kitchen and which I really like.


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