Mass Loaded Vinyl: What is it, Alternatives, and Correct Uses

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Do you have a neighbor who plays very loud music or has an overly barking dog?

Is there really loud vehicular noise near your home?

There is unnerving noise all around us. I was really troubled with the sound of my neighbor’s loud music. Whatever and how much ever I said, he never listened to me! I finally decided to soundproof my walls to get rid of the blinding noise and keep my peace intact.

I discovered Mass Loaded Vinyl and it changed my life. I used MLV on the wall of my home and the effect has been so great! I barely ever hear any noises anymore.

What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Mass loaded vinyl, or MLV, is a heavy, limp vinyl sheeting material that usually has been impregnated with metal particles to increase its mass.

Mass loaded vinyl is a, surprisingly, thin barrier material that adds mass to walls and ceilings to block any kind of noise.

This sound blocking and flexible material is also known as “Limp Mass Barrier“.

Mass Loaded Vinyl Alternatives

1. Green Glue VS Mass Loaded Vinyl

Adding a layer of the drywall along with green glue will result in better efficiency and noise dampening when it comes to walls.

Green glue is an acoustic adhesive that is used for soundproofing very frequently. It works really well to seal small holes and cracks in the walls. Moreover, unlike MLV, green glue looks just like the wall.

A layer of green glue between 2 drywalls is a very effective solution to curb excessive noise.

Here’s an effective green glue I found on Amazon. It greatly reduces airborne and noise impact.

2. Hat Channel & Sound Clips

Hat channel and sound clips are attached directly to the floor beams, with drywall to the channels afterward. They reduce noise transmission between floors to a great extent. They reduce vibrations and noise to a great extent.

They are cheaper than MLVs but even if you find some who aren’t, keep looking- there are plenty of options.

3. Acoustic Curtains

As we already discussed, MLV curtains do block sound and make doors and windows noise proof. But let’s be honest, they not the best-looking home accessories out there.

Instead of the very dense MLV curtains, you can have a look at acoustic curtains.

Though they are not as effective as mass loaded vinyl curtains, they do block sound very well.

Here’s a great acoustic curtain from Yakamok. It blocks up to 85-99% of sunlight and 100% UV. It comes in several colors, but if you’d like better sunlight blocking, consider purchasing a darker shade.

What is an MLV made from?

An MLV is made of a combination of calcium silicate- a high mass ingredient, barium sulfate, and the main ingredient- vinyl.

An MLV is a thick, viscous material that has elastic features too. When stretched it returns in the previous shape once the stress stops.

The elasticity of the material makes it very easy for it to absorb any sound vibrations and retain its shape again.

Moreover, vinyl is a very versatile product. It is water-resistant and very durable. It gives the MLV flexibility, “the limpness” and, is a naturally occurring, high mass element.

Types of Mass Loaded Vinyl

1. Fiberglass

Fiberglass is often used for piping, ductwork, or garbage chutes. A combination of fiberglass with an MLV absorbs sound waves and blocks noise.

Fiberglass is a lightweight acoustic product.

2. Foil

The main reason to use foil with an MLV is to reduce unwanted noises coming from pipes and ducts. It can also be combined with fiberglass.

3. Aluminum

Due to high durability, an MLV combines with aluminum works great when exposed to commercial and industrial areas.

It can also be combined with fiberglass, ceramic fiber, or stone wool.

4. Foam

Since foam breaks and separates vibration between two materials, and it has an open-cell design in an MLV- it ensures the very best sound absorption.

5. Combination- Reinforced

When a Mass Loaded Vinyl is combined with a high strength poly fabric, it results in long durability and hanging strength- it is called a reinforced MLV.

You can see this type in acoustic curtain panels.

Uses of Mass Loaded Vinyl

1. Doors and Windows

The main problem with noise usually occurs because of the doors and windows- especially if they are not high quality.

If you have a home studio and would like to practice your music without any disturbance, you can hang special blankets or drapes to cover these areas and help reduce noise leakage to the outside.

By using MLV blankets, the outside noise will be eliminated and you can practice in peace.

MLV curtains might not be the best aesthetics for your home, as I already said, you can always paint over them!

2. Car and Other Vehicles

Isn’t it just annoying when you just want to listen to some music in your car and the outside rattling noises keep irritating you?

