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DIY Acoustic Panels

I've decided to document my exploits into making my own DIY acoustic panels in the hope that it helps other people who hate DIY as much as I do!

I wanted to take August off so that I could finish the studio and the rest of the new place but I had such a busy month. The 'busyness' continues so I have no option other than to squeeze finishing off things, in between repairs, service and mod' building.

I only have the lounge, two cloakrooms and the hallway to do but with people wanting to record here, I urgently need to finish off the studio part of the new house.

Everything's in place, wired up and working great. I just love the sound of well, everything! 🙂 I do however, have to acoustically treat three rooms; the mic room, the keyboard room and the control room.

Mic room with bare (untreated) walls
This is my mic room; a great space to record vocals and acoustic guitar but in obvious need of acoustic treatment before I do any of that!

My intention is to mount three 2m x 0.7m panels on the wall pictured above and three 1.7m x 0.7 meters on the wall opposite. After doing some tests and experimenting, I know I'm going to need some smaller in-fill panels . There also a 'spring' sound coming off that laminate floor. Anyway, I'm going to get the main six panels in place and take things from there.

I was going to do the 'lazy' thing and just glue foam tiles to the walls but I've always been envious of studios with those lovely looking acoustic panels. The new place looks fantastic and I feel that I should at least try to do it justice when it comes to acoustic treatment. Hence, I decided to do something stupid and build my own acoustic panels.

Keyboard room with bare (untreated) walls
My keyboard room; I'll be record vocals in here too, so way too much hard wall that needs 'softening'.

The wall behind the basses is going to get either three vertically mounted panels or two horizontally mounted panels. Once they're in place, I'll need to see if the area above the keyboards will need treatment. I think it might. 🙁

You'll recall from previous (DIY) posts, that I have a severe aversion to DIY but as has also been mentioned in those posts, "sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do..." Well, I didn't put it quite like that.

So, as you do now-a-days, I went on-line and found this excellent You Tube video which described in sufficient detail, how to make your own DIY acoustic panels. I thought it was great and it seemed that at last I'd found a resource which suggested that a DIY phobic like me, could actually do this. I studied it carefully and ended up implementing a few tweaks of my own. To prevent the cross pieces from twisting for example, I glued them as well as screwing them.

NOTE: After pricing up all the materials, I found that the unit price is nearer 60 GBP than the 25 USD mentioned in the video. Not a real surprise as prices of everything have shot up here in the UK, over the past few months. On top of that, I've priced up for slightly larger panels.

After deciding on placement, I measured up the three rooms and settled on two panel sizes; 2m x 0.7m and 1.7m x 0.7m. As suggested in the video, I'll be using Camira Cara acoustic cloth which is quite substantial so the final dimensions of the panels will be slightly larger than the frame sizes.

The reason I've got two different panel lengths, is that the 1.7m panels will offer a good gap on walls which have power outlets just above the skirting boards.

I started this post today and here's my first frame of twelve. This frame is for one of the 2m panels. Oh boy! What am I doing?

Frame for DIY acoustic panel (2000mm x 690mm)
My first frame of twelve DIY acoustic panels. Note the addition of the two middle cross braces. A tweak over the frames shown in the video, I'm hoping that they'll improve structural integrity and offer more mounting options.

The wood is 44mm wide so I used M5 x 70mm countersunk wood screws and pre-drilled with a 2.5mm x 160mm drill-bit. Of course I didn't drill all the way to 160mm but that length seemed to be a standard.

A WORD OF CAUTION... That's a long, thin and BRITLE piece of metal, so be careful! The reason I used a long drill bit like this, is because it has to go through 44mm of wood and then some more into the other piece of wood. There's no point in pre-drilling if you don't remove the wood so you need to extract the drill bit a couple of times when you're doing this but PLEASE take it easy. Don't push the drill bit. Let it find its own path.

The panels should of course, be at the same level when hung and I wasn't sure how I could guarantee that, implementing the picture wire and eyelets in between the upright struts method, as featured in the video. Varying tension of the wire would surely mean that some panels would 'sag' more than others. I'm guessing that if I use longer eyelets, I can screw them further into the wood to increase the tension of the picture wire. Hmm... I guess I should get to the end of this and find out how much one of my bigger panels weighs. I can then suss out appropriate fixing hardware.

Anyway, if things go according to plan (yeah, right), I'll be adding to this post over the next few days. If your interested in making your own DIY acoustic panels, please stay tuned. I'm in the UK and have bought all the materials locally.


UPDATE - 16th September 2022

Originally I was going to cut all the wood for my DIY acoustic panels, make all the frames in one go, staple the backing on all twelve panels, etc, etc. Keen to see results as soon as possible, I then decided that I'd make these panels in batches of three. Unfortunately, there's been a hold-up with the foam and I have a few days wait, so I might as well go back to plan A.

