What is Mass Loaded Vinyl for Soundproofing?
Mass loaded vinyl or MLV is a material commonly used for soundproofing because of its great noise blocking capabilities and flexibility. It’s generally composed of two elements.
Vinyl –this is what gives MLV its flexibility.
Barium Sulphate or Calcium Carbonate– these highly dense elements give MLV is soundproofing capabilities.
This article will give you a firm idea of what mass loaded vinyl is. For a list of the best mass loaded vinyl, see our detailed review.
Does Mass Loaded Vinyl Absorb Sound?
Rather than absorbing sound, MLV reduces noise through a different method, through sound dampening. When soundwaves come into contact with the MLV, the frequencies are dissipated through reflection and diffusion before it has the chance to build up and radiate outwards.
Is Mass Loaded Vinyl Safe?
A very common concern to have about MLV is how safe is it? With such unique soundproofing capabilities and being partially made from barium-sulfate, it’s understandable to have concerns about its impact on our health.
Fortunately, MLV is non-toxic and entirely safe for use. Elemental barium is toxic to humans. But when used to create MLV, it’s insoluble and poses no risk.
Can You Paint Mass Loaded Vinyl?
Considering MLV is usually installed behind your walls, ceiling, or flooring, it’s not necessarily going to be a visually appealing addition to your room. Generally, it only comes in rolls of grey or black, but is it possible to paint?
Fortunately, you can! And it’s relatively easy too. Your standard latex paint is going to be the best solution here. However, we recommend checking in with the manufacturer before pulling out your brush and roller because MLV can vary slightly between products.
Where Can I Buy Mass Loaded Vinyl?
MLV can be a bit tricky to find if you’re just shopping around your town; it’s not something you generally see at your local hardware store.
But, if you do a quick online search, you’ll find plenty of businesses and hardware stores that will ship it to you or their local storefront. Of course, you can also count on Amazon to give you a wide variety of MLV options.
The pricing for MLV will vary slightly, depending on its weight which directly influences how effective it is at soundproofing. Here’s what you can expect to pay on average per square foot, based on its weight:
- One pound per square foot: $1.00-$1.50
- Two pounds per square foot: $2.00-$2.50
Below, we’ve recommended two of our favorite MLV products for two specific soundproofing purposes.
1. (In Home) Soundsulate 1lb MLV
For a superior solution to a noisy home, look no further. The Soundsalute MLV is perfect for soundproofing any residential space, from basements to studios and even loud ductwork.
Made right here in the USA, the highest quality materials are used to guarantee strength, durability, and flexibility. This MLV is 1/8 inch thick and weighs 1lb per square foot, making it effective at reducing noise transmission through floors, walls and ceilings.
Although it’s incredibly dense, this product is still thin and flexible enough for many uses without having to compromise on space. Not to mention it maintains an STC rating of 27.
The Soundsulate MLV comes in seven size options, so you’re covered regardless of the size of your project.
- Made in the USA
- STC: 27
- 1/8 inch thickness
- Weighs 1lb per square foot
- Seven size options
- Easy to cut with a utility knife
- Effectively reduces noise transfer
- Good price for value
We Don’t Like
- Very heavy
- Some customers report roll arriving damaged
- It needs two people to install
2. (In Car) KILMAT Sound Deadening Mat
The KILMAT sound deadening mat is your ticket to a quieter ride. It effectively muffles the knocks, rattles and other annoying road noises from the vehicle.
The insulation mat is made from butyl with a foil exterior and special indicator to know if you’ve done a correct installation. The material comes in small, self-adhesive sheets (9.8×15.7 inch), making cutting and installation easier than the larger rolls standard with other products.
And possibly the best part.
These lightweight sound deadening mats are roughly 20% cheaper than competitors, so you get the biggest bang for your buck.
