Choosing the Best Drywall for Soundproofing

Soundproofing nowadays, for lack of words can be regarded as a necessary evil. This is because activities that were once confined to outer environments are now being brought into the home, such as the introduction of video game rooms, full-size projection rooms, home offices as well as media rooms.

Bearing all of this in mind, there is no gainsaying that there is a need to soundproof your rooms to save yourself the hassles of attending to knocks each time from your neighbor asking you to turn down the volume of your sound system or seize hosting house parties, etc.

If you reside on a busy street or intersection, you might have noticed the noise emitting from one room to another or from the movements on the busy street, making it extremely difficult to go about your daily business without being distracted by the ongoings outside of your world.

Taking a theoretical look at sounds, a combination of them is what makes melody, harmony and all ear-tingling elements of music you have ever come across but it is unwanted sounds also known as noise that gives you that headache, makes you lose concentration, distracts you from work or earns you a knock from your neighbors at odd times and this is what soundproofing aims to resolve.

Indeed, if you aim for an atmosphere with increased comfort, quiet and privacy inside of your rooms, creating a soundproof barrier using drywall might just be your best bet.

Since sound itself is created by the transmission of vibrational energy through the air, water or other media, one rule of thumb to dampen this energy or stop this sound on its tracks is creating a barrier that would bounce back these sounds isn’t it?

While standard drywall (thinner than plaster) will help muffle these unwanted sounds, it won’t entirely shut the noise out. Most drywall types consist of a solid core made of gypsum, a mineral made from calcium sulfate used in building constructions. This is also responsible for turning a rigid piece of drywall that vibrates along with the produced sound waves and allows the noise permeate into your room, office, home or space.

What Is a Drywall and What Is It Composed Of?

You somehow have come in contact with it. In fact, you probably walk past it every day. It is a construction material used in the making of walls and ceilings, arches, eaves, and other architectural components. Ever heard of sheetrock, plasterboard, wallboard or gypsum wallboard? A-ha, you’re well on track. That's exactly what we are talking about.

While regular drywall comprises of a number of additives, most companies would usually ensure that their product comprises of Gypsum and Cellulose.

Gypsum: This mineral makes up between 70 and 90 percent of sheet drywall. Indeed, gypsum has long been the main component of drywall products. Known in some quarters as Calcium sulfate, the mineral is cheap to mine, provides superior sound properties and is fire-proof. Type X drywall which is highly fire resistant will have fiberglass added to gypsum. Gypsum has an added advantage in that its dust isn’t a grave health hazard unlike, asbestos.

Cellulose: Making up about 10 percent of drywall’s composition, it is the paper facing on both sides of drywall. In recent times, however, drywall is not being faced with paper but mold-resistant fiberglass mat.

Other included materials mainly in trace amounts are starch, mica, wax, boric acid, vermiculite. Potassium sulfate, Crystalline Silica.

It is also important to note that there are other drywall types separate from the regular drywall namely

  • Impact resistant (used in high abuse areas such as in school dormitories)
  • Moisture resistant (used in basements, bathrooms or other areas prone to moisture problems)
  • Lead-lined drywall (used for areas subject to radiation such as X-ray rooms), blue board (layer of
  • Plaster installed over drywall to give a specific look), flexible drywall (tight arches or curves)
  • Soundboard (used wherever noise is a concern)

Soundproof Drywall

This drywall type is composed of laminated drywall with a mix of gypsum, wood fibers and polymers with the intent of increasing the Sound Transmission Class (STC) of the wall.

Soundproof drywall is denser than regulars and is as a result harder to work on, for example, cutting on them. They are different from regular drywall in that they possess soundproofing characteristics and are used in areas where noise is a bit of concern or where silence is needed in a room.

You could make use of these in your family room walls, office spaces where highly important meetings are held or music room/recording studio if you’re a musician.

Although soundproof drywall is more expensive than the regular drywall, its benefits are far too numerous. That said, let’s take a look at the cost comparison between everyday regular drywall and soundproof drywall.

It costs about $40 for a single sheet of a soundproof wall compared to $30 for a regular drywall sheet. However, if you’re working on a tight budget, you could choose to limit the soundproof drywall leading to space where noise is the largest concern.

Best Drywall for Soundproofing

There are several brands into the production of soundproofing walls though not as numerous as regular drywall manufacturers. However, the best drywall for soundproofing available in the market is QuietRock touted to have a Sound Transmission Level rating of class level 80. Still, the best drywall for soundproofing might be subject to the kind of sounds you’re looking to shut out of your room or space. With that in mind, let’s have a look at STC ratings and how they can influence our choices of soundproof drywall.

STC is a widely accepted rating used to assign the acoustical performance of a door or other materials. A high STC value indicates a higher ability to resist the transmission of sound and vice-versa.

Here’s a list of STC ranges you should get accustomed to:

  • 25 – Normal speech can be easily heard.
  • 30 – Loud speech can be clearly understood while normal speech can be heard but not clearly understood.
  • 30 – Loud speech can be clearly understood while normal speech can be heard but not clearly understood.
  • 41 – At this rating, loud speech could pass for a murmur.
  • 45 – Loud speech is hardly audible.
  • 50 – Loud sounds like those produced by musical instruments are barely heard.

