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In this guide, I’ll be showing you different ways of reducing echo in a room cheaply.
With the costs of soundproofing spiking high as $3000 to $8000 in big cities such as New York, not everyone is ready to spend such amount for a project that could be DIY. (Source)
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, then DIY soundproofing is a great way to save some bucks and seem unwanted noises and echoes at bay.
Soundproofing and reducing echo in a room mean that you have to deal with all surfaces of your room- floors, walls, ceiling, windows, and doors.
Echo is a result of sound reflection after hitting hard surfaces such as walls, floors, or ceilings. The basic concept in reducing echoes is creating a soft surface or creating a pattern in your room that prevents sound waves from hitting the walls.
Sound Absorption vs. Echoes and Reverberations
Imagine you’re in a room with hard surfaces. For instance, an empty hall, recording studio, or just a room in your apartment.
What happens when you clap your hands or try to talk? Well, the sound tends to bounce back, producing an imitation of the sound you just made.
Now repeat the same in a room with lots of furnishings, and the echo sounds you hear are minimal.
Hard surfaces reflect sounds like how a tennis ball would bounce against a concrete wall.
To prevent the sound waves from bouncing too hard in a room, you must create a soft surface. The same way a tennis ball wouldn’t bounce against a wall lined with a mattress.
Sound absorption works similarly. Acoustic absorption is defined as how a material, object, or structure absorbs sound energy rather than reflecting the energy.
Some of the absorbed sound energy is transformed into heat, while some is transmitted through the sound-absorbing material.
Sound Absorption is measured in Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC). NRC is the average amount of sound material can absorb.
NRC is measured on a scale of 0-1, with 0 translating to zero sound absorbing abilities while 1 means the material absorbs all sound.
Why Does My House Echo?
If you have an empty room, all the flat hard floor, walls, and ceiling surfaces will bounce back sound waves, resulting in echoes and reverbs.
Surfaces such as concrete, stone, glass, plasterboard, tiles, and wood are highly reflective and amplify sound reflection.
A room has a property known as modes. These are simply different ways sound can bounce around in your room.
There are three types of modes: tangential, axial, and oblique.
The tangential mode must involve four surfaces for sound waves to bounce off as it loops around the space in your room. The four surfaces, in this case, could be two walls, the ceiling, and the floor or the four walls in a room.
Axial mode is the simplest. The sound bounces off between opposite surfaces like two opposite walls, the ceiling and the floor.
Oblique mode is when sound bounces off all the six sides of a room- the four walls, ceiling, and the floor.
Do All Rooms Echo?
No! not all rooms echo, but they can have reverberations.
You’re only able to hear echoes in large rooms such as concert halls, churches, or halls. You’re able to hear echo in a large room because of the limitation of human hearing.
Our ears cannot distinguish between a sound and the echo when the echo arrives in your ear in less than 1/10th of a second after the original sound.
When the echo arrives less than 1/10th of a second, it’s superimposed at the end of the original sound but quieter.
When the sound keeps on bouncing on the surfaces of a room, you’re able to hear a sequence of echoes, with each one overlapping the next and which will be quieter.
This happens until the echoes fade away. That’s what is referred to as reverberation.
In an average domestic room, you cannot perceive echoes because the sound reflection takes less than 1/10th of a second.
Reducing Echo in A Room Cheaply: A List of Practical Ways
Below are simple and yet practical ways of reducing echo in a room cheaply. For the best results, you can implement two or three methods. Let’s get started.
Fill the Room with Furniture
There is a difference between a room filled with furniture and that without when it comes to the amount of echo.
Noise bounces off from the floor or the walls back to the source resulting in echo. Too much furniture in a room absorbs those reflections, thereby minimizing echo.
Good furniture to consider is a couch. You can get several of them depending on the size of the room then push them against the walls.
A bookshelf such as Sunon Collection 5-Shelf Wood Bookcase is also another furniture you should consider. Make sure you fill them with books that you can buy secondhand.
You can also add wall art or any other accessories that you prefer.
Stock towels and neatly arrange them on the towel bars on the bathroom wall or door. The towels fabrics also absorb reflection and minimize echo.
Acoustic Foam Panels
Apart from adding furniture, you should also consider acoustic foam panels to minimize echo. The panels are made with sound-deadening properties that reduce echo in a room.
Panels such as Foamily 12 Pack- Acoustic Panels Studio Foam Wedges can be installed in any room. You can install them on the walls or the ceiling.
The installation process is pretty simple, and you won’t need to ask for a professional’s help. You can make this your DIY project and save up some money.
Apply an adhesive on the panels before installing them on the walls or ceiling. Remember to clean and dry the surfaces first before installation.
Acoustic panels come in different shapes and colors so you can choose the one that goes well with the room.
