Whether a person decides to purchase acoustic panels or make their own at home, the fabric is a big part of making high-quality solutions. It’s the part of the panel that not only does the hard work, but it’s exposed to anyone walking into the room.
What are the best fabrics for DIY Acoustic Panels? The best type of fabrics for acoustical panels are natural cotton. Sound waves will easily be absorbed and will also be able to pass through cotton with ease making this type of material the best for your DIY acoustic panels!
Since acoustic panels are very popular these days, there are more than a few options to select from. Understanding what to look for and what works best can help anyone make smarter decisions.
If the goal is to create acoustic panels with a do-it-yourself method, consider these fabrics the best on the market right now. Depending on what a person exactly needs, they will all do a great job overall.
1. Naturel Cotton
For a natural option, cotton is probably the best way to go. It naturally has a porous structure that allows for water to be soaked up and air to flow through.
The breathability offers acoustic transparency, and there are many different weaves to pick from.
Natural fabric (Amazon) will always cost more than synthetic fabric. Not only that, but it will start to wear out over time from stretching and even the humidity.
Another thing to worry about is the flammability of cotton. Use a fire retardant spray (Amazon) to keep everything safe.
Make sure to spray the entirety of the panel in a well ventilated area and let them sit for a while so they don’t smell once you place them inside.
Use this method on all natural fire retardant sprays as well since it’s best to not breath it in even if its “all natural”.
2. Guilford of Maine
A specific brand of cloth made for acoustic purposes is Guilford of Maine (Amazon). It is 100% recycled polyester that comes in a heavyweight weave structure.
The thread count is 225 threads per square inch, and plenty of people have used this for years.
It’s a premium solution, and it comes with a premium price. There are roughly 10 to 15 colors out there for design purposes.
Pre-made acoustic panels have this fabric at times, but it will always be cheaper to go with a do-it-yourself solution for those putting in the work.
3. Cotton Duck
Otherwise known as duck canvas Amazon), this type of fabric is known for its acoustic transparency and stretchiness.
It’s a linen canvas that has a bit of a finer weave compared to other canvas options out there. More specifically, the weave has threads that cross over and under each other in the same way as a basket.
Expect the material to feel thick and heavy in hand. It comes in a lot of colors, and it’s pretty expensive. The weight keeps it holding up well over time as well.
Using 100% cotton fibers in a loose weave, muslin (Amazon) does an excellent job with breathability and transparency. It’s inexpensive, but there are some limitations from an aesthetic standpoint.
Most options out there are only going to be very neutral, plain colors. For decorative purposes, muslin probably isn’t the best. It also has the same issue as standard cotton in that it’s very flammable. Source
The only type of linen that is worth exploring is a heavyweight option. It feels a little luxurious, and a lot of people like the look of heavyweight linen for acoustic panel covering.
This material comes from flax fibers to give a textured look and feel. It has outstanding breathability and durability. It also stays clean and odor-free even after years of use.
The options for colors and designs with linen are a bit limited. It also is going to cost more as an acoustic panel fabric than other options. The natural material starts to lose its shape as time goes on.
Some companies have used fake linen made of polyester as a way to take care of some of those issues. It hasn’t taken off just yet, but there are some options out there for those who can’t get over the negatives.
6. Polyester/Polyester Felt
Whether it’s standard plain weave polyester or polyester felt, both of these options are great. Manufacturers use polyester threads to make them perfect for acoustic panels.
It’s not going to have the same breathability as natural fibers, but it’s pretty close.
Cost is also free and expensive, even for high-quality options. Considering that they last a long time, there won’t be a need to make improvements anytime soon.
A very inexpensive option that still performs well is burlap. While some people may have heard in the past that it lacks the strength and durability of other fabrics, manufacturers have done a great job of making improvements as time goes on.
Burlap is lightweight, and it does not negatively affect sound quality in any way. It has holes that allow sound to pass through with ease, and it’s available in nearly any color a person could ask for.
As far as negatives are concerned, burlap is flammable. It’s also not as stretchable as other fabrics for acoustic panels.
For people doing their own projects, there’s a chance that they will break some of the fabric when trying to stretch it out.
Some have used burlap as a nice option to try out in the very beginning to see how building acoustic panels work. They might not be the best best, but it’s an option worth exploring.
8. Speaker Grill Cloth (Soft and Hard)
Speaker grill cloth (Amazon) is called that because it is primarily used for speakers to have sound pass through them. If something works great for speakers, it’s going to be a solid option for acoustic panels.
The performance is outstanding, as it has high strength and the qualities that can protect well.
For acoustic panel purposes, that might not matter, but it’s just one of the reasons why it works well for sound systems and speakers.
Cost is one of the reasons why it might not always be the best for acoustic panels. It’s also not the easiest to cut and stretch perfectly.
What Makes a Fabric Great for Acoustic Panels?
