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Acoustic Fabric – Create Your Own DIY Noise Reduction Panels

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Acoustic Fabric – Create Your Own DIY Noise Reduction Panels

Acoustic fabric wrapped around wall panels is quite commonly used in home theaters, recording studios, engineering booths, restaurants, bars and cafes, coffee houses, libraries, schools/ universities, conference rooms, office buildings, apartment complexes, studio designs, home decor, art galleries, and medical facilities/ hospitals for noise reduction.  These wrapped wall panels provide the ideal noise and sound mitigation to offer both greater silencing effects, but to also enhance the quality of the sound of the level. These acoustic wall panels also reduce reverberation levels in a space,  and which will also produce a reduction in the ambient noise for significant improvements in sound clarity.

There is a difference between soundproofing and sound absorption, however. Soundproofing prevents sound from traveling. Soundproofing products block sound from leaving or entering a room, and are often found as dense layers inside walls, between floors, under stairwells, and above basement ceiling drywall. Most notably, soundproofing occurs in early construction, as it can be challenging to soundproof a room or designated area once the construction is completed, and as dry wall would need to be removed for soundproofing material installation. Our Mass loaded vinyl for noise reduction is the superior product and soundproofing material in the market today. It is a dense 1 pound per square foot flexible sound barrier, and is not meant for sound absorption, but rather a complete sound proofing.

Easy Roll Out of MLV material
Easy Roll Out of MLV material

Sound absorption, however, does and describes just that – the absorption of sound. Sound absorption is the process by which sound waves are absorbed and taken in by a surface material. This provides the perfect opportunity for enhancing the space’s sound quality once finished as it diminishes unwanted noise and dampens sound, like echos and reverberation/ vibration. Sound absorption products can be temporary and non-permanent, unlike soundproofing products (and layers). Acoustic fabric wall panels are one such sound absorption product, and this is our focus in this feature.

Printed #1 Duck Cloth for Wall Panels
Custom Printed #12 Duck Cloth for Wall Panels

In this special DIY feature, we will highlight the key factors and components of these acoustic fabric wall panels, and also offer a technical guide on how to craft your very own! So, what are the best fabrics acoustically? Selecting the correct and properly weighted/ transparent fabric material is critical to the efficacy and performance of the acoustic panels. The weights, weave, and fabric type/ fabric compositions are all necessary to pre-determine as some fabric will most assuredly perform better acoustically than others and ensure sound and noise reduction. In truth, however, the specific fabric alone does not have a significant affect on the absorption of sound as the overall wall panel and its other components’ construction.

What is critically significant is the suitability of the chosen fabric type and composition, and that it is used correctly with the other materials and components of the acoustic sound panel, and specifically, the sound absorbing core. While foams (like egg crates) and other material can be used for the absorbing core, we recommend a semi-rigid fiberglass. This type if insulation is made from inorganic glass fibers with a thermo-setting resin binder and formed into semi-rigid rectangular boards. This board is what the acoustic fabric will be stretched over and around, and after framing with a wooden panel. The fabric provides the visually attractive look to the room and space, and this fabric will be a breathable material which allows for the sound to pass through and transfer into the core material.

Acoustic fabric panels in music studio
Acoustic fabric panels in music studio

The 3 components to the acoustic fabric wall panel are: the sound absorbing core material (which will perform the acoustical absorbing and sound containment – we recommend a 2″ thick semi-rigid fiberglass or mineral fiber board insulation; a sturdy wood frame to pull the fabric tightly against and around (and wall mounting hardware); and a breathable fabric material, such as a Number 12 (11.80 ounce per square yard) duck canvas.  A 10 ounce per square yard cotton duck fabric would also work very well. There are many different options to consider when choosing the best material for acoustic panels. Please note that for human voices you can use a 1″ absorbing fiberglass, and for amplified music with drums and bass, use a 2″ thick sound absorbing core board. Typically, 25-35% room surface absorptive panels are ideal for conversational clarity.

