Acoustic Plasterboard Guide: Where and How to Install

Man installing plasterboard

Last updated: April 2, 2021 at 12:37 pm

If you’re looking to soundproof a room (or several) in your house it can be confusing. Even if you’re not planning on doing the actual work yourself the range of products available is extensive. It’s best to understand the uses, pros and cons of each before you start, to ensure you select the best solution for your needs.

In this article:

We’ll cover all you need to know about acoustic plasterboard including how effective it is, where to use it and how.

What Is Acoustic Plasterboard?

Plasterboard is used to create a wall when building a house. In other countries is known as Sheetrock or drywall. Acoustic plasterboard is thicker and denser than normal plasterboard because it’s intended to block noise from penetrating it.

Some types of acoustic plasterboard also have an extra layer of soundproof material to enhance their effectiveness. Others have a higher density core. When it comes to soundproofing the more mass there is the more effective it is at blocking sound. This does affect the weight of the plasterboard, it’s also usually heavier.

Where Is It Commonly Used and How?

Acoustic plasterboard is used in the same way as regular plasterboard so it can be used in any room in the house. The only possible exception would be in a bathroom as you would need moisture resistant plasterboard there. It would be fairly unusual however to want to soundproof your bathroom.

If your walls are already stripped back to the joists then you can hang it exactly as you would with any plasterboard by screwing it to the joists. If not and the room isn’t too small then you could apply the acoustic board on top of your existing wall. Doing this you would ideally stagger the boards so the top layer covers then joins on the bottom layer.

Whichever option you choose, remember that soundproofing is all about filling the gaps. Once the walls are up for the best results you should use acoustic tape where the panels meet and acoustic sealant around the edges. You also need to remember floors transmit a lot on impact noise so if that’s what you’re hearing this will not help much.

The Living Room

Acoustic plasterboard can be used on a party wall (a wall you share with another house) to deal with to help soundproof the wall from noisy neighbours.

You may also want to soundproof your living room not to keep sound… out but to keep it in! If you live in a flat or a bungalow or have a baby that’s a very light sleeper, then you could be considering soundproofing to keep talking/tv noise from carrying through.

The Bedroom

This is definitely a room where you want to stop noise from coming in. There are a lot of different types of noise that could disturb the tranquility of your bedroom and also your sleep. Noisy neighbours, a busy road nearby, a local pub, or even an insomniac spouse who watches tv when they can’t sleep.

A Garage Conversion

A lot of people convert their garage to give them an extra usable room in the house. Interestingly a lot of the possible uses make noise! These include a home gym, a playroom for the kids, a music practice space, or a games room for older members of the house. Acoustic plasterboard would help deaden the noise but it also has another benefit. Garages aren’t generally very well insulated and so can get pretty cold. Being thicker than average plasterboard means it will insulate the room a little better and prevent heat being lost.

The Loft

Another popular choice for conversions. As a lot of the noise escapes through the floor though this is a key area where floor soundproofing should be your primary concern. Acoustic plasterboard would block noise from outside if you’re using it as a bedroom though. Also as it’s thicker it will again keep heat from escaping.

How Effective Is Acoustic Plasterboard?

This is a question that depends on a lot of factors:

  • Is it a single layer of plasterboard or double?
  • If double have you sandwiched any extra soundproofing materials between it?
  • Have you sealed up all the gaps? Including edges and areas cut out for sockets and light switches.
  • What type of noise are you trying to reduce – airborne or impact?

A single layer of acoustic plasterboard will reduce noise by around 35db as long as you seal all the gaps. A busy restaurant would have a noise level of about 70db. You would half this meaning the noise would be reduced to that of a whisper. So pretty decent overall. If you added an extra layer of plasterboard, and maybe soundproof foam between it, then almost no noise should get through.

Having said that, you do need to remember that the walls are only one part of a room. If you’ve used acoustic plasterboard but done nothing to soundproof the ceiling, the floor, the door and the windows then it may not be as quiet as you would like. Windows and doors, in particular, can let in a lot of noise because of the gaps around them. If you’re trying to impact block noise from travelling down, for example to a downstairs flat, then the walls will do almost nothing to prevent this

What Features to Look for in the Best Acoustic Plasterboard?

Weight

In general the more mass you have the more noise it will block. You should expect good acoustic plasterboard to be lighter than standard plasterboard.

Composition

For the best results, there should be more than one layer in the plasterboard. Some of the most popular manufacturers use layers of mass loaded vinyl, dense soundproof foam or fibreglass. Mass loaded vinyl can be effective on its own when added to plasterboard so it makes a big difference when used with other layers.

Thickness/density

The denser it is the better it will be at blocking noise. You should expect good acoustic plasterboard to be thicker than normal. The farther noise has to travel to get through something the more power it loses.

Comparing Against Similar Soundproofing Solutions

Mass loaded vinyl

A sheet of mass loaded vinyl will block around 25db of sound. If you sandwich it between two layers of plasterboard it will block the majority of sound in a similar way to acoustic plasterboard. MLV is very thin though and quite flexible so if you’re soundproofing an uneven space or a smaller room then it may be a better option. Remember many acoustic plasterboards include mass loaded vinyl as well as the other layers so it’s only a better option if you’d struggle to fit in acoustic plasterboard.

Green Glue

Green Glue is a substance applied between two layers of plasterboard. It converts noise to heat and reduces the sound transmitted by around 40db if used correctly. If you have the budget this doesn’t need to be an either/or. Using both should reduce the sound you hear to almost nothing.

Green Glue floor clips

You wouldn’t use plasterboard on the floor so we can’t compare these. Noise between the floors can be an issue though. If you want to complete the soundproofing job and prevent impact noise these clips are a great idea. This is particularly important if you live in a flat.

Acoustic tiles

These are used in recording studios and so would be the most effective at blocking all noise. Yes, even more than acoustic plasterboard. As you might imagine they are quite an expensive option though. If you’re planning on soundproofing several rooms it would usually be too expensive to be viable.

Some people also report being in a completely soundproof room as being eerie or unsettling so it might be a case that unless you’re living next to a 24-hour factory or a motorway then slightly less is more.

Acoustic sealant

This is more of an additional item than an alternative. If you have standard plasterboard then sealing any gaps would definitely help but not as much as the other options listed. Use this and acoustic tape as your finishing touches in your soundproof project for the most effective results.

Conclusion

If you’re completely remodelling your house or doing extensive DIY then acoustic plasterboard is a great choice throughout your house to ensure you can enjoy peace within your home. If you’re not and only have one or two problem rooms then it’s up to you if you’d find acoustic plasterboard, MLV, or green glue the best option. Remember it doesn’t have to be one or the other, many can be combined to block out all troublesome noise.

We haven’t discussed windows and doors here but they are an important element. Be sure to research these too while making your decision about how to proceed. Heavy doors, double glazing and soundproof blinds are all readily available. Once you’ve explored all the options you can decide what best fits your needs and budget.

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About the Author: AJ

Hi, my name's AJ! I write about living a quieter life, soundproofing tips and recommending the best quiet products here on Quiet Living.