Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
Obviously float center construction is expensive, in no small part due to the soundproofing in each of your rooms. The last thing you want to do is screw it up by making a simple mistake when installing your float tanks.
Graham and Ashkahn delve into everything you need to consider during installation to not screw up your soundproofing, including what additional materials to purchase and how to ideally set up your float rooms.
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Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Today’s question for you is, “what are some things to be careful about installing a float tank when I’m worried about soundproofing?” I guess, this is a broad question in a sense. There’s a lot of sound proofing that goes into the room, itself as well. Just your basic float center construction-
Ashkahn: That’s a big … It’s like a three hour episode just to talk about sound proofing.
Graham: Maybe just talk about … Assume that the sound proofing is done correctly for the room and just talk about not messing it up when you’re putting the tank in here now.
Ashkahn: When you put the actual float tank in?
Graham: Yeah. Definitely.
Ashkahn: Basically, you just don’t want your float tank to … You want to kind of isolate your float tank as much as possible from the room. You’ve done a lot of good sound proofing with your walls, and things like that but you can do an addition layer with the float tank itself.
Graham: Ideally, your float tank would be hovering in midair, in the center of your room not touching anything. That’s the ideal setup.
Ashkahn: In a vacuum. That would be perfect.
Graham: Oh man. Yes. And getting there, you’d have to put on the weird float tank space suit kind of thing.
Ashkahn: But that’s not going to happen, at least for another few years.
Graham: Another six months or so, yeah.
Ashkahn: What do you do? What do you do about putting your float tank in the room?
Basically, the sound proofing term for what you’re trying to avoid here, is short circuiting.
Graham: Like the old movie with Johnny Five, if you were alive in the 80s, I guess.
Ashkahn: Basically the idea is a short circuit and sound proofing is any place where you’ve done all this sound proofing but you’ve allowed a very easy spot as a point of weakness in any sort of soundproof system. What happens is sound just travels really well through a point of weakness.
It’s like having a bucket with a small hole it in. It’s not a very effective bucket anymore, because it has a small hole in it. That’s kind of the same concept when it comes to sound.
Graham: This applies largely to vibrational sound when you’re talking about installing the float tank. Most tanks don’t do the best job themselves at keeping out airborne sound. If there’s loud talking making it into the room that your float tank is in, it’s then hard for you to beef up the sound proofing on your tank itself, to block that airborne noise.
Fortunately for us, just putting your ears below the water often does a pretty good job blocking out airborne noise.
Ashkahn: Yeah. That’s probably the biggest thing that the float tank is doing, is just having water in it that your ears are below.
Graham: Yeah. Super helpful there.
When we’re talking about short circuiting, especially the float tank installation, we’re talking a lot of vibrational noise going through. That’s where we want to make sure that there’s a few rigid, solid connections between the float tank and the walls or the floors or the ceiling, or anything else around them as possible.
Ashkahn: One thing to do is, is not to put your float tank touching the wall, especially if you have a pod or something like that, which it meant to kind of stay somewhere in the room. Make sure it’s scooted off the wall by a couple inches, so that you don’t have that actual connection being made.
Graham: This gets especially tricky or important to keep in mind when you’re doing full cabin style room setups. Especially ones that are actually built into the room, rather than being pre-manufactured and placed inside a room. It means that you really going to try to make sure that your tank, in every direction is not actually touching the floor, walls or ceiling or anything like that.
Even your studs that you’re building around the tank are hopefully attached to the tank but not touching the floor or ceiling. If you’re doing panels on the outside of a float tank, and I’m thinking of our Ocean Float Rooms here.
Ashkahn: Basically, the difficult thing comes with waterproofing, because with waterproofing, you don’t want there to be random holes and stuff like that. With soundproofing you do. You just have to be kind of careful. Sometimes, depending on how your room is set up, you just find that right balance.
You make sure the panels, themselves are not really touching anything. You kind of connect it just with a line of caulking. That way that’s kind of a less rigid material that’s actually connecting the float tank to the wall.
Or if you have an edge that’s actually not somewhere that is right next to a shower or super exposed to water, or something like that, actually leaving a gap there. Not having any physical connection with the wall panel and the wall that its next to.
Graham: Yeah. This gets interesting because from the outside looking at it, it can look like it’s just a straight solid surface. For example in our rooms with the Ocean Float Rooms, the wall of the float room goes straight to the wall of the room, but stops about a quarter inch short. Then we caulk in that quarter inch gap with some white caulking that kind of hides that line.
But visually for a customer or for anyone looking at it, it looks as though the wall of the float tank is butted right up to the wall of our room. A little deceptive, but if you let that wall touch the other wall, the wall of the tank touch the wall of the room, all of a sudden any vibrational noise going through the interior of your float room, is going to pass right into your float tank and from there right into the water and to people’s ears.
That’s why this rigid connection gets really dangerous as far as sound proofing and why it’s called a short circuit, as you built this big complicated beautiful sound proofing system then one little rigid connection and the vibration will just find its way in.
Ashkahn: As you can imagine, the most difficult part of this is where the float tank touches the floor.
Graham: Because you can’t just leave a gap there.
Ashkahn: Yeah. At least for a few years until we have that sort of technology.
