Acoustic panels are one of the best upgrades you can make to control the sound in your space. They can increase the value of high-end speaker systems, and also control echoes and volume issues in public spaces. But when the situation calls for installing panels on the ceiling, the install can be a bit intimidating.
To install acoustic panels on your ceiling:
It may feel a little strange to see that zip-ties are one of the key ingredients for this install, but trust us: this method is going to get you even better performance out of your panels. There’s more on that below in the detailed instructions, but first, let’s discuss a little further why you might want to put acoustic panels on your ceiling.
Especially if you’ve read our other articles on how acoustic panels work and how effective they can be that you can get much higher quality sound out of your sound system with cleverly placed acoustic panels.
You can also manage noise in crowded or busy environments like workplaces and restaurants with them, or control the sound in a space to increase the fidelity of recordings. This makes acoustic panels a true swiss army knife for audio management.
And although the first most obvious use of acoustic panels is placing them on walls, one of the biggest sound reflectors in your space will almost certainly be the ceiling. Sounds will bounce off the ceiling just like the walls, and the problem will scale with volume here. Considered your space against our guides on how many panels you need, and when to use acoustic panels, to get a better understanding on if this solution is for you.
A high ceilinged space may absorb some sound naturally, but the louder and stronger the sound waves, the less high ceilings will have any effect. So, by putting acoustic panels on the ceiling, you can create an even more aggressive sound management environment in which those ambient sound waves that escape the wall panels really have nowhere else to go.
If you have an expensive home theater system that you’ve trying to augment with acoustic panels (our guide), or if you're trying to soak up the sound of people talking in a crowded space, acoustic panels can really remove a lot of sounds that would otherwise make the room echoey and just plain loud.
And remember, if you're outfitting a recording studio, you should look at our write-up on when to use foam vs. when to use panels, and also our placement guide. There's a good chance you can get away with easier-to-install foam panels if you're going for 100% coverage.
So, if you’re ready to take the plunge and attach acoustic panels to your ceiling, here’s what we recommend. It’s not a project that’s for the faint of heart, but by going slowly and planning each step, you’ll get through just fine.
This may seem like a pretty direct step, but it gets more complicated if you’re building your own panels. If you’ve already purchased 2ft by 4ft panels like the ATS Acoustic Panels (on Amazon), then you want to inspect those panels and make sure that the border is thick enough to accept a few screws.
If it’s a wood panel about an inch wide, you’ve got plenty of material to work with. If it’s metal, though, you’ll have to pursue a different strategy for attaching your panels. If you don't know how big your panels need to be, check out our article on that detail.
If you’re making your panels yourself, then you have full control to plan how you’re going to attach them. If you’ve already decided what materials you’ll use for your acoustic panels, maybe by referencing our guides on the best fabrics and fill materials, then turn your attention to the frame.
You’ll almost certainly be using 2-by-4s or other wood construction materials, but, as mentioned above, make sure there is at least an inch of width to play with so that you can screw into them. Now that it’s clear you need some wood material to work with, determine your dimensions.
Whatever the dimensions of your panels, take the time now to plan where on your ceiling you’d like to place them. Use painters tape to go ahead and mark off the borders of your panels. Then, use a stud-finder or other method to figure out the configuration of the joists in your ceiling. If you use painters tape to mark these as well, it should be really clear if any of your panels need to shift so that their panels line up with the studs.
Once you have the placement of your acoustic panels relative to your joists figured out, you can now install some fasteners that will allow you to attach them properly. Using eyelets like the AxeSickle 2 Inch Metal Eye Hooks (on Amazon) is our recommendation since this technique will allow you to install an air gap between the panels and the ceiling, which will increase their performance.
Using the painter's tape from step one, double-check where the panels need to be placed to be supported evenly by the joists, and then install eyelets in the ceiling that match up with where the acoustic panel will go.
Use at least four of these, and make sure that at least two of them are in the joist so that the panel is secure. And you want to space them evenly so that the panel doesn’t hang at an angle.
Now turn your attention to the acoustic panels themselves. You may need a second pair of hands to help at this point. Take the panel, and hold it up to the eyelets you’ve installed on the ceiling, and mark the matchings spots on the acoustic panel's frame. Then, install eyelets in those spots on the panel frame.
You don’t necessarily need to hold the panel up to the ceiling to match the eyelet positions if your measurements are really precise...but we recommend this method because it’s cheap insurance.
Now you're at the final step: hanging the panels on the ceiling. If you’ve followed the steps above, this should be very straightforward, although you’ll likely want a pair of hands to help.
Using zip ties like the HS Premium 12 Inch Heavy Duty Zip Ties (on Amazon), bring the panel in line with it’s positioning on the ceiling and then connect the zip tie through the matching eyelets.
Don’t tighten these all the way at first, simply thread them through so that you can get the panel secured to the ceiling. Then, take a step back and eyeball the placement. If the panel looks askew, determine which set of eyelets needs to be shortened, and tighten up that zip tie. You can use a level here to double-check things
The beauty of this method is it allows an air gap between your ceiling and the panel, which actually increases their effectiveness. You want to aim for a final gap width of about two inches, which should be no problem with the eyelets and zip-ties.
As you can see, this type of work can be a little intimidating. It’s always stressful to start putting holes in the ceiling! But if you take your time to plan out the job, mark your joists and methodically place everything, this job can be a piece of cake.