Wood is an outstanding material for design and construction. It is commonly used to make the bones of buildings and, depending on the type you choose, it will change the entire aesthetic of your home.
This material is not only beautiful and sturdy, but it can also help with soundproofing. Soundproof wood is great at absorbing sound, so it can reduce echo and bounce off sound waves.
Today, we will look into wood soundproofing and we will explore the different options. Including soundproof plywood, soundproof drywall, soundproof OSB, soundproof MDF board, and more.
All the information we’ll provide today will help you choose the right kind of soundproof wood for your project. Though there are better soundproof materials, wood offers an inexpensive and effective alternative. Without further ado, let’s get started!
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Understanding the Basics of Soundproofing
To understand soundproofing, we need to understand the way sound works. Sound is a form of energy and it travels either through the air, like when you speak, or vibration, like when you step on the floor.
Now, sound can be dealt with in one of three different ways. It can be blocked by adding mass to a structure. It can be blocked by de-coupling one structure from another one to stop vibration from traveling. Or sound can be absorbed by a material to keep it from traveling through structures.
One of the most important things to understand is that soundproofing is only as effective as its weakest point. That means that soundproofing needs to be thorough so it can successfully keep sound at bay.
Is Wood Good for Soundproofing?
Soundproof wood can be used for many different purposes and it is quite effective. Now, not all kinds of wood are good for soundproofing. You have to choose between soundproof plywood, soundproof OSB, soundproof MDF, soundproof drywall, and others, which are the ones meant for this purpose.
It’s also important to keep in mind that wood is not the best option. It is great at absorbing sound, but it’s not the best at blocking sound. That means that it’s very effective at reducing or eliminating sound that travels through vibrations, but not sound that travels through the air.
Given that this is an inexpensive soundproofing option, you can easily complement your soundproof wood with other soundproofing elements. This will help you make sure airborne sound is also kept at bay.
What Is STC Rating?
Before we move on to discussing the different kinds of soundproof woods, we want to discuss STC rating. To understand STC rating and its value, we have to quantify and measure the loss of sound vibration as it goes from one side of the wall to the other.
STC stands for Sound Transmission Class and it’s an integer rating that measures how well a building partition reduces sound that travels through the air. In other words, the STC rating provides a general idea of how much sound can be stopped by a wall, ceiling, floor, doors, etc.
This is the most common sound reduction measurement out there. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this measurement is limited. You can’t fully rely on it for realistic soundproofing expectations. Even so, it’s worth checking out the STC rating of a particular partition you’re considering.
Soundproof Plywood vs. MDF Board vs. OSB vs. Acoustic Drywall vs. Cork: Which Is the Best Wood for Soundproofing?
Now it’s time for the good stuff! There are many types of soundproof wood available and today we want to focus on the most effective ones. We will explain each one and provide a list of pros and cons. This way, you’ll be able to understand their soundproofing qualities and make an informed decision.
Soundproof plywood is great when it comes to sound absorption, but it’s not great at blocking sound. Why? Because plywood has a low density ranging from 400 kg/m3 or 881 lbs/m3 to 700 kg/m3 or 1,543 lbs/m3. However, soundproof plywood can control sound very well and it breaks sound waves while also bounding high sound frequencies.
Perforating soundproof plywood will allow air to go through and it will disperse sound waves very well. Additionally, you can combine plywood with other materials to increase its effectiveness when it comes to sound absorption.
Plywood is super versatile and it can absorb bass, reduce impact vibration, echo, and sound reverberation, and also break standing sound waves caused by resonance. There are different kinds of soundproof plywood available depending on thickness, finish, and the kind of wood that’s used.
The Pros of Soundproof Plywood
- Plywood is strong.
- It holds screws well.
- Not vulnerable to water damage.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are either low or not existent.
The Cons of Soundproof Plywood
- Plywood has a low density.
- It can splinter easily.
- It’s not easy to cut.
- It can be difficult to work with.
- It can get expensive.
Soundproof MDF Board
MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard and it’s a great type of soundproof wood. MDF board is made with softwood or hardwood fibers that are fused with resin and wax binder under heat and pressure. This is what provides the MDF board with outstanding acoustic properties.
MDF board is easily one of the best soundproofing options out there. This soundproof wood is thicker and denser than other options, which is why it’s so good. It has a density of 720 kg/m3 or 1,587 lbs/m3. Additionally, it’s super durable and sturdy. That makes it perfect for projects that require a strong structure something like a soundproof box for a generator or for quieting an air compressor.
Of course, not everything is perfect. MDF board has certain drawbacks you must consider. This material can be very challenging to work with and it’s very heavy. Additionally, it absorbs moisture and it’s super flammable. It contains VOCs, so they’re released when the MDF board is cut, which is part of why it’s so hard to work with.
The Pros of the MDF Board
- MDF board is denser than other options.
- It holds screws well.
- It’s super sturdy and durable.
- Smooth finish.
- Not difficult to paint or cut.
- If well maintained, it won’t splinter.
