Choosing A Soundproofing Technique: Soundproofing Drywall Vs Mass-Loaded Vinyl

When considering different soundproofing techniques, whether for professional new construction or do-it-yourself retrofits, it is important to understand how sound is transmitted through walls to be able to compare the advantages. To determine which technique is most attractive, let’s examine first how sound interacts with barriers – like walls – and then compare the soundproofing performance of mass-loaded vinyl and soundproofing Drywall Contractor near me.

Sound – i.e. sound waves or vibrations – passes from one side of a sound barrier (wall) to another by causing the barrier to vibrate, which in turn vibrates the air on the other side of the barrier. Naturally, barriers with more mass, like a heavy metal wall, are more difficult to vibrate, and thus transmit less noise, than lighter barriers. This basic principal is what underlies the “mass-loading” approach to soundproofing, including mass-loaded vinyl. In the case of mass-loaded vinyl, sheets of heavy vinyl, weighing about 1 pound per square foot, are used to increase the mass of the wall by installing them between the studs and the outer layer of drywall.

However, soundproofing goes beyond considerations of mass. The newest technology in soundproofing is based on viscoelastic damping. Viscoelastic materials, due to their combination of viscous properties (like peanut butter) and elastic properties (like a rubber band), dissipate energy when they come into contact with sound waves. In other words, when the force of sound waves hit a layer of viscoelastic material, the material is deformed by the vibration (because it is stretchy like a rubber band), but slowly returns to its original form (because it oozes like peanut butter). During that expansion and contraction, a significant part of the energy in the sound waves is converted into thermal energy, or heat.

Constrained layer viscoelastic damping is a technique in which a thin layer of a viscoelastic material, usually a polymer, is sandwiched between two rigid surfaces, like drywall. By separating the two layers of drywall with viscoelastic material, a significant part of the acoustic energy is dissipated by the viscoelastic layer, and very little of the vibration is transmitted through the second layer of drywall, resulting in high transmission loss. Soundproofing drywall, or sound damped panels, uses precisely this approach to achieve excellent noise control results.

Mass-loaded vinyl can deliver good soundproofing results, however installation is labor intensive and the combination of materials and labor cost can make mass-loaded vinyl an unattractive option. In particular for do-it-yourself projects, the installation procedure for mass-loaded vinyl is complex and error-prone. Soundproofing drywall on the other hand scores, snaps and hangs like regular drywall. It is easy to install and available nationwide at drywall suppliers.

Furthermore, the soundproofing performance of 1 lb/square foot vinyl does not measure up to similar wall constructions using soundproofing drywall. A standard single-stud, interior wall with 5/8″ gypsum on each side delivers a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 34. Adding a layer mass-loaded vinyl on one side of the wall assembly can raise the STC rating to 43. However, the same assembly with soundproofing drywall used on one side achieves and STC rating of 51.

Both in terms of noise control performance and in terms of ease of installation, soundproofing drywall is the lowest cost, easiest way of achieving world-class soundproofing.