Mass-loaded Vinyl (MLV)

Mass-loaded vinyl is heavy, thin, and flexible, which makes it a perfect soundproofing material for specific kinds of applications.



Mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is a flexible sound barrier product that is heavily weighted. In most modern products, the weight is provided by calcium silicate, although barium sulfate is also still used. It's this added weight that provides the soundproofing element of mass. Name-brand MLV products include Acoustiblok, Dynil (Dynamat or DynaPad), and SheetBlok.

Characteristics of MLV

Mass-loaded vinyl comes in several thicknesses, with the following approximate sound transmission class (STC) values:

Thickness
(inches)
Weight
(pounds per square foot)
Sound Transmission Class
1/160.521
1/8126–27
1/4231–32

MLV can be nailed, screwed, stapled, or hung (using reinforcement and grommets).

Advantages of MLV

The features that make mass-loaded vinyl so interesting for soundproofing applications are its thinness and its flexibility.

Thin:
A sheet of MLV that is 1/8 inch thick typically weighs about 1 pound per square foot. For comparison, that's more than twice the mass in an equivalent thickness of drywall. If space is at a premium in your soundproofing project, MLV offers a solution.

Flexible:
The classic source of soundproofing mass, drywall, comes in rigid panels. MLV, in contrast, is useful in situations where you need a flexible sound barrier, such as for wrapping around pipes. It can also be transported in a roll and used in a temporary installation as a sound curtain or blanket.

Disadvantage of MLV

The main disadvantage of MLV is the cost: $1.00 to $2.50 (US dollars) per square foot. If you're looking for a source of mass and your application doesn't require the thinness or flexibility of MLV, standard 5/8-inch drywall is much cheaper, and at the same time provides you with more mass per unit area.

MLV Soundproofing Applications

So when is mass-loaded vinyl a cost-effective soundproofing solution? There are three kinds of applications where MLV is a great option:
  • You need a very thin layer of mass. For some floors or walls with tight space constraints, the space saved by using MLV rather than drywall could justify the higher cost.
  • You need a flexible source of mass. MLV can be used to wrap columns or pipes, to line ductwork, or to fill gaps around doors and windows.
  • You have a temporary application or you need a portable source of mass. MLV can be used as a portable sound blanket or noise control curtain.

For a permanent installation, if there's no reason not to use rigid mass panels, then drywall damped with a viscoelastic compound such as Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound will typically give you better performance than MLV, especially for lower frequency noise, and will also cost less.

MLV Choices

In purchasing mass-loaded vinyl, your main decision will be what thickness you want. The most common thicknesses are 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch; 1/16-inch sheets are also available. The thickness you choose will be based on your space limitations, your soundproofing requirements, and your budget.

Some MLV suppliers offer a variety of additional options:

  • Color selection. MLV is usually black or gray, but can be found in other colors as well, including translucent and transparent.
  • Peel-and-stick adhesive backing. This adhesive is not strong enough for permanent installation of MLV, but can be useful for temporary positioning.
  • Addition of a foam layer. This adds a decoupling element to the soundproofing.
  • Enhanced flexibility. Some name-brand products offer greater flexibility than standard MLV. This is made possible by alternate manufacturing processes that are generally quite costly, and that cost will be reflected in the product's final price.

A number of suppliers offer generic MLV that is less expensive than the name-brand products, and they still provide the essential elements that make MLV a good choice for the right applications: A lot of mass in a thin, flexible layer.




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