Plasterboard walls are not exactly what one would call soundproof. Yet it is a popular choice when building a house or constructing a wall, due to its inexpensiveness.
Plasterboard is a quick way to make internal partition walls. If you consider the structure of a plasterboard wall then there is much room for soundproofing. It is made by building a frame of wooden joists or studs. Both vertical and horizontal studs are provided to make the structure more stable and compact. Plasterboard is then nailed neatly to both sides of this framed structure to make a wall.
This is used for internal wall portions, or just as a partition wall to economize a space better. While a plasterboard wall is easy to build and install, it still needs good soundproofing.
7 Ways to Soundproof a Plasterboard Wall
Before we go into discussing methods to make a plasterboard wall insulated against sound, let us figure out what types of sound we will be dealing with. From the context of soundproofing a wall, sounds may be classified into two categories. Airborne and Structure borne.
Airborne sounds are transmitted through the air and occupy a majority of the sounds that we hear every day. The sound of traffic, sound from the television, a baby crying, etc are all airborne.
Structure Borne noises on the other hand are transmitted through solid surfaces. These are also known as impact noises and occur when a solid object comes in contact with a solid surface such as the floor, wall, or ceiling.
Sounds generated from slamming the door, and dropping your phone on the floor would thus classify as impact sounds.
The plasterboard, due to its thin surface, is not able to stop any of these sounds. But that can be changed with soundproofing solutions. Let us find out how:
Additional Layers of Plasterboard
This might not be the definitive solution for noise reduction, but for places where the level of sound is not as much, this might just as well do the trick. Adding one or two extra layers of plasterboard to the wooden frame will essentially make the surface thicker.
Thick surfaces will make it harder for the sound to percolate or get transmitted through it. This means that if you decide to bulk up your plasterboard wall by simply adding additional layers of plasterboard, it will reduce the intensity and volume of incoming sounds.
That being said, this is not technically a method for soundproofing as this will only muffle out the sounds and cannot completely block them.
Mass Loaded Vinyl
Commonly known as MLV, it is a heavy limp vinyl sheeting material that is impregnated with metals to increase its mass. MLV sheets are quite commonly used to soundproof walls and other surfaces.
Ever since it was introduced in the 1960s, MLV has been consistently popular in the world of soundproofing because of how easy it is to use and install. All you have to do is measure the dimensions of your plasterboard wall and cut out a sheet of MLV according to those dimensions.
It is best if you cover the whole wall with an uncut piece of MLV but that is not possible for walls of large size.
For larger surfaces, you have to join more than one sheet of MLV side by side. While doing so, you must remember to pay special attention to the joint between the two sheets and make sure there is not any gap.
What makes MLV so good at dealing with noise is its reflective capacity. Rather than just absorb sound waves, it blocks them by reflecting them thus containing or stopping sounds outside.
Sound Deadening Mats
The mechanism to block sound using a sound deadening mat is the opposite of that of an MLV. While MLV utilizes the phenomenon of reflection, these mats follow absorption, and by that what is meant is, that whenever sound waves come in contact with the surface of a sound deadening mat, their intensity is reduced because the mat absorbs the vibrations.
Therefore this is a great choice if you wish to keep sounds from inside your room from going to the other side of the wall. If you are using a plasterboard wall as a partition to break a larger room into two, then applying sound-deadening mats on both sides of the wall is going to give you better results.
As the name sounds, acoustic foam is a special type of foam that is used for the purpose of absorbing sound. This is also best applied to keep the sounds inside a room rather than stopping outside sounds from entering. This is because the foam only absorbs sound.
Some acoustic foams are also textured and help to break their uniform path and dissipate them into different directions in order to reduce their intensity.
The only problem with this type of foam is that it does not look very pretty and can compromise the aesthetic quality of your room. But you can easily rectify that by covering the wall with sheets of wallpaper.
Decouple The Plasterboard Wall
Decoupling is one of the most effective ways of soundproofing plasterboard walls. Before we understand how it works, let us first understand how sound travels.
Basically, whenever a loud sound is generated, it is emitted in different directions in the form of sound waves which travel in straight lines. When these uniformly traveling sound waves meet a solid surface, like let’s say the surface of a plasterboard wall, it creates a vibration on the surface. This vibration easily transfers to the next layer of the wall and onto the other side of it.
Decoupling aims to stop this transfer by separating two parts of a wall so that the vibration of sound waves cannot automatically transfer from one layer to another through structural transmission.
So, as the name suggests, two layers of the plasterboard wall have to be separated and kept in such a manner that there is a gap between them. In simpler words, what one has to do is isolate the two sides of the plasterboard wall by attaching the plasterboards to two different stud frames.
There are three ways in which you can do this –
- Building a resilient channel
- Double studded wall
- Staggered wall
Most go for resilient channels because it does not take up as much extra space as compared to the other two methods. Resilient clips are attached on top of the studs and the plasterboard is hung on top of the clips. These clips encounter the sound vibrations and kill their intensity before the rest is passed on to the studs.
The name “double studded wall” is pretty self-explanatory. You basically build two stud frames for the two plasterboards. This method takes up a lot of space because the second stud frame has to be accommodated.
In staggered stud walls, the number of frames built is one but the space occupied by it slightly increases due to how the vertical studs are placed in a nonuniform staggered manner. This ensures that the two plasterboards on either side are not attached to the same studs.
Decoupling a wall helps both with impact noises as airborne noise, because the studs absorb the vibrations before the sound is transmitted onto the plasterboard.
Insulate The Wall Cavity
The wall cavity is formed after you decouple the two sides of the plasterboard and the center has a gap. Filling up this gap will serve two purposes. Firstly it will essentially be adding mass to the wall and the insulation will absorb sounds thus stopping its transmission. Secondly, the lack of a cavity or a gap will stop the occurrence of an echo resonance.
To insulate a wall cavity, one of the plasterboards has to be taken off and the cavity filled with the preferred insulation material. It can be fiberglass, mineral wool, rockwool, etc. After the plasterboard is placed back on, you will have a solid and soundproof wall.
After you have applied one or more of the above following methods but still feel that the room could use some more quiet, you can go ahead and hang some heavy soundproof curtains in front of the wall.
These curtains are different from regular curtains as they are first of all large and cover the entire length of the room and secondly, the material is quite thick. Usually, there are three layers where a soundproof material of standard thickness is sewn in between two layers of normal cloth. The outer material is generally made using something coarse so that the surface can dissipate the sound waves in different directions.
However, soundproof curtains should not be your only solution to soundproof plasterboard walls as this is a secondary method and best coupled with a primary method such as adding mass and decoupling.
Plasterboard walls are infinitely different from concrete walls or brick walls and should not be treated in the same manner.
The soundproofing solutions to plasterboard wall are limited as some classic methods such as applying green glue are not as beneficial if applied on a plasterboard surface. Instead, many use layers of plasterboard and in between, they use green glue to increase the level of soundproofing.
If you are looking for easy DIY solutions then decoupling will not be an ideal choice for you as it will take expert help if not professional. But it will also be the most effective and thus will be worth the hassle.