In my soundproofing projects, I’m always a staunch advocate of mass loaded vinyl (MLV). During my recent research, I developed a method for making DIY MLV curtains.
In this article, I’ll go over some information about what makes MLV so useful, and I’ll also cover the steps for making DIY MLV curtains in much more detail. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have all the information you need for a successful project.
How to Make DIY MLV Curtains
The steps involved in making DIY MLV curtains are as follows:-
- Measure your windows
- Cut your MLV
- Fix the MLV to the curtains
- Line the curtains
- Add rings and hang
For this, you’ll need the following materials:
- A set of curtains
- MLV (Amazon link)
- Heavy duty curtain rings (Amazon link)
- Backing material, such as linen, cotton, or wool
- Needle and thread
Also, there are a couple of things you need to consider:
- You’ll be making really heavy curtains, so ensure your curtain pole and rings are designed for heavy duty use.
- Use the thicker, heavier 1/4” MLV for best results.
- You can either line an existing pair of curtains or make your own if you know how.
- If making the curtains from scratch, use the heaviest material available, such as velvet.
Here are the steps involved:
1. Measure your windows
The first obvious step is to measure your windows so you know how much MLV you need. If you’re using proper curtains, just measure these. If making them from scratch, measure the window.
2. Cut your MLV
You might need to cut the MLV to size if you’ve bought it in a roll. If it comes in smaller sheets, this won’t be necessary.
You might find MLV difficult to work with, so cutting it smaller will help. Of course, this’ll mean more sticking later.
That said, if you’re working on a large, flat surface, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the MLV in place. You might find it hard to hang later, so consider having a helper on standby for that stage.
3. Fix the MLV to the curtains
If you’re using ready-made curtains, it might be a good idea to leave the lining in place rather than unpicking it. Importantly, this will give you a surface onto which you can fix the MLV without the marks showing on the curtain.
Probably the easiest way to do this is with glue and a bit of sewing. Lay the MLV over the backside of the curtain to get an idea of how it’ll fit.
Use some fabric glue around the edges of the MLV and stick it down. Don’t use too much though, as this could make the curtains too rigid once it dries.
Next, sew along the top edge to add extra strength. Just be sure to not go through the outer facing layer of the curtain otherwise you’ll see the stitch marks.
You might find it a bit difficult to pass the needle through the MLV. Be sure to use something like a large eye needle (Amazon link) designed for sewing heavier fabrics.
I wouldn’t recommend using a sewing machine because it won’t have the strength to get through the MLV.
4. Line the curtains
Next, it’s worth lining the back of the curtains. This step isn’t completely necessary, it just depends whether you mind seeing the MLV or not.
Lining curtains isn’t difficult: you just cut a piece of fabric to size and sew along all the sides. Again, hand sewing will probably be best due to the size and thickness of the curtains.
5. Add rings and hang
Considering the weight of the curtains, I wouldn’t use plastic hooks. MLV can weigh 2lbs per square foot, so you might not have curtains weight 10-20lbs.
Instead, use some metal curtain rings. Or, if you’re feeling really handy, fit the curtains with some metal grommets. These are perhaps the best option for taking the weight of these heavy curtains.
Similarly, ensure your curtain pole is able to take the weight. This might mean adding some extra screws, changing the wall plugs, or both.
Curtains generally will only weigh a few pounds, so you’ll need to improve the rail and rings to compensate for the extra weight.
That’s basically all there is to it!
If you want, you can try and use 2 layers of MLV when lining the curtains.
My only advice would be that, the more layers you add, the heavier and more difficult the curtains will become.
MLV isn’t incredibly flexible, and it can even require 2 people to work it into place properly. So having a half-inch thick layer of it inside a curtain will make them difficult to use.
Also, bear in mind that MLV alone doesn’t have the same results as it does when used with other soundproofing materials.
That said, it’ll definitely reduce any noise pollution coming into the room through the windows, or any trying to escape.
What is MLV?
MLV – short for mass loaded vinyl is a pretty amazing soundproofing material. As the name implies, it’s made from vinyl and usually, a material called barium sulfate.
MLV is what’s known as a limp mass material. In short, this means that, when hit with sound waves, it doesn’t vibrate. The sound waves simply dissipate against its surface.
This is largely thanks to the barium sulfate, which is a high mass material. Using this means you can cram a lot of mass into a relatively flexible product.
When combined with the vinyl, which provides flexibility, you’re left with a surprisingly useful and workable product.
As you may already know, mass is one of the most important components for blocking out sound.
Sound waves are vibrations, whether through the air or a solid object. Therefore, to pass through something, they need to make it vibrate.
Mass is useful for preventing this for a simple reason: the more massive (heavier) a structure is, the less it’ll vibrate.
Think of it like this: you try to shake both a plywood structure and a solid brick structure. Of course, the plywood structure will move more because it has less mass. It’s as simple as that really.
But MLV is even more useful because of its limp properties. Along with being mass-rich, its limpness helps to dissipate sound waves, simply because they can’t make it vibrate.
Another way to think about this is using sound transmission class (STC). This is a measurement used to determine how well something reduces the transmission of sound. Products with a higher numerical rating are better at isolating sounds in a structure.
Depending on the thickness of the MLV – usually 1/4” or 1/8” – the STC can vary from 26 to 32. A hollow drywall structure has an STC of around 38, meaning you can vastly improve it by adding some MLV.
For soundproofing a wall, MLV is best used alongside other products, such as insulation, attenuation, and decoupling. Combined, these will effectively block and absorb almost all sound entering or exiting a room.
MLV as Curtains
But when it comes to using MLV as curtains, you’re not able to add as many other products, so will have to rely on the MLV alone.
MLV is what’s known as a reflective material. This means that, unlike other soundproofing products, it doesn’t absorb sound waves. Instead, it reflects or blocks them.
While this might not sound as good as you’d hope, it still has useful applications for spaces like windows.
Windows are well known as weak spots in a room, both for thermal and acoustical loss. Glass is limited in its thickness by its transparency, and this means it’s also not a great insulator.
Of course, there are many types of acoustic curtains on the market, but these aren’t brilliant.
They often contain an extra layer of something like felt or wool, which, in fabric terms, is relatively mass-rich. However, in soundproofing terms, these do next to nothing.
If you’re lucky, acoustic curtains will have an STC of 20. Therefore, using MLV on its own will be almost twice as good.
What’s more, acoustic curtains are often quite expensive. Considering the best brands use MLV, they’re basically charging you a whole lot of money for something you can make yourself.
I’d recommend having a go at making your own MLV curtains. Providing you can get the materials and have some sewing and DIY experience, it really shouldn’t be a difficult project.
Some Final Thoughts
Hopefully, this guide has given you some useful tips for creating your own DIY MLV curtains.
The best piece of advice I can give is to try making them yourself rather than buying; it’ll save you a lot of money.
Other than that, make sure you plan everything properly before you start making!