Fiberglass Sound Insulation vs Other Materials: Which Should You Choose?
Whether in the office, manufacturing facility, or even at home, a lot of noise can be heard entering rooms from others through the walls. I know, because I constantly receive calls from business owners and homeowners who want to reduce noise traveling between rooms.
I get a good number of calls from folks that have done their research and know that true soundproofing typically involves wall construction. They often want to know about wall insulation, and fiberglass sound insulation in particular. Or they want to know how fiberglass compares to mineral wool insulation, trying to understand the pros and cons before selecting a material to put into a new wall.
In this post, I’ll talk about fiberglass and other materials used for wall insulation and soundproofing. I’ll also share the products and approach we recommend to get the best bang for your buck. And instead of ripping up the walls to install fiberglass insulation, I suggest a method that requires less demolition and an easier installation process.
Before diving into this method, let’s look at fiberglass and mineral wool as used in wall insulation and acoustic control.
Overview of Fiberglass in Construction and Acoustic Control
Fiberglass is one of the most common materials used in home construction. Made from a combination of sand, glass fibers, and adhesives, this soft material is used to maintain thermal insulation. It also plays a role in sound absorption because of its efficiency in breaking up sound waves.
As an acoustic product fiberglass comes in two different forms – a soft wall insulation and more dense rigid board. We sell rigid fiberglass board products at Acoustical Solutions. It’s ideal for acoustic panels which can be attached to a finished wall to absorb sound and reduce noise. Rigid fiberglass boards can be formed into almost any size or shape, then wrapped in cloth to create a single, rigid product. These panels can stand on their own and hold their shape without a supporting frame. This makes them easier to construct and more convenient for hanging on walls.
Our AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Panel, for example, utilizes this fiberglass core with Guilford of Maine fabric.We also offer Johns Manville Whispertone® Wallboard, which is a raw fiberglass board material made specifically for sound absorption.
Mineral Wool: A Quick Review
The other common material used in sound insulation is mineral wool. This is a material made from processed rock that provides excellent thermal insulation while also blocking sound, largely due to its increased density compared to other sound-insulation materials.
Mineral wool is sold as a loose material. Like the filling inside a pillow, it needs to be placed in some type of container; otherwise it will spill outward. When used as insulation to provide soundproofing, the container is the wall framing. To use mineral wool as the core for a sound absorbing panel that could be hung on a finished wall , a frame needs to be built. This frame often needs a backer, which adds additional weight to the product.
Understanding Sound Absorption vs. Soundproofing as Relates to Mineral Wool and and Fiberglass Wall Insulation
To understand the properties of sound as it relates to fiberglass and mineral wool insulation within walls, it’s important to understand the distinction between sound absorption and soundproofing.
Sound absorption is when a material is used to absorb aspects of the sound to reduce reverberation (echo), or “clean” up the sound. Acoustic panels are a product utilized for sound absorption.
Soundproofing is when you’re actually trying to outright block sound. If you don’t want to hear noises from an adjoining room, then you would want to soundproof that wall.
Now that we understand the differences, let’s get back to wall insulation. Neither fiberglass nor mineral wool wall insulation has any impact on sound absorption. This means that if you want the room in question to sound better, insulation inside the walls isn’t going to have any effect. To achieve this, you will need to have material within the room to control reverberation, such as hanging acoustic panels.
In terms of sound absorption, the deciding factor between mineral wool and fiberglass for sound absorption panels is their physical consistency. Mineral wool is loose fill, so it must be contained within a frame, whereas fiberglass is semi-rigid and can hold itself up or be wrapped in acoustic fabric. This means that mineral wool panels with a frame will be heavier and more difficult to install.
More importantly, this means that for the same size acoustic panel, there will be more surface area of acoustic absorption with fiberglass than mineral wool, because the frame will take up some of the space.
In terms of soundproofing, loose fiberglass and loose mineral wool will help by blocking some of the sound transmission through the wall in addition to their thermal insulative properties. Remember here that we’re discussing material for adding to a new wall, not retrofitting an existing wall. To do that, which many customers would rather do, I recommend the following products.
Green Glue and a MLV Barrier for Superior Sound Proofing
To truly soundproof a wall, I recommend Green Glue with a barrier, such as a Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV) soundproofing material. With this strategy, we don’t have to rip out your walls; we simply retrofit the existing wall with sound-absorption materials, to create a convenient and often more affordable solution to a noise problem.
I’ve seen this solution work for even the most high-demand customers. I once had a commercial client with a conference room in the corner of a large manufacturing and warehouse facility. The noise from industrial activity made it difficult to hold a meeting, and they originally considered ripping out the walls and adding special insulation.
Fortunately, they contacted me and I recommended retrofitting the wall and the ceiling by using Green Glue and a MLV barrier. This solved their issue and they can now hold productive, distraction-free meetings inside a bustling manufacturing facility.
Industrial-Level Noise Solutions for Your Business or Home!
If I can help a manufacturer reduce noise in a meeting room next to heavy machinery, I’m confident I can reduce sound in your workplace, church, movie theater, home – wherever sound is infringing and causing a distraction.
Let’s have a chat about your noise problems! Contact me today and I’ll create a plan that works specifically for your home and your family! I can be reached at: 800-782-5742.
To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at acousticalsolutions.com.