Last updated: December 14, 2020 at 13:47 pm
Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) is mentioned a lot on Quiet Living, so we thought it was about time we dedicate a full article to this great soundproof material.
MLV is an incredibly versatile material, and can be used on walls, in cars, on floors and pretty much anywhere where you can fix it securely. Because of this it’s very popular when looking for cheap and reliable soundproofing.
In this article:
We’ll go through why Mass Loaded Vinyl it’s so good for soundproofing, advantages and disadvantages, how to install on an existing wall and decent alternatives.
What Is Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)?
MLV is a thick, flexible material which is specifically designed to act as a soundproof layer. It is sometimes called a Limp Mass Barrier and has two main parts. The first part is an element which has a naturally high mass, Calcium Silicate or Barium Sulfate is often used. This element is what gives MLV it’s soundproof quality. The second part is vinyl and this is the part that allows MLV to be as flexible as it is.
What Is MLV Used For and Why It’s Used For Soundproofing
There are three features of MLV that make it so perfect for soundproofing projects.
- The first is that is acts a sound barrier. The thickness of the material blocks noise from passing through it mans into other rooms.
- The second is that it also absorbs sound. Most soundproofing materials either absorb or block but MLV does both which makes it doubly effective.
- The third feature is its flexibility. Many soundproofing materials are rigid and come in sheets or tiles which can make it more difficult to install in tight spaces or ones that are irregularly shaped. MLV bends and can be used to wrap around pipes or curves making it far more versatile.
These are the main soundproofing features along with being fire resistant (but not fireproof) and completely safe to be placed in a home when properly installed.
MLV has numerous uses. It’s fairly obvious but it’s used a lot as a soundproof layer to add to (mainly) walls. This makes it perfect for party walls, and anywhere to help prevent sound getting in or out. Main areas are:
Floors – If you’re remodeling you could add MLV to the floor or ceiling studs before the boards are laid. This will minimise both impact and airborne noise. If your floor is already down you can attach MLV to the floor using spray adhesive. You can paint it in an attractive colour and leave it as it is or lay a carpet on top of it.
Doors and windows – While you can’t cover your windows with MLV (unless you really hate being able to see outside!) you can create curtains you can hang over windows and doors to block the noise that comes in. MLV doesn’t look great and comes in blank or grey but believe it or not you can paint it! If you do it carefully you can make a pretty feature out of it.
Machinery – It can be used on noisy machinery to make it quieter. For example, if your washing machine is in or near your main living area you can wrap it in MLV to deaden the noise coming out into the room. If you live in a part of the world where air conditioning is common you can wrap the ducts and/or pipes to reduce noise caused by clanking or movement.
Generator – If you have a generator either at home or work you’ll have noticed that they can be noisy. Happily, you can make a box to cover it. If you line the box with MLV you’ll notice a substantial reduction in the noise you can hear. Just ensure you make it big enough that the generator won’t overheat.
Car – If you love driving a powerful car but don’t enjoy feeling like your ears are bleeding when you accelerate then you can line the interior of your car with MLV. If you do it properly it will reduce engine noise as well as the noise of tires on the road and from other road users.
How To Install MLV On An Existing Wall
If you want the best results, then you should fasten the MLV onto the studs under your existing wall. As aesthetics wouldn’t be a factor, you can fasten it down very securely and use tape or sealant to fill in any gaps. This will maximise its effectiveness as even closing small gaps can make a huge difference.
If you’re not in a position to do this, don’t worry. It will take a bit more work but you can still install MLV to be just as effective. You will still need to add a layer of drywall over the top as the MLV wouldn’t look great even if you painted it. This will reduce the size of the room so if the room you’re thinking about is small please bear this in mind before you start.
- Measure your wall and cut your MLV to size. You’ll also need to cut out gaps for any power sockets Do this carefully as you want it to fit exactly. Remember, measure twice and cut once! MLV is thick so scissors will not work. Your best bet is a Stanley/utility knife
- Use a stud finder to locate the studs in your wall as this is what you need to attach the MLV and the new layer of drywall to
- Place the first piece on MLV on the wall. You’ll need someone to help you with this at you won’t be able to this alone. Once the vinyl is in place attach it to the studs. It is up to you what you use to fasten it. Nails, screws and staples will all work. You need to place a fastener at least every 12 inches. You want it to be secure but remember every new hole is a weakness in the noise reduction properties
- Keep going until the whole wall is covered.
- Use fasteners to seal up where the MLV meets the sides of the wall
- It’s not essential but it’s recommended you use acoustic tape to seal all the joins between the pieces of MLV
- Use a sealant to seal around the area where your power sockets and light switches are.
- Install drywall on top of the MLV
Alternatives To Mass Loaded Vinyl
There are lots of alternatives and they all have their pros and cons. Which one is most appropriate depends on where you’re planning on using them. We speak about a lot of different ways to soundproof, so it would be worth reading through some of our previous articles.
For floor soundproofing then a thick underlayment is a great option. As you might expect this is used mostly to reduce impact noise if you have wood or laminate floors. You lay it under the floor to provide a cushioned layer to absorb the noise. If you pair it with thick rugs then you’ll get an even better result. It doesn’t do as much for airborne noise, however.
Another easier option is sound clips. You place them on the floor beams to reduce the vibration between surfaces which reduces the sound between floors.
For walls you can try a couple of different things. You can put up an additional layer of drywall to increase the barrier sound has to travel through. You can fit acoustic tiles to the wall either under or over the drywall. These tiles are used for recording studios so they are extremely effective. They are very expensive though so if you want to do your whole house they likely won’t be an option. For a cheaper option, you could install egg cartons or polystyrene sheets under your drywall.
Green Glue is a glue that you can use to plug holes and fill in spaces. It transforms sound waves into heat energy so it can be used anywhere hard to reach to improve the performance.
Whether you use drywall or acoustic tiles or egg cartons, hanging rugs or decorative blankets on the wall will also help reduce noise as well as being a decorative feature.
For the windows you have few options. There are now several manufacturers who produce soundproof blinds. They won’t block all sounds but they’ll block up to fifty per cent. There are also soundproof curtains which again block a reasonable amount of sound. If you pair it with the soundproof blinds the majority of sound will be blocked.
The best soundproofing option for windows is double and triple glazed windows though. If you have decent quality double glazing then applying even one of the other options will make any sounds which get though very quiet.
While there are alternatives, Mass Loaded Vinyl is a great option for the majority of your soundproofing projects. It’s light, flexible and relatively easy to install. It is a little more expensive than some options, but also significantly cheaper than others, acoustic tiles for example.
Being extremely versatile in a way that the other options are not, it allows installation in a wide range of places.
Take your time and install MLV carefully and you’ll be very happy with the results.