Having said all that, I thought I'd suss out stapling the weed membrane on to the frames so pictured below is a frame with just ordinary weed membrane stapled on to what's going to be the inside of one of the 2m panels. Keeping the membrane as taught as possible whilst stapling was a little challenging.

NOTE: I said 'ordinary weed membrane' but it's not as simple as that! There are several types of membrane which can be put into one of two categories; a very plasticky type and another that's more like a fabric textile. The former while cheaper, is more difficult to work with, frays quite a bit and I doubt that it has any suitable acoustic qualities. After trimming, you'll have a lot of plastic bits to clean up. The slightly more expensive fabric type (that's shown in the video) is easy to work with and gives a super smart finish.

Hey, I haven't finished yet! You then need to look at the 'gsm' specification or 'grams per square meter' which should be between 80 and 90. You can get membrane which is like 50 gsm but you can pull it apart in your hands which is useless.

Weed membrane backing on DIY acoustic panel
Inset is a close-up of the more expensive membrane showing a nice clean-cut edge that doesn't fray and that's been stapled.

The first reel of membrane I bought was Gardman WeedStop Performance 75617. This was the last roll that the local Hillier Garden Centre had so I then went to B & Q and bought a 30m reel of Verve Performance Weed Control Fabric.

At this stage, I'm reluctant to buy the hardboard for the external perimeter as I want to lie the foam on top of a panel to check the height of the hardboard. The foam supplier is short of 40mm foam in the density I've bought and has offered me 50mm instead, for the same price. The thickness of the wooden frame is 17mm, so the hardboard will theoretically be either 57mm or 67mm (theoretically). Another wait. Grr...

I've now made the frames for the six main panels for the mic. room; three 2m x 0.7m and three 1.7m x 0.7m.

Frames for six DIY acoustic panels for my mic room
Six frames for DIY acoustic panels for my mic. room. Three are 2m x 0.7m and three are 1.7m x 0.7m. The membrane side will actually be facing the inside of the panel. What you're seeing, will be the rear of the panel.

At the end of the day, I contacted the foam supplier and told them that I've decided to go with their offer of the thicker 50mm foam. I've still got a few days wait before it arrives. Time to get on with a few repairs, I guess.


UPDATE - 22nd September 2022

Six days, yes SIX days since my last post and the foam has finally arrived. It's a lot heavier than I expected!

50mm foam for DIY acoustic tiles
Here's a slab of the 50mm foam. This is 4lb recon foam with a density of 64kg/m³. A little arithmetic indicates that a 2m x 0.7m slab will weigh about 4.4kg and a 1.7m x 0.7m slab will weigh about 3.75kg. Heavy stuff!

Remember earlier that I mentioned I'll wait until I can place a foam slab on to a panel frame so that I can determine the correct height of the hardboard? Well, the theoretical height with 50mm foam and 17mm planed wood is obviously 67mm. 2mm can easily be absorbed so I'm going to get the hardboard cut at 65mm.

Selco cut as many 65mm strips as they could, out of a single 2.4m x 1.2m sheet of 3.2mm standard hardboard and I trimmed them down to size when I got back to the studio.

DIY Acoustic Panel with Hardboard Perimeter
Pictured is one of the 2m panel frames with the hardboard perimeter attached. Notice that I've covered the corners with cloth tape as per the video.

I should mention that I had to hammer some of the staples in as the staple gun didn't always punch them all the way in. Both the staple gun and the 14mm staples were made by Stanley which is a name I've always trusted. I don't think this is a particularly difficult job so I was quite disappointed, to be honest.

DIY Acoustic Panel with Hardboard Perimeter and Foam
The 2m foam slabs fit perfectly although I'll have to cut some of them down for the 1.7m panels. This could actually be a good thing, leaving me the option to make some very small panels.

Although the least dense available from the retailer, the foam I'm using is actually very dense for the job in hand. It's quite difficult to see in the above image but the foam sags in between the centre cross struts. This kind of pissed me off but then I realised that the panel won't be lying like this. It'll be mounted vertically on one of its edges. When I took the panel off the workbench and stood it up, the foam was fine (phew).

A WORD OF CAUTION... The foam stinks! I attached the hardboard perimeters to the three 2m panels quiet quickly and then called it a day. When I came back the next morning, the downstairs of the house stank. I opened all the boxes in which the foam was packed, took out the foam and left it to air for a few days. If the smell doesn't disperse, I might try an odour-killer. I'll keep you posted.

Now I need to get some more membrane prior to the front layer of acoustic material going on.


UPDATE - 23rd September 2022

I couldn't find Gardman WeedStop Perfromance anywhere locally so I bought 30m of Verve 80 gsm from B & Q. Here's one of the large panels with the front membrane covering.

DIY Acoustic Panel with Front Membrane Covering
DIY Acoustic Panel with Front Membrane Covering.

