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Is Traditional Resilient Channel History?

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Resilient channel has been used for many years to reduce the sound transmission through partitions. This strip of metal is installed between wall studs and gypsum wallboard, and is notorious for being difficult to install properly. A less than perfect installation results in the channel not increasing the wall performance. As an example,

an associate of mine had a contractor remove the wallboard on a partition that wasn’t performing as designed. The contractor swore that the greatest care was taken in the installation of the resilient channel. Upon exposing the channel, about 50% of the fasteners were installed improperly.

Attaching gypsum wall board to resilient channel using screws that are too long and therefore penetrate the studs will negate the benefit of the resilient channel. Using resilient channel that is too stiff and has never been tested to confirm its acoustical performance will result in poorer than expected sound isolation. Wall fixtures and blocking for mounting them will by-pass the resilient channel and reduce the acoustical performance of the wall.

So what to do about this? Over the past seven years many alternate products have come to market. Most, but not all incorporate neoprene to provide the necessary resiliency. Versions of these resilient clips are offered by several companies, including:

Kinetics Noise Control model Isomax
PAC International model RISC-1
Pliteq, Inc. model GenieClip

Using these clips costs more than using resilient channel and results in a thicker wall or floor-ceiling assembly, they offer sound isolation performance equivalent or better than resilient channel and greatly reduce the chance of incorrect installation.

Another type of product that has been quickly gaining popularity in recent years is damped gypsum wall board. While much more expensive than standard gypsum wall board, it can improve sound isolation without the use of resilient channel or clips. It also offers the benefit of being able to attach wall and ceiling fixtures through it to the studs, joists, or channel without significantly degrading the sound isolation performance; something that is not possible with resilient channel or clips. Damped gypsum wall board is not available from several manufacturers, including Serious Materials (Quietrock) and National Gypsum (SoundBreak).

In spite of all of these competing products, we still see a lot of projects, especially multi-family residential buildings being designed with resilient channel. So, to answer our opening question, no, traditional resilient channel probably isn’t history, but it certainly isn’t our preferred method for improving sound insulation.