Tag Archive: Soundproofing

  1. Soundproofing vs Sound Absorbing – What’s the Difference?


    Soundproofing vs sound absorbing – explaining the difference.

    When someone has a noise problem and doesn’t know what to do, who to contact, or how to begin, they often turn to the internet and search for terms like “soundproofing.” We have been fielding calls from people looking to solve sound problems for years. These callers often explain that they want sound that is being made within the room to stay in the room or they want to keep sound out of their space. We start with a conversation about the room itself, the use of the room and the type of noise that we are dealing with in each particular situation.

    (Download your free guide: Solutions to Common Noise Problems)

    It is common for people to ask for pricing on soundproofing foam,sound-absorbing foam, soundproofing insulation, or soundproofing panels. They are sure that foam is the ticket because they have seen “egg crate” foam or other similar products as finish wall treatments in recording studios, on TV shows, and in movies – and these types of rooms are really quiet or legitimately soundproof.  So, it stands to reason that panels block sound, right? Well, not exactly… This misconception is incredibly common – so if you are reading this thinking to yourself, “So, does sound-absorbing foam work? Isn’t foam used for soundproofing a room?” Unfortunately not. Foam doesn’t stop a sound, it absorbs or reduces echo within the room. Don’t feel bad. Plenty of people thought the same thing. Luckily, we are here to save the day. Soundproofing vs sound absorbing – what is the difference?

    Soundproofing vs sound-absorbing

    There are two sides of the acoustical coin, if you will. There are products that absorb echo within a room, and there are products that will block or stop/reduce sound transmission. (There are some panels that will do a bit of both. These are generally called composites, but for now, let’s keep it simple.) Echo absorbing materials are used to improve the sound quality inside of the room in which they are installed.  They are usually installed on the walls or ceiling as a finished surface in the room. Products that are used to block sound are used INSIDE of the wall or ceiling – as part of the construction material. They can be dense, heavy materials or materials that will decouple the wall assembly – and due to their density, often reflect the sound back into the room rather than the sound penetrating through to the other side. Absorbing the echo in a room and blocking or reducing sound are done in two very different ways and with different products and approaches.

    You Can’t Build an Aquarium With Sponges

    Here is a simple analogy that helps people understand the physics of sound and how it works.   Imagine you are building an aquarium to hold water. Would you use glass panels or sponges for the walls of the tank? This is clearly a ridiculous question, but it paints a picture of simple physics that applies here.  Sound acts very similar to water when you are trying to control it. If you used sponges as the walls, they would absorb the water but quickly let all of it seep through to the other side. Glass and good seals block the water and keep it in place. Acoustical materials made from soft, squishy things like sponges are going to absorb. Dense, heavy, air-tight materials will block. Those are the basics right there. Now you can impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. Let’s dive more into the specifics of soundproofing vs sound-absorbing.

    Absorbing Noise

    Sound Absorbing Options

    In fact, some people “soundproofing” a room on the cheap side even hang moving blankets on the wall to create a DIY sound-absorbing panel. If you are interested in a more professional or finished look as well as performance, there are fantastic sound-absorbing products on the market.

    Sound Blocking Options

    For years, I’ve used mental images and analogies to help people realize that they already understand the physics of sound, they just don’t know it yet.  When they (or you) can visualize and relate to an idea you already know, everything makes more sense. So, here is another one. Imagine you are finishing a room in your basement. You have installed the studs that will frame the wall and you are to the point where you are ready for sheetrock. Instead of using sheetrock, you decide you are going to put 2″ thick “egg crate” foam onto the studs. Keep in mind this foam has almost no mass or density.  It’s light and soft, and it is mostly air. After you’ve installed this sound absorption material, you tell your friend to go stand on the opposite side of the wall and begin talking. Regardless of the type or thickness of foam used, you will be able to clearly hear your friend as if there were no wall in front of you. Why? Sound travels through the air. Because the foam is mostly air (it’s light – weighing very little), sound travels through it.  Just like water traveling through the sponge.

    What materials can or do block sound? Products that are designed to block sound from entering or leaving a space are almost always found inside the wall construction or are part of the wall itself.  There are three basic ways to block sound: Add/increase the mass and density (weight) of the wall to simply make it heavier, decouple the wall assembly (where one side of the wall doesn’t touch the other) or dampen the vibration energy of the wall.

    Remember that last analogy? The one in your basement? Let’s go back there. Now, instead of foam, this time you decide it would be a better option to use 9 layers of 5/8″ sheetrock on either side of the wall. Nine layers on the inside, nine layers on the outside. You send your friend to the other side again and have them start talking. I would be willing to bet that you cannot hear much of what they are saying because you have added so much mass to the wall. If you are looking at adding some sound-blocking materials to your room, here are a few products to consider:

    • Soundbreak XP soundproof sheetrock – sound deadening drywall used in the construction of high STC (Sound Transmission Class) wall assemblies.
    • Mass Loaded Vinyl Barrier (MLVB) – an acoustical barrier made from high-density limp mass barrier material to reduce noise transmission.
    • RSIC-1 Clips (resilient sound isolation clips) – prevent sound from noisy neighbors from transmitting through your walls or floor/ceiling assemblies.
    • Green Glue vibration dampening compound – sandwich this between two layers of sheetrock to greatly dampen the vibration energy through the wall.


