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Acoustic Decoupling: What to Know for Soundproofing

Silent Home Hub Acoustic Decoupling

Instead of dealing with pricey methods such as fiberglass insulation and the like, we go for acoustic decoupling.

It’s a lot simpler than it sounds. The process? It’s essentially separating two things from one another, like your wall stud, for example.

As for the results, expect significant noise reduction (considering you use the right room design and the right material choices) in no time.

Don’t worry; we’ll also include the different methods you can use for decoupling in this guide. Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

What Is Acoustic Decoupling? — Explaining Coupling and Decoupling

Getting right into the topic of acoustic coupling and decoupling, there are a few things we need to know first. To understand how decoupling works, we must first understand how sound works.

Sound is a wave that moves from one point to another by transferring energy through a medium. Vibration, in particular, is how sound waves travel through different mediums.

Without a medium, there will be no way for sound to travel.

Trapping sound or noise in an insulated chamber can prevent it from traveling, just like how people can’t pass a certain way because there’s no way paved to pass through. It works the same with sound.

There are different methods to achieve sound isolation. This is where decoupling comes in.

  • By definition, decoupling means separating two things from each other. In the context of acoustic decoupling, it is mechanically separating walls or drywall to prevent sound vibrations from getting through.
  • On the other hand, coupling means putting things together. In the same context, it would be putting/joining walls together to help the sound waves travel better. That’s the opposite of what we’re going to do today.

We want to create an air cavity to prevent sound waves and noise and achieve a room design to help soundproof your space.

How Sound Decoupling Helps With Soundproofing/Acoustic Isolation

We already know sound needs particles to travel, so sound isolation prevents this. Creating an isolated chamber for the sounds, per se. Decoupling is a HUGE help when it comes to that.

Specifically, decoupling a wall lessens/reduces the amount of sound that travels across walls in your building structure.

Since noise and sound transfer better from material to material, creating an open space for it to die down can prevent it from traveling.

In most cases of how rooms are built, sound transfers from drywall to framing and then to the drywall on the other side. Without an air gap, MORE NOISE is heard.

With the help of decoupling, soundproofing without additional materials such as insulation foam or the like is made easier.

There are many wall decoupling materials and methods to lessen the vibrations passing through.

Method and material choices may include:

  • Sound isolation clips
  • Resilient channel
  • Resilient sound clips or;
  • Specialty framing techniques

Most walls are constructed by connecting two pieces of drywall by a single stud. Because of this, any vibratory noise from one’s side travels through the stud to the other side.

That’s why decoupling by specialized wall framing is crucial.

The Different Methods of Acoustic Decoupling for Your Home

There are different methods of decoupling you can use and incorporate into your room concept.

You can tackle the walls themselves or frame them in a certain way. There are also different isolation products you can use.

In a staggered stud wall, for example, each piece of drywall connects to the wall material with its own stud.

The studs do not connect.

This means that vibrations of the noise DO NOT have a medium to travel through the wall. What happens instead is the noise travels through its own stud and stops at the interior wall material.

When it comes to using sound clips and making a metal furring hat channel or resilient channel, there are different things to consider. Some insert into the drywall themselves and take advantage of framing connections. Others can achieve results meeting or exceeding double-stud walls.

There are different ways we can achieve sound isolation and have the least noise possible from your side of the wall. Now let’s get to the insulation of those bothersome vibrations.

1. Double Stud Wall

The very basic goal for a double stud wall is as follows:

  • Build one single-stud wall.
  • Allow for space for sound vibrations to flow. Leave a gap – around 4 to 8 inches.
  • Put another single stud wall next to it.
  • Make sure to leave space between the studs, the walls.
  • Make sure that both stud walls are aligned along with each other.
  • There you have it, your very own double stud wall.

This is a great and effective method to use. It’s an example of utilizing wood fixes and something as simple as the mass of space to lessen the noises.

To use the air gap upon the construction of the structure of your place is a great idea. It makes it nearly impossible for noise, even low-frequency sound, to pass between the walls.

But! Let’s take a look at this drywall construction a little more closely.

How to Do a Double Stud Wall

We start with the room within a room concept.

Soundproofing via wall decoupling the framing from the existing structure of your place is a great way to go. This is great for sound insulation with minimal use of acoustic isolation products.

