Echo in your place of work, be it at the office or home office, can be quite annoying and distracting. This can be caused by many factors including high ceilings and sound-reflecting surfaces such as hardwood, tiles, stone and glass. No matter the size of the room in question, you can easily do away with these echoes and on a budget.
Echo can be eliminated by covering the sound-reflecting surfaces, installing acoustic panels, filling the room with items such as furniture among others. Depending on the size and budget on your end, one or two of the many solutions discussed below will suit you quite well.
With echo, you have the option of sound-absorbing or soundproofing materials. However, sound-absorbing ones are better as they’ll prevent echoes better. Soundproofing materials are best suited to keeping sound from entering and leaving a certain space.
What causes echo in a room?
Echo is sound that has been reflected from one surface back to the source of the sound or other directions. For a room, the sound can be reflected by the floor, wall, ceiling or other structures in the room. Sound, just like light, reflects well on hard and flat surfaces far much better than on soft and rough surfaces.
A flutter echo refers to when sound reflects between two surfaces parallel to one another in a quick manner. It can occur between two walls or between the floor and ceiling. This type of echo is the most annoying since it distorts the sound in the room by a great extent.
How do I make my room less echoey?
The methods discussed here focus on reducing the ability of the floor, wall or other surface from reflecting sound by making these surfaces rougher or softer than before. This way, they either disperse the sound or absorb it.
These include the following:
1. Cover walls and windows
Windows will reflect back sound on the glass while walls can do so whether they’re made of glass, smoothly-painted concrete or other solid and smooth surface. You can do away with the echo with these methods:
- Cover the walls and windows with heavy curtains and draperies. You should go for materials such as cotton rather than plastic ones that are straight as the latter also reflect sound back into the room. They should ideally go all the way to the floor but not necessarily to the ceiling. Most echoes come from sound being projected horizontally rather than vertically. These curtains absorb and deflect sound.
- You can cover walls with canvas paintings and other wall items to absorb the sound as well. If you use framed paintings that have glass covers, you’ll still get the same sound reflections.
Make sure the coverings you use are all rough or soft to deaden the sound.
2. Cover the floor
The other place to cover is the floor as it covers a lot of the area in a room. You might have noted that empty buildings have more echo than those with items inside. That’s because the floor reflects a good amount of the noise from inside and outside the room.
This can be done using carpets and rags on the floor. While you can use carpets and rags for specific parts of the floor, the best option is to go for a wall-to-wall carpet for your office. This is by miles the best option as it’ll gobble up any stray sounds that may cause echoes in the office or home. It’s also more permanent than temporary carpets even though more expensive.
3. Install acoustic panels
Also called baffles, these are panels installed mostly for professional purposes. Rooms such as music studios and broadcast rooms use them quite often. They’re the best option for high ceilings that cause echoes inside. They can also be installed at home or in offices that suffer from echoes. They do a great job at quieting the inside of the structure.
These panels are installed easily using nails, pins or adhesives into the ceiling. For the best results, install the panels at least 12 inches from each other.
4. Furnish the room
Furnishing in this case means adding various items with sound-absorbing capabilities. These include furniture, book shelves, decorations and others. Even then, they should be made of soft and slightly rough material to effectively deal with the sound. Shiny and flat ones will reflect much more. They’re, however, much better than having an empty room.
5. Add plants to the office/room
Aside from making your office more beautiful, plants also help absorb wayward sound thus reducing the echo in your office. For this task, you don’t need any specific type of plants although the leafier ones have better sound absorption that the less leafy ones.
6. Lower the ceiling
At times, your efforts to get rid of the echo in your office may not be fruitful due to a high ceiling. Rather than soundproofing the walls all the way up to the ceiling, you can lower the ceiling to a reasonable height to curb sound reflections.
For this one, you’ll likely need the help of professionals to build a new, lower ceiling. Usually, a wooden frame is built then the ceiling attached to it.
7. Add a sound diffuser
Sound diffusers work a bit differently from the other solutions on this list. Rather than absorbing the sound waves, they diffuse them in that they reflect them back but in a distorted manner. The end result is that of many small sound waves in different directions. These aren’t even perceived by the ears.
Most of the solutions discussed above can be carried out without professional help. Where you need help, always find an experienced person with a proven track record.
Types of Sound-Absorbing Materials
The most common types of materials used for eliminating echoes are as follows:
1. Panel/membrane absorbers
These include doors, windows, floors and furniture. They’re best for absorbing the bass frequencies of sound.
2. Porous absorbers
These include foam, wool and textiles. Examples include carpets, blankets, curtains, glass fiber, mineral wool insulation, open-cell and others. For these absorbers, sound enters the cells and then, instead of being reflected back, is turned into heat. They work best on midrange sound frequencies.
3. Resonance absorbers
These reduce echoes by dissipating noise through oscillations.
The choice of the material will depend on the setup of your office and your budget for the same.
- Reducing echo in a room cheaply
Cheap methods to reduce or eliminate echo include covering the floor, walls and windows with carpets, rags, wall panels and furniture.
- How to reduce echo in a hall
For large halls, echo is reduced using a combination of methods such as wall panels, thick curtains and even lowering the ceiling to a reasonable height.
- How to reduce echo in a room with high ceilings
For this situation, acoustic panels are the best solution. They’re also used in music and broadcasting studios for the same reason.
- Reduce echo in kitchen
Whether you’re dealing with your normal kitchen or office kitchen, echo in a kitchen can be reduced by adding sound-absorbing items such as hand towels, rags and others.