By Meg Escott
When you’re selecting soundproofing solutions, it's often several solutions put together to produce a wall or floor soundproofing assembly. This page provides a review of the individual components of soundproofing solutions in terms of the types of products available for walls and floors and how they work. It brings together all the possibilities to make it easier for you to make a decision on the best soundproofing solution for your project.
Make sure you take a look at soundproofing ratings so that you can understand how the performance of soundproofing solutions is measured.
Also remember that many of these soundproofing solutions contribute to the heat insulation and fire retardation of your walls and floors - it's a win-win.
There are a number of things to consider...
So let’s get going on those soundproofing solutions. We’ll be looking at the following…
It's a good idea to read about how soundproofing works to understand how these methods contribute to soundproofing.
Here's a summary of soundproofing solutions if you just want the quick read...
|Soundproofing solution||Extra thickness||STC contribution (see note above)||Risk of not realising performance||Extra Cost|
|5/8 inch drywall (Each side)||¼ inch||2||Low||$1 more than ½ inch drywall for a 4x8 sheet
|Double drywall(5/8 each side)||1 ½ inches||7||Low||$26 in extra dry wall
|Acoustic drywall (Quiet Rock)||None||15||Low||$54 per sheet
$41 per sheet
No extra installation costs
|Sound board||½ inch||5||Low||$30 per sheet
(also need drywall)
|Standard insulation||None – goes inside the wall||2 (mainly NRC)||Low||$14 for 4x8sqft area
|Soundproofing insulation||None – goes inside the wall||3 (mainly NRC)||Low||$30 for 4x8sqft area
|Mass loaded vinyl||1/8 inch||8+ depending on thickness||Low||$41 for a 4x8sqft area (1/8” thickness)|
|Soundproofing glue and extra sheet ½ inch drywall on one side||½ inch||7||Low||Glue - $20 for a 4x8 sqft area
$13 for extra drywall
|Resilient channel||½ inch||3||High||$1 per square foot
|Soundproof clips and hat channel||1 ½ inches||3||High||$60 for 4x8sqft area
$100 for a 4x8 area including labor
|Staggered studs||2 inches||10||Low||At least 1 ½ times that of standard wall|
|Double studs||6 ½ inches||13||
|At least 1 ½ times that of standard wall|
This method can be used for both walls and floors or ceilings. I’ve used the word ‘drywall’, so if you're thinking of a floor just substitute plywood or sub-floor.
Adding a layer of drywall to either one or both sides of your walls will add mass and therefore increases noise reduction.
Typically it’s best to add 5/8 inch drywall or thicker. This doesn’t add too much thickness, less than an inch if you add it to both sides of your wall.
Yes, you can add extra drywall to existing walls.
Soundproofing glue can be used in both wall and floor assemblies.
Soundproofing glue is a viscoelastic polymer which uses the principle of damping to reduce noise transmission. It’s used between two layers of drywall, plasterboard or between layers of plywood in a floor.
A soundproofing glue fits in between two layers of material (drywall or plywood). The thickness of the glue layer is negligible so the added thickness is that of the extra layers of drywall or plywood used.
Soundproofing glue is suitable for new build and remodeling projects. It can be added along with an extra layer of material to existing walls and floors.
This method can be used in walls and floors.
As the name suggests, this soundproofing solution works due to the decoupling principle.
Decoupling the studs has two methods:
This soundproofing solution increases the wall thickness more than any other soundproofing solution.
Staggering the studs on a 6 inch plate is a 2 inch increase in comparison to a standard 2x4 stud.
Using double studs adds 6.5 inches to the wall thickness in comparison to a standard 2x4 stud.
Staggering studs isn’t really practical for existing walls. You could certainly build a second wall, effectively creating a room within a room. This would be effective but would eat up quite a bit of floor space.
Acoustic drywall can be used on walls or ceilings.
Acoustic drywall is essentially two sheets of drywall with soundproofing glue in the middle which works using the damping principle. It offers the same advantages as using soundproofing glue.
The beauty of acoustic drywall is that it’s available in the same thicknesses as drywall like 1/2“ and 5/8”.
It’s obviously suitable for new walls. If you’re remodeling it probably costs less to use soundproof glue and drywall rather than adding a layer of acoustic drywall.
At first glance acoustic drywall is expensive in comparison to a sheet of drywall but this increased cost can be offset against the fact that when construction a new wall, there’s no extra installation expenses.
Acoustic insulation can be used in both walls and floor / ceiling assemblies.
Acoustic insulation is thick and soft and works by absorbing sound in the airspace within a wall or floor assembly.
Insulation should be laid across around 80% of the void.
There’s no added thickness because the insulation sits within the wall / floor, in between the studs or joists.