With so many different fabrics out there, what should a person be looking for in the first place? The best fabrics usually have similar qualities that have them stand out.
This is considered the biggest factor in the fabric being great for acoustic panels. It heavily determines absorption performance, sometimes referred to as breathability and sound transparency.
Fabrics are available in either backed or unbacked forms. this means that they are lined with backed fabrics that usually consist of either acrylic or paper. This occurs so that it’s much easier to apply to a wall.
Any fabric used with an acoustic paneling system should be unbacked. That’s because backed fabrics prevent the majority of sound from going through them, and backed fabrics do not stretch all that well.
All acoustic panel fabrics should have a very open weave and be as breathable as possible. To test it out, blow air through it and see just how breathable it is.
With that said, make sure that it’s not too much of an open weave, as the fabric shouldn’t be completely see-through. If that’s the case, they can’t offer that much absorption. (Source)
If the fabric works from an acoustic perspective, it needs to be properly functional as well.
For example, stretch fabric panels can’t be sagging or ripping too often that it needs replacing. When using natural materials, that can often be the case.
Acrylic and polyester are some of the most stable types of fabrics out there. They are tight even after stretching, and they are going to be sagging.
The same can’t be said for some fabrics like cotton, wall, and linen. Even a little bit of a temperature change can make a difference.
For those people who don’t want to go without any natural fibers, there are blended fabrics that provide the best of both worlds.
Just make sure that there is some polyester in it, or they aren’t going to last long and function the way they should.
Acoustic panels need to work as they should. However, since they are visible, looks matter to a certain degree. Everyone has a different emphasis on looks, but it can’t be neglected.
Companies know this, and they are trying to make acoustic panel fabrics look as great as possible.
People putting things together are consulting with design teams and looking at room interiors to make everything as it should.
What Can Acoustic Panels Be Used For?
The main purpose of acoustic panels is to act as a dependable sound-absorbing option to mitigate noise and cut down on reverberation. If there’s any echo in a room, acoustic panels can help.
For good acoustics, every area needs diffusion, absorption, and attenuation. The best fabrics for these acoustic panels help out in every category.
How Long Do Acoustic Wall Panels Last?
The fabric for acoustic wall panels should last a very long time. However, it’s the foam used for acoustic panels that usually wears down first.
Foams have about seven years of use before they start to wear down. There are ways to use the fabric again if a person wishes, but the do-it-yourself process must be done again.
What Insulation Works Best with Acoustic Panels?
There are two main types of insulation for acoustic panels. Some will rely on fiberglass, while others will opt for mineral wool.
Mineral wool weighs more than fiberglass, and it’s also stiffer. This means that the weight and firmness will make it easier to install than fiberglass.
The beauty of mineral wool and fiberglass is that they are very porous and can handle all types of vibrations. With fiberglass, there are little air pockets that help to kill the sound.
Most will say that rock wool wins the battle head-to-head because it’s more durable and is a healthier solution. Not only can fiberglass fibers cause health issues, but it attracts mold.
There is a cost that comes with mineral wool over fiberglass. It’s part of the budgeting process of installing absorption panels.
Where To Install Acoustic Panels?
Acoustic panels work best when they are placed on the walls. To get maximum effectiveness, it’s worth it to stagger the positions on opposite walls.
Figuring out exactly where acoustic panels go might seem like an overwhelmingly difficult process, but plenty of guides exist online that help out even first-timers.
There’s always the solution of hiring professionals to take care of the setup as well.
Do Acoustic Panels Work?
Without acoustic panels, soundwaves will have the ability to reflect off of any surface of the room. it’s not the ideal way to hear things, which is why acoustic panels are becoming more and more of a necessity.
In rooms with flat, hard surfaces, sound will always be subpar at best without acoustic panels.
While other solutions exist to help with sound, professionals recommend acoustic panels for their efficiency and relatively easy installation.
How Thick are Acoustic Panels?
Opting for an acoustic wall panel that’s between 2 inches and 4 inches is usually the most efficient way to go.
it is true that the thicker the panels, the more effective they can be. However, there won’t be that much of a difference going beyond 2 inches in most situations.
When the panels go beyond 4 inches, they start to stick out off the wall a bit too much. To have them sit flush against walls, keeping them 4 inches or smaller helps.
Final Thoughts on Fabrics for Acoustic Panels
Whether it’s shopping for acoustic panels or going with the do-it-yourself method, fabric makes an impact. It’s worth taking the extra bit of time to figure out what works best for a location.
Consider effectiveness, cost, and overall looks before making a final decision. While just one acoustic panel might not cost that much, the average investment requires several panels to properly take care of sound.
If everything works out properly and a person picks great materials to start with, there’s a chance that acoustic panels could last for several years before needing any other touchups.
That’s a quality home-improvement solution relative to the effort.