Before reading this article I want to make one very important point that needs to be understood if you are considering building a soundproof recording studio - Building a purpose built or retro fit soundproofed studio is not for the faint hearted. Renovating typical rooms are much easier to plan and build when conventional building methods and materials are used, budgets are also more predictable and easier to plan. As soon as the term "soundproof" is thrown into a build specification the costs suddenly get scary, fast.
My Initial Studio Soundproofing Materials Estimates
We waiting six months to get the keys to our new house that included the garden cabin we planned to convert into the studio. This meant I had a fair amount of time to really think about how I was going to convert the garden cabin into a soundproofed studio. I couldn't get builders in for quotes or start any serious professional plans until the final exchange of the property completed. I used this "six-month house moving holding pattern" as a pressure free opportunity to plan and research soundproofing methods and material quantities in order to estimate a budget and also prepare myself for real quotes and later real costs that would soon hit my wallet.
Through my own research, I estimated the cost of soundproofing materials including products such as the Genie Clip System & MuteMat floor in the region of £6,000 to £8,000 - not including labour, not including electrics or remodelling the shape of the structure. This rough figure gave me an idea of where the building costs would start... what I needed next were some quotes from builders for labour costs and other expenses I had not yet anticipated.
The Non-Soundproof (Conventional Build) Quote
Upon moving into our new house I quickly scheduled in several different builders to view my garden cabin so that I could get a better feel for what the build could cost. One of these builders didn't understand my brief which specified the cabin to be soundproofed. Their quote was £5,000 including materials and labour costs. I didn't entertain this quote, the idea of converting the cabin into a soundproof studio on that modest estimate was laughable. At best, a basic garden office could be built for that amount rendering the cabin useless for my studio requirements. After meeting with a handful of other builders, who also didn't get my vision for the studio build, I contacted builders who had previously built soundproofed rooms - I needed experienced builders with soundproofing knowledge otherwise I would end up with a costly studio build that would only work as a conventional garden office.
The Soundproof Quote
The building firm I chose to hire for the project estimated £15,000 for the job upon the first visit. They made it very clear that they have done projects similar to this in the past so they understood the methods and materials required to plan, build and deliver a soundproof studio. £15,000 sounded like a much more realistic quote compared to £5,000. Several years ago I hired builders for an expensive total flat renovation, this experience taught me to add 25% in cost and in time to any quote for a more realistic final cost idea. At this point I had the builders chosen, a guide budget of £18,000 (including my 25% extra) - we now entered into the planning stage.
How I Threw The Quote Out Of The Window - Blew The Budget
The day after the builder's onsite visit I forwarded the list of soundproofing materials I researched months before. This was the point I threw both my estimate and the builder's quote out of the window. I provided a list of specialist soundproofing materials along with my reasons for why we needed these particular items. There was a certain level of soundproofing I wanted to achieve in the cabin meaning an elaborate "room within a room" system needed to be thoroughly planned and built. From my expanded in-depth brief, the builders went to work planning and designing the cabin remodel and soundproofed room within a room.
The planning period spanned roughly four weeks with CADs being produced by the builders. These CADs were adapted as the plans developed, especially as later fixtures & fittings such as air conditioning position, electrical trunking height and studio acoustic treatment panel placements were considered.
The costs of the plans came to £3,000. Not a problem, I considered the cost of the plans as the extra 25% I anticipated at quote. What I didn't anticipate was the new quote - a revision to the onsite estimate including all the required building materials totalling £10,500 along with an extra quote of an additional £10,500 in various labour costs - Budget meet window, I was looking at the reality - a £24,000 all-in studio build cost.
The cost of the soundproofing materials was all but identical to what I estimated months before, the extra costs in materials were due to the remodelling of the structure that would give me more internal space and for essential electrical works.
As I said at the start, soundproof studio builds are not for the faint hearted. Noone knows, may it be you, a project manager, architect or builder, how much a project like this will cost until the final invoices have been paid so setting budgets from quotes is not the way to go. During the build, the builders and I decided to upgrade a few areas such as the door and add a handful of extra insulation components that inevitably pushed the price up by a further £3,000 and the only way I have stopped the price from rising any more is by informing my builder that if this goes over a certain amount there is no money to pay them with.
Top tip - Ignore estimates, ignore budgets. Instead, know your absolute limit of expenditure and work backwards from that figure. Don't put yourself in a similar position, it is terrifying to say the least.
The builders I hired are not cowboys, nor are they pulling a fast one on me. These guys are absolute professionals who know what they are doing, have so far delivered an incredible service and have put their hearts and skills into something very important to me. The budget being thrown out the window was my fault, I suppose I just got caught up in the romance of it all but it will be worth it when the studio is completed.