How to use Mass Loaded Vinyl: 12 Soundproofing Projects (Full Guides)
It’s no secret that my favorite soundproofing material is mass loaded vinyl. But I believe my love for MLV is well justified.
Not only does it block airborne AND impact noise unbelievably well, it can also be used for almost any soundproofing project under the sun.
In this article I want to share with you 12 simple noise-blocking projects you can do with MLV alone or with a few other items.
1. Soundproof a fence
Got a noisy neighbor mowing the lawn at 5 AM? Or maybe you’re the noisy fella bothering the entire neighborhood? Either way, soundproofing a fence is a the best way to fix the problem. Because you can’t fix people after all.
This is where MLV comes in handy. All you really need to do is role the sheet of MLV across the fence, screw it or nail it in different places so that it doesn’t move and you’re pretty much done. MLV can withstand extreme weather conditions, so it can be used outdoors without any problems.
If you want to learn more about this method check out my full guide on how to soundproof a fence with MLV.
2. Soundproof an existing wall
Soundproofing an existing wall can seem like a difficult task. It’s much easier to insulate a wall from the inside during the construction phase. When it’s already finished and the surface is nice and shiny, no one wants to tear away at it to stuff some soundproofing material inside.
Luckily, you don’t have to. While MLV is typically installed on the wall studs, it provides drastic noise reduction even when installed directly on the wall’s surface. So why don’t people install it directly on the surface ALL THE TIME?
The problem is really in the appearance. Not many people are brave enough to have a black sheet of vinyl covering their dining room wall! They’d rather hide the insulation material inside it instead.
However, people often forget that MLV can be painted over with latex paint. If your wall is white, color it in white, or do a little special something and make it stand out. Be creative! Alternatively, you can cover it with a designer fabric.
This is usually not a problem when soundproofing a garage, basement or even a bedroom as people are less worried about the appearance of these areas.
Having said that, how can you install MLV directly on the wall? The answer is the same as in the case of almost any other surace. Use nails/screws or a spray adhesive.
Spray adhesives are effective, but they can make it REALLY difficult to take the material off the wall if you want to later on. And it will leave marks on the wall. So it’s better to use nails/screws. These will leave small holes in the wall, but you can caulk them easily and make them disappear in a manner of minutes if you decide to remove the vinyl at any point.
3. Make a soundproof generator box
Generators are loud little beasts. I’ve covered the quietest portable ones in a previous article, but nevertheless, soundproofing them doesn’t hurt.
To do this you’ll need thick plywood or MDF boards, screws/nails and of course, MLV. You could technically replace any of these materials with some others, but this is the best way to go about making a soundproof box.
Once you’ve bought the right dimensions of wooden boards, turn them into a box by nailing/screwing them together. Before doing that however, create some holes for cords and for air so that the generator doesn’t overheat. Then cover the inside with MLV using nails/screws/spray adhesive.
It goes without saying that a soundproof box like this one could be used for any appliance or machine. This was a quick overview of the process. Here’s a full guide on making a soundproof box.
4. Soundproof an engine compartment
Engines can be incredibly loud in boats, larger cars, even a Miata. It all depends on how sensitive you are to the noise and your personal standards in this regard.
Engines are soundproofed by covering the surrounding surface with thick, but flexible material that can absorb standard sound but also the vibration produced by the motor.
This is in fact exactly the purpose of MLV. While it’s entirely legit to use pure MLV for this project, often times automotive sound deadening mats are used instead.
But if you look at the material content of these mats, you’ll find that most of them are a combination of vinyl and butyl. They also contain aluminium foilage which adds additional protection against high temperatures. This makes them ideal for soundproofing engines.
Another benefit of using these specialized mats is self-adhesiveness. In other words, these mats have a sticky side so the installation process is fast and straightforward.
So what are the best automotive sound deadening mats? These are the top 6 sound deadeners for vehicles based on thickness, price and overall quality.
The best way to use them is to cover the entire surface surrounding the engine, just as you would do if you were making a soundproof box for a generator or another appliance.
