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Acoustic Foams -- Sustainable or No?

By 3p Contributor

By Randolph Hoover

When in the comfort of home, many of us have heard noise coming from the street outside or from the loud volume of television programs from our neighbors. The opposite may be true; neighbors complain about the barking of your dog that interrupts their sleep at night. This is because sound vibrations naturally pass through air — and walls. Different frequencies of noise enter and exit our premises, and we can obstruct these sound waves by constructing a soundproof room with the right acoustic foam.

In some places, especially when there are environmental concerns in the area, home theaters, manufacturing facilities, schools, churches, synagogues and temples, equipment warehouses, corporate offices, gymnasiums, and auditoriums are already required to install acoustic foams, and this is planned as early as in the construction phase of the project. In this article, we will get to know more about acoustic foams including pros and cons.

Pro: Reduce noise pollution

Just like light, sound waves can pass through even the smallest hole or opening in holes, walls, or any material. Acoustic foams are installed to reduce noise pollution as they remove echoes and background sounds not by blocking the sound but by absorbing it. Acoustic foams are used to control the reverberation sounds make and this is quite different from soundproofing.

Pro: Enhance sound quality

Acoustic foams are cut in tiles with pyramid or wedge shapes. They work not only to absorb sounds, but also to enhance the quality of sound and speech in a room. Dealing with both mid and high frequencies at the same time, acoustic foam can also be counted as a type of cost-friendly heat reduction facility that is placed in corners of the room or wherever optimal sound mixes are needed as bass traps to minimize sound echoes.

Reducing the amplitude of the waves, acoustic foams dissipate the sound energy as heat. To enhance this effect, there must a good measure of air gap between the foam panels and the walls. This uncovers a wider surface area of the foam panels to incident waves thereby expanding the amount of absorption.

Pro: Improve room’s design

Most homeowners consider acoustic foams for their music studio or work areas so they can have more privacy and concentration in doing their task or craft. Acoustic foam is made from open cell polyurethane foam, and this can provide better aesthetics looks when it comes to room designs.

There are a variety of colors and textures of acoustic foam and you may want to incorporate the theme to your home’s interior design. Some people choose to apply a contour effect to add sophistication and elegance in the room. In addition, acoustic foams also are available in different sizes and thickness and these can be attached to walls, ceilings, doors and other features of a room.

Con: Fire properties

One drawback of using acoustic foam is that it has fire properties. Because acoustic panel is composed of mainly polyurethane, it releases a high smoke level when burned. Hence, this material may not be safe for occurrence of fire.

Con: Not effective when incorrectly placed

Another disadvantage is when acoustic foam is not placed right or when a gap is left unsealed. Often homeowners decide to follow basic instructions per online guide and check that all acoustic panels are covering the gaps or opening around the door completely, but this may not be enough. When incorrectly placed, acoustic foam does not absorb much sound and it tends to just bounce or reflect back the sound waves from one wall to another. Hiring professionals to do it can guarantee that acoustic foams will work to its full ability.


Before designing a room, it is important not only to look after the leaks, flooring, wall paint, ceiling height, and many of the fixtures. To treat and control sound coming in and out of the room, you know that setting up curtains is not the brightest idea. Rather, installing acoustic foams that attenuate airborne sound waves should be part of the plan from the start to effectively eliminate resonance within the room. It is an inexpensive way to soundproof the walls or decrease the volume of desired area in your home.

Image credit: Flickr/Trevor Cox

Randolph Hoover and his family were originally from San Diego California but he is currently studying Business Administration in Umea University in Sweden. While shuffling his work being a Business major, he helps his parents with constant home maintenance in their home in Umea. His main interests is mainly home improvement and car maintenance. When he's not busy, he writes articles about health, his experiences with his father's business and lifestyle, and spends quality time with his family and friends.

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