Graham: Yeah, a few months.
Ashkahn: So the float tank has to sit on the floor. What you do here is you can create things to go between the floor and the float tank that are specifically designed to lower vibrational noise. The most common thing people use are vibration isolation pads. They’re kind of these pucks of varying density material, like layers of either rubber and steel, and rubber and steel, or rubber and EVA plastics and different things like that. Sometimes cork.
They get fancier, too. You can get spring loaded ones, or ones that are a lot more expensive. You have to be a little bit careful because some of the nicer, fancier ones are really specifically meant to isolate a certain frequency of vibration.
The often reason these things are made is because they’re meant to go underneath equipment that vibrates a lot. It’s kind of like the opposite is what the purpose of these usually are.
It’s like, you have this piece of equipment that’s making all these vibrations. HVAC, big air conditioners on ceilings kind of what the vibration isolation pads –
Graham: Shoe sewing machines, whatever it is.
Ashkahn: You put them on top of these isolators, and you get the specifically for the frequency of vibration these machinery is doing, and that stops that machine from vibrating the rest of your building. And we’re essentially trying to do the opposite. We’re trying to get vibrations from everything else to not go into a piece of machinery.
The difficult thing there is we’re trying to isolate all sorts of vibrations, car noises going on, random things from our neighbor, all sorts of different stuff. So it’s hard to have this one specific frequency range that we’re trying to deal with.
Things that go under HVAC equipment tend to be a little bit more generic. Some of them are still even fancier but still kind of generic. A lot of ones are made specifically for very identifiable range of vibration.
Graham: Yeah. The basic thing going on here is to stop vibration, ideally again, you have an air gap there where it’s not touching at all, but if you can’t, then getting as close to an air gap as possible is really nice. That’s why we only have these 11 pads under our float tank with 11 points of about 3 inch by 3 inch contacts. There’s not just a giant sheet that the float tank’s sitting on right there. We’re already limiting contact with the floor.
Then, like Ashkahn mentioned, as sound is traveling through these different densities that go into the vibration isolation pads, or VIPs as I call them, it breaks it up. Sounds doesn’t like traveling through different densities.
Of course the prime example of that, is just going from a physical material into air, is the greatest change in density. So, that breaks up the sound wave the most. But there is still a transfer from that vibrational noise into airborne noise.
Then changing densities between again, hard plastic and a softer one, or between steel and rubber. Every time it switches between type of material it’s going to break it up a little more. That’s kind of the concept that’s going on here.
Ashkahn: Yeah. The change in density and you have just minimizing the amount of surface area is both the focus of these things. Even if when you look at a single pad, it’s three inches by three inches, but it’s got grooves on it, so only like 20% of it even at three inch by three inch surface is even touching the ground itself.
It’s really built to minimize as much contact area as possible. Then we take those and we put them on, usually a big rigid piece of something. What we use is HDPE board, a big sheet of plastic, because there’s such few points, we don’t want to damage our float tank by putting it directly onto the fiberglass and creating these stress points of the fiberglass of the tank itself.
We’ll attach it to a big rigid board and put the whole float tank on top of that. Then you also have to do this for your entire filtration system.
Graham: It’s a really easy step to miss, but so important.
Ashkahn: Yeah, because otherwise, I mean one, your filtration system might come built assuming it’s supposed to be the same height as the float tank. Sometimes you have to do this just out of necessity to make sure the pipes still lineup, but if you’ve done this whole thing to your float tank and the float tank is connected to the pipes, and those pipes are connected to your filtration equipment, and the filtration equipment is sitting on the floor, you therefore still have that short circuit. That’s the point the sound is going to most easily go in through your system.
You really want to think about isolating everything. The nice thing about that is your pumps create a lot of vibration noise, so having the vibration isolators under your filtration equipment which your pump is on, helps that.
Graham: It’s actually doing what it should.
Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s doing what it should.
Graham: It’s the actual purpose of-
Ashkahn: It’s got a double whammy. It’s preventing noise from going inwards, also helping that pump noise not go out and get to too many of your other rooms.
Graham: Yep. And another, of course thing to be careful of, is making sure that your platforms themselves don’t touch the wall. Now that you’ve built these vibration isolation pads into rigid platforms, your unit and your pumps are sitting on top of there. Now the platform itself can’t touch the wall either.
You have to almost just logically think through it. You can’t even go through the list of all of the places you need to make sure there’s not contact, but looking at your tank as you’re installing it, and looking at your pump equipment and the platforms and everything else around. You just need to look around the entire thing mentally and make sure there isn’t any place where if there’s vibration coming in through the walls, ceiling or floor, that that vibration can transfer to your float tank in any way.
Again, all it takes is maybe an inch wide connection or a little point where your platform is touching that wall to ruin a ton of the investment you’ve made in the rest of your sound proofing. It’s really the float devil is in the float details on this one.
Ashkahn: That phrase is going to catch on, I think.
Graham: I use it all the time. It’s been in at least 50 episodes so far, I think.
Ashkahn: All right. That should give you some information. If you want to learn more we definitely recommend watching the documentary from the 80s, Short Circuit. That should fill you in on all those other float details.
If you guys have other questions, you can hop over to floattanksolutions.com/podcast.
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