Does Furniture Absorb Sound?

In my search for inexpensive soundproofing solutions, I recently wondered, does furniture absorb sound? If you’ve thought the same, here’s a quick answer:

Furniture does absorb some sound. The best furniture to use for absorbing sound is upholstery, such as chairs and sofas, but you can massively improve your success by arranging it carefully within the room. Placement is just as important as material when it comes to sound absorption using furniture.

Also read: Does Cork Flooring Absorb Sound?

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In this article, I’ll cover some details about how and why furniture absorbs sound, along with the best type of furniture to use, and the best way to arrange it in the room.

Why Does Furniture Absorb Sound?

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Furniture can have a surprising effect on the acoustics of a space. If you’ve ever moved house you’ll already know this. Once you remove all the furniture from a room it’s suddenly easy to notice the echo.

Soundproofing relies on a few core principles. These include:

  1. Mass
  2. Isolation
  3. Absorption (dampening)
  4. Conduction

Furniture basically helps with 2 of these: mass and absorption. Furniture, such as chairs, sofas and bookcases, is often quite heavy (or mass rich).

This helps to block sound waves from transmitting around a space because, simply put, it’s harder for sound waves to vibrate something heavy.

Furniture also helps with acoustic absorption. This principle is based on the idea that sound waves enter a material and are unable to get out again.

Essentially, sound waves pass through things by making the particles vibrate. This can either be the particles in air or the particles in a solid object.

A solid object with an open structure traps sound waves because they can get in, but the density of the object prevents them from escaping again.

The sound waves make the material’s particles vibrate but expend their energy in the process. In the process, they’re converted into small amounts of heat energy.

This is exactly how acoustic foam (Amazon link) and mineral wool insulation (Amazon link) work.

Of course, upholstered furniture is better for absorption than something made of wood or plastic. Hard, flat materials generally reflect sound waves, which isn’t what you want when soundproofing a space.

So, while furniture does absorb a certain amount of sound, it also helps manage the acoustics of a space. This is arguably a more important role, as it prevents echo and reverberation.

If left unchecked, they can make a noise seem louder than it actually is. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely on furniture for sound absorption alone, but for a number of noise reducing and controlling properties.

The Best Furniture for Absorbing Sound

The Best Furniture for Absorbing Sound

You can probably already guess the kind of furniture I’m going to suggest as the most effective. Even so, here’s a quick list of the best types to include if you want to absorb sound:

  • Chairs and sofas
  • Curtains
  • Rugs and carpet
  • Wall hangings (such as tapestries)
  • Bookcases (filled with books of course)
  • Plants
  • Cushions

Plants might seem like a surprising addition to this list, but it’s for good reason. Plants have plenty of surface area on their leaves, which can trap sound waves and prevent them from escaping.

While they won’t soundproof a room, they can be a useful addition for improving the acoustics. Also, they look nice too.

If you’re using furniture to manage sound in a space, stick with upholstery wherever possible. Fabrics like microfiber, chenille and suede are all good choices.

Leather, generally speaking, is too flat. It’ll reflect more sound than it absorbs, so isn’t a good choice in this situation. In short, the fabrics you choose should be soft and flexible in order to get the best level of absorption.

Bookcases might seem like another surprise. But providing the shelves are stacked with books, they make a great way to add lots of mass in a small space.

Bear in mind, though, that none of these will provide the same level of soundproofing as dedicated materials.

If you truly want a soundproof room, you’ll need to go into much greater detail and planning.

That said, using furniture offers an inexpensive and convenient way to absorb some sound. But more importantly, it helps to manage the acoustics of a space to reduce echo.

Where to Place Furniture

As I mentioned earlier, placement is just as important as the type of furniture you use.

It’ll be worth playing with the layout of your room a bit to see what works best, but follow these general tips:

1. Break up walls

Walls are prime offenders for noise pollution. Not only do they let sounds pass through, they’re ideal for reflecting sound back into the room.

This is because they’re hard, rigid, and flat, which are all negatives in soundproofing.

To reduce the issue of reflection, consider hanging tapestries, or even a few canvases. The goal is to break up the flat surface so there are fewer reflection points.

Of course, this won’t reduce the problem of sound transfer coming through the wall. For that you’ll need to consider cavity insulation and more mass, such as mass loaded vinyl (Amazon link).

2. Base your placement around offending sounds

Using furniture for sound absorption will be most effective if you consider the location of offending noises.

For example, if a lot of the sound is coming from another room, hiding the wall behind bookcases or even a sofa will help to a degree.

Also, placing your sofa in the right location relative to the TV will help. As this noise is in the room, you can think about its early reflection points.

These are the locations where sounds reflect for the first time. If your TV’s speakers are in the front, the reflection points will most likely be directly in front of it.

Placing your sofa or chair in this location will do a good job of absorbing some of the sound and also preventing it from reflecting.

3. Thick curtains will help with windows

Windows are a weak point when it comes to noise pollution. Using thick curtains won’t completely soundproof them but they will help to absorb some noise that passes through the glass.

You can get acoustic curtains (Amazon link), but they’re only useful to an extent. Granted, they’re better than normal curtains, but not by much.

You’ll have just as much success picking up a pair of heavy drapes from a thrift store. Something like velvet will be ideal for this kind of thing. Alternatively, you can make your own.

When it comes to curtains for sound absorption, the heavier they are and the more material they have, the better.

4. Consider furniture placement in other rooms

If you have access to the room producing the noise, consider moving things around in there too. For example, if it’s a TV or speakers causing noise, simply point them away from the adjoining wall.

While not always possible, working with the noise source will make a big difference.

Some Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has answered the question does furniture absorb sound? The short answer is yes, but not a considerable amount.

It should do enough to make a room a bit quieter, but if you need to block out loud and annoying noises, consider using dedicated soundproofing materials.

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