In Chula Vista, Calif., a short trip south from downtown San Diego, multifamily housing is being built almost as fast as you can find people to fill them. For instance, the Avalyn — a luxury apartment complex project from contractor Ryan Companies comprised of eight buildings, 480 individual units, 16,000 square feet of commercial space and, in total, a $170 million price tag, according to the San Diego Business Journal — is just one part of the massive 210-acre Millenia master-planned community in the Otay Ranch area of Chula Vista. The entire Millenia development is built to be an “urban village,” where every home is a breezy stroll to plenty of shops, restaurants and fellow residents. In total, it covers 80 city blocks, and is designed to be a more walkable alternative to the typically spread-out geography of Southern California urban life.
For builders, this kind of sky-high demand for luxury living spaces presents a lot of incredibly lucrative opportunities, but also daunting challenges. These apartments need to be constructed at an exceedingly rapid pace and need to be pristine enough to meet the expectations of its high-end clientele. These twin obstacles can be especially difficult to overcome when it comes to code compliance, like dampening the passage of sound between units — a hot-button concern for modern customers. But traditional methods of soundproofing for wall joints (i.e., acoustical caulks) are tricky to install, often requiring multiple trips by the finishing crews to get the job done correctly. That gets real expensive, real fast.
This is the problem that was troubling Southern California Interiors, Inc., the team behind the framing, drywalling and finishing work for two of the multifamily, mixed-use buildings within The Avalyn development project, totaling 138 units. Tired of the repeated labor and callbacks acoustical caulk so frequently requires, as well as additional material costs like caulking guns and batteries that stop working after only a few months of use, they started to search for a better, faster way.
And soon enough, they discovered Sound Gasket, the most advanced soundproofing solution for wall joints on the market. By using this groundbreaking sound-rated drywall accessory from Trim-Tex on all bottom-of-wall joints between units, they were able to take care of their soundproofing work up to five times faster than before; eliminate installer errors causing callbacks; and, instead of going into each unit two to five times to apply and re-apply caulk, each apartment only required one trip by one installer to get it right.
How is that possible? Read on to find out!
WHY SOUND GASKET? ‘I’M SAVING MONEY!’
Southern California Interiors, Inc., is no stranger to the flourishing SoCal real estate market. These drywall pros have been in business for nearly 15 years, and the company’s president/CEO, Jesse Rodriguez, has been working in this industry since he was a teenager. In the last five or six years, Jesse told us, the major trend in construction for the area has become multifamily housing, with hundreds and hundreds of apartments constantly being built all over the region.
However, this boom has compounded the kinds of problems that slow down finishers’ work, like those presented by code-compliant sealants. Multiply one or two return trips to re-caulk a gap by every individual unit you’re working on in a huge project like The Avalyn, and you’re talking about a metric ton of material and labor costs you've just lost, not to mention royally screwing up your tight deadlines.
“We have different scenarios,” Jesse said when we visited the crew’s still-under-construction buildings in The Avalyn in November 2021. “We’ve caulked over Gyp-Crete, we’ve caulked before Gyp-Crete, but there's always issues of going back; the gaps are too big. Going back, refilling, doing it twice, three times — realistically, we don't have the money for that. We get paid to caulk on the bottom regarding the conditions, whether we do it once good, or whether we do it five times on our own dime …
“We have to go at least twice. Then, we compare it to [Sound Gasket] and say, okay, what the cost of your product is, based upon all the other things we have to buy to make it work — believe it or not, I'm saving money that way. Definitely, I'm saving money!”
Sound Gasket consists of a wide piece of vinyl attached to a flexible bubble gasket that forms a perfect, permanent seal against an adjoining substrate. It’s affixed to the framing before drywall is hung using foam adhesive strips attached to the face of the vinyl. While Jesse’s crew only used it for all their bottom-of-wall gaps, it can also be used at head-of-wall and wall-to-wall building joints.