    You guessed it, I’ve got another analogy! Let’s head to the gym. It’s currently under construction because they are adding a few new racquetball courts. Let’s check them out. The room is made out of concrete and because it’s a regulation-size racquetball court, it measures 20′ wide x 40′ long x 20′ tall. The walls of this room are two-feet thick. You clap your hands in the room and the echo seems to go on forever. Let’s have some fun in here. You have, in your hands 100 new super bouncy balls of varying colors. (You must have really big hands.) You throw them in every direction and they keep bouncing and bouncing everywhere through the room. After a few minutes, they eventually stop bouncing and hopefully you remembered to wear your helmet or you may be dealing with a big headache. Now imagine that you brought some 2″ thick foam with you. You line the walls, ceiling, and floor. After that is done, you throw the same 100 super bouncy balls. This time when they hit the wall, ceiling, and floor they don’t bounce. The energy from the ball was absorbed into the room, more specifically, the foam. A sound wave inside this room is just like that super bouncy ball. It will reflect, or bounce off any hard surface but will be absorbed by a soft surface.

    Now what?

    If you made it this far, I congratulate you for sticking with me through my fairly crude examples. My intent was to help paint a picture. To help you understand more clearly the general differences between absorbing and blocking sound (soundproofing). I’m sure there are lots and lots of people out there who are excessively smarter than I am who are shaking their heads because I did not touch on the technical side of things – explaining wavelength and frequency, etc. I don’t care. I am trying to simplify things to give those non-technical individuals a basis to begin educating themselves on their noise issues.

    Of course, you aren’t officially an expert in acoustics now. This is a start. For your next step, I would recommend finding an expert or at least someone who knows the specific products that you can use for your specific situation. Talking to an expert will help you better understand the way sound moves in your room. He or she will also know enough about the products to point you in the right direction. So, before talking with that person, I would have these questions answered:

    • Are you looking to block sound or absorb echo? Now when you understand soundproofing vs sound-absorbing difference…
    • What are the dimensions of the hard surfaces in your room?
    • What is the room used for, what types of sound are you looking to block/absorb? (a high pitch-squeaky sound, voices, music, children, low frequency-bass type sound, all of the above…)
    • What are your ideas as to the best way to treat the room, where to put the product, or how to approach the situation?
    • What type of aesthetics, finish or colors are you looking for? 
    • Are aesthetics important, or do we need to do this on a tight budget?

    I know this is not an all-encompassing list, so I will not feel bad when you leave me a comment that I forgot something. In fact, I encourage it. Knowing the answers to all these questions will give the expert all the things they need to diagnose the noise problem and offer useful solutions. No matter what size and shape your room is, there is a perfect combination of sound-absorbing and sound-blocking materials to make it a great sanctuary from the sound. Whether you need Soundbreak XP soundproof sheetrock, sound-absorbing panels, sound isolation clips, or some combination of products, talking to an expert will help you make the right choice, the first time.

  2. Why Architects, Designers, and Builders should consider Acoustics from Day One

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    Architectural drawing

    Sounds and noises around us can have a profound impact on everything we do. The music we listen to, the programs we watch, and the work conferences or school classes we attend can be either positively or negatively impacted by sound quality and acoustics. Unfortunately, not all the places we occupy or visit are designed with our experience (or our ears) in mind.

    Because sound is generated everywhere, unwanted noise can also be everywhere. And this isn’t just an annoyance, it can change people’s lives. From a child’s ability to process and understand language to how well we manage anxiety, acoustics make an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives—for better or for worse.

    The Case for Better Architectural Acoustics

    In the 1970s, researchers studying noise levels in New York City found that in some buildings the noise from traffic was so loud that it was as if a vacuum cleaner was constantly running. This noise reached rooms as high as the eighth floor. It was so bad that it even inhibited the ability of children on the lower levels to learn!

    Jenny Safran, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin Madison, shared how abnormally noisy environments not only prevented small children from hearing words but prevented them from learning new words. This ultimately impacted a major part of that child’s development.

    Consider another critical area of life that’s affected: health. Hospitals should be optimized for rest and recovery, but research shows that noise levels in hospitals are increasing. And this could be affecting patients’ ability to recover. Nighttime noises that are above 55 decibels can affect patients’ ability to sleep and even increase their risk of heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, in some facilities, nighttime noises can reach over 100 decibels.

    Clearly, products and surfaces that can dampen noise levels can be greatly beneficial in all types of architecture. But, acoustics go much further than controlling noise levels. Think about the last time you were at a restaurant or auditorium. Did the speaker sound clear? Was the music diluted or unpleasant? Some of these details might seem small, but what do people look for in the places they frequent? The places we love tend to have one thing in common: an attractive ambiance. Great acoustics create ambiance.

    In a TED Talk titled Why architects need to use their ears, Julian Treasure shared the importance of using our ears when building. The problem is that it’s human nature to start with the eyes. This is understandable because aesthetics are core to good design. But, what we can’t see can contribute just as much to our experience.

    Design for experience, not appearance

    acoustical architecture design

    In many homes designed before the 1990s, you’ll find a lack of ceiling lights in the living room. Why would every other room, from bathrooms to bedrooms, have ceiling lights except for the living room?

    This trend was due, in part, to an architectural mindset of how living rooms should be lit. The problem? While this may function and look great in well-designed homes, many of us live in homes that weren’t designed by groundbreaking architects with limitless budgets and are, thus,  not lit in a pleasing way.