Brown Canvas - 10 ounce/| 60" width
Brown Canvas – 10 ounce | 60″ width

 Applications for acoustic fabric sound absorption panels include:

  • The reduction of the low din and noise in crowded spaces, such as restaurants and bars
  • Greatly ensuring the accuracy of listening conditions for sound engineers in control rooms and musicians in a music studio environment
  • The reduction of a reverberating echo in auditoriums and churches
  • Heighten sound quality in sound editing booths
  • Adding greater sound clarity in home theaters
  • Lessen the humming drone of sound in banks
  • 100% absorption of tonal spectrum sound wavelengths

Key Features and Components for Producing Acoustic Fabric Wall Panels for Sound Absorption and Noise Reduction

There are a number of key elements and features that should factor into consideration when selecting the right fabric for sound absorbing acoustic paneling. There exists a multitude of available textiles in different colors and custom, on-demand designs, and which could be chosen from for use as the  facing of the acoustic sound wall/ ceiling panels. These are designed to offer great noise reducing performance as their function, but their form (their colors and design patterns) should be considered equally.

1.  Functionality 

It is important to “marry” the attributes of acoustic sound penetration (the transparency) and the physical properties that ensure that the acoustic fabric endures. Synthetic materials, such as 110 gram weight polyester fabric, 210 gram weight polyester, and 200 gram weight stretch polyester work well, hold up to sagging or rippling, and are quite breathable.  Natural fabric material such as cotton canvas, wool and linen work well, but humidity levels should remain constant (and which normally due to inside/ interior locations and placements of the acoustic fabric wall panels. High humidity could lead to a lengthening of the fibers, and could cause sagging or rippling effects.

80D pongee polyester
80D pongee polyester

2. Visual Appeal of the Fabric Type Chosen

As these acoustic fabric noise reducing/ sound absorbing wall panels are designed to hang on interior walls and ceilings just like modern art or pictures,  the form and look should align with the function. The look and design – the aesthetics – should be considered before ordering your fabric material. Commercial interior designers are often puzzled when solving this design challenge, and considering the form (the design and color) and the functionality of reliable acoustic sound absorption. Acoustic treatments are an essential design focus of space and room interiors. Bright or muted colors, and fabric printing options such as Neo, Landscape and Nature, Abstract, Linear and Geometric, Mid-Century Modern, Floral and Pastels are all viable selections when designing your DIY Acoustic Fabric wall panels.

110804-Scandi-Stockholm
Scandi-Stockholm Design for Custom Acoustic Fabric Printing

3. Transparency / Breath-ability 

Last, but certainly not least, from a performance and functionality perspective, this element is the absolute most critical component. The wrong fabric that does not have the transparency and breath-ability will most assuredly diminish the sound absorbing properties and total performance of sound reduction! Acoustic fabric for wall/ ceiling panels should be unbacked  – with no lining of paper or acrylic and which is commonly used for adhesion to the wall or ceiling. Simply stated, a fabric with backing prevents the sound to transfer through them, and thus, from being absorbed by the panel core fiberglass or foam. Additionally, unbacked fabric material stretches well, and which is important in covering the frame and acoustic absorbing core.

Fabrics should be chosen that are breathable and have an open weave. Synthetic polyester mesh fabric would be an option, though the visual appeal and overall aesthetics might not be satisfactory. Also, too much of an open weave would also allow for a clear sight line and visibility into the acoustic sound core and panel. A lightweight 100% polyester thin faux linen would work well, and also hold the design and color exceptionally well. Another acoustic fabric material option would be Muslin, as it is quite breathable, but woven well enough that it is not transparent to see the interior panel and components. Choose a fabric that is both acoustically transparent, but not too visibly transparent. Breathable fabric for acoustic panels is clearly an absolute must-have for this project!

