DIY Acoustic Panels: How to Build Them in 8 Simple Steps

DIY Acoustic Panels

Are the acoustic panels you need for your home studio or home theater too pricey? If your answer is yes, don’t worry. Our sound engineers will be teaching you how to make your own acoustic panels, plus we even have an in-depth guide right after.

You’ll be mixing music or enjoying your favorite films with next-level audio quality in no time.

What You'll Need to Build Your Own Acoustic Panels

Before we walk you through the steps, we’ll just show you a list of the materials you’ll be needing to build acoustic panels:

tools and materials

How to Build Your DIY Acoustic Panels: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now let’s dive into the information you’re after. These steps are for making wall or ceiling-mounted DIY acoustic panels.

Once you have a general idea of how to make a panel yourself, making more for your recording studio, living room, or home theater will be so much easier.

Step # 1: Calculate the Surface Area of Your Walls

This step is pretty simple. All you’ll have to do is add the lengths of your chosen room’s four walls and multiply it by their height.

Here are some guidelines (in percentages) to calculate the amount of wall you want to cover:

triangular acoustic panels

As an example, let’s say the walls of your chosen room each have a length of 12 feet and a height of 10 feet. The resulting surface area would be 480 square feet.

Based on the guidelines above, you’ll need to cover the following surface measurements:

Once that’s done, it’s time to get your panels’ dimensions.

Step #2: Get the Dimensions of Your Acoustic Panels

You know the area of your wall that needs covering; now it’s time to get the measurements of each acoustic panel.

Based on the measurements in step 1, let’s get a rough estimate. Let’s say you’ll use panels that measure 3’x4′ (12 square feet).

Here are the number of panels you’ll need for each amount of coverage:

measuring

With all the necessary measurements done, it’s time to get to the fun part of making acoustic panels.

Pro Tip: It’s easier if the area you’re covering is divisible by the dimensions of your acoustic panels.

Step #3: Select Your Sound Absorption Material

There are various materials with different acoustic properties to choose from, but the typical ones are:

foam insulation

Normally, a denser and thicker panel is better. That’s because thickness affects the low-frequency absorption based on the quarter wavelength effect.

Try to use a material that’s 2 to 4 inches thick and heavier per cubic foot (6 lbs. per cubic foot, for example).

If you’re making smaller panels (8 square feet or less), also try to minimize waste.

Step #4: Choose Your Fabric

An acoustic panel is typically covered in fabric. The important part of this step is to select a fabric that’s acoustically transparent.

What do we mean by acoustically transparent? Simply put, the fabric allows sound to pass through unobstructed. This allows the sound-absorbing material to soak up the sound waves that directly hit it.

If you use a fabric that doesn’t allow sound to travel through easily, some will be reflected back into the room. That counters what an acoustic panel is for.

black fabric

Here are some tips for choosing the right fabric:

  1. Find a breathable fabric.
  2. Make sure it’s strong enough that you can stretch the fabric tight.
  3. Don’t forget to choose a fabric with a color or design that fits your room.
  4. Washing and drying it is optional, but it can decrease sag over time.
  5. Don’t wash it if it’s been treated with fire-retardant.

Step #5: Build Your Acoustic Panel Frame

This step is actually quite simple. All you’ll need to do is build a rectangular wood frame.

Using 1 “x4” works well since they can be easily screwed together. As for the joints, all you’ll need is wood glue to strengthen them!

What’s the acoustic panel frame for? The frame protects the sound absorption material and makes it easier to cover the acoustic panel with fabric!

It also makes your panel easier to hang. A frame also prevents the material or fabric from slumping or sagging.

wood for the acoustic panel frame

Here’s how you build frames for your acoustic panels:

  1. Cut the top and bottom of your frame to be the width of your acoustic material.
  2. Next, cut the two sides of your frame to be the length of your sound-absorbing material.
  3. The third step is to put wood glue on the ends of the side pieces.
  4. After that, place the top and bottom pieces of wood on the glued ends of the side pieces.
  5. Using wood screws, screw the top and bottom pieces to the side pieces to complete the joints.
measure fabric

Up next, you’ll be adding some support strips to brace the inside of your acoustic panel frame:

  1. Measure the empty space on the inside of your frames. This will ensure a tight fit.
  2. Cut a piece of wood the size of that measured space.
  3. Apply a bit of wood glue to parts of your support strip that will be in contact with your frame. Let’s start with the top of your frame.
  4. Stick your support strip to your frame and hold it in place using a pair of clamps.
  5. Measure a few inches (around 4 to 6) inward from each edge on the outer side of your frame.
  6. Mark these two spots. You’ll drill a pilot hole in each of them.
  7. Drill two pilot holes and countersink the screw heads on the marked spots.
  8. Insert screws into both pilot holes to fasten your support strip.
  9. Just repeat the above steps for the opposite side of your frame too.
fitting fabric to the frame

After that, it’s time to further stabilize your support strips:

  1. Mark a spot on the left and right of your frame. Make sure it aligns with the center of your support strip (The short edge in contact with the left and right side of the frame).
  2. After that, measure for your support strips thickness on the outer side of your frame.
  3. Mark your support strip’s thickness and also mark its center. The center mark is where you’ll, again, drill pilot holes.
  4. Insert your screws in each pilot hole to further support the strips.
  5. Do the above steps for the top and bottom of your frame.

Step #6: Install Your Sound Absorbing Material

Now that your frame is done, it’s time to install your insulation material. First off, attach a fiberglass screen that will keep your insulation in place:

  1. Roll some fiberglass screen on the side of your frame with support strips. This will be your panel’s backside.
  2. Staple it into position. Make sure the screen is pulled tight when stapling and that staples won’t poke into your new fabric later on.
  3. Cut away the excess fiberglass screen.
installing the sound absorbent material

Next, fill your frame with insulation:

  1. Just cut your insulation into your frame’s dimensions.
  2. You may need to cut a portion of it out to fit the support frames.
  3. Install your insulation.
  4. After that, just repeat the previously mentioned steps involving the fiberglass screen to install it on your panel’s front end.

Now you have your insulation properly installed and held in place on both sides.

Pro Tip: If you want, you can spray glue to the frame’s interior before placing the sound-absorbing material. This will ensure that the material stays in place!

Step #7: Wrap Your Panel in Fabric

Now it’s time to wrap your acoustic panel in fabric, which isn’t so difficult. You just need to do the following:

stapling the fabric to the frame
  1. Cut a piece of wide fabric. Make sure it’s at least 6 inches wider and longer than your panel.
  2. Place your fabric on a flat surface. Lay it face down too.
  3. Place your panel, also facing down, on top of your fabric. Make sure it’s centered!
  4. Wrap your fabric around one side and staple it to the back of your frame. Staple it at 3-inch intervals.
  5. Pull the fabric tight from the other side and repeat the previous step.
  6. Simply repeat steps 4 and 5 for the top and bottom edges.
  7. Once done, fold the corners and staple them. Make sure to do it neatly!
  8. Lastly, trim off the excess fabric. Using spray adhesive or hot glue to stick it to the back of the panel is an alternative.

Step #8: Mount Your Acoustic Panel to Your Wall or Ceiling

You can mount your acoustic panels to either your wall or ceiling. We’ll just briefly guide you on how to do that on either one.

Here’s how you mount it to your wall:

  1. Stretch a length of picture wire across the back of your frame. Make sure it has a bit of slack since you’ll be hanging it like a picture frame.
  2. Properly attach two picture hooks (30-lb. rated) on your wall. Make sure they’re spaced apart in such a way that your panel stays level when hanging.
  3. If picture wire is unavailable, you can use heavy-duty D-Ring hangers or drywall anchors as alternatives.
  4. Hang your acoustic panel.
mounting acoustic panels on the ceiling

On the other hand, here’s how you mount it to your ceiling:

  1. Attach 1 heavy-duty D-Ring hanger on each corner of your panel frame (A total of 4).
  2. Attach hooks to your ceiling.
  3. Hang your acoustic panel.

That’s pretty much it. Once you’re done mounting your panels, everything’s set and ready to go!

Pro Tip: You can use stick-on felt spacers to create an air gap between your wall or ceiling and your acoustic panel. This gap enhances sound absorption!

