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What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Author: Eric Dellolio

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

Read Time: 6 Minutes

How to Install Mass Loaded Vinyl

Author:

Eric Dellolio

Last Updated:

May 14, 2024

Read Time:

6 Minutes

Author: Eric Dellolio

Updated: May 14, 2024

Read Time: 6 Minutes

You've heard mass loaded vinyl is great for soundproofing homes, commercial buildings, and even vehicles, and it’s easy to install. So what is mass loaded vinyl?

MLV has been one of the most commonly used building materials for soundproofing for decades. We have been helping folks use MLV in their projects for well over 20 years. We'll tell you what it is, what it's made of, how to use it, and the different types you may need for your particular application!

You've heard mass loaded vinyl is great for soundproofing homes, commercial buildings, and even vehicles, and it’s easy to install. So what is mass loaded vinyl?

MLV has been one of the most commonly used building materials for soundproofing for decades. We have been helping folks use MLV in their projects for well over 20 years. We'll tell you what it is, what it's made of, how to use it, and the different types you may need for your particular application!

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Popular Mass Loaded Vinyl for Soundproofing


What is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

Mass loaded vinyl (or MLV) is an acoustical barrier that is engineered to block sound wave transmission by combining high density and limpness to provide excellent noise reduction. All of this works together to make MLV well-suited for industrial, building, and automotive applications.

Mass loaded vinyl is typically colored black but can come in different colors and textures to fit a wide array of needs. It’s most often bought in large rolls, but Second Skin also sells sheets for easier shipping and handling because some projects simply need less square footage. Most sheets and rolls can be bought with a density between 1 lb and 2 lbs per square foot. One of the most common uses for MLV is soundproofing walls.

What is mass loaded vinyl made of?

Mass loaded vinyl is manufactured from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that has been compounded with inert materials such as barium sulfate and calcium carbonate to increase density. MLV is odorless, heat resistant, waterproof, tear resistant, and has a high STC rating for effective noise blocking. MLV is also safer than lead and denser than drywall.

Where Can Mass Loaded Vinyl Be Used?

Mass loaded vinyl is the utility player every team needs because it's so versitile. You can use MLV in homes, commercial buildings, and even in cars.

Mass loaded vinyl in HOMES and COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

Mass loaded vinyl is most commonly used in homes and commercial buildings as part of a soundproof wall or ceiling assembly. The MLV is attached directly to the studs or joists with 100% coverage, except for small cutouts for outlet boxes, light switches and any other penetrations. Any gaps or seams should be sealed with acoustical sealant and foil tape. For E84 Class A Fire Rated restrictions, our Luxury Liner™ E84 Class A Mass Loaded Vinyl Roll is perfect for meeting those requirements in commercial spaces.

MLV is extremely effective for use across a variety of projects, often used to reduce noise transmission in soundproofing ceilings and walls, as well as to soundproof a door, machinery enclosure, pipes, ductwork, and HVAC. For wrapping noisy pipes you can use Luxury Liner Pro™ MLV + Foam for a powerful MLV with a foam decoupler. Where there are radiant heat concerns like in pipes and ducts, we recommend our Luxury Liner™ Foil Faced Mass Loaded Vinyl Roll.

Mass loaded vinyl OUTDOORS

Outdoor applications include building a DIY sound barrier fence, a generator sound box, and even to build a barrier around your air conditioner. For outdoor applications, we recommend installing our Luxury Liner™ Reinforced Mass Loaded Vinyl Roll – with extra tensile strength to resist tearing and UV resistance – with reinforced grommets. For aesthetics concerns, MLV can be concealed behind another material or barrier, but you can leave it exposed too.

Mass loaded vinyl for cars

Because mass loaded vinyl is flexible it can fit around the countours of a vehicle making it the ideal automotive sound barrier for airborne engine, tire, and road noise. Luxury Liner Pro™ is the best there is as it pairs perfectly with a sound deadener due to the close cell foam decoupler to create a superior sound barrier.

How to Install Mass Loaded Vinyl

The exact process for installing mass loaded vinyl depends on the application. There’s one general rule, which is to install it with 100% coverage and seal all seams and gaps. Sound behaves like water, and will “leak” through any openings in your MLV sound barrier. A successfully MLV soundproofing project mostly comes down to being methodical about properly covering the application area.

We have a whole article on how to install mass loaded vinyl as well as specific install steps on our Luxury Liner MLV roll page.