- Material: butyl and foil
- 50mm thick
- 47 sheets (9.8×15.7 inch)
- Covers 50 sq.ft
- 0.35 lbs per square foot
- The sheets don’t have sharp foil edges
- Easy to cut and work with
- Great price for value
We Don’t Like
- Thinner than advertised
- They have a chemical smell when first opened
- It doesn’t include a roller for installation
How to Use Mass Loaded Vinyl
The way you use MLV is generally the same for all its purposes, but the process does differ slightly between soundproofing your home vs. your vehicle.
Within your home, you use MLV to add mass to your walls, floor, ceiling, doors and around ductwork, etc. You can add it over existing surfaces or directly into wood or metal framing. Still, the most common approach is to install it within the structure of your home, like between layers of drywall or flooring.
If you’re adding MLV to your car to block out road noises, then there are a few key areas you should focus your efforts. Of course, 100% coverage will be the most effective, but it depends on your expectations and comfortability with installation.
The main areas include:
Under Your Hood
Cover as much of the metal as possible. Doing this will help block much of the engine noise.
Very useful if you drive at high speeds. It’s a big job to remove your seats and carpet, but it’s effective at muffling loud road noises.
Adding MLV under your door panel will also prevent loud road noises from entering the cab of your vehicle. It also adds weight to your door, giving it a more quality feel.
This area isn’t going to make as big of an impact as the others mentioned. Still, it will help with the overall soundproofing of your vehicle.
Tip: Wash your vehicle and use a degreaser before installing any MLV or soundproofing material.
How to Cut Mass Loaded Vinyl
Most MLV you buy will come on large rolls. Before you can hang it, you’ll need to cut out the correct sized pieces for your space. Even though MLV is heavy and very dense, it’s relatively easy to cut. Considering it’s most commonly used to soundproof walls, we’ll use that for our example in the following steps:
- Measure the distance between the floor and the ceiling, and subtract about 1/8″ to 1/4″ (we do this to make it easier to seal off with caulking after it’s hung).
- You’ll also want to measure and make sure that the width of each piece of MLV will line up with wall studs or joists.
- Roll the MLV out on the floor and mark your measurements.
- Using a T-square or straight edge as a guide, grab your utility knife and cut the MLV to length.
How to Install / Hang Mass Loaded Vinyl
Installing MLV is best done with two people because of its mass. It’s highly dense but can still rip if not installed correctly, or you don’t use enough fasteners (cap staples, roofing nails, or screws with plastic washers).
We’re going to cover the three main surfaces in your home; walls, ceilings and floors. Here are the tools you’ll need:
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- T-Square or straight edge
- Pneumatic stapler and staples
- Acoustic tape
- Acoustical Sealant
- Green glue noiseproofing compound (optional)
Note: The steps will carry on after the previous section on cutting MLV
With the help of a second person, fit the first piece of MLV in the top corner of the wall. Make sure it’s straight along the ceiling and floor while lining up in the center of the wall stud.
Using a pneumatic stapler, fasten the MLV to the studs every 8 inches apart, making sure to cover the entire perimeter and along every stud.
Next, find any electrical boxes in your wall and gently press the MLV into it with your hand. You’ll notice a subtle white line or indent in the MLV that you should cut to expose the electrical box with your utility knife.
Repeat steps 1-3 for the following sections of your wall. Be careful not to overlap the MLV, or it can lead to the drywall bowing over time.
Once you’ve hung the MLV around the entire perimeter of the room, it’s time to take care of the seams. Use an acoustic sealant to caulk the perimeter and acoustic tape to seal the rest of the seams along the wall studs.
Slowly walk around your room and check your subfloor for squeaks (you don’t want the chance of hearing these after putting in the effort to soundproof).
If you find any squeaky places, locate the nearest screws and drive a long nail down through the joist about an inch or less away from them.
Lay down the MLV to cover the entire surface of your floor. Go ahead and nail or staple along all of the edges to secure it. Alternatively, you can also use double-sided carpeting tape.
Finally, using the acoustic tape, go around and seal along all of the seams.