5. Soundproof a car cabin
These same vinyl based products are the best solution for soundproofing a car cabin. Floor, doors and ceiling can all be sound deadened by using Dynamat, FatMat or pure MLV.
Covering the floor is necessary if you want to reduce noise coming from the tires and their interaction with the road. If you want to block the sound of traffic and wind, doors and ceiling are the main targets.
So if you’re interested in having a quieter car cabin, here’s a full guide with helpful installation videos.
6. Soundproof a dog crate
I just want to leave here a simple tip to reduce the noise of your dog barking in his crate by using MLV.
Basically, covering the crate with MLV either from the inside or the outside will drastically reduce the amount of noise that passes through. You still need to leave one side of the crate uncovered for air.
So technically the crate can’t be soundproofed completely. But this will make a big difference.
Again, screws/nails or adhesive can be used to install the MLV on a dog crate. Pick the installation method that suits the crate’s material and design best.
One peace of warning though. Sometimes MLV can have a slight industrial smell, which dissipates for 2-3 days. I wouldn’t cover the crate and have my dog sleep in it during those first couple of days because the smell can be unpleasant when you’re breathing up close like that.
Rather, let the smell dissipate completely before covering the dog crate with vinyl.
Here’s a full dog crate soundproofing guide with 12 more tips if you’re interested. It includes proven methods for reducing a dog’s barking during nighttime and when the owner is away from home.
7. Soundproof a wall during reconstruction
The best time to soundproof a wall is during (re)construction when you have easy access to the studs (joists). Then you can follow this video to soundproof the wall with MLV by attaching it directly to the studs:
8. Soundproof a door
Soundproofing a door with MLV can be done in two ways. By covering the door’s surface or by placing MLV inside the door’s hollow part (if it’s a hollow door).
The first option involves cutting the MLV to size, making a hole for the door handle and then using screws/nails/adhesive to install it.
The second option involves removing the door from the hinges. Then opening the door panel to reveal the hollow part. After that, it’s best to use a spray adhesive to stick the MLV inside the hollow part.
Using a combination of green glue noiseproofing sealant and MLV in the hollow part will provide even better results. Once you’re done with the upgrade, cover the hollow part with the previously removed door panel and place the door back on the hinges. Done!
When soundproofing any door, I also recommend sealing any gaps between the door and the door frame. And also the gap between the door and the floor. This can be done by covering the frame with a foam seal or weatherstripping tape, and attaching a door sweep to the bottom portion of the door.
If you want to see more ideas, check out my door soundproofing guide.
9. Soundproof a ceiling
Ceilings are like any other wall. One difference is that they’re often in direct line of vibrations because of the foot traffic from the upstairs floor.
If possible, soundproofing the floor is often more effective than soundproofing a ceiling and it’s easier to place the material on the floor due to gravity.
But if the floor area is not available, placing MLV on the ceiling studs (video) or directly on the surface as explained before can work pretty well.
10. Soundproof an RV or a mobile home
Automotive sound deadeners or pure MLV are the best materials for mobile homes. There are two reasons for that. First of all, they work great at blocking vibrational noise which is often found in any vehicles and trailer homes.
Don’t forget the generator noise if you have one for example or the water pump! Aside from noise when you’re on the road, the generator and water pump noise can be drastically limited by soundproofing the key areas of a mobile home.
The second reason these materials are great for mobile homes is their size. Acoustic foam, mineral wool panels and similar items are all much thicker, and take away space from the room.
In comparison, none of these top automotive sound deadeners are thicker than 1/3″, but they still provide excellent noise-blocking capabilities.
We all know that mobile homes can get crowded with people and stuff, so being able to lower noise while not stealing any space from the rooms is a big deal.
To learn how to fully soundproof an RV or mobile home, check out this simple 7 step guide.
11. Soundproof the floor
I’ve already mentioned the full guide on floor soundproofing. But can you do it with MLV alone? Sure, you could place it on the floor/ceiling studs, which would require opening the floor or the ceiling in order to reach inside.
