Mass-loaded vinyl soundproofing is one of the most popular and affordable materials for soundproofing.
The introduction of MLV in the 1960s as a powerful soundproofing option was a major milestone for engineers and architects.
Not only does this product offer effective noise reduction capabilities but also, it’s easy to install.
This product is highly effective in a variety of soundproofing projects, including walls, ceilings, and even the floors.
In this guide, we shall be looking at different methods on how mass-loaded vinyl soundproofing works and why it should be one of your favorite sound-deadening materials.
Why Is Mass Loaded Vinyl Soundproofing Important?
Mass-loaded vinyl is quite affordable, easy to install, and an effective soundproofing option that blocks airborne and impact noise.
It’s a greener and more reliable substitute to lead soundproofing.
MLV barriers are made of salts, tiny metal particles and sand that enable product to reduce noise without the stigma attached to lead materials.
It’s simply attached to studs or joists and then followed by covering seams and joints with a barrier or acoustic caulk.
Once the acoustic sealant/ caulk is applied, the seams must be taped for maximum soundproofing performance.
Mass-loaded vinyl sound barriers can block most of the everyday noise you encounter, ranging from construction sounds, traffic noises, and even noises from buses, trains, or aircraft.
If you’re a DIY soundproofing person, then the MLV sound barrier is one of the best options you’ll find.
If you’re regularly troubled by noise from your neighbors’ yard, MLV will help you block the yard noise
How Does Mass Loaded Vinyl Soundproofing Work?
Mass-loaded vinyl soundproofing is a “reflective barrier” rather than an “absorptive barrier” like acoustic foam panels.
It doesn’t absorb sounds like soundproofing paint or acoustical wallpaper, but instead, it blocks or contains sound waves.
Therefore, this helps keep noise inside a space or outside a space.
MLV serves as a sound barrier regardless of which side of the wall you install it on.
However, mass-loaded vinyl gives a great soundproofing power when combined with other soundproofing materials, including drywall soundproofing, sound clips, etc.
Besides construction soundproofing, mass-loaded vinyl is also highly effective in soundproofing air conditioner compressors, numerous industrial applications, noise deadening home entertainment systems, and even soundproofing radio stations.
What are the Types of Mass Loaded Vinyl Soundproofing?
MLV sound barriers are available in different thicknesses and weights.
They range between 0.5 lbs/sqft to 2lbs/sqft, with the most common ones being 1.0lbs/sqft.
Even though the weight constantly changes, the density rarely does, but thickness does change.
So, in reality, 2 psf is 1/4″ thick while 1 psf Mass Loaded Vinyl is 1/8″ thick.
To create MLV barriers, a polymer is extruded at high temperature and pressure through a screw and chamber.
The liquefied polymer is then mixed with additives, the most common ones being calcium carbonate.
In the past, additives such as barium-sulfate and lead were used.
When it comes to MLV sound barriers, there are two main polymer bases- they include Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA) and PolyVinyl Chloride (PVC).
PVC is naturally rigid, and so an additive known as a plasticizer is then added to give it flexibility.
Unfortunately, plasticizer breaks down with time, and they off-gas at room temperature resulting to unpleasant odors
On the other hand, EVA membranes don’t require plasticizers and are naturally pliable.
Where to Buy Mass Loaded Vinyl Locally
Wondering where to buy mass-loaded vinyl locally?
Well, you can shop for MLV sound barriers from your local brick and motor hardware store or alternatively get it online.
For example, you can get Noise Grabber Mass Loaded Vinyl off from Amazon or get it from the Home Depot store near you.
eBay is also an ideal place where you can also shop for a variety of MLV sound barriers for your soundproofing projects.
How to Install Mass Loaded Vinyl for Soundproofing?
Mass-loaded vinyl is equally effective whether attached over the wall directly, sandwiched between layers of drywall, plaster, or plywood.
It does well even when soundproofing on existing walls or even during the construction phase.
Independent laboratory tests show that there’s no advantage install rigidly or limply. You can install it in whatever manner that’s convenient to you.
When installing on bare ceiling joists or wall studs, it’s quite easy to install parallel to the framing.
In this case, MLV should be installed parallel to the studs as it will allow you to press on the seams during sealing.
When installing on existing walls (plaster or drywall), you should first locate the studs and mark them with a chalk line.
In this case, mass-loaded vinyl can be installed horizontally or vertically since the existing walls have seams. (Source)
- Measure the distance between the floor and the ceiling and then subtract 1⁄8″ – ¼” from the length obtained.
- Then place MLV on the floor and cut to length
- You should use a straight edge or T-square to cut a square edge and then use a utility knife to cut the mass-loaded vinyl to length.
- Get someone to help position the length of MLV over the wall and make sure to maintain an equal gap along with the ceiling and floor.
- For quicker installation, I would recommend a Pneumatic Cap Stapler to fasten every 8” along the studs and the top plate
- Hammer a nail and washer for every 24” On Center framing into the bottom and top plate between each stud.
- Watch out not to cover the electrical outlets. Locate the electrical outlets and press the mass-loaded vinyl against the box. Use a razor to cut along the edges.
- For best noise reduction, I would recommend Putty Pads over the electrical boxes prior to installing the MLV sound barrier.
MLV Sound Barrier Alternatives
Most of the products recommended below can serve as either substitute, but I would call them complements.
When used alongside mass-loaded vinyl, these materials take soundproofing to a whole new level.
1. Acoustic foam Panels
Acoustic foam panels don’t block sound but rather absorb it.
This means that outside noise will still find entry into your room regardless of installing acoustic foam panels.
However, when installed inside a room, let’s say drum room, they will absorb echoes and reverbs, improving the audio quality you get from your music system.
When used in combination with MLV sound barriers, you get the best soundproofing.
This is because MLV will block noise from leaking in or outside the room, while acoustic foam will absorb noise from bouncing off the walls.
Here is a detailed guide on how soundproof foam works.
Drywall plus mass-loaded vinyl combination gives the best soundproofing.
Simply sandwich MLV between two layers of drywall sheets, and then you’re good to go.
This combination is quite powerful and can block all sorts of noises, including bass noise from your neighbors.
On Mass Loaded Vinyl Soundproofing
Mass-loaded vinyl uses are endless.
This product is not only used in home soundproofing but also in automotive soundproofing.
For instance, you will find it in-car sound deadening mats designed to reduce engine noise and car cabin noise.
When used for home soundproofing alongside other sound-absorbing materials, you get the best soundproofing results.
Hi, my name is Todd R. Bressler and I am the founder of this soundproofing blog. I’m a DIY enthusiast from Cincinnati, the city that just beat New York for the City That Never Sleeps Award in 2020. (Original) I have been in the DIY soundproofing industry for close to 5 years, running a YouTube channel and a Podcast show every Saturday. I started Crafty Soundproofing to help you learn the basics of “self defending yourself against noise”
Have an idea worth sharing? Please contact me and I’ll be happy to respond ASAP.