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Basement Studio Size and Flooding

What would you consider an ideal size for a one-room studio that would accommodate a band rehearsal setup, recording/mixing station, and extra amp stacks, guitar rack, etc.?

We're looking at building a house with a basement and creating a studio within the basement--just personal hobby, not pro, and mostly going for isolation. My band rehearsal spaces have never been adequate, so I want bigger than what I have, but not bigger than I need, to keep expenses down. I've measured gear and drawn floor plans, but don't feel that's accurate at all. The size of the entire basement I think will be 800 sq ft and the studio would be no more than 400 to 600 sq ft. I thought 20' x 20' might be large enough, but now I'm not sure.

Band would be drums, a couple of guitar amps, bass amp, keys, room for singer(s) and floor monitors. I recently left the band and so can't provide exact SPL, but loudest level would be to match an acoustic drummer hitting hard; I may buy e-drums to control volume.

Any thoughts appreciated.


Mark All Thu, 08/06/2015 - 14:13
I've been reading posts about others who are building studios in the basement and one thread contained an alarming number of posts about how all basements flood eventually.

What are some of your experiences with basement studios? Is flooding bound to happen at some point? Should I revise my house plans considerably?

pcrecord Thu, 08/06/2015 - 18:15
I would start by investigating if floods did happen in your sector in the last 10years. Talk to neighbors and even your insurance company. The have records and risk assements that can help.

I lived through a flood once. The owners sump pump failed and I got 3 inches of water.
I had modular carpet that was easy to remove and I ran 2 dehumidifier for a week and since the studio had parallele open walls I did avoid mold.
As far as gear, other than a few direct box and powerbars, and a few crackles in a floor tom, everything else was ok.
The pump was replaced and put on a Back UPS and no other problems accured for years...

The best tips is to place any critical gear at some heights. (computer and data drives, high end preamps and vintage gear).
Some stuff can be replaced some don't. Protect yourself and use a safe backup system that puts a copy of data offsite.

My current basement studio is surrounded by clay and is very dry. The studio is on a floating floor and most of the stuff is secured.
I hope I won't live through that again, but I once had an issue with the hot water tank which busted. We are blessed to have a water overflow just a side of it.. so no damage accured...

dvdhawk Thu, 08/06/2015 - 22:36
If you don't have any books yet on the subject, do yourself a favor and get some practical books on the subject.

Here are two solid suggestions:
class="xf-ul"> While you wait for much more intelligent advice from someone better informed on building practices, who may say you don't need to get too hung up on room ratios - I would at least suggest you avoid making it square. As far as square rooms go, they can have a nasty overtone due to the length and width of the room having the exact same problem-wavelengths. Multiples like 20 x 30 can be a problem too, (don't forget sound is 3-dimensional, so you'll need to establish a ceiling height too - preferably not a divisor of the length and/or width).

Since isolation is one of your main concerns, it will be helpful to the real smart people to know how close your neighbors are, and whether you're also trying to keep sound from the upstairs living quarters.

In the end, you may be the best judge of how much space you need, and how much you can afford to bite off financially. Because whatever preliminary budget/quotes you get (unless it's a contractor who specializes in this sort of construction), it's going to be under by a mile if you plan to do it right. (Like 3x)

DonnyThompson Fri, 08/07/2015 - 03:31
I don't know if "all" basements flood eventually, but the chance for moisture/water damage are certainly higher just because of the nature of the location itself. Basements are where water heaters, water softeners, well pumps, holding tanks, washing machines, and all kinds of plumbing are resident - and as Marco mentioned, in his situation, he had a sump pump fail - so there's a greater chance of flooding occurring because you're surrounded by all kinds of things which either carry, transport or get rid of water. And, depending on the geographic location, the age, and the construction materials used with the foundation, you can get moisture and condensation without having an actual flood... and condensation isn't good for gear, either.

Also, because it's the lowest point in your house, this is where water will go if you happen to have any problems above it on the main living level.

Years ago, I had a fresh water line pop-off the fitting of a built-in dishwasher; it happened late at night, so I wasn't even aware that it had happened until I got up in the morning, came downstairs, heard the sound of water running, went into the kitchen, and saw gallons of water pouring down through cold air returns, heating vents, and even down the basement steps. Even with the sump pump working hard, the basement still had about 2" of water on the floor, but because the water had come from above, it also trashed ceiling tiles, ( my basement was of the "finished" rec room type) along with many of items and boxes stored there. Had I still had my studio down there, everything would have been trashed or damaged to some degree. Homeowner's insurance covered it, of course, but I had personal items that could never be replaced.

