Best acoustics for a galleried room?

6 February 2017
by WRH

At Build It Live in Kent yesterday, someone asked which was the best building material from the point of view of acoustics. The panel largely concluded that all approved building materials create homes with adequate acoustics these days, but that masonry is still the best option for good acoustics(as far as I gathered from the discussion).

One interesting point was that unless the internal walls are also made of masonry then there isn’t much difference… and they usually aren’t!

My question regards large rooms with vaulted ceilings, and how best to avoid creating a room with an uncomfortable echo and unpleasant feel to it. Does the building material influence this, or is it a question of the ceiling materials, and using acoustic panels?

Thanks very much for your advice before we create something we regret!


Sound within a vaulted space needs to be controlled by not only the specification of the building but also the soft furnishings and uses that happen within the space. The actual building is likely to be finished in plaster over plasterboard which is a hard flat surface ideal to bounce sound off. The flooring selection will be important, if you have a tiled or hard finish again there are hard surfaces to bounce sound and you will potentially get reverberation as you would experience in a church lined out in hard surfaces.

Therefore, we need to balance this with some more softer sound absorbing materials or look a introducing less flat surfaces. In the past our clients have used large rugs on floors along with their furniture to help absorb noise. You could also hang a tapestry which one client did to great visual and audial effect.

Another success was using tall bookcases in the room which help to dampen the sound as the edges of the books are not flat and create an interesting irregular wall so sound cannot bounce directly back to its source or other wall.

There are perforated boards that can now be bought to finish your ceilings but sometimes this finish can feel more commercial rather than residential. Aligning walls so they are not parallel to each other could also be a more radical solution depending on the space you have available.

Opinder Liddar (Build It expert)

22 February 2017
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