Friday, March 16, 2007

Sound-Proofing with Mass-Loaded Vinyl

Is your old house noisy too? I'm not just talking squeaks and creaks in the floorboards- we're used to those. I'm talking about being able to hear a whispered conversation through the walls. Or floors. Which is not so much a problem for just Sean and I- but wethinks that when we have someone renting out the basement, we want a wee bit more privacy.
So, I started looking in to how to do some sound-proofing.
The solution: Mass-loaded vinyl attached to the ceiling. What the heck is mass-loaded vinyl anyway?
Well, let's do some word-deconstruction here.

Vinyl: Any of various typically tough, flexible, shiny plastics, often used for coverings and clothing- and especially records.

Mass: A property of matter equal to the measure of an object's resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion. The mass of an object is not dependent on gravity and therefore is different from but proportional to its weight.

Mass+Loaded+Vinyl: Very very VERY heavy flexible vinyl (b/c it's loaded with lots of mass, apparently). That's the laywoman's explanation.

Ok, end of physics lesson. (More info on the product here.)
The real story here is that, after a bit of internet research, we (read: I) decided that MLV was the optimal solution. One sheet of it, under drywall, can give a wall an Sound Transmisson Class of 51- which is apparently pretty darn good. Sean looked at my research and agreed, and then he went to go pick up our order. Good thing he took his brother and a heavy-duty truck. They told us it was heavy, but we didn't realize how heavy. About 200 lbs. for a 200 sqft roll.
So they brought it home.
They lugged it down the stairs.
And then they looked up and asked: How the heck are we going to get this heavy stuff up on the CEILING?!?

See, everything I read about installation suggested installing it under floors. That would make sense if we were re-doing a floor, but we aren't. We have access to basement ceilings, and we aren't about to tear up the hardwood upstairs. The gentleman I spoke to assured me that this type of installation would work- but it would require more manpower. More manpower, indeed.

After we did the kitchen ceiling with a makeshift lift made out of 2x4's, we decided we need to rent a drywall panel lifter for the big room. I had enough of holding up heavy, clumsy vinyl with my head and arms while Sean wielded the drill as quickly as possible. (And he had enough of me yelling "Hurry- umm, hurry, my arms are going to FALLLLLLL OOOOOFFFFFFFF!")

About the product: everything I've read about it sounds great. So far, we think it will make a really big difference. Keep your ears open, and when we're done, I'll post an update for you.


Brooklyn Row House said...

One of the recording studios I built had 1/8" sheet lead sandwiched between double layers of 5/8" drywall. We picked it up from a radiology supplier. It's the same stuff they use is X-Ray suites. That was a fun job (not).

Peter said...

Excellent article on soundproofing.
Drywall and mass loaded vinyl are good soundproofing materials.
I have heard of soundproofing drywall called Quietrock. It has more mass and damping capabilities and provides a higher STC.
To completely reduce and eliminate the level of noise in the room, seal all areas where noise may enter with soundproof windows and doors. Acoustical caulk is very important to seal all the gaps.