    This leads to a poor experience for homeowners who don’t know how to use light strategically. The result is usually an overly dark room with lighting that won’t work for anything other than watching a movie or having a conversation. In short, designing for appearance can lead you to ignore the other factors that contribute to an experience.

    To better understand the importance of designing for experience, think of a business owner. What do they want from their office space? Of course they want it to look great. But employee productivity and satisfaction rank pretty high up there as well. It’s scientifically proven that sound can hurt employee productivity. In fact, 70% of global employees say that office noise hurts them during the workday. The math is simple: higher productivity equals higher revenue. So, why are so many offices poorly designed?

    The answer is two-fold. Many don’t have the resources to build their own office and therefore are stuck with whatever is available and affordable. However, for builders, the downfall may lie in their understanding of how acoustics work.

    Architectural acoustics- Getting technical

    To understand acoustics, we need to understand how sound works and travels. Once we understand that, it becomes clear why we must control how sound moves through a space and how much of it reaches our ears.

    The first thing we need to know is that two types of sound reach our ears: direct sound and reflected sounds. Both sounds are useful and even necessary. But, since they work and travel differently, it’s likely they are coming at us from different directions. A room that’s not designed to properly manage those sound waves will produce destructive interference. Consider the following illustration.

    While that image may look cool, it probably also makes you a little dizzy. When you’re hearing the same sound repeatedly within microseconds of each other, the sound clashes. It’s easy to see how the sound quality could suffer. If you don’t take measures to correct poor sound design, you get sound that is distorted and perhaps even unnatural.

    The second step to creating natural sound is understanding the principles on which acoustic treatment tools operate. For example, two ways you can improve the sound in a building is through the use of diffusers and absorbers. How do these operate?

    A diffuser helps scatter sound. So instead of getting hit with sound within microseconds of itself, you’ll hear sound at more natural intervals. This reduces echo and distortion, creating more pleasing sound.

    An absorber, as the name implies, absorbs part of the sound and reduces the amount of distortion from sound deflection. Both diffusing and absorbing sound can help improve the sound quality of your building, but using both concurrently will give you the best, most natural sounds. How can builders make the right acoustic choices?

    The builder’s dilemma: choosing the right solution for your acoustic needs

    As a builder, it may be tempting to ignore acoustics in an attempt to save money. While this may be true in the short-term, the long-term benefits are compelling. Plus, planning for acoustics early in the building process is actually more cost-effective than you might imagine.

    How should acoustics influence your next project? Start by considering the use of the building. While it’s true that every building benefits from good acoustics, some buildings can’t function properly without them. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there was an ‘open schools’ movement where public school classrooms were built without walls. It was thought that this would encourage students’ creativity. However, students could hear noises from every other classroom in the area. As you might expect, this trend only lasted a few years. Walls were needed to limit distracting noises.

    We may see that example and think that common sense should weed out ideas like that. Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to be blinded by our current agenda. When personal or business objectives take precedence over the experience the building will provide, everyone suffers.

    Starting with the purpose of the building will help you prioritize the essential building elements, which includes acoustics, ensuring that everyone who uses the building will have a good experience. For example, in a classroom, you’d limit sound distortion and background noises to ensure all kids hear the same information. Whereas, in a concert hall, you may want to enhance sound quality to ensure everyone is getting the same quality sound. After all, that’s what they are paying for.

    Another critical element is understanding the difference between acoustic treatment and soundproofing. Soundproofing is the action of blocking sounds from leaving or entering a room. Acoustic treatment’s purpose is to improve the quality of sound within a given space. The materials treat the room by reducing reverberation, echo, standing waves, etc. While acoustic treatment can control how much sound you hear, its main goal is to improve overall sound quality.

    Understanding the differences between soundproofing and acoustic treatment is important because, once the wall is closed and drywall installed, it can be significantly harder, and more expensive, to soundproof space. Confusing the two can give builders the wrong idea about cost, and scare them away from a comparatively cost-effective solution. It’s critical to recognize that reducing sound transmission from room to room is typically done in the walls, ceiling or floor — rather than on one of these surfaces.  The next step into picking a good acoustic solution is considering the source of the noise.

    Builders need to consider the noisy culprit when picking an acoustic solution

    Many different building elements could impact sound quality depending on the source of the noise; these building elements might even be the source themselves. For example, flat, hard surfaces and equal dimensions can be enemies to sound. They act as amplifiers and reflect sound strongly. In this case, you’d want to counter these types of surfaces with soft materials (absorbers).

    If it’s a mechanical noise issue, isolation is ideal. Machinery with moving parts will often introduce vibration into the structure at it’s points of contact. Vibrations can travel through a building like electricity traveling through a wire. Introducing rubber or spring isolators between the machine and the floor can often yield significant reductions to sound heard from a noisy machine.

    Other possible solutions to reduce machinery noise are to soundproof the room or to build an enclosure around the machine itself. Either of these will help to reduce the amount of airborne sound that is leaving the room. To do this effectively, you have to think about different factors like substance, mass, isolation, airtight seals, decoupling, and density. It can be a lot of work, but soundproofing the source is much less expensive than treating the entire building.

    Let’s go back to the classroom scenario for a moment. A classroom is generally a geometric space with walls and flooring made of hard, flat materials. These surfaces are going to naturally cause a lot of reverberation because sound can’t go through or be absorbed into the material. Add to the traditional architecture of a classroom the fact that kids are loud, and the sound challenges are clear.

