Ceiling Acoustic Treatment: Retrofitting Large Ceiling Acoustics
Acoustics play a huge role in the ambiance of a room. In commercial spaces like restaurants, bars, and retail settings, sound quality can make events more enjoyable, help set the tone of an establishment, and even affect a customer’s mood.
But most structures don’t come with perfect acoustics built in. So instead, businesses must investigate other methods for improving acoustics.
That’s where a ceiling acoustic treatment makes all the difference. The ceiling in a space can affect the volume, quality, and distortion of sounds—from music to electronic broadcasts and the human voice. Retrofitting your space with a treatment that reflects your audio needs can improve the acoustic in your space. Here’s how.
What Are Ceiling Acoustic Treatments?
You don’t have to be an audio engineer or a sound technician to notice the acoustics of a room. In terms of the audio-sensory experience of a space, acoustics—or the relationship between a room’s physical attributes and how sound moves through it—are everything. And even if you can’t describe how or why a room’s acoustics are enjoyable (or not), you notice it.
When businesses want to control the acoustics in their offices, showrooms, or other commercial spaces, they turn to acoustic ceiling treatments. When installed in a room, acoustic ceiling treatments help manage how sounds are distributed throughout the room.1
Generally, acoustics refers to three aspects of sound:
- Reflection – When sounds travel through a space and encounter other objects, the sound wave is either absorbed into the object or reflected off of it. When sound is reflected, it bounces off the object and travels in another direction. Acoustic ceiling treatments help manage this by guiding sound waves along predetermined paths regardless of surrounding factors, furniture, walls, or people.
- Reverberation – In spaces with many reflective surfaces, sound waves bounce around and create an echo-like effect known as reverberation, affecting sound quality. Acoustic ceiling treatments absorb frenzied sound waves and cut back on reverberation.
- Resonance – Resonance refers to how sound waves can disrupt the natural vibrations of objects and materials in a room. High-frequency sound waves can cause those vibrations to spike, which leads to loud, distorted sounds.
Managing each aspect is key to achieving the best acoustics in a space. An acoustic ceiling treatment interacts with soundwaves, absorbing and diffusing them to balance their amplitude, direct their travel routes, and keep them from bouncing around in all directions.
Types of Acoustic Ceiling Treatments
Acoustic ceiling treatments come in several different types and styles, each designed precisely to affect the sound in a space. Sometimes, the best acoustic treatment for ceilings is a combination of a few different methods working together to regulate the movement of sound.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common acoustic ceiling treatments.2
Acoustic foam is just one potential type of acoustical treatment. Sometimes the foam material resembles the bottoms of egg cartons, which most people think of when they think about acoustical panels because these are seen on TV and in movies. Based on this specific aesthetic, foam panels aren’t typically used in commercial places like restaurants or retail centers.
Instead, acoustic foam treatments are popular in recording studios and other settings that require high-performance absorption but also have a particular look to them. They’re excellent for tightly trapping sound waves and can be installed on ceilings or walls.
For a more aesthetically pleasing acoustic treatment that achieves the same results, commercial businesses often turn to a few different types of other acoustic ceiling panels. To absorb an appropriate amount of noise or “take the edge off the noise” in an office or commercial space, acoustic foam panels can go anywhere, including ceilings. However, they are most often attached to the walls of a space.
Most commercial spaces utilize 1” thick acoustic ceiling panels as they do a good job absorbing “common” noises heard in offices, schools, restaurants, or retail spaces. 1” thick panels are great for absorbing high-and-mid frequency sounds that can contribute to reverb.
They are not ideal for all spaces, however. Because lower frequencies have many different wavelengths, they do not absorb as much lower mid or low-frequency noise as a thicker acoustic panel.
In spaces with high ceilings, an acoustic ceiling cloud is an effective acoustical treatment. They’re similar to acoustic panels, but instead of going on the walls, they hang horizontally from the ceiling – like a flying carpet.
Ceiling clouds are lightweight and made from a few different materials. The most common styles are made from:
- Polyester fibers
- Rigid fiberglass boards covered with fabric
Reverberation can be a serious sound issue when a space has a very high ceiling. Ceiling clouds help cut back on that by absorbing soundwaves that would otherwise bounce around the upper reaches of a room.
Another benefit of ceiling clouds, especially in commercial spaces, is that they can be quite appealing. Aside from the variety of materials, they’re made from, they’re also available in an array of shapes, sizes, and colors, making them a versatile option for any space.
Hanging acoustical baffles
Hanging acoustical baffles are very similar in nature and use as clouds. However, rather than hanging like a flying carpet (parallel with the floor), they are hung from one edge, so they are parallel with the walls. Baffles are often made from the same materials as clouds, and when installed in different shapes and patterns, baffles can be used as a very unique and inviting design element.