I suppose the chances of actual flooding or moisture/condensation occurring may decrease if you are working with a more modern basement... and if there is inherent condensation then a dehumidifier will help, but there's still no guarantee that water can't come in from above the basement level.


pcrecord Fri, 08/07/2015 - 04:58
Mark All, post: 431431, member: 49382 wrote: We're looking at building a house with a basement and creating a studio within the basement--just personal hobby, not pro, and mostly going for isolation.
Hobby not pro ! : those are the key words for me. I'm sure you're not aiming for a 10k pro recording room.
You first have to figure how much space each musician can live with and try to have a bit more.
I'm with dvdhawk about square rooms the standing waves will create a ton of problems. Often odd shapes are better, but of course they cost more...
Is it an all open basement, what are the dimensions and what's your budget ?

Mark All Fri, 08/07/2015 - 09:09
Great suggestions on investigating the flood history of the area and elevating gear, pcrecord.

Donny, thanks also--we just had a similar nightmare, upstairs toilet backed up and we had to replace that floor, the ceiling and walls below and all the flooring on the entire first floor.

We've heard other basement plumbing disaster stories. But the isolation aspect of 3 sides of the studio being underground just seems the only way to go. Plus there are no rooms on the main level of a standard floor plan large enough, nor upstairs, plus I'm too old to carry my gear up and downstairs. :-)

Mark All Fri, 08/07/2015 - 09:53
Thanks dvdhawk and pcrecord.

Let me apologize, I probably posted this in the wrong forum: before getting to acoustics I just need to know how big the room needs to be. Should I repost this to Studio Lounge or something?

I'm reading Rod's book now. Great point about avoiding a square room--the 20' x 20' example was what I originally thought might be adequate space, rather than to specify a shape, fortunately now I know that square's not good!

I was hoping folks with a similar band / recording setup might tell me the dimensions of their space. I'll basically have a setup similar to the one below except I have more stuff (referring to the band and desk setup, not room size, windows, etc.)

We're building the house from scratch and will have an 800 sq foot basement area--but if need be we could get a full basement maybe twice that size, but I'd prefer not to incur that expense. We'll need 2 or 3 other rooms and a bathroom. We can customize the floor plan, but not yet sure how much, since some walls will be load bearing, etc.

I'm also not sure how to set up: like on stage, or the "circular firing squad." I'll mostly be sitting at the desk recording myself, but hope to have band practices and then maybe record the band later.

Example of amount of space that's close to adequate:

dvdhawk Fri, 08/07/2015 - 10:14
In the case of a plumbing disaster, there are a number of companies who make [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]water detection alarms[/]="…"]water detection alarms[/] to alert you when there's water present. Some alarms just make noise, some alarms can also be tied to the shut-off valve of your waterline, so at least a plumbing leak won't turn your basement into an indoor pool with your gear in it. Obviously, you need to make sure the audible alarm can be heard inside and outside of your (hopefully) well-isolated studio room.

Of course, if you're in a floodplain and the river's rising you are SOL. You're in hurricane country, so you probably have to be prepared for that kind of extreme rainfall.

If it keeps on rainin' the levee's gonna break…..

pcrecord Fri, 08/07/2015 - 11:30
Mark All, post: 431451, member: 49382 wrote: Thanks, pcrecord, I downloaded sketchup and will give it a try. I've measured all my gear, but the hard part may be determining each instrumentalist's living space. :)
I guess 4x4 is the extreem minimum.. you can think of 6x6 or 8x8.. check how your musicians move around at your next practice ;)

bouldersound Fri, 08/07/2015 - 11:52
Mark All, post: 431455, member: 49382 wrote: Thanks bouldersound, I'll ask the builder (and look for independent resources) about the water table. I read that sump pumps are put into houses where the water table "is above the foundation of a home."

So is your studio in an aboveground room?