QuietRock

This brand is the very first manufacturers of drywall with their very first product dating as far back as 2003. This award-winning product added to its soundproofing characteristics also boast fireproof qualities and is maintained using lower quantities of products and less labor. Products from QuietRock take up lesser space in the home as compared to other soundproof dry walls. QuietRock’s 545 has a Sound Transmission Class (STC) level of as high as 80.

Indeed, QuietRock boasts that their soundproof layer offers a sound transmission barrier equal to eight layers of regular drywall.

The brand also offers QuietCoat, a great alternative for homeowners who cannot entirely replace their regular drywall. QuietCoat goes on the drywall like paint and works to lower noise from appliances and electronics, major culprits of bothersome noise.

The product can be applied to a number of surfaces including computers, appliances, and air conditioning units.

Silent FX QuickCut

Silent FX QuickCut made by Certain Teed is a soundproof wall featuring a viscoelastic polymer between two formulated dense gypsum cores with the aim of significantly improving sound attenuation. The product is ideal for systems or spaces requiring high STC ratings. It also has the advantage of being fast to install and incurring lower labor costs.

The product also features M2Tech technology and is encloses in a 100 percent mold and moisture resistant face and back paper that provides it with enhanced mold and moisture resistance and also contributes to indoor air quality.

SoundBreak XP Drywall

This brand of drywall offers good soundproofing qualities. Soundbreak XP is acoustically enhanced, giving a Sound Transmission Class level of between 55 and 60. While this figure might feel low compared to others, it is still a good figure and a more affordable option.

SoundBreak XP drywall comprises of two pieces of gypsum board covered through and through in a specially designed paper and laminated together with the use of a viscoelastic polymer.

These boards measure ¾ inches wide, four feet wide and usually come in standard lengths of about 3m precisely 8 to 10 feet. Non-standard dimensions (lengths and widths are also available on request with each board weighing 2.9 pounds per square foot.

The board is advertised to provide an STC and Impact Insulation Class C) rating of above 60, a good material for specific floor-ceiling assemblies. SoundBreak XP Drywall meets mold resistance standards as per G21 and ASTN D3273 as well as meets GREENGUARD Gold Certification Standards and offers same aesthetic features as standard gypsum.

Drywall with Green Glue

We can combine drywall with a sound absorbing glue to give us a desirable result. Since green glue is the most popular type of sound absorbing glue in the market, we would be considering that for our discussion.

When undertaking a complete remodel for soundproofing is near impossible, installing drywall lined by noise-absorbent glue at the back might be a more practical approach.

The drywall offers extra mass while the green glue separates the drywall from the wall surface whilst acting as a sound absorber itself.

To put things in perspective, one layer of 5/8 inch of drywall with a load of green glue behind can produce an STC as high as 52 which is quite good for soundproofing.

At an STC value of 52, it is expected that loud noises such as those generated by speakers, sound systems or musical instruments from neighboring rooms can only be heard as faint sounds. Even so, the sounds of traffic and conversations are unlikely to be heard at all.

Green-glue is environmentally friendly, non-hazardous and provides a cost-effective solution. It possesses a polymeric formula which converts the mechanical energy from transmitted sound waves into small amounts of system. Green glue acts as a damping material between the drywall. They are of various types and quite easy to install.

Another option to be explored is soundproofing your already existent drywall yourself.

Is Soundproof drywall Really Worth The Hype? Since QuietRock is said to have same soundproofing qualities as eight dry walls put together, can’t we just aggregate an of drywall?

Dry Walls Assembly

It is only at best theoretically possible to achieve good soundproofing with multiple layers of standard drywall but with eight-packed drywall, you’d be needing to battle a host of issues:

  • Higher labor cost
  • Extra cost
  • Loss of floor space
  • Extra weight on your walls and ceiling
  • Greater ancillary materials cost such as drywall tape and joint compound etc.

With these in mind, it might suffice to say that making use of multiple layers of standard drywall is not a viable solution to improving the soundproof quality of walls. However, if you choose to explore, let’s run down through a few things you might find helpful.

Drywall Tape

If you want to join two or more sheets of drywall, you would need to first tape over the seam before applying a joint compound and that’s where a drywall tape comes in handy. Ideally, you could embed only joint compound into the seam but experience has shown that if that is done, the two sheets will soon loosen and separate enough to develop hairline in the cracks in the joints before the joints start to crumble.

Drywall tapes reinforce these joints but what drywall tape is best for your work really? Let’s find out.

1. Paper Drywall Tape

Paper Drywall Tape

They are best described as long (75 feet or more) strips of paper. They can be easily folded when using it for inside corners, however, you would need to first perform a process called bedding which is preparing the wall with a thin strip of drywall mud. Afterward, you lay down the joint tape and firmly press it to remove trapped air bubbles. After leaving to dry for some hours, you can then add another and a final layer of mud.

PROS


  • It is the cheapest type of joint tape available.
  • It need not be ripped off by scissors but can be done by hand instead.
  • It is widely available.

