When it comes to flooring in homes and living spaces, it’s easy to understand why wood and tile are preferred by most. They add a layer of warmth and beauty to homes and are easier to maintain and are more durable as well.
However, all those benefits come with one major drawback and that is they perform at subpar levels when it comes to acoustics. An untreated hardwood floor can generate unfavorable levels of echo and poor sound quality. If you’re considering tile or wood floors for your home renovation project, there are several products and techniques that can lessen the noise problems before they start getting too much to bear.
There are many types of soundproof materials that can help you and we’ll discuss what these later in this article. However, we’re placing the spotlight on material that can help you greatly: the soundproof mat. Also known as mass loaded vinyl (MLV), this material is the choice of many sound professionals for its ability to deliver high-performance results.
Before we get to discuss what a soundproof mat is, what it is made of and what its most common uses are, let us first take a look at the different kinds of soundproof flooring materials in the market today.
Table of Contents
- Types of Soundproof Flooring Materials
- What is a Soundproof Mat?
- What are the Different Kinds of Soundproof Mats
- Uses of Soundproof Mats
- Alternatives That You Can Use
- The Bottom Line
Types of Soundproof Flooring Materials
There are plenty of great looking flooring materials in the market, but not nearly as many products actually sound as good as they look. The most common product that is used by experts is a soundproofing floor underlay, but there are other choices that you may consider like soundproofing floor mat, insulation, and acoustic foam tile products. Here is a brief overview of each class of materials.
- Acoustic Underlayment – Special materials that lay over a concrete or plywood subfloor, cushioning the flooring and reducing the effects of airborne and impact noise.
- Sound Deadening Vinyl – Also known as Mass Loaded Vinyl, this is a thin but heavy vinyl sheet that shines at dampening noise, especially in floors, machinery, and vehicles.
- Sound Absorbing Floor Insulation – This would be acoustic insulation that gets placed in between floor joists, right below the subfloor. It can also be installed from the ceiling in the floor below.
- Acoustic Floor Tiles – These are unique floor tiles that help lessen echo and reverberation in rooms with hard surfaces and floors.
- Sound Absorbing Carpet Padding – Carpets with a cheap pad don’t perform as well as a carpet with a thicker, denser, noise absorbent padding.
Things to Consider When Looking at Soundproofing Materials
- STC (Sound Transmission Class) – STC is simply a numeric value defining how well a building, or in this case a floor, is at diminishing the effect of airborne noise. A higher STC means the material is great at attenuating the everyday noise in rooms with wood and laminate floors.
- IIC (Impact Insulation Class) – IIC is the numeric value that defines how well a floor assembly is at lessening the effects of impact noise, oftentimes footsteps, but also can be applied to furniture and machinery. The higher the number, the better the material is at lessening those kinds of noises.
- Thickness & Density – When it comes to soundproofing, mass is king! You’ll pay a little more for the increased performance if that’s crucial to you. But, even the thinner 2mm rolls are going to be far better acoustically than the cheap basic underlayment at big box home improvement stores.
Now that we’ve tackled the types of soundproofing materials that you can choose from, let’s hone in on one particular material: the soundproof mat.
What is a Soundproof Mat?
A soundproof mat, which at times, is also called a sound deadening mat, is an ultra-thin, highly flexible, acoustically dead material that is utilized to produce a sound barrier in applications that need soundproofing, such as cars, trucks, boats, sound studios or your own home.
Basically, a soundproof mat is a sheet of vinyl that has been saturated with a “high density” compound to raise the overall mass of the product. In soundproofing, higher mass oftentimes equal to higher performance. And with a thickness of anywhere between 1 – 4 mm and up to 8 kg in weight, a soundproof mat is one of the highest mass soundproofing products available.
This combination of extreme mass and superb flexibility make a soundproof mat one of the most versatile soundproofing materials that you can find today. Soundproof Mat is ideal for nearly any project where an excellent level of soundproofing is needed.
What is a Soundproof Mat Made Of?
Soundproof mat or mass loaded vinyl is made of two crucial ingredients: calcium carbonate or barium sulfate and polyvinylchloride (AKA as vinyl or PVC).
It’s a viscoelastic material, which essentially means that when the deformation occurs, MLV displays both elastic and viscous characteristics. When stretched, it returns to its previous shape once the stress is released. While all these may sound technical and complicated, it really isn’t. The explanation is more than simple and practical.
When confronted with vibrations, a soundproof mat absorbs them and keeps its shape. The exactly balanced amount of elasticity makes it function just the way it does, which is absolutely flawlessly!
By many accounts, mass loaded vinyl was initially developed as a non-toxic substitute to lead-lined materials, to function as a sound barrier in industrial sites. However, like many things in this world, some marketing genius grabbed the idea and ran up other uses for the material, now resulting in dozens of products being sold under the MLV name.
Is It Safe to Use?
Safety always comes up especially with a material that is composed of such foreign elements. In this case, either barium sulfate or calcium carbonate is used as inert materials. Exposure to high levels of elemental barium can be harmful, but in this case, it does not signify the danger because it is insoluble in water and therefore inert! So, it poses no danger at all!
Well aware that this issue raises a lot of red flags among consumers, some manufacturers have their own tricks on how to market a product that has MLV. They mostly label it as barium-free, but even if that’s not the case, as I said, using a soundproof mat is virtually danger-free.
One more pressing concern is flammability! In this case, you again have nothing to worry about as it is designed for higher temperatures! It is true that it can catch fire because of the plasticizers inside if it comes to that. But let’s be honest, compared to foam panels, for example, a soundproof mat is way safer.
So be at ease, as long as you follow everyday safety instructions, using a soundproof mat will let you enjoy more benefits and no troubles.
Can a Soundproof Mat Be Painted On?
