Outdoor Application of Mass Loaded Vinyl: A Focus on Fences

In the quest for effective outdoor soundproofing, one material that often garners attention is Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV). But is it suitable for outdoor use, especially on fences?

This article dives deep into the characteristics of MLV, its benefits for outdoor application, and potential concerns. Whether you’re battling with noisy neighbors or just seeking some quiet solitude in your backyard, understanding the potential of MLV could be your gateway to serenity.

What Is Mass Loaded Vinyl?

At its core, MLV is a dense yet flexible material, specifically designed to be a formidable opponent against noise. It’s essentially vinyl that’s been “beefed up” with additional mass elements, giving it the muscle to block sound waves effectively.

Initially, MLV made its name in the interiors of sound studios, music rooms, and fancy home theaters, offering a hush to the walls, floors, and doors.

But its potential isn’t confined to just the indoors. There’s an expanding world of outdoor applications for MLV, and today, we’re delving into that realm.

Benefits of Using MLV Outdoors

Alright, so why should you even consider dragging this material outside your home? Let’s unpack the perks.

Enhanced Sound Damping Qualities

MLV’s inherent density, complemented by the added mass, acts as a noise barrier, especially against pesky low-frequency sounds. In fact, most MLV products boast an STC rating just shy of 30, which is impressive for such a slim material.

So, if you’re trying to mute the drone of traffic or muffled conversations, MLV serves as an effective silencer.

Durability in Diverse Weather Conditions

Come rain, shine, or a blizzard, MLV stands its ground pretty well. Its resilience makes it a viable candidate for outdoor applications where it’s exposed to the mood swings of Mother Nature.

Versatility in Application Methods

The beauty of MLV lies in its adaptability. Thinking of hanging it like a curtain against your fence? Go ahead. Fancy attaching it directly or sandwiching it between fence panels? That works too.

Whether you’re looking to make a style statement or just get the job done, MLV doesn’t force you into a one-size-fits-all solution. Customize its application based on your backyard’s personality and your own aesthetic and practical needs.

Concerns About Using MLV on Fences

Now, before we jump onto the MLV bandwagon for our outdoor escapades, let’s take a step back and weigh out some challenges and concerns.

Potential Degradation From Sunlight and UV Rays

Okay, let’s clear the air: MLV isn’t some unbreakable material resistant to everything.

Prolonged exposure to the relentless UV rays can gradually degrade MLV, making it susceptible to brittleness and discoloration. Just like how your favorite beach towel fades over time, MLV, too, isn’t immune to the sun’s fury.

Weight Considerations for Fence Structures

MLV’s impressive density is a double-edged sword. While it’s great for soundproofing, this added weight can be a challenge for fences that aren’t sturdy enough. You want to ensure your fence can shoulder this weight without buckling under pressure.

Moisture and Mold Concerns

Water is life, they say, but not when it’s trapped behind your MLV. If not installed with care, MLV can inadvertently trap moisture, turning your fence into a cozy haven for mold or setting the stage for wood rot. And trust me, neither is a guest you want in your backyard.

Installation Tips for MLV on Outdoor Fences

Embarking on the MLV installation adventure? Great choice! Like assembling a piece of intricate furniture, there’s a right way to do it. Let’s dive into the details.

Prepare the Fence Surface

Before draping or attaching MLV to your fence, the backdrop needs to be immaculate.

Why? Because even a speck of dirt or a tiny splinter can interfere with MLV’s performance. Plus, uneven surfaces or trapped moisture might hasten its wear and tear.

Start by inspecting the fence. Look out for any damages, rotting wood, or rust if it’s metal. It’s crucial to repair these issues before moving on.

Next, you’ll want to clean the fence. Whether it’s dust, cobwebs, or old paint chipping off, aim for a spotless fence. A stiff brush or a power washer can be invaluable, especially when dealing with stubborn grime.

Once cleaned, if you’ve washed the fence, let it dry thoroughly. Remember, patience is vital; the last thing you want is moisture trapped beneath your MLV.

Prioritize Robust Fixings

Handling MLV is not like dealing with a simple fabric or light plastic sheet. This dense material needs a bit more respect when you’re fixing it in place.

Lightweight staples or adhesives might seem convenient, but they won’t stand the test of time. Instead, consider using heavy-duty screws that can anchor the MLV effectively. It’s essential to choose screws long enough to go through the MLV and deep into the fence for a firm grip.

And yes, don’t forget about the washers. Washers play a crucial role by providing a broader surface area for the screw to press against, distributing the material’s weight, and preventing potential tear-throughs.

