Controling echo in a tall room

oruborisDecember 6, 2009

Haven't visited this forum in a long time. Finished my house, moved in, now I'm finding the vaulted ceiling in my great room pretty echo inducing, and am wondering if anyone can offer guidance.

In a nutshell, I'm wondering how much of the walls and ceiling I'd have to cover with acoustic absorber mats to make an appreciable difference in this regard: I have some stretch canvas paintings that I could back with the cotton based absorbers, as well as some handwoven blankets and the like.

Ultimately, it would still be a pretty small percentage of the total surface area. Wondering if anyone has tried anything similar, or can offer other advice.

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Is it really vaulted (curved) or a raised tray or coffered or a cathedral ceiling? How high is it? Is the floor carpeted?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 7:04AM
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Not sure of your window situation, but curtains (as opposed to blinds) are a big help with echo. Try full length curtain if you can.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 11:16AM
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You could mount sound absorbing panels on the ceiling. Some are quite decorative, more so than those in the photo.

Google will provide quite a few sources.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 11:26AM
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Any soft material will help. A large area rug will absorb sound real good.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 12:31PM
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We have an 18ft tall great room and have had no problems with echo. We have carpet on the floor though so that may make a big difference. I agree with window coverings...that would help because they are mounted higher than say a picture with fabric on it.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 4:19PM
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Yes, area rugs, carpeting, etc. will all help. Not sure about the wall hangings.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 7:30PM
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also fabric hangings on the walls absorb sound.
best of luck.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 7:35PM
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Thanks for the ideas. I'm not sure what to call this type of ceiling, it isn't rounded, it's angled like the roof, and thanks to the gables there are 9 separate panels or planes, all covered in v grove pine, rising to 23 feet on the longest answers, about 20 in the gable areas.

Most of the windows are on the fireplace wall, and the height there makes drapes problematic. Privacy isn't an issue on this location, and a wide covered porch on that side is all the sun control we've needed. But I'll have to consider how it could be done, given the consensus here.

The flooring is laminate, but mostly mostly covered by a large handwoven persian. Perhaps adding a pad of some kind under that would be helpful.

Since the ceiling is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, [12/12 roof] it's a rather nice space for displaying art. I'm thinking acoustic panels there behind stretched canvases, navajo weavings, etc., would be just as effective as the blank panels, and much more attractive. It seems to me these materials would be 'transparent' to sound, allowing the panels to do their job. But art under glass like my water colors or acrylic like my O'Keefe posters probably wouldn't work so well.

But if [say] half the total surface area has to have panels in order to make the sound level more 'intimate', I'm not sure that's going to work on my post move in budget.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 8:19PM
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Our great room had a slight echo to it when we first moved in - cathedral, peaks at 24 feet. After four years, I've finally finished (more or less) the room and there is no longer an echo. fwiw, I have not put up curtains either and most likely won't (french doors, lake/mountain view) as we just don't need them.

Would you consider your room finished with the exception of artwork? If you haven't been in long, I doubt it. Give yourself so time for the room to evolve. The echo should disappear, or lessen as layers are added.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 9:52AM
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Allison & oruboris... I would love to see some pictures of your cathedral rooms. We are building and our LR ceiling peaks at 23ft. I would love to see some pictures of it decorated. I am planning to add some soffits at the 10ft level on two sides of the room with ambient lighting. Allison, what type lighting did you do in your LR?

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:22PM
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I am having trouble picturing your ceiling/roof description. Sound issues were always a concern in my previous life. Go to and look at slides 4 & 5. The blue/gray walls are actually fabric covered acoustical tile and, as creek side stated, look very nice. You can also shape the tile (bevels, geometric shapes, etc.) and use warmer colored fabric. You might want to design a 1 ft high strip, framed with stained trim, to run along the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. Wall tapestries are a good alternative and they are more decorative and easier to install. Anything hanging from the ceiling may create a commercial look and detract from the T&G and any exposed trusses or collar ties.

You may want to consult with an interior designer.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:25PM
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I'll have to upload pictures, so it will be this weekend.

I have four wall sconces (instead of cans) and four table lamps. For nightly TV viewing, we keep on the sconces and two of the lamps.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 4:37PM
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i always assumed large area rugs did the trick.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 6:08PM
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Area rugs help, but if you only have a couple of pieces of furniture with the rug, it won't help that much. All soft items help - lamp shades, plants, pillows, ottomans, books, etc.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2009 at 7:36PM
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Those acoustic panels are quite pricey. We're looking at doing our theatre room about 12' x 18', only using five panels and we're looking at $4k Cdn. and those are the cheap ones!

Lots of soft surfaces and the thicker the better for sound absorption; carpets/furniture/ wall hangings etc.

Rooms with high ceilings are notorious for being noisy; we have 9' high ceilings and we are considering something to lessen the echo factor.

I'm sure that they look great though!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 6:52PM
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I just saw this thread again - no pictures yet. My laptop is in the shop and I have no idea how to upload them to DHs. Sorry.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 7:39PM
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I've received some 1 inch thick bonded cotton panels from soundproof 48sf for $206, but haven't installed them yet.

I think putting them behind things like stretched canvas and woven blankets will help make those items better sound absorbers, but I'm not certain I'll get time before the holidays.

I'll try to share some pictures as well when I get a chance...

Thanks for the help, everyone: I love the way my room looks, if I can get a better grip on the sound issue I'll be really pleased I went with the height.

Here is a link that might be useful: echo absorber

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 12:46PM
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You might consider a fabric wall covering. We used a natural linen that did the trick.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 12:53PM
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We have lived in two homes with 19+ tall ceilings. Our old house had a wood ceiling like yours, but it did not have the angles that you describe. The echos in both of our houses went away once the rooms were furnished. I agree with allison that as you get more soft furnishing in there, it will go away. However, if that doesn't work for you, then I would work on the wall coverings, either linen like a previous poster suggested or cork wall paper. We had cork wall paper in one of the conference rooms where I work and it was very beautiful. The cork wallpaper was installed to help soundproof the room, so I assume that it would help with echoing too. My church's fellowship hall has a wood ceiling (must be 30" high) and they used the soundproofing panels discussed above and they look nice, but for a home I think I would try fabric or cork wallcoverings on one wall or all of the walls, and pillows, throws, window coverings, etc., before I went with the panels. I'll try to find a picture of the panels used at my church so you see another example of how they look. My church did not put them on the ceiling because who wants to hide a beautiful wood ceiling, and I assume that you wouldn't either. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 1:56PM
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