Hi, I’m Nick and I’m a Pro Tools columnist at Audio Times. I started out producing music when I was 15, and now work under the pseudonym ‘Veranova’. Having released various records, produced for up and coming artists such as Lewis Mokler, and composed for companies such as Morphsuits; I took an interest in teaching. So I started Production Bytes, a source of video tutorials and products for music production; now my main business. Thanks to the success of this I also took an interest in writing and have settled into a columnist role with Audio Times. Which brings us to now. Enjoy!
Articles on acoustic treatment are pretty well covered, for both Project and Home Studios. However it’s all very well, that there are vast resources on the ‘what and ‘where’ of acoustic treatment, but what about the “How?”.
Those who rent their homes, will be familiar with any landlord’s aversion to you damaging the walls. Those who want to sell their homes on in the future may also feel the same about the subject. This month, I’ll be covering some practical examples of how I’ve tackled the problem, and the results at the end of tenancy. I would argue there are 4 important things to consider when choosing a method of affixing acoustic treatment:
Once it’s up, is it strong enough to not fall down on a regular basis? This will vary depending on what you’re hanging; foam is relatively easy compared to a diffusion panel, for instance.
This doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with the first requirement. You want the treatment to hold strong until you decide to remove it. However the stronger the hold, the harder it is to remove without damaging the walls, or treatment. Thankfully this doesn’t always have to be proportional to the hold.
3. Ease of application
You don’t want to spend weeks building mounting systems, if there is a simpler and similarly effective means of mounting the treatment.
I’m sure the state of the art anti-gravity suspension system you bought off the government is great. But it did cost you your life’s savings, and the electricity cost is astonishing. Sometimes the simple solutions are the best too. As I am hoping to explain. At the end of the article is an archive containing a number of photo’s to illustrate the article. Go ahead and download those so you can see what I’m talking about.
This will make your landlord cry, your mother shout, and your spouse take the kids to their grandparents for the weekend. And it’s my personal preference. But it doesn’t have to mean nasty looking holes all over the walls on removal.
Hold: Nails win the cigar here. There is a reason they’re so popular for hanging pictures, and it’s because they become integral to the wall, instead of simply relying on friction to defeat gravity.
Damage: This depends on the nail. You can easily get hold of thin nails, designed for hanging picture hooks and leaving minimal damage on removal.
Ease of application: Grab a hammer and knock it in. Done. If you buy thin nails then you will struggle with some walls. They tend to bend when hammered in to reinforced breeze blocks, and in that situation you’ll have to use a (thicker) heavy duty nail or go find a new method.
Cost: A few quid from your local home store.
I have found that this is the best method for me, it’s stress free as your treatment is never going to fall down. Thin nails cause minimal damage, and you can fill holes with a small amount of paint. The holes are not very noticeable unless you’re looking for them anyway. Heavy duty nails will leave very noticeable holes however, but a bit of filler and paint will go a long way to help this.
Most landlords use cheap and common colours such as White and Magnolia. Grab a tester pot, and apply in small amounts. Then learn to dry brush, to blend in any small differences in paint tone.
One more down side, is that even foam tiles are heavy enough to tear under their own strain when held by nails. This is easy to fix, and just takes PVA glue (or whatever large quantity of adhesive you have lying around) and Gaffa tape. Gaffa really can fix anything. Gaffa isn’t likely to stick to foam tiles well on its own, so use the liquid adhesive to help it along.
You can also tie multiple tiles together with this method, and reduce the number of nails you need to use. When it’s dry just run the nail through the Gaffa tape, and it will increase the life of your nailed up foam considerably, and be easy to transfer to the next room.
Sticky pads are available in all kinds of sizes and shapes, and even come on rolls. They often boast their usefulness at reversibly attaching things to walls, however they’re usually neither strong nor reversible.
Hold: If you can get these to hold up foam tiles, congratulations. However I’ve always found they fall down easily, especially in warm or humid rooms. Although they stick to the wallpaper great.
Damage: When I have used them over long periods, the glue has dried up and off comes a chunk of the wall, upon removal. Get ready to start repainting things.
