Classroom Acoustics on a Budget

Sound quality and understanding speech in a classroom environment is obviously something of importance. If students are not able to clearly hear instruction in a classroom they are not able to learn – or learn nearly as effectively as they should. If this is the case, the room needs acoustical treatment; there is no way around that. But what if the budget for the project is limited – or non-existent? Believe it or not, there are options.

I received a call from a man in California named Jason who reported that he had voluntarily taken on the task of finding out how to control the echo and reverberation of a classroom at his child’s school. I can’t recall whether or not this was being done simply to make the space more comfortable and improve the sound quality and speech intelligibility in the room or whether there was a special needs student that needed this treatment, but either way, something needed to be done in the classroom and there was an EXTREMELY limited budget if there was any at all.

Jason explained to me that these classrooms were common in the fact that they had a hard, VCT tile floor, painted sheet rock walls and a hard sheet rock ceiling. When the classroom was filled with young, noisy and excited children it continued to get louder and louder and louder to the point of discomfort. I’ve been in rooms like this and I know exactly what he was experiencing. I usually refer to problems like this as the “cocktail party effect” where people continue to increase their voice level so they can be heard over the background noise and this causes the background noise to rise which means they have to talk even louder to be heard – and the problem continues.

Because the budget for the project was so limited, there were only a few options. It was decided that the Echo Eliminator panels made from recycled cotton were the only likely choice. Because these panels are made from recycled cotton, they are one of the lowest cost, class A fire rated products on the market. They not only very cost effective but they are also very effective at absorbing sound. Most of these panels are installed by adhering them directly to the structure, but, in this case, the teachers and administrators did not want such a permanent solution. Jason decided that he was going to install some grommets and use some hooks hat he had seen which was a great idea.

Although the Echo Eliminator panels are some of the most cost effective panels on the market, due to the EXTREMELY limited budget for the job Jason and I had to explore some thrifty options. Performance was more important than aesthetics in this case which is why we looked through the available inventory on our Discount Soundproofing website and found a few boxes of product in good enough shape to be used. This inventory fluctuates on an almost daily bases as product is sold or is added and there are often quite a few boxes of product that we have not had time to install yet, but we were able to provide panels at a 50-70% discounted cost for this job which is truly the reason there are sound panels in the room now.

The cotton panels are not the most “finished looking” or “aesthetically pleasing” products on the market, but honestly, third-graders don’t really care. Their understanding of spoken word and physical comfort is, or should be, much more important than how pretty a room is. These panels are not ugly, they are simply not as finished as other products on the market. The teachers and administrators were not a huge fan of the aesthetic at first, but after the panels were installed and they were able to experience the change of the sound quality and feel of the room, all of the sudden these panels weren’t so bad… In fact, I received a call a short time later asking me for a quote on a second set of panels for an additional classroom. I can’t remember the exact dimensions of the classrooms, but twenty-two panels of the 1” #3lb Echo Eliminator were used.

Below is a short E-mail that I received from Jason shortly after the panels were installed into the first room as well as pictures from both. If you have any questions, need any information, or if you would like to discuss a similar situation, please feel free to contact me.

JASON – If you ever read this, you’re awesome! Thank you for the pictures and the little write up, this simple information has the potential to help hundreds of people. Thank you.


The hanging of the panels was a success. The room is glossy paint over plaster and lots of bare walls – it was very BRIGHT sounding. As soon as we did one wall, I noticed a difference on each side – quieter, warmer, less bright, more cozy (?) sounding. Kids, teachers, administrator all noticed a difference. Of course, we could have used more panels, but cost was a factor – so this is a big improvement. Here’s some pics from the job.  As you can see, I punched two grommet holes and hung the panels on the walls (you can see all the fire sprinklers on the ceiling.) We used Ook brand picture hanger hooks – they have very slim nails that went straight in and the 30 pound hooks were big enough to hold the 1/2″ grommets. Plus, if there was any alignment issue, we could pivot the hooks on the nails a bit to adjust. (Sorry some of the pics are a little blurry, I was hurrying to get the classroom back to the kids…)

– Jason

Cotton Acoustical Panel in Classroom

Cotton Acoustical Panel in Classroom

Noisy Classroom Before Acoustical Panels

Noisy Classroom after Cotton Acoustical Panels

Classroom soundproofing

sound proofing a classroom

The pictures below are of the SECOND classroom that needed treatment.  We did not have any more overstock beige panels but we did have enough light gray.

classroom noise problem

Cotton Acoustical Panel in Classroom

Classroom noise panels

Please do not try to adjust your monitor, the swirls are intentional.

loud classroom

acoustical panels for classrooms

Noisy classroom treatment

Classroom noise problem solution

Acoustical panel installaton

Panel Hooks

acoustical panels hanging in classroom

panels being installed


  1. Lori Dawson

    I’m trying to sound proof the door between my art room and the music room adjoining us. The sound of recorders is intolerable. How can I cut down the volume of noise? The walls are cinderblocks. Doors are wood. Music room has high ceiling and tile floor. Help!

