4 Basic Types of Room Dividers

Bedroom room divider


vicnt / Getty Images

In most homes, privacy is always at a premium. Walls are fine, but they're expensive to build. Plus, you don't always want them there; sometimes, you actually do want openness.

This is where room dividers come into the picture. Room dividers are quick, simple, and best of all, inexpensive walls for your home: walls that aren't quite walls.

Learn about the basic types of room dividers that are sure to add style and functionality to your home, without emptying your bank account.

What Room Dividers Are

Room dividers are portable walls that provide visual screening between rooms. They're great for dorm or apartment dwellers or just about anybody who needs a quick solution to a privacy problem. Since they're lightweight and portable, you can take them with you when you move homes.

Some fixed dividers attach to the ceiling, floor, or walls with light hardware. Other dividers are even easier to install with eyehooks screwed into the ceiling. Folding dividers require no installation; unfold them and you're ready to go.

It is important to remember that they only act as nominal borders to define private spaces. Even the most substantial divider available, the bookcase divider, provides almost no soundproofing.

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    Folding or Accordion Divider

    Room divider living room


    KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

    Folding dividers are easily the best for people who move quite often. If you have an apartment or condo and you decide to move, it's as simple as folding up the divider and putting it in the moving van. Also called accordion dividers, they do not attach to your residence in any way.

    Keep in mind that folding dividers have a long but wide footprint. Fixed or hanging dividers might be only one or two inches thick. By contrast, folding dividers tend to be twelve inches thick or more when unfolded.

    If space is limited, this type of divider may not be for you. With the slightest gust of wind or a bump, folding dividers will easily fall over. Pushing the panels closer together can help broaden the footprint, but this may not be possible if you have a small home.

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    Hanging (Solid) Divider

    Kernov Room Divider

    Some dividers hang from the ceiling, but unlike fabric dividers, the field pieces are acrylic, resin, light wood, or other solid materials. At the bottom, the dividers attach to the floor to prevent the divider from swaying.

    In other cases, an attachable weighted bottom section will dampen the swaying. These are a good option for either homeowners or renters, since, at a minimum, they need two screws attached to the ceiling.

    Some room dividers consist of separate PVC panels, rather than cloth. As an alternative, you can apply them flat against a wall as a decorative piece.

    One downside of hanging dividers is the swaying. No matter how heavy the weighted bottom is, it still can sway to some degree. If you have a ceiling fan, this movement is only accentuated. Some homeowners even find ways to anchor the bottoms of the dividers to the floor to control movement.

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    Hanging (Fabric or Paper Curtain)

    Fabric Wall Divider

    Room dividers that are made of paper or fabric are by far the least physically substantial, yet sometimes cheapest.

    Often, these room dividers come in narrow 24-inch or 50-inch widths that can be ganged to create a continuous divider that is as long as you like. In other cases, they span a generous 8 feet long, making it possible to divide an entire room with two or three panels.

    This top-rated muslin curtain is a full 10 feet long from end to end, and 8 feet tall. Made of 100-percent hand-dyed cotton muslin, it will is actually one of the better room dividers in this guide for keeping sound in check.

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    Bookcase Room Divider

    Ecleste Bookcase Room Divider

    Enitial Lab

    This is the only divider that has a function besides demarcating spaces. This divider holds books, curios, pictures, artwork, ceramics, and more. It's also the only divider that has a modicum of sound-blocking abilities (if filled with books).

    On the downside, few bookcase-style dividers will extend even close to the ceiling. The one pictured is 54-inch high (stacking not recommended).

    The only way to have a bookcase-style divider that reaches the ceiling is to attach it both to the floor and the ceiling; unattached bookcase dividers are prone to falling.