An Introduction to Acoustic Panels

Based on the name alone, it’s pretty obvious that acoustic panels have to do with sound. To put it simply, their purpose is to control any excess sound resonating in your room.

Imagine having a sound system that produces sound from multiple directions. This type of system creates more bounce-back noise.

black acoustic panels mounted on red wall

Acoustic panels soften the return noise by absorbing mid to high frequencies, resulting in better sound quality for your enjoyment. That’s why they’re also called sound-absorbing panels.

What They're Made Of

Typically, a sound-absorbing panel is made of either:

Acoustic Panel Types

There are three types of acoustic panels, based on mounting:

grey acoustic panels on table

In most cases, panels are covered in fabric and designed to complement your room’s color. Sometimes, they can even be covered with artsy designs!

In some cases, they also have a perforated wood face.  This helps control sound feedback. Generally speaking, you have lots of options.

How Sound Absorption Panels Work

Let’s say you stand a certain distance in front of a sound source and you have a wall behind you. Typically, the sound will just reflect or bounce off of that hard surface without any acoustic panel.

Excess production of this reflected sound distorts the specific sounds you want to hear. What sound absorption panels do is soak up sound and dissipate it.

If you want a more scientific explanation, however, we’ll try to make it as simple as possible:

brown acoustic panel
  1. Once sound waves hit an acoustic panel, it produces a vibration in the material.
  2. The energy produced by this phenomenon is then converted to kinetic energy or heat.
  3. This is then dissipated into the room without producing sound reverberation.

What Sound Absorbing Panels Are For

You already know that these panels absorb sound, but in what settings are they typically used? Just think of places where better sound quality is a must!

These panels can improve sound clarity allowing you to better enjoy movies, your favorite shows, video games, even produce cleaner recordings.

It can be in your home theater or home studio. In a larger setting, you can use them in professional recording or mixing studios.

In places like libraries, bars, restaurants, and even your living room, these panels can decrease noise and chatter. They’ll also significantly enhance listening accuracy in spaces such as these.

How Much DIY Acoustic Panels Cost

There are several factors that determine the cost of an acoustic panel. First off are the types of materials you use.

wall mounting an acoustic panel

The materials can vary based on:

Other typical costs would include things like:

If you can find cheaper stuff at your local fabric store, hardware store, or even get some free lumber and insulation, making DIY panels for under $10 is possible.

As for the typical cost, making your own panel can net you $20 or more. That’s not bad!

ceiling mounted acoustic panels

However, if you don’t want to make your own, purchasing a ready-made acoustic panel is pricier. A panel would typically cost you $60 at least!

Side Note: The time and effort for making your DIY acoustic panels aren’t factored into the mentioned costs!

Some Acoustic Panel Tidbits

Here are some last tidbits about acoustic panels before we conclude our post.

#1: An Acoustic Panel Isn't for Soundproofing

Acoustic panels can greatly improve the quality of sound in a room, but they don’t have much impact in preventing sound from moving into other spaces!

#2: Try to Avoid Using Sound Absorption Panels in Music Rooms

Sound reverberation can actually improve sound enjoyment and production in music rooms. To prevent any sound from leaking out of the room, though, you can soundproof it.

black acoustic panels in a studio

Also, sound absorption can make it difficult for musicians to hear the “true sound” of their instruments.

#3: For Bass Trapping, Thicker is Better

If you want to build bass traps, you’ll need to build panels that are at least 4 inches thick. However, if you want something super effective, use more insulation and make panels that are 6 inches thick.

Any acoustic panel this thick will be a great addition to your home studio and help reduce low-end standing waves. You’ll need more fabric, wood, and insulation, though.

#4: Consider Your Listening Position

You should note where you are positioned relative to your room’s sound source. It would be ideal to place your panels where any primary reflection of standing waves could take place.

That helps so that sound will become so much cleaner by the time it reaches your listening position.

Conclusion

Our sound engineers hoped that this guide had helped you. At the end of the day, we want you to be able to pursue DIY projects [1] like this without worry. Don’t forget to just take it one panel at a time.

Writer

Willie Greer
Willie Greer
Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.