Sound and music production no longer belong only to large media companies. These days, almost anyone can record music or other sounds at home with the same superb quality. While we often consider the importance of our walls, equipment, or technical skills, one of the most important aspects of a studio is the flooring.
Here are 5 reasons why carpet is bad for recording studios:
- Carpet echos sounds unnaturally and ruins sound quality.
- Carpet isn’t very comfortable to stand on while recording.
- Carpet is more difficult to clean than other flooring.
- Carpet wears out faster than other floors.
- Carpet can be visually unappealing.
In this article, I’ll go in-depth on why carpet isn’t anywhere near ideal. I’ll also cover alternatives to carpets that you should consider for your studio, as well as other construction considerations. By the end, you should have all the information you need to choose the flooring that’s best for your studio.
1. Carpet Echos Sounds Unnaturally and Ruins Sound Quality
Carpets are great for padding the rest of your home. They keep the sounds of the outside from disturbing you, perhaps some noisy neighbors or a nearby highway. However, its capability to absorb sound—and the frequencies that it absorbs—proves problematic when recording sound.
The carpet doesn’t absorb sound equally: while it takes in medium and high frequencies, it reflects low frequencies. This uneven absorption creates an unpleasant echo that doesn’t sound as natural.
Generally, you want a material that won’t absorb all the sound. Think of how incredible your singing voice sounds in the shower. It’s because of how nicely the tiles—hard, dense surfaces—reflect the sound back to you and produce a more vivid composition.
2. Carpet Isn’t Very Comfortable To Stand on While Recording
Though made from somewhat cushiony materials, carpet is typically thin, rough, and not always that comfortable to stand on. When you’re recording for hours at a time trying to get that perfect sound, comfort matters. The last thing you need while working on your art is for a sore back or feet to distract you!
This is usually true of all types of carpets, including high and low pile carpet. While carpet can offer more comfort in a household setting, such as a bedroom or lounge, it’s not ideal for long hours of standing or having to navigate your recording equipment.
On top of the discomfort carpet can cause when standing for long periods, it can also hold in excess warmth and heat, making the room extremely uncomfortable. In the summer time or in a warmer building, a carpeted recording studio can be unpleasant and humid, thus, decreasing your ability to record sufficiently.
3. Carpet Is More Difficult To Clean Than Other Flooring
Cleanliness matters. For instance, if you’re looking to sing, you probably don’t want allergens to bombard you while you’re in the studio. Yet allergens, dust, grime, and germs are exactly what carpet clings to. In fact, carpets hold on average nearly a quarter of a million bacteria per square inch (6.45 sq. cm).
Every floor gets dirty, but what makes carpet different is how difficult it is to clean. Hardwood, vinyl, or other hard surfaces don’t have as many nooks and crannies where bad stuff can hide.
Additionally, carpet cloth absorbs liquids and other materials much more readily than sealed hardwood or vinyl does. And the fibers aren’t straight up and down—they’re twisted or braided together. Imagine how difficult it would be to, say, wash your hair if it were in a braid!
Whereas a hardwood floor might only need a quick wipe of soap and water, a carpet requires that you deep clean every fiber. This can get incredibly tedious when there are a lot of people stepping through and distributing dirt and pathogens.
4. Carpet Wears Out Faster Than Other Floors
On top of getting dirty and holding grime, carpet fibers tend to fray and visibly wear in a shorter period of time. Whether it’s because of the vigorous cleaning process or the dozens of feet stamping down on it all day long, carpet fibers just aren’t that resilient to everyday movement. And in such an active area like a studio, resilience is crucial.
Furthermore, if you plan to have rolling chairs or seats in your studio, you’ll want to be able to move them around freely. Carpet won’t allow you to do this and may provide more resistance than ease. If you ever decide you want to rearrange your setup, you may have trouble doing so on carpet as well.
For this reason, many people have to invest in carpet protectors to prevent chairs from damaging the flooring. Adding these carpet protectors can also have an effect on the way your sound is recorded.
5. Carpet Can Be Visually Unappealing
Hardwood comes in rich colors with shiny seals; many colorful, nicely patterned options are available for vinyl floorings. The carpet may look good in some circumstances, such as a bedroom or living room. But unless you want a rustic, homely style for your studio, carpet probably won’t look all that great, especially if it’s a light color that quickly looks dirty.
It’s also important to note that most who enter a recording studio will probably have their shoes on and carry in outside dirt. This can leave your carpets looking muddied, stained, and old, and make your recording space less inspiring.
Best Alternatives to Carpet
Carpet seems to be a no-go for many of us—now what? Luckily, there are several effective alternatives to carpet that won’t only complement your studio environment but elevate the quality of your sound as well.
No matter which of the options you ultimately choose, look for the following acoustic characteristics in your studio flooring:
- Reverberation. A fully absorbent room is a dead one. So long as the reflection of sound is equal and harmonious, it’ll accentuate rather than depreciate your sound.
- Density. Thicker, heavier surfaces reflect more pleasantly than thinner ones. That’s why hardwood and cement sound richer than carpet or some types of vinyl.
Also, consider your stylistic and temperature preferences since some floors are better insulators than others. Since you’ll probably be working a lot here, you’ll want your studio to both look and feel nice just as much as you’ll want it to sound nice.
Cement Is the Best for Acoustics
Acoustically, cement is the best floor you can have. Because it’s so dense and thick, it reverberates vibrant, pleasant tones that sound more natural than it looks.