Overlap Your Sheets

If your fence is larger than the MLV sheets, you’ll likely be using multiple pieces.

When placing them side by side, consider a slight overlap. This not only ensures sound doesn’t sneak through the cracks but also provides added security against potential tears or sags at the seams.

Mind the Gaps

Sound is sneaky! Even the smallest gap between the MLV and the fence can undermine your soundproofing endeavors.

To achieve optimal noise reduction, ensure the MLV sits snugly against the fence, leaving no room for sound waves to creep in.

You might even consider adding a bead of sealant around the edges for an added layer of sound-blocking. This also keeps mold and moisture issues at bay and adds to the MLV’s longevity.

Vertical vs. Horizontal

Depending on the height and length of your fence, you’ll need to decide whether to hang the MLV vertically or horizontally.

Horizontal might seem intuitive, but if your fence is tall, vertical installation might reduce the number of seams, which can be beneficial for soundproofing and aesthetics.

In conclusion, when securing MLV, the details matter. It’s the little considerations — from the type of screw to the tightness of the fit — that can make a world of difference in the efficacy and longevity of your soundproofing project.

Alternative Solutions for Outdoor Noise Reduction

If you’re rethinking the whole MLV route, no worries. The world of outdoor noise barriers is vast, and there are other paths to silence. Here are a couple of noteworthy alternatives.

Acoustic Fencing Panels

Imagine having a solution that’s tailor-made for noise reduction, right out of the box. That’s where acoustic fencing panels step in. Engineered specifically to combat external noises, these panels are a straightforward approach to creating a quieter space.

With them, there’s minimal guesswork. You’re not layering or juggling materials; you’re just installing a premade solution that’s ready to get to work. It’s a streamlined, efficient way to reduce noise and elevate the look of your outdoor space simultaneously.

Outdoor Sound Blankets

Outdoor sound blankets, sometimes known as sound curtains, are fabric barriers that come equipped with noise-blocking materials (often MLV.) Typically hung from fences, walls, or even standalone frames, these blankets are made to withstand the elements while reducing noise.

They’re a flexible solution that can be moved or adjusted as needed, making them especially useful for temporary setups or for renters who might not want to invest in permanent installations.

Natural Sound Barriers: Trees and Bushes

For the eco-conscious or those with a penchant for natural beauty, the earth itself provides some splendid sound-damping solutions. So why not consider cultivating a lush green barrier around your property.

Planting a row of dense trees or adding clusters of thick bushes can serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they act as organic sound barriers, absorbing and deflecting the urban clamor that tries to infiltrate your serene backyard. Secondly, they transform your space into a verdant paradise, providing visual appeal and even a haven for local wildlife. 

Earthen Berms

An earthen berm is essentially a mound of soil designed to block or redirect noise. It’s a natural solution that can be sculpted and landscaped to fit the aesthetics of your garden. Beyond just noise reduction, berms can also add contour and visual interest to a flat landscape.

Cost Analysis: Is MLV Worth the Investment?

The cost of MLV is typically influenced by its quality and effectiveness. On average, the expense stands at approximately 3 dollars per square foot. To provide a tangible example, a 40-square-foot sheet from a renowned brand like Soundsulate MLV is priced around 130 dollars.

However, this is only a partial representation. The final cost can vary based on several factors, such as the volume purchased, the selected MLV thickness, and specific brand premiums.

Additionally, the total cost isn’t limited to the MLV sheet alone. Installation introduces its own set of expenses. Items like nails, washers, and sealants, essential for a soundproof setup, incrementally push the overall price higher.

Yet, when evaluating the broader landscape of outdoor soundproofing solutions, MLV often emerges as a cost-effective option. For comparison, this outdoor acoustic blanket, sized at 39.3 x 78.7 inches, costs around 250 dollars. This equates to nearly 8 dollars per square foot — almost triple the cost of MLV.

So, while MLV comes with its own expense, it frequently stands out as more affordable than many professional alternatives. Although options like planting trees might be cheaper initially, most similar professional-grade soundproofing solutions tend to be pricier than MLV.

Conclusion: Weighing the Pros and Cons

MLV has shown itself to be a force to reckon with in the realm of outdoor soundproofing. Its impressive sound-damping qualities, combined with its adaptability, make it a compelling choice.

However, it doesn’t come without its set of challenges. Ensuring proper installation and considering the long-term effects of elements like UV rays are crucial.

In the grand scheme of outdoor noise solutions, MLV certainly holds its ground, offering both efficacy and value for money. When contemplating soundproofing options, MLV is undeniably worth considering.

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