You need to get to the inside the wall to add insulation so it means tearing off a layer of drywall if you’re remodeling.
When I was researching soundproofing solutions I found lots of companies with brand named soundproofing membranes. In general, these products are some version of mass loaded vinyl.
It comes in both black (for walls and floors) and transparent (for windows)
Mass loaded vinyl, as the name suggests, works by adding mass. It’s heavy stuff and comes in various thicknesses. It’s also floppy which means it also has noise dampening properties.
Mass loaded vinyl comes in several thicknesses. A popular thickness is 1/8 inch so it doesn’t add too much thickness at all. There are MLVs that are heavier and thicker available as well.
If you are building a new wall, you can install a layer of mass loaded vinyl between the studs and the drywall. If you’re retrofitting, the mass loaded vinyl can be fixed to the existing wall and a new layer of drywall installed on top.
These costs might be less if you’re doing your whole home. Remember that if you’re retrofitting, you’ll need to add the cost of the drywalling materials and installation.
There are soundboard products available for both walls and floors.
Just to be clear, I'm referring to soundboard for installation as part of a wall assembly, rather than panels that are installed on top of the wall assembly.
There are also insulation products, usually foam boards, that also have some soundproofing qualities, but I'm not talking about foam based products in this section.
Soundboard is a type of fiber board which has some noise dampening and absorption qualities. Note that it isn’t as heavy as a sheet of 5/8” drywall so while it does add some mass, it’s not as much as drywall.
Soundboard comes in a variety of thicknesses. It starts at 1/2 inch thick.
There are different types of soundboard on the market. Some are suitable for installing straight onto the stud wall, others need to be sandwiched in between two sheets of drywall.
Resilient channels can be used in walls and for hanging ceilings.
Resilient channels work by decoupling the surface of the wall or ceiling from the studs or floor joists. There’s very little direct connection between the surface that receives the sound and the parts of the wall or floor assembly that transmit the sound through the structure.
Resilient channels can be made from metal of different thicknesses (gauges). You can hang one or two layers of plasterboard from a resilient channel. For two layers, you’ll need a resilient channel in a thicker gauge for it to have sufficient strength.
The resilient channels themselves are around ½ inch thick. Then you can hang one or two sheets of drywall from the resilient channel.
You can add resilient channels to existing walls or ceilings but the results won’t be as good to the extent that it might not be worth it. Expected soundproofing results are quoted with the installation of the resilient channels onto the studs.
A resilient channel is a long strip of metal that is drilled across the studs horizontally and then the drywall is attached to the metal strips.
In a ceiling assembly, the resilient channels can be attached to the bottom of the floor joists and then the plasterboard for the ceiling screwed into the metal strips.
Here’s a few tips on the installation of resilient channels...
Once installation is completed correctly, there’s still a chance that the soundproofing performance might be compromised. If furniture is pushed up tight against the wall to the extent that the resilient channels become depressed and the drywall is effectively now directly in contact with the studs, the performance will be compromised.
If pictures or light shelves are hung and screws are put in directly into the studs, this will essentially mean that the surface of the wall and the studs are now in contact and soundproofing performance will be lost.
Hat channels and sound clips are similar to resilient channels. This system uses a clip which is installed onto the studs, then the hat channel (so called because its profile looks a bit like a hat) is clipped into the sound clip, then the plasterboard is installed to the hat channel.
They can be used on both walls and ceiling.
Don’t use hat channels on their own without sound clips.
The added thickness depends on the exact assembly you choose but typically will add 1 ½ inches to your wall thickness.
As per resilient channels, this system is more suitable for installing directly onto the studs rather than on top of existing drywall (or ceiling).
The clips are expensive – about $5 per clip. Cost for clips, channels and labor work out at approximately $5 per square foot.
Get a quote (search for soundproofing)
Here’s a few tips on the installation of resilient channels...
If pictures or light shelves are hung and screws are put in directly into the studs, this will essentially couple the surface of the wall to the studs and some performance will be lost.
Joist isolators or floor floaters are for use in floors only.
Joist isolators work by dampening the vibrations of sound.
The rubber joist isolator will add about ½” to your floor assembly, then there’s the dimensions of any extra joists or extra sub-floor depending on what else is in the specification of your assembly.
Joist isolators are generally used in retrofits, to float a second set of joists on top of current sub-flooring.
They can be used in new build floor assemblies to float the sub-floor on top of the joists.
The joist isolaters should be installed every one or two feet along the floor joists, positioned beneath or on top of the floor joists as the assembly demands.
They’re very easy to install as they just push down (or up) onto the floor joists.
So long as the correct spacing is used, there’s very little risk of installation errors compromising the soundproofing performance.