Where I usually work is on a slab foundation. The other one is sort of a basement in a building built on a slope. The grade is above it on one side and below it on the other. My home, where I do a fair bit of work, is on a slab. All of these escaped significant damage in the big flood, but one band member had major damage in his basement. In some areas whole houses were washed away so no matter how much you prepare it's still possible to suffer damage.

DonnyThompson Fri, 08/07/2015 - 12:41
Mark All, post: 431455, member: 49382 wrote: I read that sump pumps are put into houses where the water table "is above the foundation of a home."

This is common, but many homes have sump pumps regardless of that - some are also used to carry out ( up-pump) "gray water" from washing machines and utility sinks up to the sewer or septic line.

I think most modern homes have them as a safety against all kinds of potential mishaps, but that would depend on regional codes, individual needs, etc.

Of course, if you're in a storm and the power goes out, you're out of luck - unless you'd have a secondary backup power system to power the pump.

But, as Boulder mentioned, sometimes there's just nothing you can do. Mother Nature is a lot bigger than any man or machine, and if she's pissed off, then we're all at her mercy. ;)

In the end, all you can really do is to make sure you're sufficiently insured - and you might want to talk to your agent about specifics for your studio, and what type of policy or rider you'd need to cover your gear under any circumstances of damage or loss.


dvdhawk Fri, 08/07/2015 - 13:38
Mother Nature does indeed win every time.

Some areas are classified by flooding once every 25 years, 50 years, 100 years. The tiny little village I lived in before we bought this place 23 years ago, had 2 of those "once every 50 years" floods in the span of about 6 years. I've seen some water main breaks on the news lately too that would be just about as bad, only more localized.

For my slow-moving basement studio project (which sits right next to a spring) we used double Form-a-drain to form the footers, and put a bunch of drainage below the basement slab all running well downhill to daylight. We also opted to not put in any floor drains, figuring it was more of a risk for ingress than it would be of benefit for egress. There will be very limited plumbing (sink, shower, toilet, tankless water heater) in the building and water sensing alarms in any area water could collect. But I'm also using radiant in-floor heat throughout, so that means lots of PEX tubing, and manifolds, and a boiler, any of which could ruin your day - when (not if) something inevitably leaks.

kmetal Sat, 08/08/2015 - 09:41
A basic sump pump and drainage is about the best it gets, along with some flood insurance that makes sure there's enough to money for some new toys if nature strikes.

You probably want PT footers, and vapor barriers, of lack there of, should be in the plans. When your making an airtight room, it important to control the moisture in the room. Sweat and hot gear can destroy intonation and tuning.

kmetal Sat, 08/08/2015 - 09:59
I think something g like 3,000 cubic ft is the genrally accepted volume requirement for listening rooms. This lets the sound blossom well in the room.

Something to keep in mind is this is the interior shells dimensions. ISO walls are easily a foot thick, so a 20' wide ISO room need about 21.5-22.5' feet of width to fit properly in a very general example. The acoustic treatment can range from 4" to a couple feet thick, reducing the area band members have, inside the space.

So you loose 8" of wall space for treatment, and 8-12" per wall. That's 2-3' less floor space ect. Add on a couple cabs and drumkit and a spacious 22x30 area becomes, comfrotably cozy, when fully isolated and treated.

From my expertince bigger is a better way to err provided the time and money. For example you can studio the two of studios I've built/rebuilt in the last years. 'Normandy's contro, room is roughly 10x22x25 inside, with the outer shell about 1-4 feet deeper. Main room is 22x32 roughly. 'The wave cave', is 900sqf shell (30'x30'), and the contro, room is 16x22.

I normally don't post links to my work, but because your room is similar in size I thought it would be useful to see how it gets divided up, ect.

Ps. The numbers I used are just in general, for conversation purposes.

Mark All Sat, 08/08/2015 - 10:11
kmetal, post: 431470, member: 37533 wrote: A basic sump pump and drainage is about the best it gets, along with some flood insurance that makes sure there's enough to money for some new toys if nature strikes.

You probably want PT footers, and vapor barriers, of lack there of, should be in the plans. When your making an airtight room, it important to control the moisture in the room. Sweat and hot gear can destroy intonation and tuning.

I hadn't thought about that, although the idea of humidity in a basement makes me uneasy. All the existing houses we've looked at had dehumidifiers in the basements.

