In the modern world, where noise pollution has become an ever-present nuisance, the quest for a quieter and more peaceful environment has led to innovative solutions in construction and design. One such solution revolves around the battle of materials: soundproof plexiglass versus traditional glass.
Whether you’re building a home, an office space, or renovating a room, choosing between these materials can significantly impact your comfort and well-being. The importance of sound insulation cannot be overstated, as unwanted noise can disrupt our concentration, sleep, and overall quality of life.
In this blog post, I will be exploring the differences between plexiglass and glass. We’ll examine their unique properties, acoustic performance, and practical applications, helping you decide which material suits your needs best.
What is Plexiglass?
Recognized under various names such as acrylic, acrylic glass, or its scientific designation, poly (methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), plexiglass is a transparent thermoplastic derived from petroleum and usually produced in sheet form. It possesses notable qualities, including strength, durability, and lightweight nature, surpassing glass in impact resistance.Top of Form
Invented in the latter part of the 1920s, this material was officially branded as “Plexiglas” and introduced to the commercial market in the early 1930s. Plexiglass found extensive use in the military during World War II, particularly in constructing aircraft parts such as windshields, gun turrets, and canopies.
Soundproof Plexiglass vs. Glass vs. Polycarbonate Sound Transmission Class (STC)
|Material||Thickness (inches)||Sound Transmission Class (STC Rating)|
From the table above, it’s evident that plexiglass does act as a sound barrier to some extent. It reflects sound to the source. Because it’s less stiff than your average glass, it aids in sound dampening, too. Thus, we can conclude that plexiglass does an excellent job of reflecting sound waves rather than dampening them- think of it like a concrete wall.
Let’s analyze the data for each material and thickness:
- At 3/8 inches in thickness, it has an STC rating of 30.
- At 1/4 inches in thickness, it has an STC rating of 28.
- At 1/8 inch thickness, it has an STC rating of 23.
The data for plexiglass acrylic indicates that its sound insulation performance improves as the material becomes thicker. Thicker plexiglass has a higher STC rating, suggesting better soundproofing properties.
- At 3/8 inches in thickness, it has an STC rating of 34.
- At 1/4 inch thickness, it has an STC rating of 31.
- At 1/8 inch thickness, it has an STC rating of 30.
Glass also exhibits increased sound insulation performance with thicker dimensions, although it starts with a higher STC rating than plexiglass acrylic at the same thickness.
- At 3/8 inches in thickness, it has an STC rating of 34.
- At 1/4 inch thickness, it has an STC rating of 29.
- At 1/8 inch thickness, it has an STC rating of 25.
Polycarbonate, like plexiglass acrylic, demonstrates improved sound insulation capabilities with increased thickness.
- Thicker materials generally provide better sound insulation. This is consistent across all three materials in the table.
- Glass and polycarbonate have higher initial STC ratings at 3/8 inches thickness than plexiglass acrylic.
- Plexiglass acrylic performs the least effectively in sound insulation, with lower STC ratings than glass and polycarbonate at all thicknesses.
When choosing a material for soundproofing applications, it’s essential to consider the required STC rating and the material’s thickness. Thicker materials tend to offer better soundproofing, but the choice may also depend on other factors such as transparency, weight, and specific application requirements.
Plexiglass vs. Glass for Soundproofing?
From the key observations above, it’s clear that glass and polycarbonate beat plexiglass hands down regarding soundproofing. But how do the three compare when you examine other features, such as durability? Shatter resistance, UV light protection and so forth?
Well, for me, plexiglass takes the lead in the overall comparison. You might want to consider negligible soundproofing differences and go for acrylic glass.
Plexiglass vs. Glass Comparison
When choosing a material for various applications, durability is a crucial factor to consider.
- Plexiglass (Acrylic): Plexiglass is highly regarded for its toughness and impact resistance. It is approximately 17 times more impact-resistant than glass of the same thickness. This makes it an excellent choice for applications where breakage is a concern, such as safety shields, protective barriers, and outdoor signage. However, it can still scratch more easily than glass.
- Glass: Traditional glass is more brittle compared to plexiglass. It can shatter upon impact, potentially posing a safety hazard due to sharp glass fragments. However, tempered or laminated glass, specially treated for increased strength, offers better impact resistance and safety characteristics than standard glass.
- Material Cost
- Plexiglass: Plexiglass is typically less expensive than glass. The price can vary according on the thickness, size, and brand. Thicker plexiglass sheets tend to cost more than thinner ones.
- Glass: Glass can be more expensive than plexiglass, especially if it’s a specialized type of glass, such as tempered or laminated. The glass cost also depends on its thickness, size, and additional features like tinting or coatings.
- Installation Cost
- Plexiglass: Plexiglass is lightweight and easier to handle than glass, which can reduce installation costs. However, it may require more frequent replacement due to scratching and yellowing over time.
- Glass: Installing glass can be more labour-intensive and requires specialized tools and skills. The installation cost can be higher, but glass is more durable in the long run.
- Maintenance Cost
- Plexiglass: Plexiglass is prone to scratches and can become discolored or hazy when exposed to UV radiation. This may require occasional polishing or replacement, adding to maintenance costs.
