Beyond Soundproofing Myths: Does Soundproof Paint Really Work?
Whenever I talk to people about soundproofing myths, soundproof paint comes up right after egg cartons. But is there some truth to this myth? Does soundproof paint actually work? Let’s talk about it.
At times, soundproofing a home can be a fun and enjoyable activity that requires creativity. You just go around pushing furniture and adding pillows, putting up blankets, and hanging curtains until you’re satisfied with the results.
However, soundproofing can also be strenuous work. Especially when you’re opening walls, ceilings, and floors, you may reach a point when you think that the work couldn’t be worth the results. The same goes for when you’re investing in getting the most effective soundproofing and sound-absorbing products on the market. The bills tend to pile up.
So at the times when you find yourself struggling to complete a soundproofing project, I can see how you may get disillusioned. I can even understand why that frustration may lead you to go for any product that claims to be able to solve your problems. However, I’m not so sure whether you should count on soundproof paint to be your fix-all.
In fact, there are plenty of misconceptions of what paint can and can’t do when it comes to soundproofing your walls and ceilings. In a previous article, I’ve discussed several paint-related soundproofing myths. So today, I thought that I ought to expand on my opinions.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SOUNDPROOF PAINT
In order to start unpacking this question, let’s first figure out how regular paint compares to soundproof paint. Believe it or not, the difference does exist, which bodes well for the effectiveness of soundproof paint. Still, I remain skeptical. So let’s see what regular paint gets us.
If you’re thinking of painting your walls, you’ve probably already done your research on the paint you might use. Regular paint comes in all sorts of colors and shades. It’s fairly thin and easy to manage, so you should be able to paint your own walls easily.
Furthermore, regular paint might also be slightly less expensive than soundproof paint. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Typically, low-cost wall paint can cost about $15 per gallon. However, if you want something a bit higher-quality, and trust me, you do, you’ll want to expand your budget.
Cheap paint could crack faster and even change colors after a while. So you may be better off purchasing in the $30 per gallon range. Incidentally, that’s basically what you can expect soundproof paint to cost too. There are some more expensive wall paints as well, some of which are even upwards of $100 per gallon — but that’s not very realistic.
These prices can get inflated when you consider two factors: color and the type of paint. Usually, darker and more saturated colors are understandably more expensive. After all, more pigment goes into making them.
The types of paints boil down to their finish. Your walls can end up being matte, glossy, or anywhere in between. Some places, like hospitals or schools, use glossy paint on the walls to make them easier to clean. However, matte paints are usually preferable for homes.
Using Regular and Dark Paint for Soundproofing
Some people even think that regular or dark paint can improve the sound quality of a room. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: that is just false.
Regular paint is at most 5 mils thick when you apply it, and it dries down to 2 mils. Even if you really slather it on — which would be a waste of money, in my opinion — you’d only be able to achieve a thickness of 10 thousandths of an inch at best. That is certainly not thick enough to provide any substantial type of soundproofing.
The same goes for using dark paint. As I’ve explained in the aforementioned soundproofing myths article, dark paint only gives the illusion of having a smaller, quieter space. If you want to use a darker shade for your own esthetic reasons, by all means, go ahead. However, if you’re operating under the assumption that darker shades have soundproofing properties, I’m here to tell you that they do not.
Unlike regular paint, soundproof paint doesn’t allow you many choices in terms of color. You’d be able to pick between different light tones, but that’s about it.
As I have mentioned, a gallon of soundproof paint costs about $30, which is neither here nor there. It’s not as cheap as some regular paints, but it’s certainly not horribly expensive. The gallon of paint is enough to cover up to 150 square feet.
Like regular paint, soundproof paint is water-based. However, the reason why it might improve the sound quality a bit is that the main ingredient is actually latex. Not only does latex make this product non-toxic and fast-drying, but it’s also the thing that provides the soundproofing qualities of this paint.
As you know, rubber materials are often used to soundproof and add thermal insulation to walls. I’ve mentioned Mass-Loaded Vinyl and similar rubber materials in articles about soundproofing various areas before.