I have vapor barriers in my list to give the builder, I'll have to find out what a PT footer is. :-) I'm halfwy through Rod's book and have so much more research to do quickly.

I need to find a way to independently verify this, but the builder tells me, "There isn't any water close enough even in a 500 year catastrophic flood that could reach your house. The basement walls today are all waterproofed and to my knowledge don't really leak any more. I don't know of any floods in the neighborhood."

Mark All Sat, 08/08/2015 - 10:24
Beautiful studios, kmetal! (The clip I checked out sounded great, too.) And extremely helpful considerations to keep in mind. From the pics, it looks like those general dimensions would be adequate for my needs. Given the amount of basement space available, knowing we'll need 2 or 3 other rooms, and making the studio as big as possible, should give a pretty good rough floor plan right there. I can then take that tentative area and determine how well everything will fit in it. Thanks!

kmetal Sat, 08/08/2015 - 11:38
PT is short for Pressure Treated, a type of lumber used in exterior exposed decks, like the one in a typical backyard, and also used commonly where wood joist come in direct contact with concrete. For instance the footer, would be the framing board running along the bottom of the wall frame, resting on a concrete basement floor.

Vapor barriers are not something to just do willy nilly, especially in airtight ISO walls, where improper airflow could cause rot from the inside out, by locking moisture IN. Be careful. humidity is uber important for anything of a comfortable space, especially with 5 musicians making music.

If the house or space you have is typical than the chapter in the books pertaining to hvac are all will help you quite a bit. Any other sort of problems should be handled before anything else. Since you know it's going to be and ISO space, you can consider that fact, when going over your options.

You for instance would not want a 'dry basement' company unexpectedly digging a trench or French drain thru the middle of your room, or a perimeter where a massive ISO wall is going to lay.

OBrien Sun, 08/09/2015 - 12:53
After all has been said, the good the bad and the ugly, about old basements or poorly constructed basements or improper >exterior
The first line of defense against water leaks is a well constructed/exterior water proofed basement design. That is what you require first. Ask questions. Does the builder have a history of making basements in your area impervious against water? What techniques do they use? Is it a membrane with coating or is it a combination of small rock around the exterior perimeter of the basement and a french drain or some combination of both(this being the more recommended).

Then you have to define what type of structure footprint your new home will have based on blueprints. This will define the basement. If >you
Still, you want the basement to be as tall as possible, as wide as possible, as long as possible and as post-free as possible.

You would be doing yourself and the crafts that will come after this residence is constructed a favor, by incorporating the electrical/HVAC /plumbing components of your as yet designed recording environment, into the design before you build, not after.

When all is said and done, your HVAC is gonna be the work horse and more needed than any one item in the attempt to remove moisture from this area, that requires an air in and air out register. And if you have a recording studio in the basement with multiple rooms, each and every room >should
The general by-product of a well isolated recording studio in a basement is sound, lots of it and really, really loud. The usual way to overcome this general effect is to play at lower levels, levels that allow the music to be heard versus trying to play over the drummer (acoustic drums can reach 130 dB). So you do not want to get cramped up, like say with a low ceiling.

We welcome your basement recording studio build and hope we get lots of pictures(once the studio actually starts) lots of detail and expect you to work work work to get it the best that you can.

As an example of how much time it takes to do the right thing [[url=http://[/URL]="http://recording.or…"]DVDHawk[/]="http://recording.or…"]DVDHawk[/] started his build thread Dec 28, 2008...and he still isn't finished. Because it takes a lot, money education and proper design, willing trades person to be educated, patient persons in the building industry to help you get things done while meeting code and maintaining ability to insure the structure.

Good read if you have a few weeks :)

Mark All Sun, 08/09/2015 - 16:00
Thanks, Brien. Great tips in your post. Also, DVDhawk's thread looks like a must-read, even though it may make me feel even more unqualified to do this than I already do. But I figure anything I can get from Rod's book, dvdhawk's thread, and these forums will be an improvement over my previous absolute ignorance. I'll post pics and my progress if I think it's anything other than a bad example. :)

And you're definitely right about the acoustic drums. For a mostly metal guitarist, I don't play that loudly, it's everybody raising their volume to achieve balance with an acoustic drummer playing with verve that makes it so loud. I hope to buy an electronic drum kit and convince visitors to play it, I don't know if that will work or not.


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