How To: Replace a basement ceiling


The ceiling in a reader’s basement. (Reader photo)
January 22

Question: We are looking to do a light remodel of our walkout basement, where we have our TV and where my husband diligently practices his guitar. I am usually upstairs in a more quiet Zen zone. The seven-foot ceilings are acoustic tiles, but some are water-stained. To update the look, we are considering installing drywall instead. We also want to remove the fluorescent lighting and install recessed lighting in its place. Would these changes create any noise issue for the first and second floors?

— Arlington

Answer: Switching to a drywall ceiling shouldn’t cause a noise problem, but installing recessed lights probably would, according to Patrick Michaelyan, co-owner of Positive Energy Construction in Arlington (978-376-0478; www.positiveenergyva.com). The company focuses on projects that improve energy efficiency but also tackles sound insulation.

Although the acoustic tiles might have been put in for sound-control reasons, they are often installed in basement ceilings to provide easy access to plumbing and electrical systems, Michaelyan notes. Before you cover the basement ceiling with drywall, make sure you’ve fixed whatever caused the water stains. And if you are planning any plumbing or electrical changes on the main level of your house, address them first.

Also, before you add the drywall, insulate between joists with acoustic batts, which are similar to standard fiberglass insulation but denser. The insulation needs to fit snugly against the joists but not be compressed. Recessed lights would cut into the insulation space and channel sound between floors, which is why Michaelyan recommends against installing them in your situation.

It’s possible to install drywall using sound isolation clips and furring strips, so that the drywall isn’t fastened directly to the joists. This reduces sound transmission between floors, but the extra expense and hassle isn’t really necessary in a situation like yours, Michaelyan says. It is useful in especially challenging noise-control situations, such as when people stomping on the floor above are disturbing people in a room underneath. There is also a special kind of drywall called QuietRock (www.quietrock.com) that sandwiches a layer of sound-deadening polymer between two sheets of drywall. But the manufacturer has test results showing its effectiveness only on walls and doesn’t provide installation instructions for ceilings.

Acoustic batts cost 65 cents to 85 cents per square foot, and installation adds 50 cents to $1 a square foot, Michaelyan said. The installed cost of standard drywall runs about $1 a square foot.

Question: My kitchen is painted with kitchen-and-bath paint. Behind the cooktop, I put a layer of Mod Podge for ease of cleaning. Now I need to repaint the kitchen. Is there anything special I need to do before I paint over the Mod Podge?

— Germantown

Answer: You can paint right over Mod Podge, a glue, sealer and finish sold especially for scrapbooking, decoupage and other craft projects, according to Jen King, communications director for Plaid Enterprises, which owns the Mod Podge brand.

However, because this surface is behind a cooktop, where there is a high likelihood of grease spatters, be sure to clean the wall thoroughly before you repaint. King, in an e-mail, suggested using a good degreaser or a window cleaner like Windex. Wipe off the residue, then wipe down with clear water and let the surface dry.

Mod Podge, an acrylic copolymer, comes in matte, glossy and sparkle finishes. But even if you have the glossy type, don’t be tempted to sand, as you might before repainting a surface with glossy paint. Mod Podge does not sand well. The surface can become gummy, King said.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

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