Summer Sound Series: More Noise Than Joy…Church Acoustics

The Situation

We have a large multi-purpose room in our church that we love to use for events, but when it’s full of people, the noise is terrible. The room has a vinyl floor, sheetrock walls and a sheetrock ceiling. Are there any church acoustical treatments that we can put in place to make this a better experience for everyone?

Multi-Purpose Room in Church

The Solution

I have two pieces of good news for you:

  1. You’re not the first one with this problem.
  2. I’ve got a very straightforward approach that has worked in every instance where it was used, so there is a solution.

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve been asked “How many panels do I need?” enough times that I figured that there had to be a relationship between the size/volume of a room and the number of panels that made people comfortable in that room.

The Equation

Cubic Volume × 3% = square footage of panels

The Products

I would probably start by installing some kind of acoustical panel directly onto the ceiling of the room, for two main reasons:

  1. In a room like this, there aren’t likely to be objects hitting the ceiling.
  2. The panels might tend to be a little bit less distracting on the ceiling than they would on the walls.

Another thing that I run into all the time for projects like this is that the budget to fix the problem is quite lean, and understandably so. Building is expensive. I usually send out three product samples for churches in situations like this to consider:

Echo Eliminator

Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical Panels In just about every installation, people end up purchasing the Echo Eliminator panels, mostly because of the price. These are some of the most cost effective, Class A-rated acoustical panels on the market. They are also some of the most absorbent. They are not the most aesthetically pleasing panels in the world, nor are they the most abuse resistant, but if they are put on the ceiling or high up on the walls, you are so far away from them when you’re standing on the ground, that you are not likely to notice anyway.

Sound Silencer

Sound Silencer acoustical panels The Sound Silencer panels are much more impact resistant, but are twice the cost and half as acoustical.

Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels

Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels – Edge Options The Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels are MUCH more decorative looking and just as absorbent, but they are probably three or four times the cost as the Echo Eliminator panels. Most people who are sitting in a church board meeting looking at samples REALLY want to go with the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass option, but when they compare the quotes, it’s usually not in the budget.

Good luck, and we hope that your church is now full of the joyful noise that was meant to be!


4 Comments

  1. Sefu

    Please elaborate on Cubic Volume × 3% = square footage of panels ..on how the panels should be arranged in a church.Thanks

    • Ted W

      Sefu,

      Thanks for the comment. Are you looking for more information for a church you have in mind? I would be happy to get you more specific information on your situation, but I will need a little more information. Are you talking about in a fellowship hall that is used for large gatherings and meetings? Or maybe a sanctuary where people are worshipping? The dimensions of the room will be helpful, too.

      My equation is a tried-and-true way to reduce the overall echo in the room and make the room easier and more comfortable to use. This is just to take the edge off of the space so that it doesn’t get so loud. From what I have found through real life experience as well as through performing quite a few acoustical models of different spaces is that the layout and placement of the panels make no audible difference in the overall echo reduction of the space. This is simply due to the fact that sound travels too quickly for the exact layout, spacing and placement to make one layout better than another.

      There are only two general things to consider that would change that – the surfaces and the spacing. It is, of course, most advantageous to cover a more reflective surface that a softer, more absorptive surface. For instance, a painted metal roof deck absorbs more sound than a porous cinder block, so you will get more out of the panels by covering the roof deck if either surface is an option. The other is that you can get a bit more out of the panels by spacing them out throughout a room, rather than butting them one-next-to-the-other where all of the edges are touching.

      Other than that, you can essentially place the panels wherever you want or wherever they will either look the best or be the most inconspicuous and you should get the same overall reduction in sound pressure in the space.

      Hope this helps. Thanks,
      Ted

  2. George

    Dear Ted,

    Writing this request for your wisdom in this matter. We installed sound systems for our church recently. Now we are encountering Echo problem. Its a church that holds about 1000 people. But in a given sundays we only have about 300. During our sound check we found the return of the sound is about 2.5seconds but if we could get that to 1.2 or atleast to 1.5 the quality of sound will be great. The celings are laminated wood. The church consist of windows. What can be done? I can send the whole picture of the church. Thanks!

    Sincerely,
    George

    • Ted W

      George,

      Thanks for the comment. If you could reply or e-mail me the dimensions of the room (height, width and depth) along with a few digital pictures and the address of the church, I could give you a few options to look into.

      Thanks,
      Ted

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