Gino Robair is former editor of EM

Gino’s Big Adventure: Building a Personal Studio, Part 5


Fig. 1

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6 | Part 7

Walls within walls

You know the routine. When life is crazy, a lyric or phrase will suddenly pop into your head. Today, it’s the voice of George Jetson shouting “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!?

I’m in the thick of the remodel.

Of course, I’m thankful that things are moving so quickly. However, my studio’s timetable is intertwined with the long to-do list for the rest of the house, so I no longer have the luxury of pondering over any decisions that need to be made. If the electrical is being done in two days, that’s for the entire project and I better get my list of needs to the contractor or there will be delays.

For example, now that all the windows are in and the plumbing and electrical is nearly finished, our thoughts have turned to the insulation and drywall. Not a problem for the rest of the new structure. “It’s just a box,? my contractor, Tom, likes to say. The studio, however, is not just a box.

What you see here are the outer walls (see Fig. 1). Soon, there will be a separate structure inside of it, with an air gap in between, in order for the studio to be acoustically decoupled from the outside. The room has a number of corners, which is good in terms of studio acoustics because you don’t want to have a room with two sets of two parallel walls. The corners came into being through a combination of exterior aesthetics (the studio is above the garage facing the street, so it needs to match the rest of the exterior) and allowable room size (we’ve maxed out the amount of square footage we can add to our property, so I literally had to cut corners in the studio to have enough room for other household sections). In any case, Tom can handle the corners.

The floor won’t be too much of an issue because we’re not floating it. Instead, we’re pouring a layer of Gyp-Crete, over which Owens Corning 703 insulation, CDX plywood, and hardwood will be added. Below the studio are several rooms, and the first-floor dividing walls offer plenty of structural support for the flooring we’ll install.


Fig. 2

Then there’s the ceiling (see Fig. 2).

Tom smiles when we talk about the ceiling. It’s the kind of smile that a Buddhist monk gives when you try his patience.

We both know the ceiling is going to be a lot of work. No, it’s actually going to be a pain in the ass. It’s pitched in many directions (again, to keep the upper floor from looking like a shoebox when viewed from the street) and it took a lot of work just to frame it.

In order to build the room-within-a-room, all of the different angles will get a triple layer of sheetrock, with a layer of Green Glue between each one. That means Tom and his men will sheetrock this complex surface three times.


Fig. 3

Big smile. Long silent pause.

Yeah, I know. That means extra man-hours, which translates to more money. Tom has been great about keeping the expenses down whenever possible, and I think it pains him to know how much work and money is involved in doing the ceiling, not to mention dealing with all of the special decoupling gaskets, firestops, and caulking. But he’s set on doing it right, and there are a few steps before we get to that point.

In Fig. 3, you can see that an extra layer of drywall has been added between the studs of the outer wall. Insulation will be put between the studs, but the surface will be left open. The interior wall that faces it will also be left open, so that insulation faces insulation. This is a technique of studio designer Rod Gervais, with whom I consulted and eventually hired to create the design. (In part one of this series, I mentioned his book Home Recording Studio: Build it Like the Pros. It’s a must-read if you’re planning a personal studio, no matter how modest or complex.)


Fig. 4

Although one would assume that simply stacking layer upon layer of drywall will continue to increase sound isolation, that’s not really the case. Gervais has found that it’s better to have the sheetrock stacked on the outer sides, leaving a large area of non-resonant surfaces with an air space in between. The Gervais book gives STC ratings for several different drywall/insulation layouts, and the results are surprising. The book also shows the structural details of each part of the wall, floor, and ceiling—including the part numbers of specific isolation components.

Once the interior walls are finished, the Gyp-Crete will get poured between them, the floor will be built up, and then it’s time for the ceiling. I can’t wait to see that go up—I’ll post the photos on this blog once the process begins.

Meanwhile, Tom has installed the wiring conduit for the tielines that will lead from the studio into three of the lower rooms (see Fig. 4). This may look like any old PVC pipe to the average person, but to you and I, it’s a chance to create a real echo chamber. Now it’s time to source the connector panels.


Fig. 5

PS: After I wrote this week’s blog, I went home to find that the interior studio walls are already being framed (see Fig. 5). You can see the 2-inch gap between the studs in this view of the inner airlock door.

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