Mass Loaded Vinyl: Application, Effectiveness and Alternatives

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The 1960s introduction of mass-loaded vinyl as a reliable soundproofing material was a godsend for engineers and architects. MLV is not only excellent in reducing noise but also reasonably simple to use.

It is often fastened to studs or joists, and seams and joints are then sealed with acoustic caulking or barrier tape. After applying acoustic caulking, seams are taped to provide maximum soundproofing efficacy.

Mass loaded vinyl blocks the majority of ordinary noises, such as traffic and construction sounds, as well as noises from trains, buses, and even airplanes. It is an affordable approach to a range of noise problems. MLV is one of the greatest soundproofing materials for do-it-yourself projects.

What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Mass loaded vinyl is a heavy vinyl sheeting material impregnated with metal particles to increase mass. It’s also known as the Limp Mass Barrier.

MLV comprises two main ingredients; polyvinyl chloride (vinyl/PVC) and barium sulphate or calcium carbonate.

It’s a viscoelastic material that exhibits both viscous and elastic characteristics. It can be stretched and return to its original shape. Unlike other materials such as acoustic foam panels, MLV can absorb vibrations/ impact sound waves.

How Does It Work?

Mass loaded vinyl absorbs sound waves and prevents them from bouncing off objects. When sound waves collide with a surface, they generate airborne vibrations.

The mass-loaded vinyl reduces thes vibrations by absorbing and transforming them into heat energy. This significantly limits the amount of noise that may flow through walls, floors and ceilings, contributing to a quieter setting.

How To Install Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Required Material

  • Tape Measure
  • Pneumatic Cap Stapler or T-Square
  • Utility Knife
  • Acoustical Sealant
  • Screw Driver, Hammer and Roofing Nails,
  • Screws with Caps or Cap Staples,
  • Vinyl or Foil Seam Tape

Optional Material

  • Outlet Putty Pads
  1. Calculate the length between the ceiling and the floor and then subtract 1/8th -1/4 inches from the calculated length
  2. Lay the roll of MLV on the ground, and then cut it to the required lengths.
  3. Cut a square edge using a straight edge or T-square. Using a Utility Knife, cut the MLV to the desired length.
  4. Get the assistance of another person and put the first length of mass loaded vinyl at the upper corner of the wall. Confirm that the MLV is aligned properly along the ceiling so that it drapes the wall evenly. Maintain a uniform spacing between the ceiling and floor. Utilize a pneumatic cap stapler to speed the installation. Attach every 8 inches along the top plate and the length of the studs.
  5. For 16″ On Center (OC) framing, use a hammer and drive a nail and washer on the MLV every 24″ OC along the length of the top plate of each stud. For framing with a 24″ on-center distance, hammer an extra nail into the top and bottom plates between each stud.
  6. Carefully avoid covering electrical outlet boxes. It is ideal to expose the plug boxes when each piece of MLV is installed. Locate the outlet box in the wall and press the MLV lightly against it. Use a razor blade knife, cut along the box’s edges to create an opening. Keep this hole as tight to the box as possible in order to ensure a good seal.
  7. Before installing MLV, use Putty Pads over outlet boxes for optimum sound isolation.
  8. Repeat steps 1 through 6 until the MLV covers the whole wall or ceiling. Wherever MLV seams meet a stud, butt pieces together and glue them using Vinyl or Foil Tape. Overlap components by 2 inches where MLV seams lie between studs. See the Handling Seams page for specific instructions.
  9. Install your drywall vertically or horizontally over the MLV. The perimeter seams should be caulked with Acoustical Sealant. In order to obtain adequate sound isolation, proper sealing is required.
  • mud the drywall joints and complete the wall or ceiling according to your specifications.

How to Install MLV on Ceilings

The second most typical location for MLV installation is the ceiling. For a ceiling MLV install, it is essential to understand what MLV will and will not accomplish. MLV will not prevent impact sounds (such as walking or children leaping) from the level above.

It is effective in reducing airborne noise (people talking, or Television noise). MLV is also hefty, therefore for a normal do-it-yourself soundproofing installation, a sound isolation clip system may be preferable.

If impact noise is a concern, MLV is frequently combined with additional soundproofing materials, such as rubber flooring underlayment and sound isolation clips.

How to Install on Floors

Installing mass-loaded vinyl between sheets of MDF or plywood or any other type of flooring can provide density and prevent more airborne sound. MLV installation on floors is less popular than other room soundproofing uses, but it is a cheap and effective approach to add sound-blocking capability to your floor and ceiling .

As an alternative to MLV, I would highly recommend Rubber Underlayment for the majority of floor soundproofing applications. These underlay significantly decreases the sound of footfall as well as other impact/structure borne noises from the level above by isolating the floor.

Tips when Installing Mass Loaded Vinyl?

First tip: total coverage is important. To effectively soundproof a space, all six surfaces must be soundproofed: four walls, one ceiling, and one floor. Even if just one wall or one area of a room appears to transmit sound, you cannot expect entire space to be soundproof by treating only one wall.

Second piece of advice: acoustic caulk is a must have in any soundproofing activity. It is necessary to seal the seams, the perimeter, and any openings. Another typical route for sound is through fractures, crevices, or seams in the barrier. The most effective noise barriers should be both thick AND sealed.