    Looking at these examples, it’s clear that there isn’t one solution that can fit everyone’s unique needs. It comes down to understanding your noise problem, the use or uses of your room, and the distinct needs of your building; then determining which acoustical materials or products satisfy the important considerations. When builders start by identifying the noise source and then choose relevant acoustical solutions and building materials, they save valuable resources while improving the experience of all who use the building.

    Incorporating acoustics early allows you to blend beauty and functionality

    The best way to solve acoustic challenges is to start with the architectural design. Room layout plays a major role in controlling sound. As we’ve already discussed, flat, hard surfaces can create reverberation issues and ultimately reduce sound quality within the space. Incorporating sound-friendly materials into your design will improve room experience from the beginning and eliminate the need to make improvements later.

    For example, adding acoustical material after a building is occupied often requires disruptions to places of business. Additionally, finding the available wall or ceiling space needed for the product while working with the existing aesthetic of the space can get tricky. In contrast, when acoustics are part of the design from the beginning, they can be used as part of the design or installed in areas of the room where they are out of view. When done right, they even add to the visual aesthetics of your room. Consider the following image.

    Envirocoustic Wood Wool Wall

    As you can see in the photo, there are lots of acoustic panels all along the walls, but they don’t distract from the beauty of the room. Since they were an integral part of the design, they contribute to the elegance of the space.

    Another reason why builders should consider acoustics from day one is budget. Let’s say a builder is constructing a new call center. In the original design, they planned for and used ceiling tiles in the space. However, they later realized the materials they used were terrible for room acoustics. Not great for a company whose employees are talking on the phone all day. Now, they have to replace all of the ceiling tiles with material that is better suited for the acoustics in a call center. If the builders would have incorporated acoustics into the building plans from the beginning, they could have avoided the added costs of having to pay for extra labor and materials.

    Builders who incorporate acoustics early on improve their client’s experience, make the best use of their budget, and design better by designing for sound.

    Making acoustics easier for builders

    The building has come a long way over the years. One major improvement we’ve seen is the increase in eco-friendly buildings. Many builders take the materials they use seriously and often need them to be LEED-certified. At Acoustical Surfaces, we help our clients by providing materials that can help with LEED certification of a building.

    Our clients prefer pre-planning versus post planning. They value the fact that we support them throughout the project and not just after the fact. When our clients have easy ways to offer options for various acoustical surfaces and products that improve their customers’ experience, everybody wins.

    The spaces we work and live in are no longer a utility, but an experience. We see billion-dollar companies pouring money into a design for one reason: they want to create an experience. Incorporating acoustic treatment into the design makes it accessible to more people and improves everything about your space. If you’re interested in how acoustic treatment could improve your next project, talk to one of our experts today.

    Are you a homeowner? Acoustic treatment isn’t just for corporate spaces. If you’d like to see the options available for your home, check out Acoustic Geometry, our residentially-focused website.

  3. The depth and dynamics of Acoustic Panels

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    The ability to perceive sound is a gift. Like all senses, it can produce immense pleasure and it can annoy you like crazy. There is a big difference between the volume produced by your favorite band in a classic venue and the volume produced by a house full of screaming family. It has less to do with the fact that your family is speaking in conflicting tones and more to do with the fact that the music venue was designed to sound great, whereas your kitchen, loaded with hard surfaces, handles sound much more poorly.

    But why doesn’t your home sound great? It’s just an oversight. Most homes aren’t designed to handle sound, but you can take care of that by yourself, quite affordably. There are simple things you can do to take care of the noise pollution in your home and create a much more comfortable gathering space. 

    Acoustical panels in the Living Room

    In most modern houses, the living room is the largest room in the home, making it a natural gathering spot. You’ve got a big TV and couches in there. What’s not to love? Open spaces with hard walls may look inviting, but they don’t handle sound well, and if you have hardwood floors to boot, you may have a bit of an echo chamber on your hands. Some well-placed acoustic panels will go a long way. You want to cover the hardest, most reflective surfaces, so the walls and ceiling are obvious targets. Keep in mind, you don’t want to completely soundproof the room, as that creates a silence that can be equally unsettling.

    soundproofing living room


    Sound bounces around the room like a racquetball, so by treating adjacent walls with acoustic panels, you can effectively reduce the amount of reverberation and echo. Since the majority of noise bouncing around the room comes from peoples’ mouths, it’s a good idea to focus wall treatments at mouth level, or somewhere in the range of 3-7 feet above the floor. You don’t want to completely cover the walls, but mixing them up on larger surfaces is sure to create the desired effect.


    Not all acoustic panels are created the same. Make sure any acoustic panel you choose to hang are wrapped with acoustically transparent fabric, which allows the soundwaves to penetrate the sound-absorbing material behind it. If the fabric reflects sounds, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to you. If you can blow air through the fabric, it’s likely transparent. This is a spot where you want to make sure to purchase high-quality products since lower quality panels don’t absorb and trap sounds as effectively.


