Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) is a soundproofing material, designed to have both high density and good flexibility. Those features are important to its ability to dampen noise and vibrations.
Minerals like Barium Sulfate or other dense particles and fibers are most commonly engineered into the material to create the mass loaded sheets that can be hung or laid in a variety of applications.
By many accounts, mass loaded vinyl was first developed as a non-toxic alternative to lead lined materials, to act as a sound barrier in industrial settings. Then like many things in this world, marketing took the idea and dreamed up other uses for the material, and now we have dozens of products being sold under the MLV name.
The list below is some of the best and most common ways to use MLV.
1. Create a Sound Screen Around Noisy Machinery
This is the original application for MLV. 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.
Pumps, generators, AC units, and heat exchangers are all common places to find a mass loaded vinyl sound screen in use.
The industrial sheets are also known as acoustic blankets, and sound curtains, and are usually used on frames with caster wheels in order to be as mobile as possible around a plant.
2. Turn Dish Washers into Stealth WashersMLV 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. By following these simple steps, you can enjoy that a dishwasher that runs in a quieter fashion.
- Pull your dishwasher out from its cutout in the cabinetry of your kitchen and disconnect it from the power and water.
- Next, measure the width of the washer and the opening in the cabinet to make sure you have room to slide it back into place after applying the material.
- Apply the Thermo-Tec to either the dishwasher cabinet walls, or lay it over the top and sides of dishwasher. NOTE: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines exactly, so you don’t damage your dishwasher or yourself.
3. Block Road Noise and Vibrations in VehiclesMLV can be used for sound and vibration dampening in cars, trucks, boats, RV’s, and more. Products like FatMat have pressure sensitive adhesive backing on one side, and aluminum on the other for heat resistance.
Most people remove the door panels and carpet from their vehicle before installing, just so they can get the most coverage, and get the best appearance possible, 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. The result can be a quieter ride, with less rattle, vibration, road, and engine noise.
4. Improve Sound and Increase Bass in Your Car
Car audio enthusiasts use MLV to enhance the sound quality, enhances bass, and helps reduce audio distortion. They install the FatMat just like I described earlier, except car audiophiles will go to extremes to cover all surfaces of the vehicle interior in order to boost the bass and get that killer sound.
5. Soundproofing HVAC Ductwork and Pipes
Mass loaded vinyl can be used as a “limp” wrap to cover noisy pipes and HVAC ducts. Limp just means its decoupled from the duct or pipe, and loosely attached to the parts. Remember, MLV was originally designed to be hung freely to dampen noise and vibration.
Not all pipe wraps are true MLV, instead they use special polymers with additives to increase the density. The results of wrapping the pipes and ducts, is an acoustic lag that reduces noise leakage, and increases overall noise transmission loss.
6. Eliminate Noise Leakage Around Doors and Windows in a Home Studio
If you have a home studio, or live somewhere that has cheap doors and windows, you can hang special blankets and drapes to cover these areas and help reduce noise leakage to the outside.
Singer makes a series of products that are ideal for this use. They come in sizes of 4 foot x 8 foot for covering doorways, and 4 foot x 4 foot for covering windows.
The blankets and curtains are typically made from a combination of fiberglass, and vinyl, sewn into a quilted blanket. The curtains then have grommets sewn into the edges that make it extremely easy to put them up and take them down.
7. Add a Sound Deadening Layer Above Suspended Ceilings
Vinyl sheets can be nailed directly onto joists and beams above suspended ceilings to act a noise barrier. This allows the vinyl to remain limp and do its job of dampening sound between the up and downstairs room.
The other way to accomplish your goal, is to lay the sheets of vinyl over the top of the ceiling tiles, on the floor joist side of the ceiling. Make sure the structure holding the tiles is strong enough to support the added weight of MLV.
While MLV is a versatile material for soundproofing, it’s not always the best, or most affordable for your situation. MLV can cost in the range of $1-$3 per square foot. Fortunately there are several alternative materials and methods to consider in your project.
Green Glue and Second Layer of Drywall
The green glue is flexible between the two rigid layers of drywall, effectively dissipating sound waves. Unlike walls with MLV hanging all over the place, the finished green glue walls look just like normal walls.
Hat Channel and Sound Clips
Hat channel combined with sound clips (or the more expensive resilient channels) can make a huge difference in noise transmission between floors in your space.
The channels and clips are attached directly to the floor beams, and then the drywall to the channels. This decouples the drywall from the floor above, diminishing the noise and vibrations transmitted between rooms.
Let’s be honest, vinyl hanging off your windows and doors is not going to be very pretty. If you want a more permanent installation that looks good, then acoustic curtains are the way to go.
To dampen sound, they are more dense and plush than standard curtains, yet not as dense as MLV sheets. You sacrifice a little performance for a much cleaner and finished look. Read more about them here.