How to deaden sound (inexpensively) in warehouse?
November 4, 2007 5:45 AM   Subscribe

What's the best and *cheapest* way to deaden sounds inside a 1600 square foot 16 foot high ceiling warehouse?

My partner and I have a 1600 square foot warehouse with corrugated aluminum ceiling and carpeted floors, that we need to make quieter so people can work inside without hearing sounds from the outside and every word others speak while in the space.

The walls are concrete block.

Mainly we want to find inexpensive ways to deaden sounds inside the structure -- so people can have conversations without lots of echoing and without bothering others inside the space. Does anyone have creative ideas for very low cost, but effective ways to deaden sounds inside?

The lower cost the better.

Hay bales?

Plywood shoji-screens?

What about hanging sheets of plasterboard from the cieling with cable to act as sound barriers/cubicle dividers?

Ideally we wanted sort of an open floor plan, but to deaden the bouncing noise in the space we'd gladly erect some barriers.

Someone suggested framing small staggered dividers with 2/4's and then staple-gunning heavy gauge plastic tarp to both sides to act as walls/sound-barriers.

Industrial-chic look is fine.

There are exposed rafters in the ceiling so we can easily hang things, but what? Plastic garbage bags filled with shredded paper?

Help please!
posted by pallen123 to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Drape long pieces of fabric from rafter to rafter. That will help kill the sound at the roof.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on November 4, 2007

Talking about a similar situation with an engineer (specializing in acoustic), I was told that a few acoustic panels hanging vertically from the rafters could help a lot.
posted by bluefrog at 6:27 AM on November 4, 2007

Just make sure you don't use anything flammable. Hay can even spontaneously combust.
posted by TedW at 6:31 AM on November 4, 2007

Heavy fabric curtains to act as acoustic drapes hung in front of the concrete walls will do do it. If they are hung high enough you should't need to need to worry about the ceiling space. These drapes work best when hanging in loose folds. The longer and wider the better, since the objective is to inhibit all sources of noise. Noise can take flanking paths around and above/below draperies, so the further it has to travel, the less will get through. Velvet velour is excellent and traditionally used in cinemas, theatres and large rooms and shouldn't be too expensive to procure.
posted by brautigan at 7:01 AM on November 4, 2007

I would think you'd want to collect a bunch of egg crates from your local mass-producing kitchen (school cafeterias?) and line the walls and ceiling with that
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:09 AM on November 4, 2007

If you go with drapes, make sure that you get drape that meets fire codes in your area. Unfortunately, that makes drape quite expensive.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:32 AM on November 4, 2007

Drapes will work for the walls, and can be used as walls themselves for moveable partitions. My only personal issue with them is the dust factor, but I'm allergic to dust so that's just me.

To deaden sounds in giant basketball arenas and theatres (they need to stop echoing somehow), you'll see 'clouds' of acoustic panels suspended from the ceiling. Anything will work; acoustic tile (NOT drywall) is best, but you can use big hunks of foam or a wood frame with draperies, or just drapes themselves (but the draperies get REALLY hard to clean if it's at all dusty)...

Also, anything that works as thermal insulation will also work as sound deadening material.
posted by SpecialK at 8:40 AM on November 4, 2007

Best and Cheapest here are pretty mutually exclusive. If you are not worried about fire codes and being burnt alive, anything will do. Mattresses, scrap fabric, etc hanging from the ceiling and walls will cut the most obnoxious slapback.

If you ARE concerned with code and safety, your options are more limited. Theater velour is great, but attracts dust, and is NOT CHEAP (I just paid $500 for a 10'x18' system). Fiberglass insulation is better, and if you can put something else over it (fabric, thin panelling like pegboard, etc) should take care of your basic needs.

"Clouds" work great on the ceiling - frame up some 1"x3" or 1"x4" slats, fill them with rigid fiberglass panels, then cover with fire-treated burlap and hang them with hooks and monofilament for a near-professional solution.
posted by Aquaman at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2007


Why not? They do close to nothing, create poor-sounding acoustics (by killing highs, but allowing mids and lows to pass unchallenged), and are EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE!

I may be biased, as I prefer to not burn alive with my employees.
posted by Aquaman at 10:43 AM on November 4, 2007

How many years of use do you expect to get out of this installation? How long do you have to get it done? What structural changes can you make? Do you pay for the heating/cooling of the space?
posted by Chuckles at 11:12 AM on November 4, 2007

You have two problems you are trying to solve and it may be useful to think of it that way. #1, you are trying to prevent sound passage through the walls of the building and #2, you are trying to reduce echo within the space.

To prevent sound transmission, you need to surround the space with dead air (if you think of it like water, still water doesn't transmit waves, dead air isn't transmitting sound) -- I have been told that even a small "leak" in the space, a doorway or even a electrical socket will *greatly* impact your sound isolation.

To prevent echo within the room, you need surfaces that do not reflect (this is where the egg crate idea comes from but many other surfaces will work, texturized wall coverings, foam padding. People who really engineer spaces for this purpose will create angles in the walls and ceiling that direct sound away from where it causes problems.

If you are trying to do this on the cheap, I would think heavy curtains over all walls and doors would be a good combination of sound barrier and echo-resistance. Hang more heavy material from the the rafters.

2 years ago, I framed a room within a room in my basement and staggered the 2x4s. We made the ceiling by affixing sheetrock to these special rubberized clips that reduce sound and there are two sequential doors to the outside of the house (like an airlock). Lined the inside with acoustic foam. Four people playing loud, amplified punk rock at 3am creates noise less than ambient 1 foot away from the house. Spent about $2500 in materials for about 300 square feet.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2007

Find some free old carpet -- a good place for this is a commercial building that's being recarpeted. They might let you take the carpet for free so they don't need to pay for it to be hauled away. Talk to the crew putting in the carpet.

Cover the walls in carpet, and hang some bits from the ceiling if you need additional echo reduction.

Best and cheapest are probably mutually exclusive -- otherwise there would be no market for those expensive sound reduction systems. I wouldn't use hay bales, hay is a valuable commodity these days, as well as very inflammable.
posted by yohko at 6:38 PM on November 6, 2007

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