    • Ted W


      Thanks for the comment!

      Blocking sound from a door is generally fairly simple and straight forward. I always suggest starting with the door, re-assessing the situation, and then adding more if needed.

      The addition of a Heavy Duty Door Seal Kit should greatly reduce the amount of noise that is making its way into your classroom. Sound acts like water and wants to travel via the path of least resistance first. If the music room were filled from floor to ceiling with water – how is that water going to get into your classroom? Yep, the gaps and cracks in the door. You know more about sound than you probably think you do. 🙂

      Let me know if you have any more questions!


  2. Tina Bohrer

    I have two windows in my kindergarten classroom that connect to the pe room. They are about 2ft wide and 5 ft long. The school won’t help so anything I do will have to be done out of my pocket. Can u suggest a quick fix?

    • Ted W

      Hi Tina,

      Thanks for the question. I would suggest using some thick, heavy plywood or sheetrock and some standard sticky-back weather stripping so that the new barrier-product is as airtight as you can get it.

      Imagine that you were trying to block water from coming into your room. The barrier first needs to be airtight as well as dense and heavy as possible. I would probably throw some kind of nylon strap or something over the barrier to make sure it doesn’t fall out. You could even get a nice curtain to cover it up, since you won’t be able to see through the window anyway.

      Good luck!

  3. Jose Salinas

    I am an elementary music instructor. I am trying to stop any sounds from my room to the other classrooms. What is the best way to go about this? The only thing that is separating my room from the other rooms is regular drywall. The wall is about 25 ft. across. A little more than half of it has some wooden shelves and cabinets. There is about 2 feet of open space over the wooden cabinets.

    • Ted W

      Whenever people make statements like wanting to “stop all sounds from my room to the other classrooms”, I get very nervous — especially when we’re dealing with kids and/or music of any kind. Realistically stopping all sound is going to take a significant amount of work and require major modifications to the wall. Starting to reduce the sound a little bit is usually a lot more attainable and realistic, but it also requires construction and modifications to the wall.

      I do have a few questions about the wall or walls in question as it’s not quite clear in your comment. Does the sheetrock go from the floor to the ceiling, or do the walls stop a few feet from the floor? Or, was the mention about the cabinets just noting that they cover the sheetrock and stop a few feet from the ceiling?

      The reason why I ask is that blocking sound needs to be done quite specifically to be done successfully. Sound is a lot like water in the fact that it uses the path of least resistance to get from point A to point B, so sound can be carried very easily through ducts, gaps and cracks in walls, doors, and windows, etc. Also, if the ceiling is simply T-bar grid and standard ceiling tiles and the wall doesn’t go all the way to the roof deck, much of the sound can actually go up and over the wall but sound like it’s coming through the wall.

      If it is the wall in question, I would suggest exploring these products:
      Green Glue Dampening Compound
      RSIC-1 Clips
      SoundBreak XP Enhanced Drywall

      Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to discuss this further.


  4. Batoul Raad

    I am Batoul Raad from Lebanon, i am asked by the school to get a report about “how to reduce an echo in a classroom”. The thing is our school is ready to pay the expenses of this project, so we can apply it in every classroom in our school because it is a really big problem for us. i read several articles, but i am not sure yet. If you can help me that would be great.
    Thank you

    • Ted W

      Classroom acoustics are important indeed. I have a very simple equation that I would be happy to share with you.

      • Take the cubic volume of the classroom and multiply it by 3%. This is the area of panels needed for that classroom.
        • For instance, if the classroom is 18′×20′ and has a 10′ ceiling:
          18 × 20 × 10 = 3,600
          3,600 × 0.03 = 108
        • This classroom needs ~108 square feet of panels

      I would choose something that is light, soft, and fluffy (and fibrous) and install that on the walls or ceiling of the space. This will make a noticeable difference in the echo/reverberation of the room.


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