Is It Better Than Green Glue?

According to an article published on the TMSoundproofing website, mass loaded vinyl does improve wall performance in noise reduction.

However, its effectiveness is much lower than that of the green glue compound, especially at low sound frequencies.

Green Glue is also cheaper compared to MLV and much easier to apply.

Even though hanging MLV limply is much easier, sandwiching it between a layer of soundproofing materials such as drywalls improves its performance.

Below is a chart that details how green glue outperforms MLV in terms of STC class.

Mass Loaded Vinyl vs Green Glue
Source: TMSoundproofing

Green glue alone gives an STC rating of 55, while MLV gives 51 when limply hung and 52 when sandwiched.

When dealing on a soundproofing job requiring new construction, I would highly recommend MLV since it is effective when connected to the studs, although Green Glue is also effective. It depends entirely on what you feel most comfortable implementing.

When soundproofing an existing building, experts generally recommend adding Green Glue to the existing drywall to avoid a complete demolition. Always use 5/8″ thick gypsum for your soundproofing projects.

Mass Loaded Vinyl Uses

If you are looking for a material that can help improve the sound quality of your home or office, mass loaded vinyl may be the right choice for you. It is versatile, durable, and effective at reducing noise levels. With so many different uses, it is easy to see why mass loaded vinyl is such a popular choice among homeowners and businesses alike.

There are many different ways that mass loaded vinyl can be used to improve the sound quality of a room or space.

One of the most common ways that mass loaded vinyl is used is to line walls. This can be done by attaching the material to the studs of a wall using screws or nails. The mass loaded vinyl will act as an additional layer of insulation, helping to reduce noise levels.

Another popular way to use mass loaded vinyl is to create a barrier between two spaces. This can be done by installing it beneath a floor or ceiling, or by suspending it from the ceiling with wires. Mass loaded vinyl can also be used to seal gaps around doors and windows.

In addition to its soundproofing properties, mass loaded vinyl has a number of other uses. It is often used as an underlayment for carpeting, to help protect the floor from damage. It can also be used to insulate HVAC ductwork and piping.

Soundproofing Doors and Windows: Because of its mass, MLV will enhance the noise blocking capabilities of both doors and windows.

If you have a recording studio or a drum room at home and would like to prevent noise from leaking in or outside the room, I would highly recommend this product.

You should also consider investing in quiet drum sets and recording equipment to minimize noise as possible.

Dishwasher Insulation: Dishwashers are noisy and can turn your kitchen into a small rocket testing site.

Thermo-Tec insulation will get you sorted as it will dampen most of the dishwasher noises making your kitchen place quieter.

mass loaded vinyl sound barrierVehicle Soundproofing: Most of the automotive sound deadening mats use MLV in their architecture to reduce noise transmission.

A perfect example is Dynamat that offers both sound deadening and thermal insulation capabilities.

When glued to the bonnet side of the car, this material will help reduce engine noise and improve thermal insulation.

Check out my guide on comprehensive DIY under hood insulation.

Additionally, it also attached to the door panels to help reduce cabin noise by cutting down road noise.

This way, you get better stereo quality.

What Is Better Than Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Quietrock Drywall sheets are the best alternatives to mass loaded vinyl.

This product isn’t your regular gypsum drywall. However, it can improve the STC ratings of a wall by up to 15-20 STC points while it would take up to 4 sheets of regular drywall.

However, mass loaded vinyl and drywall can be installed together for maximum sound reducing capabilities.

All you need to do is sandwich the MLV sound barrier between the layers of drywall.

Here’s a link to a detailed guide on the best MLV soundproofing barrier alternatives available on the market today.

Alternatives?

Looking for a mass loaded vinyl alternative? There are a few options out there that can provide similar results.

One option is to use a product called Soundproof Drywall. This is a specialized type of drywall that contains a sound-damping material in the middle layer. It’s designed to reduce noise transmission and can be used in place of regular drywall in some applications.

Another option is to use an acoustical sealant. These products are applied to walls and ceilings and work by creating a barrier that absorbs sound. They’re typically used in commercial settings, but they can also be effective in residential applications.

Consider using soundproofing insulation. This is installed in the same way as traditional insulation, but it contains sound-damping materials that help to reduce noise transmission.

Acoustic blankets are made of a thin layer of sound-absorbing material sandwiched between two layers of fabric. They’re lightweight and easy to hang, and they’re available in a variety of colors and patterns. Acoustic blankets can also be used to create temporary walls or partitions in a room.

If you need a more permanent solution, consider soundproofing your walls you can buy acoustic panels or soundproofing matting, or you can hire a contractor to install soundproofing insulation in your walls. Soundproofing your walls will help to block out noise from outside the room, and it will also help to keep noise from echoing inside the room.

If you’re looking for a mass loaded vinyl alternative that’s both effective and affordable, consider using acoustic curtains or blankets. These materials are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, and they can be used to create temporary or permanent solutions to soundproofing a room.

Conclusion

MLV is a great soundproofing material that deals with both low and high-frequency sounds.

It’s a great product that any DIY enthusiast should consider using.

References:

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