Frequently Asked Questions about MLV

What Do You Put Over Mass Loaded Vinyl?

You should install 5/8” drywall over the top of mass loaded vinyl, after sealing the perimeter and around any penetrations with acoustical sealant. The drywall can then be painted or covered for whatever décor fits the room.

What are Common Alternatives to Mass Loaded Vinyl?

A sound isolation clip system is always a higher performing option than mass loaded vinyl for wall and ceiling applications, as it will deliver superior STC and IIC ratings. Clips are also much easier to install on a ceiling. We prefer the RSIC-1® clip. RSIC clips should be installed with 25 gauge hat channel, 5/8” drywall, and sealed around the perimeter with acoustical sealant.

Does Mass Loaded Vinyl Really Work?

Mass loaded vinyl is a cost-effective, simple to install solution for soundproofing, or stopping noise from traveling between two spaces. The MLV must be installed with 100% coverage (no air gaps) and is most commonly used as part of a wall or ceiling assembly. Mass loaded vinyl is commonly used to improve the Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of an assembly in both residential and commercial soundproofing projects.

For more on the topic, check out our article does mass loaded vinyl work for soundproofing?

Are All MLV Products the Same?

MLV products are all made from recycled goods, and generally have the same density and STC rating. There are some differences in properties depending on the exact formula and which recycling streams a manufacturer dips into, as some are definitely higher quality than others. There are also differences driven by the actual manufacturing process. If you get the cheap-o MLV, some of the problems you can run into are:

    1. Inconsistent Weights - this can reduce the mass per square foot and reduce the effectiveness of your MLV sound barrier.
    2. More Brittle and Less Flexible - you don't want the product to rip just because you bent it a couple of times.
    3. Easier Tearing - cheaper MLVs have lower tensile strengths. They will tear easier and should be used with caution if attaching with mechanical fasteners (definitely not outdoors).
    4. Bad Odors - depending on the chemical makeup, some MLVs will have a strong smell that doesn't dissipate over time.

What Should You Look For in an MLV Sound Barrier?

The first thing you should confirm is the quality of the mass loaded vinyl. Two key indicators of quality are the MLV's STC rating and whether or not the company describes it as odorless.

The STC rating tells you how well the MLV blocks sound waves, the higher the better. The density of most MLVs is between 1 pound per sq ft to 2 pounds per sq ft. The industry standard is 1 lb, which is what we recommend for vehicles because the denser versions of MLV are not as workable around a vehicle's curves. Most people use the 1 lb density for homes as well. For this density, you're looking for an STC in the the 26 to 28 range.

Being odorless indicates the quality of the materials that compose the MLV. It's possible to cut costs by making the MLV out of cheap recycled goods, but you pay for that cheapness in odor, easy tearing, and brittleness.

Why Does MLV Work Better as a Limp Barrier?

In theory, the mass loaded vinyl barrier will perform better when somewhat limp, because the give prevents your barrier from vibrating. This "limpness" applies whether you're installing the MLV inside the wall of a room in your house or under the carpet in your vehicle. Think about if you hit a sheet of lead (which used to be the go-to blocking material before we learned about the health concerns) it won’t reverberate and ring like a rigid sheet of tin or brass. It’s the same with mass loaded vinyl the flexibility and limpness prevent the MLV from vibrating. Because the MLV material doesn’t vibrate, you don’t hear the ringing sound.

How Much MLV Do You Need?

The most important thing for mass loaded vinyl is that you use it with 100% coverage of the area you are installing it, any opening or breaks in the mass loaded vinyl will allow sound to transfer right through. To make sure you get the right amount of material, you’ll need to measure the area to get the total square footage amount. For example, if you’re installing mass loaded vinyl on a 10 feet wide by 8 feet tall wall, you’ll need 80 square feet of material.

If you are installing mass loaded vinyl in your vehicle, check out our car square footage guide for an estimate!

What is the Difference Between Mass Loaded Vinyl and Acoustic Mats?

Much like mass loaded vinyl, acoustic mats (commonly called rubber underlayment) are known for often being just as dense as many MLV. The key difference is the makeup of the products. MLV is best known for wall soundproofing due to its STC ratings, but we don't recommend it for floors. Acoustic mats are engineered to soundproof floors by decoupling the finished floor from the subfloor and harshly reduce impact noise, like footsteps.

Our UnderBlock™ rubber underlayment and UnderBlock™ HD are the acoustic mats you need to soundproof your floors.