Does Acoustic Paint Actually Work?
Soundproof paint sounds like futuristic mumbo-jumbo when you stop to think about it for a second. How can paint dampen sound when walls and doors cannot?
It just doesn’t seem to make all that much sense. On the other hand, if it does work, it might just be one of the best inventions of the last few decades.
It’s not cheap to acoustically treat a room. It can take a team of people weeks to complete, costing you thousands in labor and materials costs.
If you could achieve the same results with a lick of paint, well...that’s money in the bank!
So, Does Soundproof Acoustic Paint Work?
It might blow your mind, but I’m happy to report that, yes, tests have shown that acoustic paint does have a dampening effect on sound.
That’s right, folks, soundproof paint is a very real thing, but before you build up hopes of a veritable fortress of sonic solitude, you should bear a few key things in mind.
Despite soundproof acoustic paint being effective at phasing out sound waves, the term “soundproof” is a bit of a stretch. It’s not as if a couple of coats of acoustic paint will kill all sound trying to get in or out of a room.
The truth is that paint will never be able to do the same job as all the specialist techniques and equipment you’d use to properly acoustically isolate a room.
Rather, soundproof paint is best used to complement primary soundproofing methods.
That's not to say that it can’t be used on its own to some effect. A few layers will definitely help to keep faint background noises to an absolute minimum.
But how does this miracle paint work exactly?
Soundproof Acoustic Paint - How Does it Work?
To understand how acoustic paint does away with those pesky sonic worms gnawing their way through our walls, we need to discuss what it’s made of.
What you’ll notice immediately about this dreamy substance is how viscose it is. A water-based, heavy-bodied paint, galvanized by ceramic microspheres and sound-absorbing fillers, it’s insanely dense for a liquid.
The key to acoustic paint’s efficacy is found within these sound-absorbing fillers. The magic ingredients are known as thermacels. Thermacels are minuscule vacuum-sealed pockets filled with squishy pigment.
Ever been so angry you had to scream into a pillow? Me too. It’s a great way to de-stress without alarming everyone in a ¼ mile radius.
Well, you can think of thermacels like millions of tiny pillows. It’s not going to make your wall soft and bouncy (which would be awesome), but they pick up sound waves and undulate until the force of the waves has been expended.
In essence, thermacels provide something for sonic energy to latch onto — sort of like pacifying a child with a toy.
These magnificent, tiny sound traps can help to reduce the echoing of noises within a room and are particularly effective at combating mid-level frequencies.
For example, you can cut the amount of noise transfer from, say, a conversation outside the room by 30%.
As it’s so thick, thermacel paint also improves thermal insulation, keeping your energy bills to a minimum — a sweet bonus!
Like what you hear? I recommend giving some of this Acousti Coat - Sound Deadening Paint a trial run. It’s relatively affordable and does genuinely work in the correct circumstances.
Sound-dampening coatings has been a hot topic of research lately so it's worth checking out what the latest developments have produced.
Do You Need Acoustic Paint?
If you’re looking to turn the volume down on persistent background noises that are already quite faint, acoustic paint is the perfect quick fix.
Say, for instance, that your neighbor has put up wind chimes in a tree in their garden, and they’re keeping you up at night. Soundproof paint can help. Is there a dog barking a couple of blocks away? Soundproof paint has you covered.
Some other examples of scenarios that acoustic paint can help include…
- Your neighbor complaining that they can hear you talking or watching television à la Mr Heckles in Friends. Acoustic paint won’t completely deaden your late-night conversations, but it might do just enough to keep your disgruntled neighbors at bay.
- If you are that neighbor, treating your walls will prevent the noise from traveling. If you can convince your noisy neighbors to do the same, doubling up on the thermacel layers, you’ll enjoy even quieter evenings.
- Your baby’s a light sleeper. Acoustic paint can help keep intrusive noises to a minimum, allowing your sprog to dream on peacefully.
However, if you’re dealing with loud persistent sounds, acoustic paint isn’t a robust enough solution to your problem. It simply isn’t a thick enough shield against things such as…
- Crying babies
- Close-proximity road-noises
- Dogs barking outside your home
- Booming music or television
- Impact vibrations such as someone jumping up and down or hammering picture hooks. In light of this, acoustic paint isn’t effective on ceilings, as footsteps will still shake through to your ears from above.
- Musical Instruments (especially the drums, but if that’s your worry, you might find your solution in our Top 9 Quiet Drum Sets article.
Will Multiple Layers of Regular Paint Have The Same Effect?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that layering up on your standard paint may have a similar effect as acoustic paint, after all, viscosity is a large part of the sound dampening process.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Even multiple layers of the most luxuriously thick paint will only end up around 2 mm thick once fully cured, and that’s not enough to accost sound waves mid-journey.
You could keep applying layers impasto-style if you wanted, but without the thermacels catching sound waves, there’s really no point.
If you’ve heard any rumors across the internet positing the idea that the color of paint will have an effect on sound dampening, you can go ahead and disregard them. There’s no science to back this up.