From here, depending on the type of flooring you have, you can install the floor directly on top of the MLV (check with your manufacturer). However, many homeowners will install an overlay before laying down the floor, especially if their floorboards aren’t padded.
Installing MLV on your ceiling is very similar to the process of installing it on your walls.
You may want to start by cutting the MLV into smaller sections to make installing it more manageable. It also reduces the risk of it tearing and falling while you’re working.
If your installing overtop of drywall or another flat surface, cover the back of the MLV with green glue noiseproofing compound before placing it. Use a staple gun or roofing nails to reinforce it to the ceiling studs.
Repeat across the entire ceiling, being careful not to overlap the MLV or leaving any gaps that noise can escape.
Finish with acoustic caulk and tape by caulking the perimeter of the ceilings and taping all of the seams.
How Does MLV Stack Up?
MLV vs. Dynamat
Both Dynamat and MLV are used to soundproof cars. Dynamat, however, is known for that purpose exclusively. The materials these two products are made from and the way they handle sound is different. Let’s go into detail and cover the main differences and benefits of each:
- Made from vinyl and calcium carbonate or barium sulfate
- Highly dense, which blocks sound waves from passing through the surface
- It’s a thicker and more dense product, which gives it a slight edge
- It comes in bigger rolls which is ideal for soundproofing larger areas
- Made from butyl rubber
- It’s a sound dampener and absorbs sound vibrations, which reduces engine noise as well as external sounds
- Easier to install because it’s a bit thinner and less dense
- More budget-friendly option and good for smaller sections
MLV vs. Green Glue (In Conjunction With)
Both MLV and Green Glue are great for soundproofing, but they have different uses. MLV adds mass and blocks sound, while Green Glue is used for dampening sounds and reducing vibrations. This reason is why homeowners use them together more often than apart.
If you put them head to head and compare STC ratings, then Green Glue wins. But using them together will always be more effective than using either one apart.
MLV vs. Rockwool
Rockwool and MLV are both household names; they’re heavy, dense and effective at soundproofing. Choosing between the two can be a challenge, so let’s break down the differences and benefits of these two choices:
- More versatile, you can install it in your wall, over your wall, around ductwork and appliances, vehicles, fences, etc.
- It doesn’t shed particles that can irritate the skin and lungs
- Thinner and can save space
- Easier to handle, the batts are generally smaller than sheets of MLV which makes installing them more manageable for one person
- It is significantly cheaper than MLV, almost half the price in some cases
MLV vs. Rubber
For those of you looking for a cheaper alternative to MLV, you’ve probably come across the idea of using rubber or rubber mats. Let’s investigate these claims and compare the two approaches so you can choose the best option for you.
- It’s primarily used as a sound barrier.
- STC of 41-42, which blocks loud conversations and makes them barely audible.
- MLV has a larger mass per square foot (1lb per 1/8 inch thick sheet) which makes it better at blocking sound waves
- It’s slightly easier to work with because of its flexibility
- It has a lifespan of 20-30 years
- It’s primarily used as an underlayment or floor
- IIC rating of 60+, which is excellent for soundproofing, but you can still hear low frequencies. (Because it’s generally used as an underlayment, it doesn’t use an STC rating, but an IIC rating)
- The price of each rubber mat will vary by length and thickness, but on average, rubber is much cheaper than MLV
- You can purchase rubber products with adhesive backs and tiles shaped like jigsaws, making it easier to join the seams.
- It has a lifespan of roughly ten years
With most noise-blocking products, it’s always better to use them together than try and pick the “best” one. It takes multiple solutions working together to effectively soundproof a space.
MLV is one of the best solutions to getting a quieter space, whether that’s your home, your car, or both. Its unique capabilities as a flexible sound barrier make it the most versatile choice on the market. Even though its weight can make it a hassle to install, its density makes it a highly effective and long-term solution.
If you’d like to learn more about MLV or soundproofing, our blog is full of resources you can use for your projects.