Mass Loaded Vinyl has been the most popular soundproofing materials since the 1960s, and it still is to this very day.
The reason behind its popularity is simple and effective application coupled with a modest price.
In this article you will find answers to the most common questions that non-professionals have about it.
Also I will show you how to install it properly in your home or vehicle.
What is Mass Loaded Vinyl used for?
It’s main purpose is to act as a barrier that dampens structure-borne noise, also known as impact noise.
Impact noise is low frequency, vibration sound produced by drums, engines, boilers, kids jumping on the floor and things of that nature. It’s called “structure-borne” because it can easily pass through walls, carbon fiber and other common barriers found in homes and vehicles. In fact, it usually gets amplified as it passes through.
Dealing with structure-borne noise is different from dealing with airborne noise. The usual airborne noise complaints are traffic sounds, and people talking or playing music loudly (without a strong bass, which would fall under the impact noise category).
For airborne sounds, standard products like soundproof foam panels work pretty well. But for structure borne noise, a product like MLV is used because it’s better at absorbing vibrations.
What is MLV made from?
Mass Loaded Vinyl is a viscoelastic material. It’s a combination of polyvinylchloride (PVC, or vinyl) and calcium carbonate or barium sulfate.
What does all of this mean in practical terms?
Basically, MLV exhibits a “flow effect” when it confronts vibrations, while retaining its shape. The “flow effect” is necessary for the material to absorb vibrations, while its elasticity ensures that it remains stable after this happens.
If it were too elastic, it would be stiff, and therefore would not be able to absorb the noise well. On the other hand, if it weren’t elastic enough, vibrations would change its form as they do to fluids like water or honey.
The middle ground between these two extremes is why it works as well as it does.
Is Mass Loaded Vinyl safe?
There has been some confusion about the safety of MLV. This health scare has its origins in advertising strategies that a few soundproofing companies employed in the past.
Because MLV can have either calcium carbonate or barium sulfate as the inert material, some companies use a “barium free” tagline to advertise their products as the safer option.
This claim is a little more than a sales gimmick. It’s true that exposure to high levels of elemental barium can be toxic, but barium sulfate is inert and insoluble in water, and therefore does not present a health hazard in any way.
As far as flammability is concerned, Mass Loaded Vinyl is designed for higher temperatures, which is why it’s commonly used to soundproof engine compartments.
However, it contains plasticizers, so in case of a fire it can catch fire as well. But it would certainly not be the culprit of it, and it’s definitely safer than foam panels and similar soundproofing products.
If you’re interested in the science of it, here is a study performed on MLV flammability.
Can you paint Mass Loaded Vinyl?
Yes. For painting MLV it’s best to use latex paint.
However, I would still ask the manufacturer of the specific product before painting it, as there can be slight variations between products.
But latex paint is usually the best solution.
Which is better – MLV or Green Glue?
It’s a tough call. As far as effectiveness is concerned, both are great. So it mainly depends on which product is more practical.
MLV is easier to remove if you need to do it later on. Also, it looks better. Green Glue can be a bit messy just like any other soundproofing product in a “spray” or a “tube”.
Having said that, Green Glue is more convenient for soundproofing small, hard to reach places, like between electrical outlets and pipes.
I prefer using MLV for larger areas and Green Glue for smaller areas.
Does Mass Loaded Vinyl smell?
It depends on the specific product.
Some MLV sheets don’t smell at all (like the ones I purchased), while others can have a mild “plastic smell”, similar to some cheaper acoustic panels. The reason behind it is usually the packaging rather than the product itself.
So the smell often dissipates after a few days of the product being out in the open.
Does MLV work for concrete floors?
Yes, MLV works well for minimizing impact noise on almost any surface, including concrete floors.
How to install Mass Loaded Vinyl on walls
I found a great guide for installing MLV on the walls, and you can check it out by clicking here.
How to install Mass Loaded Vinyl on floors
This video shows you how to soundproof floors with MLV:
How to install Mass Loaded Vinyl on a ceiling
Here’s how you place it in the ceiling. As you’re about to see, you should definitely call a buddy or two to help you with this project:
How to install Mass Loaded Vinyl in a car
Using MLV to soundproof a car is pretty easy. Simply cut it to size and place it on the area that you want to soundproof. If you want to soundproof the floor in the vehicle cabin, place it beneath the carpet.
If you want to soundproof the engine compartment, cover its door with the material. The same holds true for the trunk area as well.
Mass Loaded Vinyl is all the rage today as it was over 50 years ago. It’s a reliable material for reducing impact noise and alleviating headaches from the get-go.
MLV can be bought in many online stores as well as Home Depot. I recommend getting it on Amazon (aff link to Amazon) because they usually have the lowest price, plus their customer review system ensures that the product is in top shape.
I hope you find this information helpful. For more soundproofing tips check out other articles on the site. If you have a specific question that hasn’t been answered yet, you can email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll provide you with an answer in a new article. Till next time! – Luka Baron