Controlling Sound

Feb. 27, 2003
Wall Carpet Absorbs Sound and Reduces Operating Costs
A lot of us remember the days when it was acceptable for walls to just stand there. Perfectly satisfactory. It doesn’t seem that long ago. All that square footage, vertical surfaces throughout the building, bearing their loads, but contributing nothing to the interior environment.What was missing was the precious attribute of sound control – the perfect hush created by wall carpets and, to a lesser extent, lighter weight pile fabrics or flat, woven textiles. Applications of any of these materials produce a notable reduction in measurable sound within a room, as well as sound that would penetrate a wall between rooms. Carpeting one wall makes a difference. Carpeting four walls plus the floor and adding an acoustical ceiling creates a silent space that’s well on its way to soundproof.Carpets made for use on walls may be lighter in weight than floor carpets that have relatively flat, low-profile constructions. Within those parameters, one finds a variety of aesthetic variations, many expressed in texture. Ribbed surfaces, articulated linear designs, and flatweaves are fashionable. Cut pile and flat, level-look pile fabrics are also widely available. Color choices are many, approaching the very extensive range offered in carpet for floors. Color lines tend to be deepest in earth tones and naturals, which may be seen as comfortable backgrounds, but bolder, brighter accents – colors like lemon, lime, and tangerine – are also available.Construction methods include woven, needlepunched, and fusion bonded – each method offering a particular set of attributes:Woven – precisely defined designs, optimum appearance retention.Needlepunched – economical.Fusion bonded – long-lasting textural integrity that can be cut in any direction without raveling at edges (making it ideal for murals, graphics, and original wall treatments).Attention to workplace safety has encouraged the development and application of flame-proof or fire-retardant materials that have become integral to wall carpet or any pile fabric to be used on vertical surfaces. Specially formulated backings and finishes appear in the physical specifications for most wall carpets. Performance specs add critical information, especially test results that document a product’s resistance to flammability and smoke generation.
Most U.S. jurisdictions want to see documentation of a Class A rating for wall carpet. As measured by ASTM E84, the Steiner Tunnel Test, a Class A product’s flame spread index cannot exceed 25 and its smoke development density cannot exceed 425. Certain jurisdictions rely on different test procedures, but attention to life-safety in terms of susceptibility to flame and smoke is universal.
Wall carpet is found in virtually every sort of commercial and institutional interior – office, healthcare, educational, retail, hospitality, casinos, cruise ships, theaters, transportation terminals, museums, and other public spaces. Durability is often the first concern in areas as heavily trafficked as airport restrooms. Sound absorption is important in language labs, offices, and retail facilities. Resistance to tears and snagging is vital in hospital corridors where wheeled carts can collide with walls. And the quiet aesthetics of a pile fabric used to upholster vertical surfaces is welcome just about anywhere.Jim Burns is vice president of Philadelphia-based Eurotex (, a leading resource for wall carpet, carpet, and carpet tile.

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