How Drywall Can Control Sound

Drywall, also known as sheet rock or plasterboard, is used to create the walls of a commercial building. Made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) plaster that’s sandwiched between layers of paper, it’s attached to the building’s frame studs to form interior walls. In addition to creating partitioned spaces, however, drywall has a secondary application that often goes unnoticed: sound control.

The Basics of Acoustics

Acoustics refers to the properties of a building or space that influence the way in which sound is transmitted. When a building has poor acoustics, sound vibrations can travel through walls, ceilings and floors more freely, thus creating a distracting environment for occupants.

Acoustics is important for several reasons. Statistics show, for instance, that reducing noise levels in an office increases worker productivity by roughly 20 percent and worker satisfaction by 140 percent. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to noise level of 85 decibels (dBA) or louder can lead to hearing loss.

Drywall and Acoustics

Drywall controls sound by acting as a barrier that interrupts sound vibrations, weakening the strength of the vibrations as they travel through the building. Without drywall, there’s nothing to stop sound vibrations from traveling from one room to an adjacent room other than frame studs and insulation.

Construction companies and contractors can improve the sound-controlling properties of drywall by using multiple layers of panels. Rather than installing a single drywall panel, two panels can be glued together to form of a thicker wall. Choosing thicker drywall, such as 1/2 inch as opposed to 3/8 inch, may also dampen sound vibrations.

Sound-Controlling Drywall

While standard drywall does a pretty good job at controlling sound, there are certain types that offer stronger sound-dampening properties. QuietRock, for example, features multiple layers of gypsum mixed with sound-absorbing polymers. Originally developed in 2003, it’s become one of the industry’s most popular drywall products for soundproofing applications. There’s also Soundbreak XP, which is a cheaper type of sound-controlling drywall. Soundbreak XP has a lower Sound Transmission Class (STC) than its QuietRock counterpart, but it’s also lighter and easier to handle.

Other Ways to Control Sound

Of course, there are other steps construction companies can take to control sound. According to the Gypsum Association, steel framing studs are more effective at reducing the transmission of sound than wood studs in commercial construction projects. This is because steel studs are less rigid than wood studs, so they inhibit a greater amount of sound. Insulation can weaken sound vibrations as well. The Gypsum Association recommends adding insulation in the open space behind the drywall.

As a commercial installer, UBS is a leader in metal stud framing. Contact us for a quote on your next office building, high rise or apartment complex. 303.466.7200.