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Panels of Soundproofing Drywall in a stack

Soundproofing with Drywall – How it Works

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North America manufactures more than 20 billion square feet of drywall annually. It’s a favorite among American home builders in the billion-dollar construction industry. And there’s a good reason for drywall’s popularity.

One – it’s quick to demolish and cheap to manufacture.

Two – the State, Local, and National Building Codes advocate for drywall (known as gypsum boards or wallboards) because they passively act as fire resistance in any building where they’re installed.

On top of these two outstanding qualities, soundproofing with drywall can provide excellent results when used in combination with insulation and noiseproofing compound, keeping the tranquillity in and the noise out – where it belongs.

Or, conversely, if tranquility isn’t your cup of tea, you can keep your racket from reaching the ears of nosy neighbors.

Drywall for Soundproofing – Does it Work?

Pros

  • Drywall is a common building material. It is easy to find and purchase, and affordable.
  • Because it is relatively cheap and widely available, adding multiple layers of drywall to an existing wall or ceiling is an economical way to reduce airborne noise and sound transmission.
  • Drywall can be finished out, sanded, and painted like any other wall or drywall ceiling and no one will be the wiser of your soundproofing project.

Cons

  • Compared to regular drywall, soundproofing drywall can be relatively expensive with just a marginal increase in performance.
  • Because of the cost, it may be necessary to only use engineered drywall where noise absorption is critical.
  • Soundproof drywall may be more difficult to install or repair, requiring professional help.

How Much Does Drywall Reduce Sound?

One of the first things to understand before deciding on types of sound-absorbing drywall is how the STC rating system works. That step allows a more objective analysis of the actual effectiveness of a particular material. As background, a wall that absorbs 100% of all sounds from a room would have a sound absorption coefficient of 1.0. A surface that absorbs 50% of the noise would receive a coefficient of 0.50.

Similarly, the STC rating generally refers to the amount of sound reduction measured between two rooms. Say for example if a sound generated in Room A is measured at 85 dB, but the same sound measured in Room B is only 35 dB. That would mean the STC rating of the wall between the two rooms is 50. The barrier effectively absorbed 50 dB of sound.

Acoustic Properties of Sheetrock

ProductThicknessDensitySTC
QuietRock EZ-SNAP5/8” (15.9 mm)2.6lbs/sqft48-60
QuietRock 5101/2’’ (12.7 mm)2.13lbs/sqft47-52
QuietRock 530 5/8” (15.9 mm)2.88lbs/sqft52-74
SilentFX1/2" (12.7 mm)
5/8" (15.9 mm)
10.3kg/m2
13.7 kg/m2
51-55
SoundBreak XP1/2" (12.7 mm)
5/8" (15.9 mm)
1.5lbs/sqft
2.2lbs/sqft
50-67
5/8" Type X5/8” (15.9 mm)1.7lbs/sqft30-34
1/2" Type X1/2’’ (12.7 mm)1.2lbs/sqft30-33

Depending on the thickness and composition, and the wall design, drywall can reduce noise by anywhere from 30 dB to 74 dB. For context, an STC rating of about 35 would mean yelling voices are audible, but a listener would have trouble making out the words.

On the other hand, an STC rating of 60 would mean the vast majority of noises would not bother those in other rooms. Accordingly, those with privacy concerns could probably save by purchasing lower-rated drywall, while those avoiding noise pollution may need a higher rating.

Does Thicker Drywall Help With Sound?

Acoustic science can get incredibly complicated, with professionals and graduate students spending years in the study. However, the average homeowner only needs to consider a few basic rules that can impact the amount of sound being absorbed. First, as a general rule, thicker drywall boards block more sound. The same is true for materials that have greater density. More mass means greater sound absorption.

The second factor that can influence sound absorption is room design. In order to properly reduce noise, the drywall has to fit tightly at the seams. Gaps between the board and the ceiling, floors, or walls provide opportunities for noises to escape.

Similarly, paying for noise-absorbing materials may be a waste of money in a room with adjoining vents or windows. All paths for the sound to travel must be contained in order for the material to work as promised.

A third factor to consider is the actual materials being used. Acoustic drywall panels actually include additional sound protection. While some boards come wrapped in paper, others may use thicker material for enhanced blocking.

Drywall boards may also utilize chemicals to prevent mold/mildew or include a stiffer layer to prevent sagging. Each of these options may have an impact on the ability to reduce sound.

Where To Use Soundproof Drywall?

Soundproofing Existing Wall with Drywall and Insulation

In a perfect world, every room in a building would be finished with soundproof drywall. However, compared to standard drywall, engineered sheetrock can be quite expensive. Fortunately, it may not be necessary to treat every room this way, perhaps focusing on the rooms where soundproofing is most important.

Here are some examples of rooms you might want to give the full treatment of acoustic insulation and double drywall.

  • Home Theaters – Let the volume boom in your basement theater without bothering the rest of the house.
  • Home Studios – Play and record in your studio room without external noise polluting your sound.
  • Home Offices – A quiet office can be a focused office, allowing you to be more productive and creative.
  • Laundry Rooms – Washers and dryers can be very loud, keeping them behind soundproof walls eliminates a nuisance.
  • Mechanical Rooms – Furnaces, blowers, pumps, and more can all create a bunch of noise. Treating the mechanical room could provide some peace and quiet in your home.
  • Rental Spaces – No matter if it’s a vacation rental or long-term, constantly hearing your neighbors can be a turnoff.
  • Commercial Offices – Some professions that meet with clients require discretion and privacy, which can be created with soundproof drywall walls.

Soundproofing drywall is designed to either reduce airborne sound coming in or out of the room. The types of spaces listed above would all benefit from drywall upgrades as a great way to keep noises from a single room from ruining the ambiance of the home.