Easy of application: If you dis-count the fact you’ll probably find yourself re-applying them every day, they go up pretty easily. I gave up and used super-glue once, that fix isn’t even smart enough to make this list however.
Cost: More expensive than nails, but still cheaper than chips will be in a years time.
My experience: I don’t use this method anymore, due to what I’ve outlined above. Every time I’ve tried them, it’s resulted in more drastic measures to make them hold, and the wall always needs patching up. My advice, don’t even try them.
This falls under sticky pads really, however it’s something I get asked about a lot. My response is always: “Why would you want to use velcro, when one side is going to have to stick to the wall anyway? Why not just cut out the velcro in the middle – which has its own potential to not hold – and use sticky pads?”
Prop it up
This is so simple and obvious that no-one thinks of it. There are many situations where you can place the treatment on top of something, wedge it in to a corner, or stack multiple tiles and wedges on top of each other.
Hold: This depends on, what it is and where it is. I’ve had great success stacking my bass wedges in the corner and filling out the gaps with foam tiles that I’ve wedged in and allowed to stay in position through fiction. You’re not defying gravity if you build a tower, and foam develops a memory over time. So you’ll be pushing tiles back in every day for a week, but after that it will sit fine.
Diffusers and panels can sit on top of that cupboard that you haven’t decided where to place yet, and you can move them around easily if you decide on somewhere else!
Damage: Zero. Zilch. Zippo.
Easy of Application: No harder than playing Jenga.
Cost: Unless some-one has patented physics, you’re okay on this.
Personal experience: I only have 4 foam bass traps, and I want them in the high and low corners of the room behind my speakers. I’ve used the stacking method quite successfully across 2 rooms now, although sometimes a bit of security can be found in a single nail holding the most vulnerable section. It also happens that a wedged tile being slightly away from the walls corner (the position it tends to settle in) instead of perfectly in the right angle, is acoustically better at catching bass frequencies.
I’ve often toyed with this as a concept, and suspect it would be good for anyone with a zealous landlord, who won’t even accept the possibility of marks on the wall. The idea is to use a strip of wood to hang the foam on and then just perch it up against the wall.
Hold: Only as strong as whatever you attach the foam to the panel with, though you don’t have to worry about irreversible damage. You should be more worried about it toppling over.
Damage: None, but be careful of whether the top of the panel could leave a mark on the wall, where it rests.
Ease of application: This takes a little bit of DIY, and a knack for simple design. You may have to think, and build it so it won’t topple over easily. But as far as DIY goes, it’s no harder than anything here.
Cost: This has been my main decider, I usually apply very little budget to my affixing solutions, and have felt that the evils of solutions such as nails do not outweigh the higher budget (and need to transport materials) attached to this method.
Personally experience: While I have no direct experience, budget is the only thing I see standing in the way of this. Wood isn’t exactly expensive, but it’s the most costly solution on this list. On the plus side this solution would raise foam away from the wall slightly, which could improve its ability to absorb bass. This isn’t guaranteed to look as professional, as hanging straight from the wall, but at least you won’t have to clean up the house owner’s tears.
Professional Acoustic Foam Adhesive
The effectiveness of this will vary from brand to brand. Reading reviews is the way to go there. Dedicated Foam Adhesive is often designed to stick to the foam, and simply grip the wall once dried. It’s usually easy to pull off with zero damage, however works best on smoothish surfaces, as they have more grip-able surface area.
Hold: It depends on the surface, and brand of adhesive. It might hold great but remove some paint on removal, or fall down if it can’t grip or you’ve mounted it on the ceiling.
Damage: Again it depends on similar factors to the Hold. You’ll probably find that Hold and Damage are proportional between brands.
Easy of application: It’s designed to be easy to use. Just follow the instructions for best results.
Cost: It’s neither the cheapest nor most expensive solution here. Have a budget in the tens of pounds.
Personal experience: I haven’t used this solution myself, mostly due to experiences I’ve read about and seen. However it’s a professional solution for a reason. In the right situations it is one of the best solutions.