    Since sound travels in more of an expanding cone than a straight line, a few acoustic panels made for the ceiling, paired with a nice rug will help keep noise a little further at bay. If you have a textured ceiling, it may help a little, but adding a few ceiling panels adds a whole new level of texture to the ceiling, and makes it much more impressive to look at. When you incorporate sound-absorbing materials, you won’t find your conversation competing with the music, so you can set the mood without creating a shouting match.

    soundproofing kitchen


    The Kitchen

    People also love to gather in the kitchen. It smells good. That’s where the drinks are. There’s usually a table and chairs somewhere. It also has lots of smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. That means it also tends to get loud when you start getting close to capacity. A nice set of designer acoustical curtains could be helpful here. Since the walls are usually lined with reflective appliances, cupboards, and countertops, you likely have less room to work with. The curtains can help with windows, which can be large and are very acoustically reflective. This is another great room for ceiling panels, which give your ceiling a great new texture and add dimension to your kitchen.


    Acoustical panels for the Bedroom

    Do you or your partner snore? Does the noise seem to echo and amplify when the other is trying to sleep? It probably does. Think about adding a few acoustic panels to your decor. They look great in the bedroom, and they come in enough styles that you’ll have no problem finding something to match your space. Again, make sure they are wrapped with acoustically transparent fabric, and you’ll find new peace that will help you relax and sleep better. The fabric also pulls a little double duty with absorbing some of the light in the room, making it feel more tranquil.


    The Utility Room

    Whether your utility room is in the basement or on the main floor, chances are, some of the large machinery in there makes noise that you may have to compete with. You can quiet the machinery with moving parts, like your washer and dryer, with things like pads or mounts. The less the machine moves, the less noise it will make. Another issue arising out of the utility room is noise associated with your HVAC system. There are many different products for quieting a noisy HVAC system, so bring your questions, and we can devise a plan that works for your unique situation.


    The Conclusion

    Adding quality acoustic panels wrapped with acoustically transparent fabric is a great addition to any room where you are gathering, listening to music, or just want some peace and quiet. They look great, are easily matched to your decor, and they create the kind of attention to detail that affects you and your guests on a subconscious level. They create a mood that you can achieve with a few other products. Try some out in the common areas of your house, and you’re sure to pick up a stack for the rest of the house.

  4. Soundproofing and Acoustic Treatments in the Workplace: Luxury or Sound Investment?

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    Soundproofing and acoustical treatments are often neglected in the planning phase of commercial buildings and workplaces. Architects and design professionals focus on structural integrity and spatial function, but it’s only when people start to work in those spaces that acoustic problems are revealed. Always looking to trim budgets, business owners may question whether investing in soundproofing and acoustical treatments is really necessary.

    There’s plenty of research, however, that shows that unwanted noise impacts workers’ health and productivity, and this will hit you where it really hurts — your bottom line. The World Health Organization calculates that excessive noise levels cost Europe annual losses in the range of $52 billion!

    Soundproofing: Blocking External Noise and Ensuring Privacy

    If you’ve ever worked in an office close to a railway, a densely populated urban center, or an industrial area, you can probably relate to the frustration and stress you feel when you’re forced to pause a conversation or meeting while a mile-long train clangs by, honking traffic and fire trucks screech past your window, or heavy machinery whines, crashes, and hammers all day.

    Blocking external noise is crucial to workers’ mental and physical health, so it’s closely tied to the success of your enterprise. In fact, WHO has said that traffic noise alone is harmful to the health of almost every third person in Europe, and researchers in Hong Kong have found that “noise is probably the most prevalent source of annoyance in offices.”

    Beyond that, most people would simply prefer their private conversations to stay private, but even more importantly, speech privacy and confidentiality is an absolute requirement in medical, legal, and business settings. Discussions behind closed doors are meant to remain behind closed doors, and they require protection from external noise and distractions — whether from the outside or inside of a building.

    Soundproofing vs Acoustic Treatments

    Soundproofing blocks sound from entering or leaving a space by changing structural elements to acoustically isolate one space from another.

    Acoustic treatments, on the other hand, improve sound quality within a given space by controlling the way sound is reflected, absorbed, or diffused by walls, floors, and ceilings.

    Soundproofing Offices and Conference Rooms

    So, what’s the best approach to blocking external noise? Likewise, what’s the best way to keep sound inside a room — for privacy and confidentiality?

    Start with the weakest points: windows and doors.

    Windows and doors

    Standard windows usually fall short in noise-blocking quality –– depending on the glaze and number of panes. Generally, solid-core doors are fairly good at blocking sound, but interior doors are often hollow-core and thinner, so they don’t block sound as well. The critical thing in both cases, however, is how well you seal the gaps between the doors or windows and the frames they’re in.

    Sound is like water; if there’s somewhere for it to go, sound will find it. It can pass through, under, and around doors that haven’t been acoustically sealed. According to an article on Forbes, a 1 percent opening in a wall or doorway will reduce the effectiveness of that barrier by 50 percent.


    Depending on the type of building you’re in, the external walls may or may not provide enough soundproofing from the outside — it’s a function of their thickness and density. Often, internal walls with no insulation and that share studs also transmit sound easily. Various approaches exist — from de-coupling internal surfaces to doubling-up on the sheetrock — that serve to both increase walls’ density and isolate them from external noise that may transmit through the building’s infrastructure.


    Finally, sound can transmit to adjacent spaces via ceiling spaces and/or ventilation ducts, so you need to seal those spaces as well.

    Cost-effective Soundproofing and Acoustic Treatments for Private Offices


    Use our Door Seal Kits for the simplest way to begin soundproofing your commercial building or office space. They’re easy to install, and they offer the most effective solution for the price.