CONS


  • It is a weak tape on its own.
  • Cannot be used for outside corners.
  • Can puncture if not adequately finished.
  • Probability for air bubbles to develop underneath exist.
  • Require an initial layer of mud to get the tape to stick to the wall.

2. Fiberglass Mesh Drywall Tape

Fiberglass Mesh Drywall Tape

Fiberglass mesh drywall tape is composed of fiberglass threads woven together into a tape-like form and is incredibly stronger than paper drywall tapes. 

PROS


  • It is extremely strong.
  • Self-adheres to the wall since it comes with its own adhesive.
  • Air bubbles do not develop because it has holes in it.

CONS


  • Has a propensity to start shredding into threads.
  • It could slow down the project since it needs to be cut with scissors.
  • Thick tape leaves a bulge that needs special care in the final finishing process.
  • Its gummy adhesive makes your fingers and scissors sticky.

3. Ultra-Thin Fiberglass Drywall Tape

Ultra-Thin Fiberglass Drywall Tape

An improvement on thick fiberglass mesh-like tape, it is thinner and easier to handle. The market for ultra-thin fiberglass drywall tape is dominated by FibaTape Perfect Finish which does not have the thread qualities of classic mesh tape. It instead is like a finer mesh similar to fabric and is stronger than the coarser mesh drywall tape.

It solves the problem of regular mesh fiberglass tape bulging under the mud and is a lot thinner than paper tape. In fact,, Fibatape is 30 percent thinner than regular paper tape.

PROS


  • It is stronger than paper tape.
  • The adhesive is not gummy, low-stick.
  • There are no loose threads.
  • Excellent for single-spot repair jobs.
  • They are ultra-thin joint tapes and are highly suitable for difficult butt joints.

CONS


  • They are usually expensive.
  • They cannot be used for outside corners.
  • Because of their strength, they must be cut with a knife or scissors.

4. Metal Drywall Tape

Metal Drywall Tape

They are classified as an inside corner bead tape because it is impossible to use them on outside corners or flat surfaces. Assume taking your regular paper tape and laying down two strips of very thin metal running the length of the tape and leaving a small gap between the metal. That’s what your average metal-reinforced drywall tape looks like.

PROS


  • They are stronger than plain paper drywall tape.
  • They are most suitable for inner corners.

CONS


  • Relative to plan paper drywall tape, they are more expensive.
  • Cannot be cut off except with the use of tin snips or strong scissors.
  • The thicker profile makes it more difficult to hide with drywall compound.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In general, the best drywall for soundproofing setup takes advantage of the following strategies for sound reduction.

Increase in Mass

It is no longer news that sound travels better through material than a dense one. Consequently, heavy materials such as glass, concrete or metal all impede sound transmission. Sometimes adding an extra layer of drywall is all that is needed to reduce noise to a somewhat manageable level.

Dampen the Vibrations

Any material that can dampen sound vibrations to a significant level can be comfortably seen as a soundproof material. Highly dense materials like Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) resist vibration by great amounts such that when sound waves pass through them, the amplitude of the transmitted waves reduce. MLVs come in rolls making it easy to install behind drywall and are highly effective for covering noise ducts and pipes inside the wall.

Absorb the Vibrations

Think something similar to what your pillow does whilst absorbing your frustrated screams during a therapeutic session, that’s a beautifully painted picture of what a soundproof layer on a wall can do to a transmitted sound.

Rock-wool insulation is the best type of in-wall shock absorber. This is so because it is dense at the same time porous enough to absorb vibration. It is also worthy of mention to say that fiberglass also provides some degree of sound absorption.

Decouple the Wall Covering from the Framing

Since sound passes through a wall mainly because the wall materials transmit the vibrations, sound will no longer find a direct pathway through the wall if you do well to separate the wallboard from the framing. One known method of doing this is attaching resilient metal channel to the studs, consequently allowing dry walls to float and reducing its ability to transmit sound waves.

An alternative is building the wall with staggered rows of studs such that the wall coverings on either side of the wall are attached to different studs.

For best soundproofing results, it is best to make use of drywall brand products such as QuietRock and SoundBreak XP Drywall as they are the best drywall for soundproofing, however, you can make do with drywall assembly with green glue or with using drywall joined by tapes and joint assembly.

Still, you might find it difficult choosing between a drywall branded product or building your own. Here a few factors to help your decision:

  • Mass – The heavier the drywall or soundproof material, the greater the resistance to sound transmission and vice-versa.
  • Damping – Generally, the less expensive a soundproof drywall setup material is, the lesser the damping material and consequently the lower its performance.
  • Performance – Some standard drywall + Green glue performs even better than some pre-damped drywall. Do well to check the STC ratings to have an idea of what should suit you better.

Final Recommendation


For best quality results, we recommend the use of FibaType drywall joint tapes (Ultra-thin fiberglass drywall tape) like Saint Gobain, Duck Brand.

For mesh drywall tapes, try Uwecan Fiberglass Cloth Mesh Tape. For tape wall applicator, products from Buddy tools and Saint Gobain should fit in just fine.


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