The room design would be a room within a room with independent stud walls and independent ceiling joists.

A design that uses a double stud framing a room with space as much as 3 inches between the walls will generally do the trick. That’s enough space to prevent sound from seeping through the studs.

However, that’s the bare minimum.

If you want to make sure low-frequency sound won’t pass through the drywall and studs, 6 inches will do an excellent job. That’s sometimes better than using any resilient clip system too.

When compared to the performance of a staggered stud wall, they pretty much achieve the same specialty framing result.

A standard framed stud wall with Green Glue Compound will have the same soundproofing result as a staggered stud wall.

When it comes to stud walls, eve double-stud walls, the drywall framing of each side of the wall might not touch the other side. This means that the studs are still very much connected to the top sill plate and sill plate bottom of the walls.

When it comes to wall decoupling, just make sure everything is properly measured and in place for your double stud wall. All sides of your room will be noise-ready by the end of the day!

Beware of These Double Stud Wall Woes

Now that we’ve told you what you’re supposed to do, here’s what you have to watch out for.

Flanking is what happens when sound transfers indirectly through drywall framing. This is an issue we have to look out for when dealing with double-stud walls or a staggered stud wall.

The top and bottom plates of the wall still tie directly into the framing above and beneath the wall on both sides of the structure. That’s still a way that sound can travel through the drywall.

A way you can resolve flanking is through the top plate. Decouple it from the ceiling joists using brands of resilient clips such as the GenieClip.

Those clips create a clip system that should be spaced every 2 feet along the top plate, with the clip pieces on each end to secure it properly.

Other brands that may be a solution to flanking, such as using Green Glue Compound for stud walls, also work. Products like Green Glue are considered super useful when dealing with flanking issues found in wall decoupling specialty framing.

Can I DIY a Double Stud Wall?

We highly recommend you don’t. Acoustic decoupling techniques are complex processes where, if you perform one step inaccurately, it will render the entire project ineffective. Not to mention…COSTLY.

We suggest consulting a sound proofing expert to install your preferred decoupling technique.

2. Staggered Stud Walls

For a staggered stud wall, it’s pretty much the same as a double stud wall, except:

  • Wider sill plates are used.
  • The studs are in a staggered pattern (thus, a staggered stud wall).
  • This is so that none of the studs touch both sides of the wall.

The manner in which framing connections or pattern is placed between the drywall would give enough room for the sound to die down.

That makes staggered stud walls an efficient soundproofing method.

How to Do a Staggered Stud Wall

We also start with the room within a room concept, again.

A good staggered stud wall increases the sound damping of a wall. It’s better for the sound insulation of a structure as a whole too.

It involves staggering 2×4 wood fixes in an alternating pattern on the edges of the top and bottom frame.

For insulation on pre-existing walls, furring strips are added to the wood pieces to bring the outside frame to 2×6.

When tackling this room within a room decoupling, it is a budget-friendly soundproofing method that anyone can take on.

A good staggered stud wall is the result of two separate wall surfaces in one wall. It keeps sound from reverberating through the studs in comparison to a single stud construction.

For a more detailed guide, you can take a look at our article on Building a Staggered Stud Wall By Yourself.

Beware of These Staggered Stud Wall Woes

A staggered stud wall and double stud wall use the same concept and materials. It just so happens that they are arranged differently between a drywall space.

Because of that, they experience the same setbacks.

Don’t worry, though. There will still be peace on your side of the wall. There are solutions we have and products you can use to help fix your framing worries.

Flanking is the same drywall framing problem we might face here.

Just like for double-stud walls, resilient clips on the ceiling joists and using Green Glue Compound for the stud walls work well.

The clips and green glue ensure that no sound will transfer indirectly through the drywall framing.

Furthermore, a soundproofing expert should help you perform the staggered stud wall method.

3. Using Resilient Channels and Hat Channel

This was developed in the 1960s to make soundproofing more effective.

This is an example of how using a soundproofing channel went:

  • It was made by installing a channel perpendicular to the wall studs on a layer of drywall.
  • Screws were used to install the channel on another layer of drywall.
  • The drywall was no longer in contact with the wood studs.
  • This was efficient for sound insulation.

This method helps absorb ANY SOUND VIBRATIONS directed at the drywall.

