My dedicated room is nearing completion and I thought I'd share my experiences with my fabric wall system.
I have a 2-year old kid and plans for more, and wanted a room that could withstand all the abuses kids present, but perform at a level that exceeds a commercial cinema, at an achievable cost. Flat black paint would not be durable enough for my needs. Fabric, however, is easy to replace in pieces, can be touched up, and even vacuumed. It also can cover irregular surfaces and room treatment substrates cleanly.
I also wanted an easy way to access all wiring while maintaining a soundproof envelope. I ended up doing a complete room within a room construction, and had everything built within it. In order to maintain access without designing elaborate access panels, I figured that using a framed skeleton with all fabric covering would work best for me. We left the inner layer of drywall completely raw, and a false soffit as well as 6 false columns were framed directly to drywall (secured to the 1st wall layer which is actually OSB).
Planning for application of the fabric to the walls kept me up many nights, mainly because of the added complexity of covering 3 walls, a false wall with an AT screen, and the ceiling. I chose Fabricmate because the basic installation is very straightforward, the support was wonderful, and pricing was fair. In the end, about 2/3 of the room was done with 1" deep track, the rest with 1/2" track. I erred on the side of an overly deadened room with 1" Linacoustic behind the fabric just above ear height on side and rear walls, front 2/3 of the ceiling, and positioned 8" deep columns at first reflection points, to be filled with fiberglass batting for now. The beauty of the fabric is that I'll be able to measure the room at the end of the project, and I can always swap out treatments or add panels over the surfaces when needed. I could have made it more painless by just hiring an acoustician, but learning and experimentation is part of the fun, right?
But I digress. At first I wanted to tackly the project on my own, but with a busy day job and a deadline (theater is being done concomitantly with home construction), I requested help from a framing and trim guy working on the house. THANK GOOODNESS! The fabric track and application is very easy when you're just doing a wall, but quickly requires some ingenuity when you start working around corners, tricorners, and any "hole" in the panel for lights, outlets, HVAC, etc. There were several areas where I am glad the framing of the soffit and columns was overengineered so that we could cut away when necessary. Now that it's just about done, though, I couldn't be happier with the result. For the most part the look is clean at all joints, fabric remains tight, and can even be adjusted with care.
A few tips.
--Buy the pro install kit. The fabric stuffer and shears are very easy to work with, and the stuffer never cut the fabric (using GOM FR-701).
--I ordered about 15% more track and fabric than my calculated need. This turned out to be barely enough. The more small panels you do, the more waste.
--I found that you need to measure for a minimum of 2" excess fabric on all sides. It is easier to work with 3-4" when you get to trimming away the excess.
--Pay attention to the diagrams provided for cutting track where 2 panels meet at a corner. There are strategic gaps left to make the corner look clean, and if you forget to leave them, it takes 10x as long to fix unless you detach the whole piece of track. This is even more critical at tricorners (and I had many due to columns).
-- Before stuffing fabric, run the stuffing device through the track to open it up a bit. This is especially helpful at corners and intersections where cutting the track compresses and almost seals it closed. Stuff fabric in 2 stages. First I gently stuffed the middle and near-corner edges of the top edge, allowing gravity to hold the rest of the fabric in place. Then I lightly stuffed each side, just enough fabric to hold gentle tension, but still easy to remove. Last, lightly stuff the top and bottom. Then check and make sure all edges are held when you tug on the free edges. Once I confirmed this, I cut the excess away to within 1/4" of the track edge. Lastly I stuffed it all into the track, alternating sides. When doing this, the opposing side can pull free, and the act of stuffing the fabric puts a lot of tension on it. If you cut too much fabric away during the trim stage, you run the risk of yanking out the other side while stuffing. If you cut too little (leaving an inch or more), it's a pain to stuff it all in and have room for a second edge.
--When trimming fabric, leave the corners for last. I found that stuffing all the edges first and leaving a lot of excess at the corners worked best. Then I would slowly trim away at the corner until I had a small radius left. When done this way, it was easily stuffed. Too much and it was very hard to finish a corner. Too little, and you have a small gap in the corner and have to start all over (learned that once!).
Now that it's done, the look is soooooo clean. My kid has already leaned on the walls, and it holds up fine. He even pushed on the fabric covering the false wall and loosened it, and all I needed to do was stuff it right back in, took 10 seconds. Also, I cannot stress enough how non-reflective GOM is. My walls and ceiling are a mix of medium gray, burgundy, and black. I'm using a white AT 2.35:1 screen. With the lights off and projecting a 16:9 image, the unmasked portion of the screen is only barely visible, indicating very little scattered reflected light gets back to the screen. Yet with all the lights on, the room is inviting and doesn't feel too much like a cave. To be fair I did put in a bunch of lights including 9 cans, 6 sconces, step lights and perimeter LED to light up the ceiling and soffit.
If I get the time, I'll take some post-worthy pictures to try and illustrate the look of the room. All in all very excited with the end result. I'll have to let Ed Blumenstock from Fabricmate know how it all went too. We had several conversations, and he cut me the AVS discount which was much appreciated. Good luck to any other future users of this system, I don't think you'll be sorry.