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Soundproofing foam (actually acoustic foam) is an effective way of managing the acoustics of a room. However, I’ve always thought it doesn’t look very nice and wondered whether you can paint soundproofing foam. I decided to do some research before breaking out my paintbrushes.
So, can you paint soundproofing foam? Painting acoustic foam (incorrectly called soundproofing foam) will block the pores in between the foam which are actually doing the work of dissipating and absorbing sound waves. So, it’s best to avoid painting soundproofing foam because it can render it useless.
While you can’t paint soundproofing foam, there are definitely other options you can try. Read on to find out more information about painting soundproofing foam, including some alternative options.
Can you Paint Soundproofing Foam?
As mentioned earlier, acoustic foam is often incorrectly, or interchangeably, called soundproofing foam. However, the key difference is that acoustic foam doesn’t help with soundproofing; it helps with other areas of acoustic management, like echo.
How good is foam for soundproofing and how good is it for acoustics. Check out my myth busting article on soundproof foam.
Sound waves echo or reverberate of walls quite easily. While this isn’t related to soundproofing, treating acoustics helps with sound clarity and quality, so soundproofing and acoustic treatment often go hand in hand for many projects.
Acoustic foam is made of an open-celled material that increases air resistance, which helps control sound wave amplification. Similarly, acoustic foam often has a pyramid structure that breaks up a surface, meaning sound waves have a harder time bouncing off it.
Both of these qualities massively help with sound clarity in a room. This makes acoustic foam particularly useful if you’re building something like a home theater because you’ll likely have loud speakers that will need controlling.
Just remember though: acoustic foam doesn’t help with soundproofing.
So you’ve decided to use some acoustic foam in your soundproofing project but don’t like the way it looks. I don’t blame you; acoustic foam isn’t a very attractive product to have in your room. However, painting it isn’t going to be the way forwards.
In short, paint works by completely coating a surface in a pigmented liquid that has particular ingredients to help it dry in an even coating. These ingredients also help it cover small cracks and gaps, as this is exactly what paint is designed to do.
For this reason, it won’t work on soundproofing foam. The open cells of the foam are needed to increase air resistance, and if these are blocked then the foam will be much worse at treating high- and mid-range frequencies.
These are the frequencies that you’re going to want the foam to deal with anyway, as low-range frequencies (bass) are dealt with differently, either by adding mass or bass traps for acoustic treatment.
Another issue with painting soundproofing foam is that putting enough paint on to get an even layer of color will make the foam quite stiff. This will then mean that it’ll actually reflect sound waves more than it’ll absorb them.
A friend of mine did try painting some acoustic foam, but only used a very thin layer of emulsion. The problem was that this meant that the paint wasn’t thick enough to cover the black foam, and it reduced its effectiveness.
As a general rule, I’d recommend avoiding painting soundproofing foam. There are other ways you can hide it, and these have far less impact on the foam’s ability to treat acoustics.
Alternatives to Painting Soundproofing Foam
So if you definitely want to cover your acoustic foam with something, it’ll be worth trying a different method. Luckily there are some ways to hide acoustic foam, and my favorite options are listed below.
Be careful what you shop for
The first bit of advice I can give is to shop around, as some brands dye their foam different colors. Even having something other than black foam can make a difference to its look in the room.
For example, white acoustic foam already looks much better. However, just be aware that you might have to pay more money for different colored foam.
Another option is to work it into the design of your room. For example, if you’re building a home theater, then you’ll want the walls to be dark anyway. Painting the walls a darker color will make the acoustic foam less obvious in the first place, and so will be a much more effective solution.
Buy acoustic panels
Some specialist companies design acoustic panels for businesses like restaurants and conference halls, and because these are on public display they need to be much more attractive. In fact, once you start researching you might realize how many you’ve already come across in your everyday life.
These acoustic panels will do exactly the same job as standard acoustic foam, but just look much nicer. Bear in mind that you’ll probably have to spend more money, and that these won’t be as good as dedicated studio-quality acoustic foam.
Cover the foam with cloth
Probably my favorite, and cheapest, option is to cover the acoustic foam with cloth. Not only will this be reasonably inexpensive, but you can choose whatever color or design you want, meaning you can make the acoustic foam much less obvious.
The easiest way to cover the acoustic foam with cloth is to build a simple wooden frame, stretch a sheet of cloth over it, and place the foam inside. Then seal up the other side with another piece of cloth and you’ve got a homemade acoustic panel!
This method is most effective at covering the acoustic foam and gives you the ability to completely customize its look. However, it’s important to stretch the fabric tight over the frame because you don’t want any creases or folds in it; this would look even worse than the foam!
You might be wondering whether adding a piece of fabric over the soundproofing foam will affect its ability to treat sound waves. While it might have a slight impact, most fabric isn’t dense enough to have any real affect on the foam’s ability to do its job.
Can Sound Travel Through Concrete Floors?
Along with DIY sound treatment solutions, I often wonder how effective the existing structure of a building is, particularly whether sound can travel through concrete floors. I decided to do some more investigating to get a solid answer.
So, can sound travel through concrete floors? Concrete is a very dense material, and solid concrete floors will do an excellent job at blocking high- and mod-range frequencies. However, concrete floors aren’t brilliant at blocking lower bass frequencies, which will easily travel through the floor.
Read my article on soundproofing concrete walls.
The main reason concrete works well for soundproofing is because it’s so dense. This makes it very difficult for most sound wave frequencies to travel through it, although low frequencies can still get through.
However, concrete can also be pretty good at reflecting sound waves back into a room. This is again because of its density, but can also be because of surface texture, particularly on rough concrete. While this might be useful if you’re concerned about your neighbors, it can mean your room echoes.
Concrete floors are a great starting point for a soundproofing project. In fact, the only option that would be better is a suspended floor, which is something almost no one has the time or resources for.
That said, concrete floors’ biggest weakness when it comes to soundproofing is reverberation, especially with low frequency waves. A sound wave can only travel a certain distance before losing its energy, and low frequency waves take less energy, and so can travel further.
The 2 best ways to deal with this issue are:
Carpet is a massive help on concrete floors because it adds a soft layer between the hard concrete and the noise source. This means sound waves are less likely to reflect, and can be absorbed by the carpet. Similarly, carpet helps with impact vibration, such as walking on the floor.
If you’re laying carpet on a concrete floor specifically to help with soundproofing, then I’d recommend using the thickest carpet possible. A dense shag carpet will be very effective at treating sound, but think of it more like acoustic foam than mass loaded vinyl.
Managing your subwoofer
The best thing you can do to stop bass frequencies travelling through a concrete floor is simply to not have the 2 objects touching. This essentially follows the same logic as decoupling, and isolates the components so vibrations can’t travel through them.
The easiest way to do this is to put your subwoofer on a low, yet sturdy table. This will be even more effective if you also use a sheet of sound damping foam, such as Dynamat (check price on Amazon). This will massively reduce vibrations, meaning it’s unlikely any will pass into the floor.
In researching if you can paint acoustic foam, I found that there are much easier ways to deal with the issue. The important thing is to keep the open cellular structure of the foam, as this is specifically what helps with the acoustic treatment. Whichever option you go for, just make sure it matches your room!
Thanks for reading! You may also like to check out my article on best soundproofing materials.