Acoustic Fabric Panels in Many Color Options

Acoustic Fabric Panels in Many Color Options

The science behind utilizing acoustic fabric wrapped around wall panels is that the acoustic wall covering panels actually trap the sound (the acoustical energy). This energy is then prevented from “bouncing” and reflecting off of the surfaces that they have collided with and covered. These sound capturing panels, then, eliminate the reflecting echoes that would otherwise affect and disturb amplified speech and music.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN ACOUSTIC PANELS (DIY)

Sound panel before stretching acoustic fabric
Sound panel before stretching acoustic fabric

Step #2: Selecting a Breathable Fabric For Acoustic Panels

We have defined and offered several examples of various acoustic fabric in this featured article, and that can easily be sourced and purchased. As now is the time to begin utilizing our fabric material, keep in mind that the purpose of this fabric cover is to provide a nice aesthetic and visual appeal to the intended and designed-for space. Solid colors, bright or muted colors, pastel or earth-tone colors, or even one of many designs, should be considered. The fabric must be breathable (material that you can breathe through, as sound waves – just like air – will need to transfer through). You will also again want to ensure that the fiberglass panel is not visible nor that it can be seen through the material.  The fabric is intended to allow the penetration of sound through-and-to your fiberglass insulation panel. Again, this defines the acoustic fabric as “acoustically transparent.” We have provided examples of fabric material that are breathable and allow little resistance to air (and sound waves).  Leather, vinyl, and rubber are not acceptable material for this project.

 Step #3: Stretching the Fabric Over and Around Your Fiberglass Panel

1). Lay the length of the fabric color side/ design side face down on the floor.

2). Gently lay the framed wooden panel on top of the fabric.

3). Wrap the fabric around to the back of the panel, pulling tightly and ensuring that the fabric is taut and that there is no wrinkling or sagging.

4). Staple the fabric every 2 inches along the one vertical edge, and then do the same for the opposite vertical edge.

 5). Now it’s time to do the same for the 2 top edges and the 2 bottom edges. When doing these top and bottom edges, take care to fold neatly and accurately around and over each corner.

6). If there is any remaining fabric, you can use your spray adhesive to stick it to the backside of the panel, and so that it adheres well.

Stretching and stapling acoustic fabric
Stretching and stapling acoustic fabric

Step #4: Mounting the new Acoustic Fabric Sound Panel to the Wall or Ceiling

The hard work is no complete, and all that we have remaining is mounting the acoustic fabric wall or ceiling panels to their intended surface area. Follow the instructions provided and detailed on the wall hanging components, and ensure that you have the 20 pound+ load bearing picture hanger hardware. ll airspace (1.0 to 2.0 inches) behind the panel will significantly improve low frequency sound absorption performance. Then, proceed as you normally would in hanging art work or a mirror. Utilizing the 2 heavy-duty D-Ring hangers on each side of the wood frame and the (2) 20-lb rated picture hangers should ensure that your new acoustic fabric panels are safely secured to the wall.

If you are hanging these sound absorbing panels from the ceiling, use a studfinder and find the nearest studs (the ceiling rafters that the dry wall is anchored to). Rafters are spaced an equal distance apart, and normally 16 to 24 inches. It is preferable to anchor anything that will be suspended from the ceiling into a rafter for safety. This will ensure that the ceiling sound panels will not fall on anyone or anything, and to ensure no damage to the ceiling. Also, avoid ceiling areas that contain heating ducts and wires! Select the style of anchor most appropriate from your local hardware store; they will have a variety of fasteners available, and these are rated on the maximum amount of weight they can support. Always add a safety factor to these ratings. Normally, for suspended items like ceiling panels, a 100 percent margin is added. For rafter mounting, choose anchors that have a wood screw thread. Do not use nails for ceiling mounting. Attach the sound panel to the fastener, and make certain that the connection is secure! Use single strand cable or wire that it not braided and with a load rating sufficient to support the ceiling panel. Make true connections by using a pliers and twist the ends of the wire, or consider using dedicated cable connection hardware.

Acoustic sound absorption panels for conference room
Acoustic sound absorption panels for conference room
Depending on the type of fabric, and if you want the fabric material custom printed or not, this project should cost $20-$25 per panel, and which is 1/2 of what the exact same size noise reduction wall panel would cost online or in-store. For an hour’s worth of effort, you will have created a unique sound absorbing wall panel that will add a nice look and visual appeal to any room or space, and as importantly, assist in providing the most clear and crisp sound you have ever experienced! The difference between the room sound quality before this project, and after you hang your wall/ ceiling panels will truly astonish you!

 

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