MLV is used in vehicles to enhance sound quality, enhance bass, and help in the reduction of audio distortion. The more surfaces of a car interior are covered with Mass Loaded Vinyl, the better the bass will be.

The material can easily be cut to shape and size, then applied to the inside of doors, under-car floors, as well as line entire trunk compartments.

It reduces the outside sounds which directly makes the sound of the music itself a lot clearer.

If you have problems relating to rattling and vibrations coming from the road, a product like Noico really does the job.

3. Soundproofing HVAC Ductwork and Pipes

You can use MLVs to cover noisy pipes since MLVs are mainly used for noise dampening. The usage of the material will accelerate sound absorption and reduce noise leakage.

You can use MLV as a limp wrap.

4. Machinery & Appliances

The original use of MLV is to soundproof noisy machinery.

The sheets of vinyl are designed to be hung on rods and frames, which are then arranged around noisy machinery to act as a sound screen.

Acoustical blankets are another portable soundproofing agents to use on your machinery or appliances (e.g.: washing machines, dishwashers)

Mass Loaded Vinyl products like Thermo-Tec have one side of the roll with adhesive. This makes it an easy job to line either the washer itself or the washer cabinet with the sound dampening material.

Using products like this, you can turn your dishwasher into a stealth one.

5. Add a Sound Deadening Layer Above Suspended Ceilings

If you have above floor neighbors that create noise, then you might consider adding a layer of MLV directly onto joists and beams above suspended ceilings. These will absorb the sound and create a dampening effect.

Another way to go about this is to lay the sheets of vinyl over the top of the ceiling tiles, on the floor joist side of the ceiling. Just make sure that the material is strong enough to hold the weight of the mass loaded vinyl.

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About MLV

1. How Do You Install MLV Under the Drywall?

Here’s a step-by-step procedure to install an MLV under the drywall.

  1. Measure your wall. Deduct 1/8th or 1/4th of an inch and cut MLV with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.
  2. Apply MLV over the insulation, on the studs.
  3. Make sure you go top to bottom.
  4. Use grips like nails and screws to keep the MLV in place.
  5. Do not forget the electrical boxes. You have to leave them exposed.
  6. Keep the seams close. If they fall between studs, overlap them by 2 inches.
  7. If the seams come off, use a PVC tape to put it back in place.
  8. Install drywall over the applied MLV.

2. How Do You Install MLV on Existing Wall?

If you do not want to break down your wall, you can still use MLVs. It is a little more complicated, but very doable and gives almost proper soundproofing.

Here’s a step-by-step procedure to help you install MLV on existing walls:

  1. Using a stud finder, find the studs behind the wall.
  2. Mark them and use furring strips through the drywall to reach the studs.
  3. Apply a layer of MLV.
  4. Apply another layer of drywall.

3. Does Mass Loaded Vinyl Really Work?

Mass Loaded Vinyl can be a very effective and flexible material to block unwanted sound when used correctly. On studio projects, movie theaters, and residential applications it can improve the STC of a wall and help attenuate excess noise.

4. Can MLV Be Painted Over?

MLVs usually come only in black or grey colors. Not are users are happy about that. Some MLVs also come in colors like tan, olive and transparent too.

If you want, you can take any latex paint and paint over the MLV and make it instantly vibrant.

Remember that there are many different products with MLV, so make sure you read the instruction manual carefully.

Not all of them will react the same when painted, so if you have any questions and doubts, the best is to contact the manufacturer.

5. Is Mass Loaded Vinyl Safe?

Being a non-toxic vinyl acoustic noise barrier, an MLV is pretty safe. It is designed to hang like a limp mass in a variety of soundproofing applications. In fact, MLV soundproofing also offers a low priced alternative- lead.

As compared to foam panels, MLV is much safer.

6. Is MLV Waterproof?

MLVs might just be the most durable soundproofing agent. It can definitely handle some roughhousing. Am MLV is waterproof too. So you don’t have to worry about getting it inside when it rains.

7. Is Mass Loaded Vinyl Flammable?

As far as flammability is concerned, Mass Loaded Vinyl is designed for higher temperatures, which is why it’s commonly used to soundproof engine compartments. However, it contains plasticizers, so in case of a fire, it can catch fire as well.

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