The other option is to simply cover the floor with MLV, by using a spray adhesive to attach it firmly. Then covering it with a rug, carpeting or floor mats of your choosing.
A more localized application can be used in the case of band practice rooms for example. Placing MLV under the drum set to reduce the sound reverberation and echo.
12. Improve acoustics in a recording studio
Echo is a major concern if you want crisp audio for your podcasts, music or any other recordings. Creating a vocal booth or simply placing a sheet of MLV on the wall close to the microphone can make a big difference.
Of course, there are some other great options for reducing echo such as acoustic foam panels and bass traps. Even egg crates can be used if you’re running on a really low budget.
Which is the best pure mass loaded vinyl product?
I’ve used MLV from two different companies so far – TMS and Soundsulate.
In my opinion, TMS is much better. It weighs more (1 lbs compared to 1/2 lbs) and it’s got a better STC rating (27 compared to 20).
The other factor is the smell. I had to wait 4 days for an industrial smell to dissipate from the Soundsulate MLV, while the smell of TMS vinyl, which I used for multiple in-door projects so far, has never took more than 2 days to go completely away. And even then it was barely noticeable when you came a bit too close.
Prices are pretty much similar, with TMS being slightly more affordable. But it can depend on where you buy it. I’ve bought TMS vinyl a couple of times on Amazon through the most popular vendor. Check out the current price and customer reviews if you’re interested in doing the same.
SIMPLE BUYING REMINDER: before purchasing make sure that you know HOW MUCH material you actually need for your soundproofing project. Buying too little is never a good idea because you’ll have to order again in order to get the job finished. And ordering too much will… well it just sit there and you’ll spend unnecessary cash.
However, I always purchase a little bit more of any material than the project requires, just to be on the safe side. Considering the fact that there are so many ways to use MLV, the leftovers never go to waste.
- Use an assistant – Whether it’s your spouse or the next door neighbor, it’s good to have someone help you when installing MLV if you’re doing larger projects. For example, if you saw the installation videos I linked above, you’ve noticed that it’s better if two people are doing the job. One person holds the MLV sheet in place while the other attaches it with nails/screws. In case of smaller projects you can do this alone. For example, if you’re making a soundproof box you’ll use small sheets that will be easier to handle. While MLV doesn’t look heavy, it actually is, so whether you can handle it on your own will also depend on your physical strength. Overall, it’s best to have a special someone to lend a hand.
- Cut the material to size – Cutting the material beforehand to the size you need with a sharp knife will make it easier to install. So instead of carrying a big rolled up sheet of MLV and then rolling it on the wall or any other surface, rather cut it to size first, so you don’t have to carry the whole thing. However, don’t do TOO MUCH resizing. Ideally, there should be as little gaps as possible between each sheet when installed on the wall or any other area. Ideally, you’d be able to cover the entire surface with just one sheet. But if you have to use more than one sheet because of practical reasons (such as when covering a large or uneven surface), keep it at a reasonable level. Because these gaps between sheets can provide weak points through which noise can enter more easily. If any gaps between sheets of vinyl are present, it’s good to seal them with insulation tape.
- Apply acoustic sealant around electrical outlets – If any electrical outlets are present when installing MLV on a wall, you’ll have to work around them. This will leave some gaps around the outlets, which can be detrimental for the overall result. So it’s best to use an acoustic sealant to take care of these gaps. This green glue noiseproofing sealant is the one that I’ve used on multiple occasions and it works really well.
- Don’t stretch it out completely – MLV absorbs impact noise (vibrations) better when it’s not completely stretched out. This is why it’s preferred to use nails and/or screws instead of a spray adhesive. But even with a spray adhesive you can strategically glue it on a surface without stretching it too much by not spraying the entire surface.
So I hope this answers some questions you had. Mass loaded vinyl is an excellent material that can make any place much quieter. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I’ll respond as soon as I can.