The Cons of the MDF Board
- MDF board can be difficult to work with.
- It’s super heavy.
- It absorbs moisture.
- It’s flammable.
- It releases VOCs when cut.
OSB stands for Oriented Strand Board and it’s a type of engineered wood panel. It’s made with waterproof adhesives that are cured by heat and rectangular wood strands arranged in layers that are cross-oriented. It provides similar soundproofing qualities to MDF.
One of the great things about OSB is that it’s less expensive than MDF. Also, it doesn’t absorb water as quickly, but it does hold onto moisture for longer. For this reason, OSB is not used for walls. Though it’s similar to MDF, OSB is not as strong, but it is stronger than other options.
OSB doesn’t release any VOCs when it’s cut and the density ranges from 600 kg/m3 or 1,322 lbs/m3 to 680 kg/m3 or 1.499 lbs/m3. OSB is strong and versatile and it can block sound, which means it reduces sound transmission from one room to another. It’s great at sound absorption, so it’s one of the best options for soundproofing wood.
The Pros of Soundproofing OSB
- OSB is strong
- It’s not expensive
- It doesn’t absorb water quickly
- It’s super versatile
- It offers good density.
- It’s durable and robust.
- It’s pliable.
The Cons of Soundproofing OSB
- It holds moisture for a long time.
- It’s susceptible to splinter.
- It doesn’t offer the best aesthetics.
- Painting it can be difficult.
- It’s heavy.
- It can present swollen corners and edges.
Soundproof Acoustic Drywall
Soundproof drywall is one of the most inexpensive options when it comes to wood soundproofing. It’s the common choice for wall double-layering because it offers greater moisture resistance than other materials. Compared to MDF boards, acoustic drywall is easier to cut and attach, so it’s easier to use.
When it comes to wood soundproofing, QuietRock drywall seems to be the best option. This is sheetrock with a high STC rating, which means it’s better for soundproofing, and it can be better than double-layered soundproof drywall. Drywall’s density is around 650 kg/m3 or 1,433 lbs/m3.
It’s important to note that soundproof drywall is a better option for soundproofing than standard drywall. That’s because it’s made to resist sound transmission. However, you must integrate these acoustic drywall panels need into a complete wall system to enjoy the full benefits of this soundproofing wood.
The Pros of Soundproof Drywall
- Acoustic drywall doesn’t absorb moisture.
- It’s super cost-effective.
- STC rating is quite high.
- It’s easy to use.
- It’s lighter than other options with the same thickness.
The Cons of Soundproof Drywall
- Soundproof drywall is not strong.
- It’s not easy to finish, so professional services might be necessary.
Cork is one of the best soundproof wood options and it’s made from oak tree bark. The reason why it’s so good for soundproofing is that it has a super flexible membrane. This is what makes cork so elastic and it allows it to block sound very effectively.
Additionally, cork is packed with fatty acids, which makes this material impermeable. The elasticity and impermeability work together to make this type of soundproof wood very good. It has a Noise Reduction Coefficient score of 0.7, which measures sound absorption. This score means it absorbs about 70% and reflects 30% of sound.
Soundproof cork is also durable and resistant to termites, rot, fire, and stains. It also has anti-microbial properties and it’s a sustainable material because trees don’t have to be cut down for cork harvesting. Instead, the bark is simply peeled and it will grow again.
The Pros of Soundproof Cork
- Soundproof cork is sustainable.
- It’s great at sound absorption.
- It’s effective against airborne and impact sounds.
- It’s easy to use and install.
- It’s effective with high frequencies.
- It’s super cost-effective.
The Cons of Soundproof Cork
- Soundproof cork is not effective against low frequencies.
- It can be difficult to find soundproof cork because it’s not a specific product for this use.
How to Choose the Best Soundproofing Wood
Now that we’ve reviewed the best soundproof wood options to consider, we want to talk about what you should consider when choosing among them. The two most essential factors you must consider are sound absorption and sound blocking.
If your biggest concern when it comes to soundproofing is preventing outside noise from entering the property, sound blocking will be more relevant. It will also be more relevant if you want to keep noise from going out of your property. Sound blocking is provided by dense, solid, and heavy materials.
If your biggest concern is sound absorption, you want your material to be more porous. This is what will allow the material to absorb sound. If you want to isolate sound entirely and 100%, you need materials that offer both sound absorption and blocking.
The thing about wood is that it’s not always the best option when it comes to sound absorption. However, you can make up for it by combining it with porous materials or making perforations to the surface of the wood. Now, to determine the best soundproof wood, you have to consider the following:
Noise Reduction Coefficient
We mentioned the NRC earlier, but we’d like to expand on it. This is the average measure of the acoustic properties of materials. In other words, it measures how much noise a material can absorb or reflect. The NRC goes from 0 to 1; 1 is the highest, meaning the material absorbs or reflects all sound, and 0 is the lowest, meaning the material reflects or absorbs no sound.
