New Spring-Loaded Screw Turns Drywall Into Sound-Absorbing Panels

New Spring-Loaded Screw Turns Drywall Into Sound-Absorbing Panels

The smooth featureless walls around your home are easy to paint and great for hanging artwork, but they’re also very effective at transmitting soundwaves from room to room — a less desired feature. Adding soundproofing is one solution, but a cheaper and easier way is to install drywall using these clever spring-loaded, sound-damping screws instead.

When attaching sheets of drywall to the wooden framed walls or ceiling of a room, special screws with a deeper thread are used to ensure the panels never come loose. But while the walls of your home might feel strong, drywall is actually quite flexible and can function like a drumhead, vibrating when sound waves hit it and then transmitting those sounds. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment and had no trouble hearing your neighbours’ arguments, you’ve experienced the downside of the material that mostly replaced plaster walls decades ago.

There are many solutions to preventing sounds from escaping a room. Insulation blown into the walls will help absorb soundwaves, and garages typically use thicker sheets of drywall that are better at absorbing sounds. You can even cover the walls in sound-absorbing panels with angled features that dissipate a sound wave’s energy — a solution often used in recording studios — but that can be both expensive and unsightly. The Sound Screw, developed by Håkan Wernersson of the Department of Materials Science and Applied Mathematics at Sweden’s Malmö University, is a more streamlined solution that requires no custom installation tools.

Whereas a traditional drywall screw holds a panel of drywall snug against the wooden studs that make up the structure of a room, the Sound Screw features a flexible spring just below the head. It still holds a piece of drywall securely against a wall, but with a very slight gap allowing the spring to expand and compress, damping the energy of soundwaves hitting the walls making them much quieter as they reverberate into another room. During testing in a sound lab, researchers say, the use of the Sound Screws was found to reduce sound transmission by up to nine decibels, making the sounds bouncing into a neighbouring room about half as loud to human ears.

The creator of the Sound Screw is still looking for manufacturers to put their creation into mass production. And while its design means it will be more complicated to make and, in turn, more expensive than standard drywall screws to purchase, in the long run, it should be a more economical alternative to other sound-proofing methods, particularly when it comes to how easy these are to install. If you can use a drill or a screwdriver, you already have all the expertise you need.