Sound waves have a hard time getting around corners, which is why some audio engineers and acoustic designers like to use sound-absorbing panels. Unfortunately, this solution can be costly, difficult to install correctly, and sometimes difficult to transport. Sound panels that are made out of cloth can be an excellent alternative because they’re lightweight enough to hang on a wall or ceiling but durable enough to absorb sound for decades. Unlike other low-cost options such as foam pads or fabric baffles designed for theater flys, these cloth panels will provide much better sound quality without muddying the room’s acoustics.
To build your own sound absorbers, you need stiff porous cloth about 1″ thick (thicker material will work too). The cloth should be able to absorb sound in all frequencies and also hold its shape. Examples of suitable materials include: “batting” (such as quilter’s cotton)
Woven fabric from soft-sided bales of straw or hay To hold the panels together, you’ll need a string or yarn sewn across the top of the panels about every 10″. Traditional twine can work but is not as strong as string that is specifically designed for sewing. It is possible to use sewing or thread along the edges of the panels to hold them together. To attach the cloth panels, you need a loop or knot-type knot at intervals along the top edge. Most people opt for a simple fabric loop tied in place with twine, yarn or string. You could also make your own hanging device or attach two decorative hooks (such as those found on ceiling fixtures) to hang the panels.
Here are some tips and ideas from our members:
“I have no specific instructions, but I think it’s pretty straightforward . . . It looks like you can buy cotton canvas locally and the rest is just some twine. I think batting would be an option as well. The panels I’ve seen are typically woven fabric, not just cotton canvas.” – Bob Conant
“I have a friend who does a lot of installs and he told me that you can either hang up the fabric and use twine or just sew them up. They work great either way depending on what you are looking for.” – Kelly Willard
“Hang ’em on string, then suspend your speakers from there with small metal hooks (like picture frames). Use a large amount of twine to attach the speakers to the ‘hooks’ when hanging. No screws or heavy duty hardware needed.” – Eric Rowe
Other materials that work well for sound absorbers include: wool blankets, rugs, and carpet. Some people also prefer to use cyanoacrylate glue on foam-backed vinyl or to use carpet with an adhesive backing. Just make sure whatever you use can hold your intended weight when it is hung from the ceiling. Also, be advised that some types of cloth can leave paint splotches behind if they get wet so be careful during installation. If you have speakers already installed, you can also buy commercially made panels to hang on walls or ceilings under the speakers.
Is cloth good for soundproofing?
Yes, it is. That’s not to say you can’t use some other products as well. Just because a product works well in one situation doesn’t mean it will work in another. To improve sound quality, you have to compare how your room sounds after installing different pieces of equipment and then choose the best option for your needs and budget. Be sure to test these products on-site before going out and spending money on them for a job that doesn’t require them.
“I’m also curious about the ‘Cloth In A Can’ sound proofing products, which seem to be the wave of the future. Which seems like a poor way to go… I’m not sure I would go with the foam, though, if I were in your shoes.” – Bill Allen
“If you want to improve acoustics, you need two things: Sound Absorption And Sound Transmission.” – F. Duane Easley
Think of sound absorption as a reflection problem. If it’s quiet in one area and loud in another, you might think that means the loud area is absorbing sound or reflecting sound back at the other room. That’s not necessarily so.
Does silk absorb sound?
Yes, it does. So does foam, fabric, fiberglass, wood and even steel. Without getting too technical about it, the softer or more porous an object is the better it will absorb sound. Just because something can absorb sound doesn’t mean that’s its primary purpose. In fact, most objects in a room were designed with other factors in mind besides maximizing the potential for absorbing sound waves.
To put this into perspective, imagine someone knocks on your front door and you hear them from behind your couch that’s 10 feet away from the front door. If you ask them to knock louder so that it’s easier for you to hear, they’ll knock on the back door, which is another 10 feet away. If you still can’t hear them from behind the couch, they’ll move another 10 feet away and knock on a different door.
That’s why soundproofing requires sound absorption materials, sound barriers and some form of air sealing to cut down on noise traveling through the air or into the room with an acoustic panel. The more options you have for reducing sound transfer between rooms or inside your home, the more effective your soundproofing will be.
How to apply acoustic cloth to fiberglass board?
If you are doing this job yourself, you can attach the cloth to the panels using a staple gun or tacks. Cut and trim the cloth to fit around any openings to prevent sound transfer through cracks in the panels. The material on either side of each opening should overlap just enough for it to hold together when it is clipped or stapled together on the other side. Use a flat hammer and tacker (or your hand) and work from both sides of your panel. Avoid using too much pressure because you could dent or crease your fiberglass panels.
If possible, have someone help you out with holding the panels as you work your way around them with a hammer and tacker. If you are working alone, hold the panel in one hand and use your other hand to tap the tacker gently to drive it through the material. If you have a helper, clip one side of the cloth down then hold both panels with your hands on opposite corners.
“While I’m thinking about it, here’s how to attach acoustic foam to fiberglass board (or anything else for that matter): Staple gun (the same kind you’d use for attaching insulation or acoustic tiles). The head is flat at the end, so you can hammer it through the foam into whatever surface you’re attaching it to without denting the surface or marring up your work. I’ve attached acoustic foam to the back of an aluminum wood stove in a garage, and the security guys at the gas company didn’t even notice when I was putting it up. They said it was just another ‘stub'” – Scott
“I bought some fiberglass board to attach sound panels to. It’s cheap and available at many home improvement stores.” – J.P.
“Here is a cheaper alternative to glue, that is supposed to be fireproof: Once you get an old piece of 2×4, cut about 8 layers out of it into squares about 1/2 inch thick each (8 width x 8 length).
How to apply acoustic cloth to acoustic panels?
This is a very common question that most people ask when they first start out. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get started with soundproofing because you can attach acoustic cloth to sound panels without having to remove the existing materials on them. You’ll notice that some of these materials aren’t in their final form and are only part way there after being attached to the panel. This is just a quick way to get everything done so you can test how well it works for your situation. If it works, great! If not, you can change things up before finishing it off.
There are a few different ways you can implement this technique. One option would be to use staples, but if you don’t have a good staple gun for the job you could hammer a regular nail into the cloth and pull it out just as easy as if it was stapled through the panel or underlayment. You can also use clips or to hold your cloth in place instead of attaching it directly onto your panels. If you’re lucky, you might have some extra velcro lying around that you can use for this purpose. Otherwise, you might need to get some more velcro to finish off the job with ease.
Carpet and carpet padding can actually be flat sheets of sound damping material that has been sewn into a carpet or carpet padding. It’s quite easy to find at fabric stores like JoAnn Fabrics or Hancock Fabrics. This would be a good choice if you were going to put it on top of vinyl flooring as well. This stuff is also quite inexpensive.
You can buy pre-made sheet soundproofing products from online companies, but these materials tend to be expensive and they are also available in many different thicknesses to fit your individual needs. In some cases, you can get a sample of a variety of thicknesses and try it out before you make a purchase. The other option is to simply get one of these sheets or rolls and cut it up into the size material that you need for your job.
Deciding which type of soundproofing product or technique is best for you to use in your situation is highly dependent on the size and shape of your room. If your room is small and rectangular, you might want to go with carpet material or carpet padding that has been sewn together, while if it’s larger, you might be better off with sound absorbing panels that add some extra thickness to the walls.
Soundproofing is a lucrative business and many companies make their money by promoting the purchase of soundproofing materials. In order to stand out in the marketplace, it’s commonplace for companies to exaggerate the performance capabilities of their products.
We’d like you to keep in mind that there are no shortcuts when it comes to soundproofing.