In this case, the latex should essentially plug any small cracks in the wall and slightly thicken it. It should also provide the extra thickness this paint needs. Because of that thickness, though, soundproof paint can look a bit odd when you first see it.
Unlike regular paint, which should be completely liquid, soundproof paint may appear chunky. No matter how well you mix it, the paint will leave a texture on your walls, especially as you add layers. However, that could also be a good thing, especially if your walls and ceilings have flaws you’re looking to conceal.
In any case, soundproof paint certainly isn’t adding an astonishing amount of mass to your walls. In fact, you can expect to see more thickness if you apply something like a soundproof wallpaper. Still, the thickness is only a small part of why soundproof paint might actually work.
SO DOES SOUNDPROOF PAINT WORK?
Alright, we’ve finally reached the million-dollar question: “does soundproof paint actually work?” Well, there might be some truth to this myth. But first, I should start by sharing some bad news.
First: the Bad News
While most online sources would basically tell you to bathe in soundproof paint, I’m not sure if I can readily recommend it. As I have previously said in my soundproof myths article, the results are really nothing to write home about.
The paint is certainly not thick enough to make much of a difference either way. And in fact, even if it did work, it would only be for a limited range of sound wave frequencies. However, although the paint doesn’t add much in terms of mass, it is very dense. Which means that it might have some soundproofing properties after all.
The Silver Lining
So if you’re looking to redecorate and paint your walls while you’re at it, I’m not going to advise against using soundproof paint. It’s definitely thicker than regular paint, and since soundproof paint is usually made of latex, it should have all of the soundproofing and home improvement benefits you get out of other rubber products.
Aside from being able to absorb some of the noise, it should also provide some thermal insulation. However, soundproof paint should definitely not be the only soundproofing instrument in your arsenal. Besides, there are plenty of methods you could use on top of the soundproof paint, or even on their own.
MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO SOUNDPROOF YOUR WALLS
Since I started learning about soundproofing, I’ve learned about many soundproofing techniques that are much more effective than trying to thicken your walls with paint. Here are just a few methods you could use over your walls and on the ceilings.
Cheap and/or Temporary Soundproofing Techniques
If you’re looking to soundproof your walls and ceilings without doing damage to your drywall, you’re in luck. I’ve just recently written about how you can go about doing that. In that article, I’ve concluded that you could do it by using some typical cheap and decorative techniques.
As always, you can use the furniture, the fabrics, and various soundproofing materials to thicken up the walls and ceilings. Even acoustic foam will only get you so far. It won’t stop the noise from leaving or coming into the room, but it will improve the sound quality somewhat.
However, soundproof curtains, room dividers, and, most importantly, blankets, will be your best friends. And if buying all of these professional soundproofing materials is a bit much for you, you can use ordinary thick blankets or curtains. I’ve explained how to put up soundproof blankets and curtains in previous articles, so I won’t dwell on it too much.
Suffice to say, there are plenty of ways to soundproof your walls that will be effective with or without soundproof paint.
The Ultimate Soundproofing Method
Of course, the most effective way to soundproof your walls and ceilings involves looking underneath the drywall. As I’ve explained in a previous article, you could start by replacing your existing insulation with soundproof insulation. Then, you can install a layer of MLV and attach resilient channels to the wooden studs in the walls.
Basically, everything you can do to separate your drywall from the frame of the house is a good thing. That goes for ceilings, as well as walls. You can also use a Green Glue and drywall sandwich, as I’ve recommended in the linked article.
And if you’re going to be doing serious construction work, you may want to put some thought into choosing your new drywall as well.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SOUNDPROOF PAINT
Ultimately, the question of whether or not soundproof paint really works is a complicated one. But to make a long story short: it does make a tiny bit of a difference. However, it’s nowhere near significant enough to use soundproof paint as your only method of soundproofing. It simply won’t work.
Still, there are plenty of ways to add to the effectiveness of soundproof paint. In fact, I invite you to browse through my home soundproofing guides. You’ll definitely find soundproofing methods that will have more of an impact on your perception of sounds.