If you have a bigger room, the panels can be costly to purchase, so you should consider building them yourself.
A window made of glass reflects sound in a room, adding to the amount of echo heard. So the best way to minimize that noise is by covering the windows with acoustic curtains.
These curtains help minimize echo thanks to its material, which is made of sound insulation properties. The material is thicker than the regular curtains, which explains why it is effective at minimizing noise.
Its ability to absorb noise makes it a useful item to have in a room prone to echo.
The curtains are also elegant, and they also come in different colors and designs. You can also get customized curtains to fit your room desires.
Choose acoustic curtains like NICETOWN Bedroom Full Blackout Curtain Panels, Super Thick Insulated Grommet Drapes, Double-Layer, which has an extra noise deadening property.
You can also hang the curtains on the walls since the idea is to leave no surface that allows sound reflection.
Installing them is easy, and you won’t even need a professional’s help. Simply purchase drills and rods from a hardware store if you don’t have any at home.
Rugs for Your Floor
Since sound waves bounce off from a bare floor, you should consider getting thick rugs to cover them.
A thick and shaggy rug is much effective at noise reduction because the fibers on the carpet absorb the echo. In addition, the rug provides extra feet comfort and also improves the appearance of the room.
Use KKONION Ultra Soft Long Plush Shaggy Area Rugs to cover many areas of the room as possible. This will ensure there is no surface for sound to bounce off.
If the rug is not enough, consider installing a carpet. Rugs come in smaller designs, and they may not cover as much area as you would like. You can also get a customized carpet for your room.
Remember to purchase one which has acoustic properties. A good example is Acoustic Liner- Modern Day Carpet Underlay (19.4sqft).
Installing a carpet is pretty easy if you have the time, just make sure you clean and dry the floor before the installation.
Install Floor Underlays
A better alternative to carpets or rugs is installing floor underlays. The underlays are thick, which makes them effective at noise reduction.
These underlays are placed beneath the floor and the carpets or mats. The process requires much effort, which is why you should consider hiring a professional.
The process involves removing the original floor then installing the underlay before installing the existing floor.
An underlay like Floor Muffler UltraSeal Underlayment (100 sq. ft Roll) is designed with acoustic and moisture protection that effectively minimizes reverberations.
Sound Absorbing Blinds
Metal or wood blinds increase the amount of echo produced in a room. Even though a home or an apartment may come with these blinds, you should consider replacing them with fabric blinds.
A softer fabric blinds are much effective at absorbing echo in a room. For better results, pair the blinds with acoustic curtains.
Get fabric blinds like Chicology Cordless Magnetic Roman Shades, which are pretty easy to install.
A benefit of these blinds is that they don’t produce noise from rustling due to the wind.
Vegetation is also a good option when it comes to minimizing echo in a room. Besides adding to the room’s greenery appearance, vegetation helps in clean air circulation.
A room filled with plants has less noise from the echo compared to a room without.
Place the plants at comers of the room for effective results.
Install Mass Loaded Vinyl
The mass-loaded vinyl barrier is one of the most common soundproofing materials in the 21st century.
Like a soundproofing blanket, mass-loaded vinyl blocks and absorbs sound. MLV is made of heavy vinyl sheeting materials impregnated with metallic particles to increase its mass.
It’s made of two main ingredients; vinyl PVC and calcium carbonate or barium sulphate. These ingredients give MLV its elastic and viscous characteristics.
Installing mass-loaded vinyl is something you can accomplish with a helper. It may be an expensive option, but it’s also the most effective option besides soundproofing blankets.
An excellent example of MLV is the Soundsulate 1 lb Mass Loaded Vinyl MLV, ideal for soundproofing conference rooms, basements, apartments, studios, pipes, machinery, and more.
Noise Canceling Wall Art
If you live in an apartment, it’s impossible to undertake echo reduction methods that tamper with the apartment wall. If you really want to cut down the noise problem and still get your deposit back when you move, then installing noise-canceling wall art may be one of the best solutions.
Something like the Gardenia Art – Canvas Wall Art can do the trick. The idea is to choose wall art that’s thick and soft to enable it to absorb echoes and reverberations in your room.
Wall art with hard surfaces or made of marble or tiles won’t absorb sounds, and you may end up with more problems than you had in the first place.
Wall hangings will not only help absorb noise, but they are also a great way to add color and pattern to your room.
Dubbed as soundproofing paint, this paint doesn’t “soundproof” or block noise; it only helps in sound absorption.
Unlike your regular paint, sound-absorbing paint combines ceramic microspheres and sound-absorbing fillers that help it achieve its noise attenuation capabilities.
In this case, the sound absorbing fillers comprise thermacels which are microscopic vacuum-sealed cells.
