Acoustic Panel Build Tips
We built 50+ acoustic tiles while revising our space. We learned a ton while building them. Learn from our mistakes!
First, and probably most helpful, these are the resources we consulted most often during the panel build:
- Ethan Winer: Acoustic Treatment and Design for Recording Studios and Listening Rooms - Phenomenal resource. Thorough but easy to digest. Really fantastic.
- How to Build Your Own Acoustic Panels (DIY) - This is the build most similar to what we did.
- RealTraps - Room Measuring Series: Everything you need to measure a room - Making your room sound better. With science.
I strongly, strongly recommend the Ethan Winer resource if you plan a build of this kind.
Though it's odd to start at the end of the process, I couldn't find good resources describing how to hang the tiles once they've been assembled. Here's how we did it.
- For the ceiling, you'll need at least six D-Rings and three S-Hooks per tile. You may feel more comfortable using eight D-Rings and four S-Hooks.
- For the walls, you'll need two D-Rings, two ferrules, and one hanging hook. You will also need between 2.5 and 3 feet of picture hanging wire (more if the frame needs to hang farther down from the wall hook).
- For securing taller wall tiles, you'll need the same materials as for hanging tiles on the wall.
We were surprised to find ceiling mounting easier than wall hanging. First, hold the tiles up and mark the best hanging points on both the tile and the ceiling. Exposed joists made this easy in our case. Then, apply D-Rings to both the tile and the ceiling at the marked points. Finally, use the S-Hooks to connect D-Ring to D-Ring, pinching the S-Hook closed with pliers added stability (though be sure to leave a bit of space so that tiles can be repositioned easily).
Hanging tiles on the ceiling was more costly than we expected. If you do it the way that we did, you'll spend as much as $5 on hanging hardware for each ceiling tile. We judged that additional expense as preferable to installing dozens of eye-hooks by hand. YMMV.
Wall hanging was a little more difficult, but only because we were stupid (and hungover) (and by "we" I mean "I"). The best way to do it is shown in this image. To hang a panel vertically, attach two D-Rings in line with each other to the longer sides of the frame near the "top" of the frame. Cut a section of wire around three feet long. Thread a ferrule onto the wire. Then, loop the wire back around and through the ferrule, forming a loop in the wire around the D-Ring. Hammering the ferrule fixes it in place on the wire, binding the loop in place. Repeat this process with the other D-Ring and you're ready to hang your panel.
We ended up using fairly long wires for our wall tiles because they're basically hung from the ceiling, not our cinder-block basement walls.
Final note on hanging: of all the materials we purchased, we had the most trouble locating enough D-Rings for the build. Be sure to check online or call ahead to make sure that the hardware store you visit has enough for you needs. If D-Rings have to be ordered, the delivery time will be around one week of business days (according to some guy in a home depot vest).
If you have suggestions to improve these hanging processes, please comment!
Roxul AFBs > OC 703
Owens Corning 703 or 705 is the insulation most traditionally used in panel builds. We didn't want to use fiberglass, though, and were looking for something cheaper. The product we used is called Roxul AFB. It's tougher to work with because it's less rigid than OC stuff. Due to this, we used far more spray glue than expected.
The AFBs seem to have worked out great, though. Panels made at the end of our build, when we'd had a bit of practice, seem to have turned out especially good. As hoped, the AFBs were also a lot cheaper than the OC 703. We picked up five 12-packs of AFBs from Paragon Pacific Insulation for a total of about $240.00. That same amount of OC 703 would have run us up to $700.
Our experience with AFBs has been quite good so far. Please add a comment if you have any questions about them.
Panel Dimensions and Material Needs
You can find these in the resource links above (for the most part), but people have asked for these so I'm adding them here. First, a few notes:
- Though a couple sources called for 2" Furring Strips, we ended up using 3" strips instead. Using the 2" strips left some of the insulative panel extending beyond the frame, and we wanted full coverage because of the AFBs' fragility. Plus, the 3" strips are slightly nicer wood, and therefore easier to work with. They're a bit more expensive, though: $1.61 for an 8'-long 3" furring strip compared to $.97 for a comparable 2" furring strip. (Prices from mid-December 2011.)
- If possible, purchase the furring strips in full bundles of 12 or 16. On average, those in bundles will be higher quality than those loose, which have already been picked-over by dozens of people before you.
- Furring strip dimensions may not be what you expect. 1" x 2" x 8' furring strips are actually around 1.5 inches wide and .75 inches thick. 1" x 3" x 8' strips are about 2.5 inches wide and .75 inches thick. Make sure you account for this in your plans.
- The cheapest fabric you we found was unbleached muslin. We used James Thompson Travelers Muslin, "Natural" color, which came in a 38" width. Fabric Depot (here in Portland) offers a 40% discount if you purchase a full bolt of fabric. We grabbed a full 50-yard bolt for $104.70 and used all of it.
Now, the dimensions:
For 2' x 4' Tiles
- 8x Wood Screws
- 2x 49.5" Furring Strip
- 2x 24" Furring Strip
- 60" (Approx) of Fabric
- Each 2' by 4' tile uses 2 8' Furring Strips
For 2' x 6' Tiles
- 12x Wood Screws
- 2x 74.25" Furring Strip
- 3x 24" Furring Strip
- 90" (Approx) of Fabric
- Each 2' by 6' tile uses 3 8' Furring Strips
The taller 2' by 6' tiles use one full and one half AFB tile, with a cross-beam in between the two.
In addition to these designs, we also built double-thickness 2' x 4' tiles (for mobile baffles), double-thickness 2' by 6' tiles (for corner bass traps), and single-thickness 2' by 2' panels (to use up extra tiles). Double-thickness baffles use the same length dimensions as single-thickness, but substitute 1" x 4" x 8' boards for the furring strips. For double-thickness baffles we also used 3 screws for each joint (as opposed to 2 screws for the single-thickness).
Please note: this is not a full materials list. Please see this build for a more thorough inventory.
- Our build took way longer than we expected. If you plan to do something similar, budget lots of extra time to be on the safe side.
- Quality tools helped us a ton. If you're going to cut your own lumber, borrow a good saw from someone (thanks Eric!). A good power drill is also critical. Having more than one around can be a big help (thanks Vanessa!).
- Google SketchUp was really helpful. Depending on the size/geometry of your room, it could be pretty easy to create a model of it in SketchUp. Visualizing the space will help a ton during planning.
- Room Measurement is baffling, but really cool. We picked up a cheap omnidirectional microphone so that we could analyze our space using Room EQ Wizard. We haven't tested the space since we installed our panels but will follow-up with those results.
- Spray glue is strong stuff. Use gloves, and make sure your space is well ventilated. Your hands and brain will thank you.
- Consider all costs. We used, I think, ten cans of spray glue, no bullshit. That's $100+ that you may not think to budget for. Hanging hardware was also far more expensive than expected -- up to $5 for each ceiling tile.
- Other upgrades can make a space a lot more comfortable. In our case, we cleaned the hell out of our basement space, added a lot of lighting, created a seating area for hanging out, and added a dehumidifier to dry things out.
Nice "Short" Post, Lou.
Ok, a more thorough post than intended. Hope it ends up being helpful to you, though!
We learned a ton from our build, and got a lot better at assembling the tiles as we went. If you have any questions about building panels or treating your room, please get in touch. Add a comment or Contact Us.
Thanks Aaron Colter, Austin Dickson, Shawn Pike, Chris Vita, Brian David Smith, and Aly Hoffman for their help/guidance during the redesign!
Thanks Jennifer Sowell for the photos of our new space!