Tips On Applying Soundproof Acoustic Paint
Before you put on your overalls, you’ll need to consider the unique properties of soundproof acoustic paint and how it will affect the task at hand. It’s nothing too drastic, but it’s good to be aware of what you’re working with before getting stuck in.
- Viscosity - The thicker paint is, the less coverage you’ll get from it.
As acoustic paint is especially viscous, you’ll need to buy much more than you would regular paint in order to cover your entire room. 1 gallon of acoustic paint will normally only cover around 100 square feet of wall.
- The Drying and Curing Process - Standard oil-based paints dry much faster than acoustic paint.
You could be waiting for something to the tune of 16 hours for your first coat to reach touch-dry, and you’ll have to double that before you can apply a second coat.
I’d recommend painting on a warmer day, as a cold ambient temperature can render the curing process even more sluggish.
- Feel - As you may have guessed, acoustic paint, full of all these wonderful sound-absorbing little fillers, isn’t the smoothest paint.
It can feel pretty rustic to the touch. It’s not an in-your-face abrasiveness, but if you want something sleek and sound dampening, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.
Some people work around this by finishing their room with a coat of silky smooth normal paint; however, it’s argued that this might reduce the sound dampening effects of the acoustic paint beneath.
- Layers Are EVERYTHING - Remember when I said it didn’t matter how thick your slather on regular paint when it comes to soundproofing?
Well, the opposite is true for acoustic paint. The more layers you paint, the more effective the sound dampening qualities will be.
Try to get three layers done as an absolute minimum, perhaps going to five or six layers if you have the time and energy to do so.
Now let’s run over some general tips for the application process.
- Leave No Wall Left Behind - Cracks and gaps in coats are to be avoided at all costs. For this method of acoustic treatment to be effective, there must be complete coverage. Even if you have a dado rail, that should be painted too. Soundproofing should be treated like waterproofing. If there’s a way for water to get in, it’s not waterproof.
- Leave Your Brushes Where They Lie - If there’s one piece of advice you take from this article, it should be to use a pressure sprayer or a roller. Acoustic paint is so thick, using brushes will take you a lifetime. In fact, even a roller will be some serious work.
If you do invest in a pressure sprayer or compressor, just be sure to protect your flooring, furniture, and ceiling because things are about to get messy!
Great Soundproofing Techniques to Combine with Acoustic Paint
As we’ve established, acoustic paint won’t single-handedly transform your riotous room into a zen den, but pairing it with just a few other soundproofing methods can significantly improve the outcome.
- Curtains - This is one of the easiest ways to reduce noise transmission to or from a room. You can think of curtains as sonic catcher’s mitts.
Granted, they’re not going to leave you in complete silence but, combined with acoustic paint, you’re closer to nirvana than you once were. You can even buy special Noise Reducing Curtains. They’re especially helpful for blocking outdoor noise if you live on street level.
- Rearrange Furniture - The more mass you can put between yourself and a sound, the weaker it will be when it eventually reaches you. This is because mass tires out soundwaves.
So, if you don’t mind strategically rearranging your room, placing as much furniture against the problem area as possible can help ease your auditory woes.
- Wall Panels - Pretty much any sort of wall panels can be fitted before you start painting. They’ll provide an extra line of defense when the inevitable armies of sound come a-knockin’.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. Alternatively, you could use some Soundproof acoustic panels after the painting has been completed. These are used in music studios around the globe because they’re so effective at killing reverberations and inter-room sound travel.
- Weather Stripping - Weather stripping is an adhesive material used to seal openings in windows and doors in order to protect them from the elements. It just so happens that they’re also great at keeping unwanted noise at a minimum too — hurray!
This Foam Insulation Tape is some of the most popular weather stripping currently on the market. It’s thick, dense, fire retardant, and affordable.
It won’t help you soundproof a wall unless of course there are cracks in it, but at that point, a bit of excess noise is the least of your worries.
- Acoustic Window Inserts - Normally made of dense acrylic, these are screens you can fix against your windows to provide some much-needed audio-dampening backup.
- Soundproof wallpaper can also assist with sound dampening and can be applied over the paint for extra noise reduction.
Although it sounds like some sort of myth invented by clever cowboy decorators, soundproof paint is legit, you just have to have realistic expectations regarding its efficacy.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to tune out subtle yet irritating background noises like conversation, a less than quiet ceiling fan or low-level TV noise, acoustic paint is absolutely the best place to start.
On the other hand, if you’re up against more cacophonous sound sources such as motorbikes, yelling, or industrial processes, acoustic paint won’t offer any perceivable benefits.
Having said that, I believe it’s still a great place to start. Once you’ve applied your 3 - 6 layers of soundproof acoustic paint, you can come up with a new strategy.
Keep gradually building up the isolation of the room with various soundproofing techniques and eventually, you’ll be able to hear yourself think.
The bottom line is that although the very existence of soundproof acoustic paint is pretty miraculous, you shouldn’t expect it to work miracles or exhibit especially supernatural noise reducing qualities.
It does what it does very well, but at the end of the day, it’s just paint, and it will never compete with larger, softer, more advanced soundproofing materials.