We are lucky in that the space is, essentially, already the ‘room-within-a-room’ that studio designers generally aim for. However, only two of its walls back on to the walls of the Music Base basement itself; the others face communal areas. What we need to complete the room-within-a-room ideal are two additional walls.trevordiy.wordpress.com
Building outside in the communal areas is impossible, so we had to head inside. Simply attaching new walls to the existing ones would not work. Sound travels in the form of vibrations, and vibrations travel very well through certain types of solid matter, especially wood. Therefore any part of the structure still attached to the original outer wall – be it floor, ceiling or wall – will transmit sound vibrations into the studio space itself.
Ross, acoustic consultant and chief handyman, concluded that we should detach the existing walls from the rest of the room before building our new ones. The first step was to see how the room was built, so we hacked up a corner of the floor and took out a section of the wall. It turned out that, since it was built as a beer cellar, what we have on our hands is essentially a wet room with a 4 inch thick, raised wooden floor layered with polythene and metal sheeting. Less surprising is the fact that the floor and ceiling are supported and attached to the double-plasterboard walls via wooden joists.
Incidentally, another by-product of the beer cellar heritage meant cleaning out and plugging up long-forgotten drains, removing an industrial cooler and severing a snaking array of pipes.
So knowing a bit more about what we were dealing with we set about entirely detaching the two offending walls. Starting with the longest one we cut a trench about 10 inches wide and prised out the floor (complete with waterproofing material). The inner edge of the trench thus represented the eventual position of our new wall. We re-built the under-floor supports between the exposed joists then severed the joists themselves from the existing wall so no vibrations could get through.
To decouple a wall from the room it’s part of you obviously have to cut more than the floor – there are the two adjoining walls and the ceiling to consider. To make matters slightly more challenging, our space has an overhang where the ceiling is lower at one end. Not wanting to hack straight into these other parts lest the room collapse around (or upon) us, the next step was to start building the rudiments of the new wall at one end, thus propping up the ceiling and allowing us to safely continue the hackathon. I’ll elaborate on this step next time!