Smooth surfaces made of wood naturally have an NRC between 0.05 and 0.15. This depends on how reflective the wood is. For example, plywood that’s 10mm thick has an NRC of 0.23. As mentioned before, wood is more effective at reflecting sound because it’s a porous material. However, it does absorb some sound. How much sound it absorbs will depend on the type of wood.
As mentioned earlier, wood is not the best material for sound absorption. It’s not dense enough to be super effective at that. Granted, there are a few exceptions. To improve sound absorption, holes, slots, or grooves are made into the wood so it can act as a perforated resonator and reduce sound.
The holes, slots, or grooves will let air through the material and disrupt the passage of sound through the word. This provides greater sound resonance. So, it reflects high frequencies and absorbs low frequencies.
Sound reflection is when sound waves are bounced back the same way they came from, so the sound is distorted or it causes echo. For example, floors made of solid wood planks create a reflected echo of sound. This can be very disruptive.
When sound reflection comes from the floor, a carpet will help control it. When it comes to walls and ceilings, the best thing to do is use acoustic wood panels or curved surface panels. These will diffuse the sound that’s reflecting off the ceilings and walls.
When certain sound waves find a surface that’s smooth and flat, they get reflected. When this happens, they can overlap the original sound wave and produce an echo or ringing. This makes it difficult for us to hear clear sounds. For example, this happens in lecture halls, theaters, and churches, where the sound bounces around the space.
In a nutshell, sound diffusion happens when sound waves get reflected off an irregular or curved surface, such as wood panels. The soundwaves are then diffused or scattered so the echo is taken out of the space where the sound occurred.
To help you consider the best soundproof wood options, here’s a comparative table with all the essential details:
|Water Resistance||Can be, depending on the type of plywood||No||No||Moisture resistant||Yes|
|Density||400 kg/m3 or 881 lbs/m3 to 700 kg/m3 or 1,543 lbs/m3||720 kg/m3 or 1,587 lbs/m3||600 kg/m3 or 1,322 lbs/m3 to 680 kg/m3 or 1.499 lbs/m3||650 kg/m3 or 1,433 lbs/m3||1,250 kg/m3 or 2,755 lbs/m3|
|Ease of handling||Difficult to cut||Low||Low||High||High|
OSB vs. MDF for Soundproofing
Though there are many soundproof wood options, there are two that truly stand out. OSB and MDF often come head-to-head, so we would like to dedicate this section to these two soundproof wood options.
Medium Density Fiberboard is made using wood fibers and they’re bonded with synthetic resin. They’re compressed through heat and pressure. The result is a solid and uniform MDF board that has a nice finish and provides high durability, which is always good.
The wood fibers used to make the MDF board have a random orientation, so they can be cut in any direction. As a result, the surface is smooth. As mentioned before, MDF boards are not water-resistant and are flammable. However, other options offer both water and fire resistance.
MDF boards are super common in carpentry because they’re compatible with a variety of finishes. However, MDF boards have other uses. For instance, they’re used indoor and wall claddings. Overall, it’s a great option and it’s very popular for soundproofing, but it does have its drawbacks.
Oriented Strand Board is another popular type of soundproof wood. It has an amazing aesthetic, which is why it’s commonly used in architectural design. OSB is made out of wood chips that are pressed in perpendicular layers. Resin is used for bonding and it’s applied at high temperature and pressure.
OSB offers rigidity and mechanical strength. Of course, these boards offer sound insulation because there is no space inside them and they don’t present any cracks or knots. In other words, OSB boards are uniform. They’re also durable because they are resistant to humidity, water, wind, and heat.
This material has a rough surface and it’s not possible to apply any laminated products on OSB boards. This material is mostly used in ceilings and walls. It’s also used on floor bases and for furniture structure, packaging, construction sheds, and more.
OSB vs. MDF: Which One to Choose
MDF and OSB boards are very similar in terms of strength and application. MDF boards are denser; in fact, they are the denser soundproof option here today. On the other hand, OSB boards are less expensive because double layers cost the same as a single MDF layer. If you’re going for OSB double layers, keep in mind they’re heavy so they’re not recommended for mobile properties.
Another advantage of OSB boards is that they can be used for exteriors. The same can’t be said of MDF boards because they’re not water-resistant. So, if you want to soundproof a shed, for example, you shouldn’t use MDF boards.
Though MDF boards are denser, OSB boards are stronger. This is why OSB is a better option for structural projects. On the other hand, MDF boards are a lot more versatile and they’re also easier to work with. As such, they are the most popular option because they provide a smooth finish.
At the end of the day, you have to consider the needs of your project so you can choose between MDF boards and OSB boards. You’re the only one who can determine which option suits your project and budget the best. They are both amazing materials and they are great for soundproofing.
If you’re considering wood for soundproofing, you’ll be happy to know there are many different options to consider. We discussed them in detail and we hope this information can help you make an informed choice. There are different kinds of soundproof wood and they all offer great benefits.
However, the one you choose will depend entirely on your project and soundproofing needs. Make sure you consider each option carefully and you’ll have an easier time identifying the one that will serve you better.