Does Wood Block or Absorb Sound? (Acoustical Properties of Wood)

Are you here trying to find out if, and how, you can use wood to soundproof your space? Well, then you came to the right place.

In short, the answer is – you can use wood for this purpose, but because it lacks acoustical properties, it’s not a really good choice in and of itself. First of all, wood is light, so it’s not a perfect choice if you want to block sound. Also, it is usually too smooth and has too dense of a surface to absorb sound well.

However, there are ways to put the wood to good use when it comes to sound blocking and/or absorption. Read on to find out more.

Blocking and Absorbing Sound

These are actually two separate questions. Does wood block sound? And does it absorb it? After all, those two things are not the same. So, to begin, we will first explain the difference between blocking and absorbing sound.

  • Absorbing Sound

The main reason people use sound-absorbing materials is to control excess noise in the room. These materials don’t stop the sound from leaving the room, but they do reduce the echo around you.

Materials that absorb sound are generally porous; that is what allows them to absorb it effectively. However, they don’t block sound, and it can actually go through them, even if it gets out with less energy.

For this role, you would want a relatively soft material. Something akin to a sponge that can absorb energy.

  • Blocking Sound

Sound blocking is what you should focus on if you want to prevent the sounds from the outside from entering, or if you you’re going to stop the noise from escaping. For this role, you should use dense, heavy, and solid materials. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid substances with air spaces for sound blocking.

With good sound blocking materials, you should also be able to easily divide the rooms into smaller parts and keep every part noise free.

Wood as a Sound Absorber

Unfortunately, wood, as such, is not a great choice for sound absorption. It usually has a solid surface which will reflect the sound. (Research on this topic)  In fact, it is that ability to reflect sound that makes wood an excellent choice of material for musical instruments.

However, there are ways to use wood and still achieve decent sound absorption successfully. For example, you could combine it with porous materials and an air gap to dampen low sounds. And then, you can improve the sound absorption by making holes in the surface of the wood. That way, you are creating a perforated resonator which will dampen high-pitch tones.

You can also use various other materials that come from wood. For example, sawdust and cork boards can help with vibrations.

Wood as a Sound Blocker

Now, I know what you are thinking: “If wood is too solid without adjustments for sound absorption, wouldn’t that make it perfect for blocking?” Well, not really. While the surface is solid and does offer decent sound reflection, wood is still a light material. It usually simply doesn’t have the density sound blocking requires.

However, a solid core door made out of wood is still a very good choice if you are looking for something to block sounds. At the very least it is superior to most hollow doors.

Conclusion

In the end, if you want to soundproof an area, wood can be an adequate choice. However, it is not the best choice you can make. But, if you really want to use it, there are ways to get around its issues.

You can combine it with porous materials to absorb sound, or with denser materials to block it, not to mention that there are products made out of wood that can further help. Like wood wool which offers decent sound absorption capabilities.

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