Let’s be honest: aesthetics matter and since soundproof mat comes in black or gray color only, it does not appeal to those that want a little more color in their living spaces. But again, this can be remedied fairly easily! Just take latex paint in the desired color, use it to paint the soundproof mat and voila, you already have a vibrant-looking material!
But have in mind that there are many different products with MLV, so read the instruction manual carefully. Not all of them will react the same when painted, so if you have any questions and doubts, the best is to contact the manufacturer.
What are the Different Kinds of Soundproof Mats
Manufacturers have actually produced different variations of soundproof mats to meet all sorts of needs. They have mixed it with glass fiber insulation, mineral fiber insulation, ceramic fiber insulation or acoustical foam, all of which function as great sound blockers. Here are some of the more popular variants:
Combined with fiberglass results in a lightweight acoustic product, which absorbs the sound waves and blocks them. It is often used for piping, ductwork, or garbage chutes.
Combined with foil, which can additionally be mixed with fiberglass as well, is also used to lessen unwanted noises that can come from pipes and ducts.
Combined with aluminum, which, as the previously mentioned one, can be mixed with fiberglass does wonders in exposed commercial and industrial areas, because of high durability.
Combined with foam has the open-cell design of the foam, which ensures the best acoustical absorption possible. The foam breaks and separates the vibration between the two materials.
Reinforced MLV is a mixture of MLV with high strength poly fabric, which results in long durability and hanging strength. The most common usage is as an acoustical curtain panel.
As you see, soundproof mats perform even better if these are mixed with different materials that have been mentioned here. The best way to make sure that you are making the right choice is to ask yourself a few questions, like:
- What type of noise control do I need?
- Do I need to soundproof the entire room/machine/surface?
- Have I got more troubles with inside or outside noise?
Only a good plan will hasten the decision-making process.
Uses of Soundproof Mats/MLV
Let’s now continue to learn more about soundproof mats or MLV by now taking a look at its vast array of uses. This material is often sandwiched between other materials. You can install it everywhere, on floors (even works for the concrete ones!), ceiling, and walls. It is even used to diminish unwanted and improve wanted sounds in cars!
In this section of this article, let me show you a few of the great ways that you can use this specific material!
1) Doors and Windows
The number one problem often arises from doors and windows, especially the cheap ones. The noise just keeps penetrating all around! You can choose between special blankets or drapes. Once hung, they will drastically lessen the sounds that go from your place to the outside, and will definitely reduce the outside ones that are making its way to your home. They are available in different sizes.
So, if you are a budding singer or are the lead guitarist for a band that needs to rehearse even at home, make sure you have heavy MLV curtains to keep your neighbors and your fellow residents happy. It may not be the prettiest thing to look at but the effect is really profound. After all, it’s the noise you are trying to block out. I have also mentioned earlier that MLV can be painted, so if you are really that bothered by heavy black MLV curtains, you can just get yourself some paint, and paint them to the color that you desire.
2) Machinery and Appliances
A dishwasher or washing machine is also one of the most common noise-making appliances inside your home. The sound may not bother others but I find it really grating; like a growling monster that is ready to eat me at a moment’s notice.
Thermo Tec is “an easy to trim and fit“ answer that can help you deal with all the noise! It also works just as well as a heat suppressor as well! If you happen to have HVAC ductwork and pipes, MLV also works for them!
You can also use MLV to help deal with car noise. Now, there are two kinds: those coming from the road, and those which are already in your car, like music for example. As for rattling and vibrations that are coming from the road, a product like Noico really does the job well! Comparing to Dynamat, which is another well-liked automotive sound deadener, it is a bit thinner, but if you double or triple it, you can achieve the very same effect and enjoy your ride without a noisy distraction!
Products like FatMat also 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 they install these, just so they can get the most coverage, and get the best appearance possible. The material can easily be cut to shape and size, and 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) Soundproofing HVAC Ductwork and Pipes
MLV can be used as a “limp” wrap to use around noisy pipes and HVAC ducts. Limp just means it’s decoupled from the duct or pipe, and loosely attached to the parts. Remember, MLV was made to be hung freely to dull noise and vibration.
Alternatives That You Can Use
While soundproof mats are versatile for soundproofing, it’s not always the best option out there, or even the most affordable especially if you are working with a budget. This can cost in the range of $1-$3 per square foot. Fortunately, there are a number of substitute materials and methods that you can consider for your project.
1) Green Glue and Second Layer of Drywall
If you are able to modify or renovate the walls in your space, you should consider adding a layer of drywall over the current wall, with another layer made of Green Glue acoustic adhesive in between. The green glue is flexible between the two rigid layers of drywall and is effective at dispersing sound waves. Unlike walls with MLV hanging all over the place, the finished green glue walls look just like normal walls.
2) Hat Channel and Sound Clips
Hat channel mixed with sound clips can make a significant difference in noise transmission between floors in your space. The channels and clips are attached straight to the floor beams, and then, the drywall is attached to the channels. This decouples the drywall from the floor above, reducing the noise and vibrations transmitted between rooms.
3) Acoustic Curtains
Let’s face it: vinyl hanging off your windows and doors is not going to win you style points. If you want a more permanent installation that looks great, then acoustic curtains are your answer. To reduce sound, they are more dense and plush than common curtains, yet not as dense as MLV sheets. You sacrifice a little performance for a much cleaner and finished look.
The Bottom Line
Now that you have gathered all the pertinent information regarding soundproof mats, you can now make a solid decision on whether or not it is the ideal soundproof material for you and your needs. It’s been an excellent helper in soundproofing for more than 50 years, and will surely remain one of the best solutions for reducing impact noise.
The fact that MLV is flexible and thin makes it applicable nearly everywhere you can imagine. The only drawback is the price, which is why we offered you a few more solutions.