There are also a number of rooms in a home where soundproofing is especially important. Quiet bedrooms can be essential to health and sanity. Peaceful home offices can contribute to greater productivity. Cost-conscious homeowners may want to limit the more expensive plasterboard options to these locations.


Best Drywall for Soundproofing

Now that we have addressed some general rules and things to consider, it is time to discuss a few specific options. Like products of all kinds, each of these offerings comes with benefits and drawbacks. Selecting the best choice depends largely on the particular needs of the situation. Remember also that sometimes the drywall panel is only part of the overall sound-reducing plan.

Here are some of the most popular soundproofing drywall options:

1. QuietRock 510/530/545

A panel of QuietRock 530 drywall
Image via QuietRock

QuietRock products are designed to maximize sound-reducing performance while using less material. They are also created with easy installation in mind, making it easier for do-it-yourself jobs. The 510 version is only 1/2″ thick and is among the lowest-cost options. It is as easy to install as standard gypsum panels, but often has greater protection than standard drywall of the same size.

The 530 is the next higher step in terms of cost and performance. These are generally 5/8″ thick, making them heavier materials. The 545 variety can be as thick as 1 3/8″, with STC ratings potentially reaching 80. While more expensive, this is a great option for low-frequency noises like music or machinery. This is the choice for home theaters, studios, or creating quiet spaces in the middle of noisy neighborhoods.


2. QuietRock EZ-SNAP

Image via QuietRock

QuietRock EZ-Snap performs like the 5/8″ variety, providing protection against voices and other higher frequency sounds. However, it is designed specifically to allow for easy installation. Compared to other products, EZ-Snap is simple to cut, snap, and hang into place. However, it outperforms standard drywall in noise reduction. This can be a great option for those that want to save money and time over other sound-reducing wall products.


3. CertainTeed SilentFX

A stack of SIlentFX Soundproof Sheetrock boards
Image via Certainteed

SilentFX uses two layers of gypsum cores formulated to be especially dense. However, they then add a viscoelastic polymer (just like Green Glue) between the two barriers for additional noise reduction. They include paper coverings that are moisture and mold-resistant and are also easy to cut and install.


4. National Gypsum SoundBreak XP

Cross section detail of SoundBreak XP Drywall
Image via National Gypsum

SoundBreak XP is designed to produce dramatic sound reductions between rooms while installing similar to standard gypsum drywall. These boards feature two sections separated by a sound-absorbing polymer, similar to mass loaded vinyl. They are considered high density and mold resistant and include gridlines for easier installation.


5. Type X Drywall – 5/8″ or 1/2″

Image via Certainteed

While it may not provide as much protection as more specialized drywall options, standard sheetrock or drywall products do provide some noise protection. It is also possible to double standard drywall instead of purchasing other products. However, the additional weight and bulk may cause difficulties in some situations. It may be more difficult to install fixtures with multiple drywall layers.

While there is no discernable difference in noise reduction between 1/2″ and 5/8″ standard drywall, there are other considerations. Building codes related to fireproof ratings may dictate the thicker boards because they are better insulators against fire.


How to Soundproof with Drywall

There are two scenarios for soundproofing with drywall. One is totally new construction, the other is remodeling. The scope and budget of your project will help guide you through these options.

  • New Construction – This could be finishing a basement or brand new construction.
  • Remodeling/Upgrading – This path upgrades existing walls and ceilings to reduce sound in a room.

Soundproofing a Ceiling with Drywall and Acoustic insulation

Treating New Walls & Ceilings

Starting from scratch will give you the best results. The general process is to fill the cavity between a wall stud and ceiling joists with good sound absorbing material like rockwool insulation. Then use one or two layers of drywall with Green Glue noise proofing compound in between. Finally, follow it up with a good acoustical sealant around all the gaps and cutouts.

Building a new drywall ceiling can be challenging if you’ve never done it, so get help if you need it. Dealing with ceiling tile is a little different, and you might go the route of acoustic drop ceiling tiles. If there is significant impact noise from the floor above, it would be a good idea to treat the floors with a good underlayment like cork or felt.

Obviously, there is much more detail that goes into soundproofing a wall or ceiling, but those are the main steps required. It’s not that much more work to get a quiet and great-sounding room built!

Upgrading Existing Walls & Ceilings

With existing walls and ceilings, you are basically limited to adding mass on top of the existing drywall. There are two paths you can take, one is adding double drywall to the existing walls, the other is tearing down the old sheetrock to gain access to the wall cavity.

If you can get down to the studs on an interior wall, you can take advantage of upgrading the insulation with quality acoustic fiberglass insulation, or rockwool insulation. The process from that point is just like the “New Walls & Ceilings” described in the previous section.

If you just need a quick boost in sound reduction, you can do it without tearing out the old walls. With your second layer of drywall ready, utilize Green Glue damping compound in between the old and new drywall, and seal up all the electrical cutouts, floor gaps, and seams with acoustic caulk.

Here is a video demonstrating adding Green Glue onto a double drywall installation.

You’re Not Done! Finish with Acoustic Panels

A nice, soundproofed room is great and all, but without acoustic treatments, you’ll have a muddled, echoing mess of sound.

Buy or build an acoustic panel to hang on the walls and bass traps for the corners. These small additions can make big improvements in the acoustics of your room. At home, music and movies will sound better, and the office will feel more professional while meeting with clients.

You may also find yourself with a new weak spot in your room in the form of doors and windows. If you start to notice noise getting through, it might be worth considering soundproofing the door and treating any windows with heavy acoustic curtains or a soundproof window plug.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide has given you the info and confidence to tackle your soundproofing project with a combination of acoustic drywall and some other affordable materials.

One can never put a price on peace and quiet. With the right materials and application, it is possible to create a more enjoyable space while also increasing the value of your home or business space!