Soundproofing Material

An overview of the kinds of soundproofing material most commonly used, for their effectiveness and practicality.



There are many construction materials that are advertised as having noise reduction characteristics. Some are highly effective as soundproofing material, with test data to prove it, while others have only slight effect or even make misleading claims. Different noise frequencies and different transmission modes call for different materials installed in different locations; this is where your background knowledge can steer you toward the best solutions for your situation, and keep you from wasting your money and effort on ineffective approaches.

Effective Soundproofing Materials

Here are the most commonly used materials that are effective for soundproofing in walls, floors, and ceilings.

Panels

(for walls, floors, and ceilings):
    drywall panels
  • Drywall (also called wallboard, plasterboard, or gypsum board), such as Sheetrock. An excellent and inexpensive source of mass, which is a key element in soundproofing. Drywall is a great cheap soundproofing material.

  • Damped drywall. Drywall which incorporates a sound damping layer; examples are SilentFX, QuietRock, and Supress. These panels have superb soundproofing properties. (Note that you can also get the same results more cheaply by creating your own damped drywall, by applying damping compound between two sheets of regular drywall.)

  • Sound-deadening fiberboard (also call soundboard or acoustical board), such as SoundChoice or Homasote. Because of their low mass, these are not the best choice for soundproofing walls, but are sometimes useful in floors as a spacing layer if additional mass is not needed. They don't provide damping, decoupling, or absorption.
mass-loaded vinyl roll

Mass-loaded vinyl

(MLV). A highly dense, flexible membrane sold under various brand names such as Acoustiblok and SheetBlok. A good source of mass, but expensive.
  • MLV is good for filling gaps, and for wrapping ducts, pipes, and metal columns, where a flexible sound barrier is needed.
  • As a layer in soundproofing walls, floors, and ceilings, there are alternatives that are more effective and cheaper than MLV. (Drywall is a cheaper source of mass, and Green Glue provides better damping across all frequencies.)
Owens Corning EcoTouch fiberglass insulation

Insulation.

Loosely packed fiber provides excellent sound absorption, which is a factor in soundproofing, albeit a minor one. Standard fiberglass insulation is as effective as mineral wool, and much less costly. Foams give great thermal insulation but are actually poor for soundproofing.

Sound curtains.

While ordinary curtains or blankets won't help with soundproofing, there do exist noise control curtains, which are industrial products that incorporate a heavy layer of mass-loaded vinyl.

Green Glue noiseproofing compound

Damping compound

(viscoelastic adhesive), such as Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound or QuietGlue Pro. Used as the damping layer between layers of drywall, plywood, or subflooring. This substance is a highly effective and economical noise reducer and is one of the few ways to address the low-frequency noise from music, home theaters, construction machinery, etc. Not all brands of viscoelastic adhesive provide similar damping capability; for brands other than Green Glue or QuietGlue Pro, check their test data before purchasing.
acoustical sealant

Acoustical sealant

(sometimes called acoustical caulk). Important for sealing seams, to prevent sound leakage. Without proper sealing, the effectiveness of all the other soundproofing components will be dramatically reduced, as the noise will simply find its way through the cracks.

Hardware for decoupling.

Includes resilient sound clips and drywall furring channel or "hat channel"
RSIC-1 resilient sound isolation clip
(sometimes confused with resilient channel, which covers an assortment of non-standard items). Correct installation of decoupling hardware is very important. Although decoupling is a highly effective element of soundproofing, note that it can actually increase transmission of low-frequency noise, by creating a new resonance chamber.

Pre-built units.

In addition to raw building supplies, there are also pre-built units such as windows and doors engineered to be soundproof, which work very well and can save you time and money. You can even get a complete portable miniature soundproof room.

Materials that Do NOT Block Sound

What about egg crates, foam panels, carpet squares, or mattresses? These materials, though commonly suggested as inexpensive soundproofing solutions, simply don't work for blocking sound. You can avoid frustration and wasted effort by skipping these approaches.

Read more: Soundproofing myths



See also:
Materials Used in Soundproofing Floors
Basic Principles of Soundproofing





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