    For  home or professional recording studios, use our Studio 3D™ Soundproof Interior Doors. They are customizable to any size specification and come with ratings as high as 56 STC.


    Products like, Noise S.T.O.P.™ Sound Barrier Acoustical Ceiling Tiles, combine soundproofing and acoustical treatment by incorporating a noise barrier on the back of the tile to help block sound from entering or leaving while also providing sound absorption on the front that helps control echo and reverberation within a space. You can also use Wood Wool Ceiling Tiles. These ceiling tiles reduce echo and reverberation through sound absorption.


    Use high-performance products like Sound Silencer™ or FABRISORB™ acoustical wall panels that come in a wide range of aesthetically pleasing colors.


    Soundproofing and acoustical treatments should not be overlooked in planning office spaces. They represent more than “mere comfort or luxury”; they should be seen as an essential investment in the health and productivity of employees and business professionals alike and, indeed, the bottom line.

    Compared to the potential losses from not addressing noise problems, soundproofing and acoustical treatments are one of the best and most affordable investments you can make.

  5. Can Awful Acoustics in Restaurants Alter Taste?

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    Have you ever been to a busy restaurant that was so noisy you could barely hear your friend across the table? From an acoustics standpoint, restaurants are tricky spaces; the hard surfaces of the tables, bar, and floor are carefully designed to match the menu and overall aesthetic, but they can make a quiet Tuesday lunch sound very different from a packed Friday night.

    Positive young people enjoying a food and smiling at the tavern

    It’s no surprise that crowded, noisy atmospheres result in dissatisfying customer experiences. In a recent Zagat survey, noise level was the second most common complaint of restaurant goers after bad service. Additionally, a Consumer Reports survey of almost 50,000 readers reported that one in every four dining experiences warranted a noise complaint.

    Customers aren’t the only victims of sound pollution; the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) monitors volume to protect employees from environments that could cause hearing loss over time. OSHA’s standards include a maximum noise level of 90 decibels per every 8 hours and 95 decibels per every 4 hours. Oxford University experimental psychology professor Charles Spence noted that noise levels in many restaurants hover around 100 decibels.

    restaurant 1

    Recent studies have found that not only do bad acoustics hurt our ears, but they can also affect the way we taste our food. A 2010 study in scientific journal Food Quality and Preference found that participants perceived saltiness and sweetness more strongly when eating with quiet or no background noise, compared to participants who ate the same foods with loud background noise. A 2012 University of Manchester study found that people enjoyed their food more when they also enjoyed the background noise (pleasant music, for example), while participants who ate with 80-decibel white noise in the background reported dulled flavor perception.

    We’re learning that existing background noise, and the acoustical products used to counter it, have the power to transform the dining experience. Acoustical experts should be consulted at the start of any restaurant building or remodeling to harness this power. Products like fabric wrapped fiberglass or echo elimination panels can minimize the noisy cocktail party effect we’ve all experienced.

    Acoustical Surfaces, Inc. has 35 years of experience in improving surface acoustics. Managing volume can be difficult in a continuously changing environment like a restaurant. At Acoustical Surfaces Inc., we offer a variety of mounted wall panels, silk metal, and ceiling-hung baffles to knock out the unwanted noise and offer a more pleasant experience for your customers and employees.

    To learn more about our acoustical surface offerings and our proven restaurant industry success, please contact us to consult an acoustical expert.


  6. What’s That Noise? Office Environments

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    This month’s edition of What’s That Noise? focuses on office environments—enclosed areas that depend on quietness to ensure the clearest communication possible.


    Millions of Americans spend 40 or more hours working in office buildings each week. Unfortunately, not all the time spent by office employees is productive, as the buildings they work in are a constant source of unsolicited noise.

    If you’ve worked in an office, or even briefly visited one, then you are well aware of the noises people encounter in these buildings—keyboard clicking, calls with clients or other employees, and loud music are a few prime examples. These individual noises are irritating and distracting, but they aren’t the biggest problem befalling offices today; sound transmission from room to room is the real culprit.

    Interestingly enough, the construction of office buildings is what promotes sound transmission. During construction, components like heating and cooling systems, water pipes, are run along the ceiling of a building. Next, walls are built and a “drop-ceiling” is installed to cover the surfaces. Finally, doors are installed and the rooms are finished. In each of these areas, very little attention is given to sound absorbing materials.

    People tend to assume that walls are the main source of sound transmission, but generally speaking, sound travels too fast (1,130 feet per second to be exact) to determine its precise location. Regardless of location, these sounds interfere with office productivity, and often cause confusion among employees.

    How Can I Resolve the Problem?

    It can be challenging, but the first step is to try and pinpoint the general problem area—your choice of noise abatement products will depend on the specifics of the room.

    For ceiling tiles, the Acoustical Surfaces team recommends two exceptional products: NOISE S.T.O.P.™ Sound Barrier ACT Tiles offer both high sound absorption (for echo and reverberation within a room) and are designed with a noise barrier on the back of the tile to help to block sound from entering or leaving an office; Barrier Decoupler  can be used on the back of STANDARD ceiling tiles to reduce sound transmission and contain intrusive noises.

    For office doorways, we recommend Door Seal Kits—these products are adjustable, durable, and are ideal for decreasing the amount of sound transmission through door seals. Our door seals are easy-to-install and available in several custom sizes.