As a result, it was an effective way of soundproofing that ensured minimal noise on either side of the outer walls.

What Are Resilient Channels?

A resilient channel is a thin strip of metal bent to form the channel.

When using a resilient channel, one edge is fastened to the studs, and the drywall is screwed to the offset side. This is so the mass of the sound medium does not touch.

The items are attached perpendicular to the ceiling joists to create a grid-like framework.

The decoupling of the gypsum sheet from the mass of the stud helps prevent sound from moving through the wall.

Make sure the drywall doesn’t come in contact with the ceiling or floor, or sides of the walls. Also, be sure that no screws or objects can contact the wall through the panel.

If there is contact, the sound will travel through. That’s exactly what we don’t want to happen.

Adding another layer of insulation such as plasterboard might cause the channels to sag, making them come in contact with the floor.

Mineral wool is one of the few insulation objects with a denser mass you can install without causing anything to sag in the construction.

Make sure the channel is truly resilient and ready to carry heavier material.

What Are Hat Channels?

A hat channel is named as such because its shape looks like the shape of a hat.

Yes – literally.

You can learn more about them in our Comparison Guide Between Resilient and Hat Channels.

It is normally made from galvanized steel or aluminum and formed into a furring strip-like channel.

This is also why it is sometimes called a furring hat channel.

The hat channel is usually attached perpendicular to the ceiling joists or horizontally on a number of studs. Other noteworthy features include:

  • The brim of the hat is commonly attached by nails or screws the structural pieces. The drywall is then attached to the crown of the hat.
  • The mass of aluminum hats is easier to cut than steel. This implies that the more cuts on the hat, the better of an option it might be for you.
  • Hat channels create a raised, smooth, level surface to attach protecting casing, just like wooden furring strips.

4. Using Isolation Clips/Resilient Sound Clips

The goal of decoupling via the use of isolation clips or resilient sound clips are as follows:

  • It insulates the wall studs. 
  • It should be attached to the wall studs.
  • Channels can be incorporated in situations where the other drywall is screwed.

This is a great method of soundproofing because it uses non-conductors of sound, so insulation occurs.

A lot of the time, a clip used for this will contain a component made of rubber, such as having a rubber base. The mass of the rubber is excellent when opting for sound insulation.

How Do These Clips Work?

Good quality resilient sound clips are small metal pieces and rubber parts that attach to whatever side of framing of the wall with screws.

This kind of decoupling is incorporated with the use of channels.

  • Metal furring hat channel inserts into the sound clips with the drywall fastened to the side of the channel.
  • The clips then provide acoustic decoupling by suspending the drywall on the furring hat channel.

There are some isolation clips, in particular, that are manufactured with a soft rubber base. Some say it meets the standard of a double stub wall.

Another design of the clip might be specialized for framing or perhaps helps with decoupling a ceiling.

A wall that benefits from resilient clips perform well because of their efficiency for soundproofing. It allows for a minimal number of connections between the framing and sides of drywall.

Final Advice

Using various decoupling techniques can save you a lot of hassle and frustration from all the noise you hear surrounding your home.

When it comes to acoustic decoupling, whether you use a clip, a stud, or a channel, ask for a soundproofing expert to help in the installation process.

This allows you to maximize the value of your project and the reduction of noise overall. Many homeowners have tried to DIY these methods only to see no noticeable changes in sound reduction.

Our final advice is to seek help first and gain a solid grasp on what changes you’ll need to make in your walls, ceilings, and floors. This should guide you then into choosing the right materials and execute the techniques as shown above appropriately.

FINAL TIP: To fully grasp what soundproofing is all about, you might also want to check out our Guide on Soundproofing Principles to help you out.

About the Author

andrea_adams

Andrea has always been bombarded by the hustle and bustle outside her home. Living in the city doesn’t get any quieter. The never ending noise from construction, traffic, and dogs barking on the streets day in and day out drove Andrea to a breaking point.

For 3 years, Andrea committed herself to studying DIY hacks, performing soundproofing experiments, and installing noise-free solutions. Now, she lives a quiet life free of the stress from noisy environments.

She hopes to share this knowledge so that others don’t have to endure the noise reigning in their ears and live a peaceful, stress-free life.