You want to do the neatest job you can but remember that this layer doesn't have to be cosmetically perfect! The Camira Cara acoustic cloth is going over the front membrane. In fact, putting this on is great practice for applying the final layer. On the other hand, Camira Cara acoustic cloth is very expensive so if you're not too fussy about looks, a little practice getting this bit right and you could get away with just the membrane covering. Perhaps try applying a second layer? Of course, colour options aren't as diverse and with the weed membranes I've specified, you'll be stuck with either dark brown or black. 🙁

All six DIY acoustic panels now covered with weed membrane
All six DIY acoustic panels now covered with weed membrane. Once I got the hang of it, this stage just happened.

I have to say that this weed membrane is great to work with. I covered all six panels quite quickly and couldn't wait to get an average weight of the three larger 2m panels. Oh dear! These things are coming in at like just over 8kg, much more than I anticipated and I still have the acoustic cloth to go on. I mentioned earlier that once I established weight, I could begin looking for fixing hardware which is what I'll be doing over the weekend.

MISTAKE... So it just occurred to me; my panels are 70cm wide and 7cm thick. The Camira Cara cloth is 1.7m wide. Hmm... I won't be able to cut the width of the cloth in half as 85cm (half of 1.7m) isn't going to stretch over the width of a panel and over the sides to leave enough to tuck in around the back. Oh BUM!!!! Even if the panels were 60cm wide, that would only leave 5.5cm on each side, to go around the back. The wood is only 4.4cm wide, leaving a centimetre to play with but it's still too close for comfort, especially for a DIY phobic like me. 🙁

See you soon...


UPDATE - 25th September 2022

I bought some Febreze Fabric Freshener today and I have to say that the awful smell of the foam doesn't seem so bad after applying this stuff. I'll buy another couple of bottles and see how it goes.

Also, remember I said that the weight of the foam was making a 'dip' in the middle of the panels in between the cross braces but after standing a panel upright on its end, the foam falls forward slightly so I didn't think it would be a problem? Well, it was really, really bugging me (like some things do) so I've put in a centre piece of wood on the back of each panel frame so that the foam now sits flat.

DIY acoustic panel with vertical brace to stop heavy foam sagging
I decided to fit an additional brace to stop the heavy foam sagging in between the two centre cross braces.

UPDATE - 29th September 2022 - CAN'T SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES

While I'm waiting for the Camira Cara cloth to arrive, I've been giving some thought to how I'm going to hang these panels.

My wife Julie isn't musical at all and doesn't know much about the detail of what I do but... she's a great listener and brilliant for bouncing ideas off. The other day I showed her what I'd been up to and while describing the issue of hanging the panels, it came to me...

Remember those cross braces on the back of the panels? Well, they're very straight, 530cm and dead parallel to the shortest edge. If I just fix two screws per panel into the walls, then I might be able to simply hang the panels on the screws. Any height differences would be easy to fix. With a little packing on those cross braces, I can quickly and simply adjust the height of a panel, or straighten it if it doesn't quite look square. The solution to hanging my DIY acoustic panels was right in front of me all the time.

M5 x 80mm self-tapping screws into block wall and machine screws into stud wall
I used rawl plugs and M5 x 80mm self-tapping screws into the brick wall and hollow wall anchors and M5 x 80mm machine screws into stud wall.

It didn't take long to measure up, drill a few holes and try out my idea. In the brick wall, I used rawlplugs  and in the stud wall, I used hollow wall bolts. All screws were M5 x 80mm, providing a good length of screw in the wall with between 20mm and 30mm sticking out, on which to hang the panels.

Screws in brick wall to secure DIY acoustic panels
As you can see, one or two of my screw holes weren't exactly straight but as I keep on saying, I'm crap at DIY.

Two screws per panel is not only secure but offers an excellent degree of flexibility. The cross braces on the panel frames are 53cm down from the shortest edge. The screws are mounted 62.5cm from the bottom of the coving. This leaves about 7cm clear, at the top bottom of the panels.

So, although the panels are waiting for a final layer of acoustic cloth, they're in a sufficient enough state to hang and allow me to conduct further tests of the mic. room.

It's one thing clapping your hands and listening but a proper test requires a microphone to be switched on and headphones to be worn.

I'm still getting that springy type of reflection and putting some rugs down on to the floor confirms that the floor is indeed the issue. Once I'm happy that the walls are quiet, I'll address the floor. I already have some ideas.

DIY acoustic panels panels sitting just fine on the screws in the brick wall
DIY acoustic panels panels sitting just fine on the screws in the brick wall.

Although faint, I'm now left with a very tight bounce in the high-mids. When I say 'tight', I mean that the delay of the reflections is extremely short, more akin to a flanger with the modulation turned off, than anything else. This is actually quite common in smaller spaces with hard opposing walls. Anyway, I have an idea where this is coming from and a little foam propped up against certain parts of the window wall and the door wall (opposite), quickly kill it. I now have an almost quiet room and more importantly, I know for sure that I'm going to have to make four or five smaller in-fill panels. 50mm foam would be excessive for these so I'll be using 30mm foam.