    Finally, adding wall panels will help absorb echoes and reverberation throughout the office. Our NOISE S.T.O.P. FABRISORB™  fabric-wrapped fiberglass panels are custom engineered to provide high-performance noise reduction in any office area.  These panels can also be fabricated with a core of a dense, heavy vinyl that will offer the ability to block sound transmission as well.

    Learn more about our noise abatement and soundproofing solutions by contacting Acoustical Surfaces, Inc. today.

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  7. “Noise is the No. 1 Quality-of-Life Complaint in NYC” solutions from Acoustical Surfaces


    An article came out earlier this year titled “Noise is No. 1 Quality-of-Life Complaint in NYC” by Verena Dobnik, and I wanted to contribute some basic solutions for noise reduction to mitigate some of the complaints listed in the article. (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/noise-no-1-quality-life-complaint-nyc)

    Large cities with large populations and lots of concrete are always going to be noisy, that’s just part of the game when it comes to living in the city.  If you don’t like noise, it’s probably not the right place for you.  But, even in a big city, people should be able to create quiet, comfortable spaces to unwind.  Fortunately there are quite a few different products that can be used to reduce the amount of sound coming into a building.

    RSIC-1 Clips
    RSIC-1 clips can be used for exterior walls to float the drywall off of the studs, allowing the sound pressure to be converted to heat by allowing the wall assembly to vibrate:

    Green Glue
    Green Glue and an additional layer of 5/8” drywall can be used to retro-fit an exterior wall to increase the STC rating of the assembly, and block more sound from making its way into the space:

    Acoustic Window Inserts in Historic Building
    Climate-Seal Window Inserts are a very effective, retro-fit way to reduce the amount of sound coming in a weak window.  These windows snap into place and are held onto a metal frame that is installed around a window:

    Noise Barrier/Sound Absorber Sound Blanket
    Exterior Grade Quilted Barrier-blankets can be used around noise sources outside such as: Generators, AC Units, etc.

    These are just a few different materials that can be used to reduce the amount of sound inside of buildings. Find all of our materials at our home page www.acousticalsurfaces.com


  8. Summer Sound Series: When You Only Want to Hear the Splish-Splash


    Noisy Community Swimming Pool

    The Situation

    I run a community pool, and the noise from the screaming kids is disturbing our neighbors. How can we keep this noise contained?

    The Solution

    Exterior acoustics and sound problems can be a bit tricky to deal with, since there are a lot of variables and environmental factors that need to be considered. Luckily, we’re up to the challenge. The advantage in this case is there is already a fence around the pool for safety reasons. You’ll see how we’re going to use this in a second.

    Depending on your location, your pool may or may not be open year-round. Here in Minnesota, we only have about a sixteen-day window where it’s nice enough outside to use a pool, so it wouldn’t make much sense to have panels in place year-round. In other areas, that may or may not be the case.

    Echo Barrier Temporary Noise BarrierLet’s assume, for this case, the pool is open for three months of the year. The Echo Barrier exterior panels are one of our new products that can be either purchased or rented. This type of approach would be perfect for a three month per year application. The pool or community organization would be able to rent the blankets on an as-needed basis, rather than purchase them for the full cost. If the approach met the needs of the space, the panels could be purchased, but if it was discovered that the panels were not the right approach, the endeavor is a much lower-cost solution than purchasing the product outright initially.

    The Echo Barrier panels can be installed directly onto a standard chain-link or privacy-style fence through the grommets provided. It is important to note that these can act like a “sail” when they catch the wind. You’ll want to verify ahead of time that your fence/structure will be able to support the wind load as well. These panels will block sound from being transmitted directly through the fence, in addition to absorbing some echo on the noise-source side – rather than bouncing the sound in the opposite direction. They are aesthetically pleasing and can be made with the company/city/etc logo, to make it seem more personalized. Happy swimming!

  9. Church Acoustics in Fellowship Halls


    Fellowship Halls & Multi-Purpose Rooms

    Echo Eliminator Recycled Cotton Acoustical PanelsChurch acoustics in fellowship halls or multi-purpose rooms are some of the more frequent rooms that we are asked for recommendations for acoustical treatment. These rooms have a few very common similarities that are the reason for the need for acoustical wall panels or acoustical ceiling panels. These rooms are often quite large so that a large number of people can use the room at the same time. They also commonly have cinder block or sheetrock walls, a vinyl tile or linoleum floor. If carpet is present, it is almost always a very low pile, industrial carpet.

    How Many Panels Do I Need?

    As far as echo and reverberation are concerned, the larger the room, the more square footage of acoustical treatment is needed to get the proper level noise control. Over the last few years, I have talked to thousands of people and a series of the same questions continues to be asked. “How many panels do I need?” This is a simple question that needs to be asked. The answer, however, is not as simple because rooms and the needs of rooms are always different. For simplicity’s sake, I know that rooms like this don’t need “recording studio” sound quality. They do need a noise control solution that takes the edge off so that when the room is filled with people the noise level is not ear splitting.

    I’ve come up with a very simple equation to start with to answer the question above. This is not a guarantee or a necessity, but it is a generalization that I have had an extremely high success rate with. The square footage of paneling generally needed is found by multiplying the cubic volume of the room by 3%.