If you’re solely focused on elevating the quality of your sound production, cement is definitely the way to go. It’s probably the best sounding surface on this list.
Hardwood Both Sounds and Looks Beautiful
Hardwood holds the acoustic quality of cement in a pretty package. Its sounds are just as rich as its colors and homely feel, no matter which type of wood you choose.
The downside of hardwood, though, is its price tag. Hardwood flooring can cost up to 20 dollars per square foot (0.09 sq. m) thanks to the labor it requires and the materials used. A music studio should be at least 23 x 17.5 feet (7.01 x 5.33 m) or a little over 400 square feet (37.16 sq. m). That translates into more than 8,000 dollars for the highest-end materials.
However, you can instead spend what you would have spent on carpet cleanings and replacements on a durable, gorgeous hardwood floor. Though the upfront cost can be high, it’s the long-term that matters. So, if you want acoustics similar to cement with better heat insulation and a more grounded ambiance, hardwood may be worth the investment.
Vinyl Is Inexpensive Compared to Other Floors
Vinyl flooring carries many similar acoustic and aesthetic properties to hardwood. However, it’s generally much cheaper. This is partly because the material is less expensive and partly because you can save on labor costs by installing vinyl flooring yourself.
Not only is it easy to install, but vinyl is also easy to maintain as well.
Cork Is Affordable and Comfortable
Friendly to both the planet and your wallet, cork is another fantastic flooring option for those setting up a sound studio. What’s best about this floor is how comfortable it is. Long days in the studio need not end with a sore back anymore.
Though not as durable as some of the other alternatives, cork flooring can still last a while so long as it’s sealed. Sealing protects the soft material from abrasions caused by sharp corners or clumsiness. And although it won’t reflect a chorus of beautiful tones like hardwood, it’ll still absorb tones evenly.
Foam Absorbs Sounds and Is Cost-Effective
Similar to cork, foam absorbs sound evenly, is very cheap compared to other options, and its impermanence can—for some—be more of an upside than a downside.
You can use it as a temporary option while searching for just the right floor. Or you can even use it while testing out the waters before diving into converting a room into a studio.
However, it’s not as durable as other types of flooring. Because it’s so soft, it’s sensitive to scrapes and tears. Although it absorbs sound evenly, it doesn’t reflect sound all that well. So while it won’t detract from the quality of your work, it won’t necessarily add to it, either.
What To Do If You Already Have Carpet Installed
You can’t start every room from scratch. If you already have carpet in the room you want to convert, try out the following steps:
1. Test Your Sound in the Carpeted Room First
By conducting a sound test, you can verify whether or not you like the room’s acoustics. Some of us don’t mind the acoustics of a carpeted room and work just fine in one. If that’s the case, leave the room as is and get to your work!
However, if you something about carpet just messes with your acoustic vibe, move on to the next step:
2. Cover Your Carpet With Another Material
Removable foam or cork pads could be your best friend here. They’re inexpensive, lightweight, and pretty easy to mold to the contours of your recording room.
You can use them temporarily while recording sound and remove them whenever you’re not using the room. They’re pretty easy to collapse and hide away if you have some closet space and are an especially viable option for those on a tighter budget.
3. Remove and Replace Carpet With Floor of Your Choice
If you really can’t stand the sound of carpet, though, and you have some cash to get rid of it, consider uninstalling the carpet and replacing it with whichever material you prefer—whether that’s concrete, hardwood, vinyl, foam, or cork.
Floors That You Can Install Yourself
Once you’ve torn up the carpet, you can just spend money on some of the following floorings and install them yourself, saving on labor costs:
- Vinyl: Though a bit more intensive of a DIY project than the following two floorings, you can install vinyl flooring yourself. The planks don’t need to be nailed down like hardwood does, so you just have to take the time to find them together in the correct configurations.
- Cork: Similar to vinyl, you can install cork directly over the subfloor. Just be careful with sharp objects since it’s a softer material.
- Foam: Since foam tiles interlock like simple puzzle pieces, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to install on your own.
Floors That Should Be Professionally Installed
On other floors, however, it really is better to fork out the extra dough for a professional who can give us a superb result. Some floors that should be professionally installed include:
- Hardwood: It requires more substantial preparation than other floorings, and must be nailed to the subfloor beneath, which requires more skill.
- Concrete: Depending on your familiarity with construction, concrete may be just a bit too much to handle. It requires quite a bit of time, effort, and special equipment that you may not have. Though some people do install concrete themselves, it’s pretty risky if you’re a first-timer.
What If I Prefer Carpet Over Other Floors?
If you prefer carpet, consider placing removable foam or cork pads on top of your carpet whenever you’re recording. If you’re installing new carpet, make sure to keep it low pile. Shorter fabrics are both easier to clean and easier to cover with acoustically superior materials.
- GreatMats.com: What kind of flooring is good for a music studio?
- Range of Sounds: Best Flooring for Recording Studios
- Home Studio Expert: 4 Best Flooring for Home Recording Studios – An Ultimate Guide
- AA Floors: How To Determine The Best Flooring For A Home Studio?
- Acoustic Geometry: Acoustic Flooring for Your Recording Studio
- Home Studio Expert: How Large Should A Recording Studio Be? Here’s the Answer
- Exploratorium.edu: Why do people sound better when they sing in the shower?
- Neat Ceiling: Are High Ceilings Good for Acoustics?
- Carpet Captain: What Is the Easiest Flooring to Install? (Tier List)
- ConcreteNetwork.Com: How to Install Concrete Floors
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