Promedia Blog

Building a Guest House Studio Part I and II

Hey there! I just thought I’d share a project I’m working on that comes up a lot as topic in our classes. “How do I renovate, or convert a space into a working and creative audio environment?”

So the project? I’m taking an old guest house in Tampa, and converting it into a working creative music production studio. And to top it off, I’m trying to keep the total cost under $1000 in materials. The rest is labor.

The Starting Point:

A guest house built in the 40’s

The known starting problems:
  • It was built in the 40’s
  • Oh, did I mention, It was built in the 40’s

** I pondered the old school hand cranking windows for a while

 The Solutions:
  • Build a sub-frame room inside of the existing space to minimize sound transmission.
  • Build a “floated” floor, de-coupling the studio floor from the house’s foundation.
  • Minimize the ceiling sound transmission
  • Sound proof the windows without sacrificing them.

So here is the starting point. A 9ft by 16ft room with very old windows. You might call them “pre-historic” for working in a sound treated studio. The first thing I did, after taking measurements, was to put up a pair of Genelec 1031s with an M&K subwoofer. I then tweaked the crossover a bit, cranked up the jams, and went outside to listen for where the sound transmission problems are. There are many theories on how to soundproof a room, but you need to address what the problem is first. Then you can decide how to treat the actual problems first. In my case, the windows and front door had the most problems. Overall though, there was a lot of sound leaking out.


The goals for the day:
  • Make a game plan for the build
  • Get started


I determined that I needed to treat everything, so I started with the windows. I wanted to retain the windows, so I devised a way to build out a frame around the window 4” wide and about 2” out from the wall. I used a couple 1x4s on top of each other until I got the depth that would give clearance for the existing window cranks. The final step is to build a 2”x2” frame around the outer edge of the window frame, leaving a place to insert a sound proofed panel that can be latched into place and removed easily. The next step was to build up the wall from the existing bookshelf that was open above. A couple 2x4s and drywall later, the form was starting to take shape. I finished off the day by sealing every possible gap and crevice I could find, and figuring out where I could find air-conditioning duct board, because I was going to need a lot of it. All of the walls and the ceiling need a layer as a starting point. Total cost for the day: [$80]

Day 2:

The goals for the day:
  • Pick up Duct Board
  • Seal the room


I started the day finding an air-conditioning supply house, and picking up two cases of 1” thick duct board (12 sheets that are 4’-10’ each)[$400]. Then I picked up some long screws and fender washers. The washers are approximately 1” diameter, and fit typical sized drywall screws. These are helpful in attaching the duct board to the walls. [$15] For the initial layer, I cut and placed each piece insulation side in towards the wall. Then the drywall screws and fender washers were used to attach them to the walls (catching the beams). After all the pieces were attached, I sealed all the seams with 4” foil-tape, so no sound could easily sneak through and then covered all of the attachment screws/washers. I then decided used a few extra pieces of duct board scraps behind the new walls to help dampen any potential resonance in the wall. Over kill? Maybe, but does that exist? I would rather over-build on the sound proofing, than to worry about it not being enough later.

Total cost for the day: [$415]



Day 3:

  • The goals for the day:
  • Build a de-coupled floor



After a stiff Cuban expresso, I was ready to tackle the floating sub-floor. I decided upon building a 2”x4” frame and sitting it upon something to minimize the vibrations traveling through. A cut up bar mat became the absorber. I picked up a 3’x3’ bar mat, and cut it into 81 pieces (9x9). My sub-floor frame was to be 8’x8’, so placing a square of mat every foot seemed to make the most sense.

So the shopping list:
(11) 8ft 2”x4”s
(1) barmat
(2) ¾” plywood sheets to cover floor
(1) box of screws
(1) box of finish nails
(1) ¼” plywood (appearance grade)
(2) boxes of hardwood flooring (80 sq/ft)
(3) Liquid Nails

After building the frame, I lifted the frame from side to side, placing the mat pieces under each square foot. Then I fastened the plywood to the frame adding strength and something to attach a floor to. I scored at the hardware store on some extra hardwood flooring that was marked down from $175 to $20 each for 2 boxes (80 sq/ft). A great deal for real ¾” Oak flooring.