(Note: In most cases, the foam adhesive strips will be enough to permanently attach Sound Gasket to the framing member. In these buildings at The Avalyn, however, the drywall hanging crews would frequently use foot-operated lifts with toe kicks to assist them; when they would kick in these lifts, the impact would be enough to knock off the Sound Gasket before the drywall was finished being hanged. For this reason, as you’ll notice in the photographs on this page, they used half-inch screws, inserted through the foam adhesive strip on the opposite end of the device's gasket. This is an optional measure, but may be beneficial in heavy-traffic environments like these multifamily buildings.)
SOUND GASKET: ‘A SUPERIOR PRODUCT TO THE CAULKING all around’
By installing Sound Gasket pre-drywall, you’re maximizing your efficiency. Additionally — and this is among the most important benefits for Jesse and his crew — if the hangers come in and they’re a tiny bit off in their measurements for their drywall gaps, since the Sound Gasket has already been installed, it won’t affect the efficacy of the soundproofing. This efficacy is measured by its Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating.
“What I noticed was, once Trim-Tex was introduced to us, we go install it, we walk away from it,” Jesse told us. “We don't have to worry about coming back and re-caulking. We don't have to worry about whether the gap was too big because of the STC rating. Whether the drywall is short, whether the drywall is long, it still meets the STC rating and that's what the GC is looking for. We're able to accomplish what, per plan, they're asking for us to do.”
(On an average wall assembly with unbalanced steel studs, Sound Gasket has been tested to achieve a value of 51 STC, with acoustical sealant only reaching 50 STC. In other tests, Sound Gaskets sound-dampening ability has gone as high at 68 STC.)
The other major advantage that Sound Gasket presented for Southern California Interiors is that it’s infinitely cleaner than using a sealant product. As anyone who’s ever used caulk before knows, those are messy, and tough to apply in a smooth, even line. See the photo below for a typical acoustical caulk application, observed on another jobsite we visited during our stay in San Diego.
This kind of uneven application isn’t just an aesthetic problem — for this gap to pass inspection, the inspector will take “coupons” of the caulk to ensure it has the proper dosage of soundproofing materials across the entire gap. If some sections don’t have the right amount of sealant? Too bad, you’ll need to come back in and do it again.
Sound Gasket, meanwhile, doesn’t have that problem. Its flexible vinyl gasket ensures a uniform level of soundproofing, every time, along the entire wall joint. Plus, you don’t need to wait for it to “cure,” like you would acoustical caulk, so it’s ready to be inspected right away (and that blue tint on the vinyl flange will make it even easier for the inspector to spot).
“Caulking follows the frame or the substrate, whether it be wood, concrete, whatever it is,” says Southern California Interiors Estimator/Project Manager Anthony Anderson. “And so, you get these jagged lines sometimes. With your guys' Sound Gasket, it's tucked away behind. You've got a perfect bead down below. In my eyes, it's a superior product to the caulking all around.
“In regard to ‘training’ our guys, if you will, there hasn't been a big learning curve. The guys have a unit down and, after that, they're pretty much on the ground running on all the other units as well. It's just overall better product. It's cleaner, it's faster and our guys are picking it up pretty quick … The price point is right in line with what we're saving in labor, and actually, we're beating the timeline schedule-wise per installation.”
The Avalyn begins preleasing its luxury apartments in early 2022. You can preview its final look and sign up for updates on its website.
In addition to Sound Gasket, the Southern California Interiors, Inc., crew used a few other Trim-Tex solutions to finish this project, including Fast Edge® and Shower Bead — stay tuned to this space for more case studies focusing on those uses in the near future. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the folks at Southern California Interiors for their time and patience while we visited their jobsites and peppered them with questions. We want to especially thank Jesse Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and Raul Medina, the company’s taping superintendent who first found Trim-Tex and saw the value in what our solutions can do for them. If you're in the Southern California area and require top-notch interior work, give them a call at (619) 454-7958.
Want to get a closer look at Sound Gasket for yourself? Hit the button below to sign up for a free sample of the highly advanced soundproofing solution, and learn more about all of Trim-Tex's code-compliance innovations here.