    Height × Width × Depth × (.03) = Square Footage Needed For Room

    What Kind of Treatment Is Best For Me?

    Again, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question but there are some tendencies or trend that I do want to explain. Although there are hundreds of different kinds of acoustical treatments (including wall panels, ceiling panels, cloud baffles, diffusers, etc.), when it comes to treating a room like this, this extensive list of options is just about always reduced to two different types of panels. These are our Decorative Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels and our Echo Eliminator Panels.

    Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels – Edge OptionsThe Fabric Wrapped Panels are custom made boards of fiberglass that are cut to size and wrapped with a decorative fabric. This option offers the most freedom of panel size and color which is very attractive to quiet a few people. The unfortunate part about the product is that because it is custom made and made by hand, it also comes with a higher price tag. This price tag often makes this option less attractive or simply not an option. Especially for a multi-purpose room where aesthetics isn’t as critical as it would be in a room like a sanctuary, our Echo Eliminator recycled cotton panels become much more attractive.

    Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical PanelsThese acoustical panels are made from recycled cotton fiber and we offer them in nine different colors. They have an absorption rating that makes them an extremely efficient acoustical treatment. Because they are made from a recycled material, they are also very cost effective. They can be used as wall panels or ceiling panels and are most often glued directly to the structure with a construction adhesive and a contact adhesive. They are Class A fire rated, which is always important as well.

    Where Should I Put These Panels?

    My answer to this question almost always surprises people. For all practical purposes, to take the edge off of a room, the exact location of the acoustical wall panels or ceiling panels does not matter nearly as much as the square footage of panels introduced into the room. This leaves the end user with a lot of freedom to put the panels in a location where they will be most discreet.

    The only two recommendations that I would like to pass along would be to space the panels out as evenly as possible throughout the room and, if the aesthetic works, space the panels out (rather than installing them one next to the other). Installing them throughout the room will give you the most even acoustical result and by spacing them apart, you will effectively increase the overall surface area of absorption and increase the performance of the panels as a whole.

    Echo Eliminator in Zig Zag Pattern

    Success Story

    In December of 2006, Dennis contacted me about the multi-purpose room at the Bon Air Church of the Nazarene in Kokomo, Indiana. He was collecting information about products and treatments for the room. We talked briefly about the room and a few of the more popular products that he might be interested in and I put some samples and literature together and sent them to him. We spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of the products and he took the information to the committees and decision makers of the church.

    Like all projects that I have done with houses of worship, the project was discussed and questions were asked, and ultimately the Echo Eliminator panels were chosen due to the low cost of the product and the high absorption numbers. Dennis sent me the measurements of the room and based on the size of the room and the surface that were present, I used the following equation to help him start to figure out how many panels the church was going to need.

    The Room

    This multipurpose room measures roughly 55′ × 65′ and has 20′ ceilings. The equation that I used to determine the square footage needed is listed above.

    55′ × 65′ × 20′ = 71,500 (cubic feet) × .03 = 2,145 Square Feet of Panels

    The Solution

    Echo Eliminator Recycled Cotton Acoustical PanelsBased on the numbers from above, Dennis worked with church members to come up with a unique and decorative pattern for the cotton panels. The church purchased 64 panels of the Light Gray, 110 panels of the Pure Blue and 20 panels of the Navy Blue. They also purchased the cutting blade to cut the 2′ × 4′ panels down as needed.

    Most of our panels are adhered to the walls or ceiling of a room, but this type of installation is very permanent. Although most people are never going to want the echo problem to return, the idea of using a construction adhesive to install the cotton panels isn’t ideal. In this case, the installers used small nails to hang the panels. I do not know the exact details of how it was done, but they pulled it off very well.


    We have installed our sound panels. I have attached a picture to show you the pattern we chose. I will be sending the saw blade back to you tomorrow. We have seen a significant reduction in echo, and we especially can understand speech much clearer.

    We used nails to put up the panels. The color consistency was good, and they look good in this application. I would be interested in your thoughts.

    Pastor Dennis R.

  10. How To Quiet Your Noisy Garage Door


    I finally got around to installing your product. I wanted to thank you for the installation suggestion. The install worked great and so does your product. Even with a cheap, noisy, builder installed garage door opener the noise was eliminated. Not just in the upstairs bedroom but down stairs and in the garage as well. Thanks a bunch.

    Noisy Garage Door Opener Before Picture

    Before the Kit Was Installed

    After Garage Door Opener Silenced

    After the Kit Was Installed

    Other than a vehicle, a garage door opener is probably the most prominent noise source in a garage.  They are strong motors that often introduce a large amount of vibration into a structure. Depending on the location of the garage, this can be quite bothersome. The situation below illustrates a bit more challenging of a situation than most – simply because of the way this motor is mounted. Patrick contacted me and explained the situation and I asked him to send a picture of the opener, which he obliged. Knowing how the RSIC-DC04x2 clips mount, I did a quick photoshop alteration of  the picture illustrating that if a block of wood were bolted into the header, it would allow a surface parallel to the floor to which the DC04 clips would mount.

    Here is the spec page for the Garage Door Isolation Kit**If you want to be added to our list for monthly coupon for discounts , E-mail me your contact information**  This month is Green Glue, NEXT month (August) will be Garage Door Kit!!!

    If you would like to purchase one, here is the direct link to our online store.

    Noisy Garage Door Opener Picture

    Garage door After the kit was installed