Total cost for the day: [$140]

Day 4:

The goals for the day:
  • Finish the floor
  • Figure out the framing


Time to finish the floor and tackle the cabinet. The floor went together quite nicely. I really got lucky to find the solid Oak flooring so cheaply. 80 sq/ft was plenty for our purposes here. After getting the floor in place, I moved on to looking at framing inside the current shell and figuring out the most efficient way to support it. I decided to go with 2”x2” studs and attach to walls where possible. They where going to be the lightest and easiest to work with option I had. I didn’t want to depend upon too much support from the walls. They were quite old, and far from square. I soon devised the best anchor points, and figured how much wood and screws to go purchase.

Day 5:

The goals for the day:
  • Refinish the cabinet
  • Start on the framing



I started the day at the hardware store. I picked up several bundles of 2”x2” studs, some “Sedona Red” stain, brushes, and a couple more 1”x4” boards to finish the other window.

Total cost for the day: [$80]

After returning, I started the day with building and anchoring the front wall. All others branch off from there. I then measured and cut pieces from my ¼” stained ply to attach inside the cabinet. I’m also starting to really notice a difference from the insulation layer that the duct board provided, remember, old house. The remainder of the day was spent sanding and staining the remaining 2”x2” studs.

Day 6:

The goals for the day:
  • Finish the framing


Back to the grind! Day 6 brought the remainder of angling and framing the front walls and ceiling. The room is finally starting to take shape. I wanted to deflect the acoustic energy away from the front mixing position. Any 90 degree, or similar corner, will usually resonate lower frequencies, causing imbalances in the frequency response of the room. My solution: defer it to the back. I’ll address the back later when I can analyze the frequency response of the room. Maybe bass-traps or diffusers, but I need to find the problem first before worrying too much about what to do back there. Since I’m headed out of town tonight for new classes tomorrow, I’ll have to defer the rest of the build out until next time I’m back in town. Stay tuned for more progress. I’ll post updates as they occur. I’m back next week to complete the walls and get desk and racks built. There’s already a client booked for an 8-song album in 3-weeks, so the time-crunch is on!



Day 7:

The goals for the day:
  • Finish cutting and installing duct board onto angled walls
  • Go to fabric stores and find fabric
  • Start building and wrapping new panels

So the day started by getting the final pieces of duct board cut and fit onto the angled walls.


Next, off to the fabric stores to find some nice fabric to cover the next layer of panels. The next layer will have duct board panels cut to fit inside the framing. The panels will have the fiberglass side facing out to help with absorbing many of the mid to high frequencies in the room.


So after a bit of driving around town, finally, the fifth store I went into had some fabric I liked, that they also had enough of in stock. I settled on red and black crushed velour- The red fabric for the walls, and black for the ceiling. I picked up 12 yards of black, and 20 yards of the red at $2.99 per yard. I wanted to pick up a little more than I needed for the room, so that there would be a little extra incase of an oops.

Fabric: $102

Hot glue gun and glue: $20

Total cost for the day: [$122]

Day 8:

The goals for the day:
  • Measure and cut duct board panels to fit
  • Cut fabric and cover panels
  • Start installing panels

I started the day by cutting out panels to fit the front wall, each being an exact fit for inside the frame. After test fitting each, the fabric installation was next. I cut each piece of fabric a few inches larger than each panel. Then I laid the fabric face down and placed the panel fiberglass side down on the back of the fabric. After the glue gun heated up enough, it was time to start gluing the edges of the fabric to the back of each panel.


After finishing up the gluing of fabric to each panel, I inserted each into the frame. I used liquid nails on the back-side of each panel to secure them from coming out off the wall later.


Here’s a picture of some of the panels finished and installed with some of the other panels test fitted, and ready for fabric.


Next Step: Part III

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