How to Choose the Right Acoustic Ceiling Treatment For Your Space
The ceiling treatment you choose will depend entirely upon the characteristics of your space and the acoustics you desire. In turn, those factors are influenced by an array of other considerations.
When you’re determining the best acoustic treatment for ceilings in your space, be sure to consider the following:3
- How you use the space – Your sound solutions are directly linked to how you use your space and the type of noise you want to absorb. Different settings require different acoustic considerations. For example, you wouldn’t want to apply the same amount and type of treatment to a sports bar as you would for a fine dining restaurant. Both spaces are for dining and entertainment, but the acceptable sound quality in the two different rooms is quite different.
- Ceiling height – Rooms with high or vaulted ceilings face a different set of audio issues than rooms with lower ceilings.4 For spaces with high ceilings, ceiling baffles or clouds can help reduce reverberation and echo. If your ceilings are lower, you may be able to solve your acoustic problems by installing acoustic foam panels directly to the walls or ceilings.
- Other aspects of the space – It isn’t just the ceiling that contributes to a room’s acoustics. All the surfaces and objects in the room will either absorb or reflect sound differently, so it is important to consider all objects and aspects of the room when deciding how to add acoustical treatment. Further, if the space has a fire suppression sprinkler system, baffles or clouds may not be a viable option due to the possible interruption of the throw/pattern of the sprinkler system. Consult with your local fire marshal prior to finalizing your design or plan.
How much does it cost to install acoustic ceiling treatments? Because there are quite a few different types of materials that you can use to reduce the echo and reverberation in your space and different ways to install some of the treatment options, the cost of acoustically treating a space can vary quite a bit.
The use of your space and the type of sound you want to reduce will dictate the thickness of the treatment. The room’s existing decor will usually dictate the finish and color – as well as how and where the treatments are installed. All of these things will push the pricing around a bit, so it is generally a good idea to consult with a product specialist and go through these details to start narrowing down the options. Once those are narrowed down, the specialist should be able to get you some general idea of pricing.
Acoustic Ceiling Treatments for Large Ceilings
You can take a few other steps to retrofit your ceilings with acoustic ceiling treatment. Here is some handy advice for perfecting the aural atmosphere in your space:
- Ceiling clouds – Ceiling clouds are simple and effective.1 You can customize them to complement the design of your space without forfeiting the acoustic engineering you need.
- Drop ceiling – A drop ceiling is a second ceiling that sits lower than or below your space’s original ceiling. This is a simpler solution than reconstructing your ceiling and can help balance the acoustics in your space.3
- Curtains – A slightly DIY remedy for solving your acoustic issues is to hang sound absorbing curtains from the ceiling.4 If your ceiling is particularly high, you can manage this without disrupting sightlines or causing too much overhead clutter. Thicker curtains will absorb more sound than thinner ones.
- Focus on other areas – Sometimes, you can improve your ceiling acoustics by focusing on aspects of your space that are a bit closer to the floor. Consider the furniture in your space, the flooring, and the walls. Alternate acoustic treatments could be solutions like wall panels, bass traps, or diffuser panels.
- Consult with a professional – Although the solutions for improving the acoustics in a space are fairly simple, the process of diagnosing problems and determining which solutions are best is a bit more complicated. That’s why so many businesses turn to third-party professionals. With an expert guiding the project, achieving excellent acoustics is just easier.
Perfecting acoustics in a space is all about balance. Depending on your needs, you’ll want some sounds to travel freely around the room while others absorb into objects and acoustic treatments. Unfortunately, without the proper help, this can sometimes become a long, drawn-out process. We can help to limit or negate the process of trial and error and want to help you avoid failed attempts and costly mistakes.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to streamlining your acoustic ceiling treatment search: Acoustical Surfaces.
Acoustical Surfaces leads the industry in soundproofing, acoustics, noise control, and vibration control in large and small commercial spaces. Whether you’re wondering how to soundproof a ceiling in large venues or learn how to install acoustic panels, perhaps you just need quick tips on commercial soundproofing, we’ve got you covered.
When you entrust your project to our helpful staff of experts, you take the guesswork out of solving acoustical problems and discover the precise material you need to achieve the acoustics you desire.
Ready to make your space sound its best? Contact us today!
- Illuminated-Integration. 7 Types of Acoustic Treatments. https://illuminated-integration.com/blog/7-types-of-acoustic-treatments/
- The Tool Square. Are High Ceilings Good for Acoustics? https://www.thetoolsquare.com/are-high-ceilings-good-for-acoustics/
- Tandem Contracting. Are Ceiling Tiles Good for Soundproofing? https://www.armstrongceilings.com/residential/en-us/project-ideas-and-installation/acoustic-drop-ceiling-tiles.html
- Acoustic Curtains. Do Curtains Block Sound? https://www.acoustic-curtains.com/do-curtains-block-sound/