One of my most recommended sound-absorbing paint is the Acoustic Coat Sound Deadening Paint. It’s an environmentally friendly, non-toxic paint that dampens echo, ringing, and tinning noise. The paint can be easily sprayed with rollers, a hopper spray gun, or simply a brush. The best part is that it can be easily cleaned with just soap and water.
According to acoustic tests, Acoustic Paint has an NRC rating of 0.71. That means it absorbs up to 71% of sound with the frequency of 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000Hz.
Table Showing Acoustic Paint NRC Rating at Different Sound Frequencies
A single gallon of acoustic paint covers a wall measuring 8feet by 6 feet with two coats. To read more about this paint, kindly see my entire review here- soundproofing paint review.
Acoustical wallpaper isn’t your regular wallpaper. It’s made of thick, dense, and soft material, contributing to its overall sound-absorbing efficiency.
Unlike other bloggers, you shouldn’t expect this type of wallpaper to magically block noise.
Instead, acoustic wallpaper is only efficient in dealing with echoes and reverbs. It won’t block sound.
Like the wall hangings we discussed above; acoustic wallpaper will not only eliminate echoes but also help improve the aesthetics of a room.
A perfect example of a sound-absorbing wallpaper I would recommend in this case is the Art3d Brick Wallpaper.
To improve the efficiency of an acoustic wallpaper, I would highly recommend you combine it with other sound absorbing products I’ve highlighted in this guide- such as wall hangings or simply soundproof paint.
Before we proceed, I would like to emphasize a big difference between acoustic blankets and soundproof blankets.
Acoustic blankets are mainly designed to absorb sound and not block sound. On the other hand, soundproof blankets are lined with mass-loaded barriers, which make them capable of blocking and absorbing sound.
Check out this detailed guide on a soundproof blanket if you need to block sound and absorb some high-frequency sounds.
Acoustic blankets are perfect for rooms with hard surfaces and little furniture like construction sites, warehouses, recording studios, or drum rooms.
If you’re trying to record a song, podcast, or speech, then acoustic blankets are cost-effective methods to help eliminate echo and reverbs.
Something like Audimute Sound Absorption Sheet is one of my recommended sound absorbing blankets with a 0.85 NRC rating. You get better audio quality by reducing reverberations and sound echoes.
Use Sound Diffusers
Sound diffusers are devices used to treat sound aberrations like echoes and reverbs in a room.
These are excellent complements or alternatives to sound absorption since they don’t get rid of sound energy, but they effectively reduce echoes and sound reflections without affecting sound quality in a room.
Sound diffusers scatter sound waves rather than absorb. Once the sound waves are scattered in different directions, they become less powerful and reflect less.
Because too much sound absorption in a room can ruin the harmonics of a room, sound diffusers help make the room alive and natural while at the same time reducing echo and reverbs.
One of my most recommended sound diffusers is TroyStudio Acoustic Sound Diffuser Panel, ideal for wall and ceiling acoustical treatment.
Acoustic Bass Traps
Sound absorption materials are effective in absorbing medium and high-frequency sound waves.
But how do you absorb low-frequency bass?
Low-frequency sounds are hard to deal with, and hence they require special materials to deal with the noise problem.
Acoustic bass traps are designed to deal with low-frequency bass sounds. They are designed with a minimum width of 6 inches even though, in most cases, 12inches is preferred.
Unlike medium and high-frequency sound waves that reflect any part of hard surfaces on walls, bass frequencies build up in the room’s corners.
Acoustic bass traps are placed on all the corners of the room. It’s Important to note that acoustic bass traps should be used as a complement to other sound-absorbing materials design to absorb medium and high-frequency sounds.
Using bass traps and failing to use sound-absorbing materials for medium and high-frequency sounds will only result in the increased resonance of the higher frequency sounds.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does Opening Windows Reduce Echo?
Windows are made of glass panes that are highly sound reflective and can reflect 100% acoustic energy. So yes, opening windows will reduce echo in the room. However, it’s highly recommended you have sound-absorbing materials installed in the room, especially when you have hard solid surfaces as well as high ceilings.
What Makes a Room Have Echo?
Sound reflecting surfaces and high ceilings are what make a room have echoes. Sound reflecting surfaces such as stone, glass, hardwood, and tile can produce unwanted echoes and reverberations in your home.
If you find echoes and reverbs distracting you in your home, you don’t have to break the bank as the above methods are affordable.
On Reducing Echo in A Room Cheaply
Above are some of the best tips on reducing echo in a room cheaply. Most of these tips you can implement them using readily available material in your home.
You can also use household items to soundproof a room, and this will help you get rid of echoes and unwanted sounds from leaking in and outside your home.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.