- Glass: Glass is more scratch-resistant and durable than plexiglass. It requires less maintenance over time, making it a cost-effective option in the long term.
In summary, plexiglass is generally more affordable upfront and offers advantages such as lightness and customization flexibility. However, it may require more frequent replacement and maintenance, which can add to long-term costs.
Plexiglass versus glass, which is best for soundproofing?
Plexiglass sound barriers are effective, even though they may not be the best material available for sound reduction. Compared to glass of similar thickness, plexiglass performs nearly as well but with a slight advantage going to glass.
However, plexiglass is a cost-effective choice because you can either opt for thicker plexiglass or use more sheets of it for the same cost as glass. This approach can deliver superior soundproofing performance for your budget. Therefore, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly soundproofing solution, plexiglass sound barriers are the preferred choice since they offer better value for performance.
On the other hand, if achieving the highest level of soundproofing performance is your priority, and the cost is not a significant concern, laminated glass emerges as the top choice. It excels in overall soundproofing effectiveness, but this superior performance comes at a premium price.
Using Plexiglass for Soundproofing?
Numerous techniques exist for utilizing plexiglass to soundproof your windows without removing any of your current glass. These cost-effective approaches significantly reduce noise levels in your space and effectively insulate against undesirable sounds.
Soundproof Window Inserts
Soundproof window inserts consist of acrylic plexiglass tailored to match your window’s dimensions perfectly. They are designed to be installed on the interior side of your existing window, covering the entire space within the frame. This presents an excellent solution for converting outdated, drafty windows into efficient noise barriers, ensuring a serene living environment.
Once installed, you can enhance their soundproofing capabilities by sealing the edges. These inserts are compatible with various window types and can effectively obstruct 50-70% of undesirable noise.
Soundproof Storm Window
In contrast to inserts meant for interior attachment to your existing windows, soundproof storm windows are designed to be affixed externally. This approach allows you to enjoy the advantages of conventional storm windows while minimizing external noise intrusion into your home.
Conventional storm windows can reduce sound levels by up to 50%. However, you can achieve even more efficient noise reduction by opting for storm windows equipped with soundproofing features like laminated and insulated glass.
Magnetic Acrylic Soundproof Windows
Magnetic acrylic soundproof windows offer a straightforward and non-invasive method to enhance the sound-blocking capabilities of your current windows. These inserts are crafted from an acrylic sheet designed for soundproofing purposes. What sets them apart is the way they affix to your window.
Instead of requiring screws for installation, these inserts adhere magnetically to your window frame. This approach ensures that there’s no risk of causing damage during setup, and they can be effortlessly removed later if necessary. They prove highly effective in reducing unwanted noise, achieving a noise reduction of up to 70%. Furthermore, they present a cost-effective alternative, 40-60% more economical than replacing your existing window.
Improving Plexiglass Performance for Soundproofing
Create an air Gap.
An air gap is among the most effective elements of double glazing. When applying plexiglass as insulation for your window, maintain a space of air between it and the current window. This inactive air layer contributes an additional level of both sound and thermal insulation.
Seal all the Edges
Sound vibrations can travel through small openings, readily moving between the plexiglass and the nearby structure or the other way around. To prevent this, it’s advisable to use weatherstripping, foam tape, or caulk to seal the edges of the plexiglass sheet.
The Mass Law, also known as Berger’s Law, is a fundamental concept in soundproofing. It articulates that when the mass of a material doubles, there is a corresponding reduction of 6dB in the perceived sound levels.
Plexiglass Alternatives for Soundproofing
While plexiglass can be an effective material for soundproofing, you can consider several alternative materials. Here are some plexiglass alternatives for soundproofing:
- Soundproof windows: One effective alternative to plexiglass for soundproofing windows is using specialized soundproof windows. These are designed with multiple layers of glass, laminated or insulated glass, and air gaps to reduce noise transmission through windows significantly. Soundproof windows can be particularly effective at blocking out external noise and are often more efficient than adding plexiglass sheets to existing windows.
- Double Glazing or Triple Glazing Windows: Installing double or triple-glazed windows with an air gap between the panes can significantly reduce noise transmission. They have multiple layers of glass and provide better insulation.
- Soundproof Curtains: Heavy and thick curtains from soundproofing materials can hang over windows. They help absorb sound and reduce noise transmission through the window.
- Window Blinds: Like soundproof curtains, sound-blocking window blinds offer a non-invasive approach to achieving a quieter home without incurring significant expenses or making lasting alterations. Various brands offer these blinds, providing multiple colors and designs. Fortunately, these options are pretty budget-friendly, making introducing some tranquility into your living area feasible without straining your finances. Additionally, soundproof window blinds effectively eliminate unwanted light and heat, mirroring the benefits of soundproof curtains.
In conclusion, choosing between soundproof plexiglass and traditional glass largely depends on your needs and preferences. Both materials have unique advantages and drawbacks; understanding them is crucial for making an informed decision.
Soundproof plexiglass offers an excellent compromise between noise reduction and clarity. Its ability to dampen sound while maintaining transparency makes it versatile for various applications. However, it may not match the thermal insulation and overall durability of glass. On the other hand, traditional glass provides exceptional clarity and insulation but may require additional soundproofing measures to achieve the same level of noise reduction.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.