Acoustic Flooring: What You Need to Know

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You’ve probably came across the term “acoustic flooring” when planning your construction projects and wondered what it means.

In this blog post, we look at acoustic flooring in detail and give you tips on how to use this technology for your next remodeling task.

Acoustic Flooring

What does Acoustic Flooring Mean?

Acoustic flooring refers to a floor design system that helps provide sound insulation in buildings, especially between floors. This insulation also prevents the transmission of sound by absorbing it and keeping everyone’s house nice and quiet.

Impact Sound Insulation or ISI is the process of reducing footstep noises when people are walking on the floor. This is usually determined by the pressure levels in the adjacent rooms below, and not in the room where the floor is actually being used.

In practice, acoustic flooring helps to ensure that noise does not sneak into the rooms below. You can imagine how horrible life would be if you keep hearing every little noise coming from the floor above you in a storey building.

Noise transfer is actually a common issue in commercial and residential areas, and this can be manifested as airborne noises such as music, TV, speech, impact noise, dropped items and footsteps.

Using high-quality insulation materials as well as acoustic flooring products can help soundproof the noise between floors.

Other types of noises that acoustic flooring helps with:

Impact sound

This is the noise that comes from traffic, vibrating machinery, carts and floors that have borne the brunt of impact over time. The sound energy is generated by the impact of these devices and it is usually transmitted over the structure of the building.

It distorts noise in your home and disturbs your guests and other residents.

Acoustic flooring helps insulate the impact of these noises and prevents its transmission from one floor to the next.

The impact of the noise is usually measured using the Impact Insulation Class (IIC) measurement, and the higher the IIC, the move impact the insulation will provide.

impact-noise

Airborne noise

This is the noise that is made by people, instruments and speakers. Just like impact sound, the airborne noise can be transmitted easily through floors on buildings.

The ability of acoustic flooring material to prevent the transmission of airborne sound is usually measured using a different metric system known as the Sound Transmission Class (STC).

This is an algorithmic measurement of the sound’s transmission between two rooms and it is measured across 16 frequencies.

Essentially, the material’s STC is its ability to absorb all of the airborne noise and also prevent the transmission of the noise between the buildings.

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noise pollution effects

Suitable materials for acoustic flooring

The right flooring materials do not depend on the material’s acoustic properties only, there are other factors to consider.

For example, while carpeting is ideal for a classroom it doesn’t really meet the standards of an operating room.

There are plenty of factors to consider beyond the acoustic qualities, and a flooring contractor can best guide you through this process.

Carpets

Carpets are known for mitigating the sound impacts and they are the perfect choice for classrooms, hotels and office spaces. 

Now, highly piled carpets or carpets that have a thick underneath pad are the best at absorbing sound and reducing its transmission.

Choosing a carpet that best matches your vision of design makes it easy to implement within your space. It should also align with your budget requirements.

Carpets acoustic flooring
Cork

Cork flooring is comfortable, sound-absorbent and a sustainable option for most commercial applications. However, due to its tendency to indent and stain, it’s often used as an underlay when providing acoustic insulation.

It has many positive characteristics such as appearance, durability and soundproofing abilities, and this puts it in the highest position as one of the best floor soundproofing materials, plus it is extremely soft and spongy.

The cork tree grows in the southern part of Europe and it is usually harvested every few years without causing any damage to the tree. This tree is sustainable and eco-friendly.

It is a powerful material when it comes to soundproofing and most recording companies use it to eliminate background noise in music studios.

You can use it on the floor, underneath your floor or even as an accessory to sound-dampening properties. In addition, it is cheap and extremely effective.

Wood-plastic composite (WPC)

Wood-plastic composite is waterproof, durable and very easy to maintain.

As an acoustic flooring material, it provides excellent benefits, especially when mitigating the impact of noise from high foot traffic.

The acoustic properties of WPC are mostly drawn from its backing layer which provides excellent sound insulation and also protects your floors from mold and mildew.

Rubber

Rubber is widely known for its sound-absorbent qualities, and more to that, it is milder, slip and mold resistant.

This is a great choice for schools, hospitals, kitchens and gyms, and it is also perfect if you want a long-lasting and durable flooring material.

Rubber is cost-effective and a popular floor soundproofing material. When used with ceramic tiles, rubber offers excellent protection by reducing tile breakage and can also be used under the carpets and hardwood.

Regarding noise control, rubber is one of the best materials on the market today.

Vinyl tile

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) is a sound-insulating underlayment material that has great resilience as an acoustic flooring option for sound treatment. It is actually in use in most places that require sound control because it is durable, versatile and low maintenance.

Vinyl tile floors are extremely popular nowadays, and they are inspired by planks and floating floors. 

Summary of vinyl tile benefits

  • Acoustical benefits.
  • Easy installation process – you simply click them and they are ready to use.
  • They are easy to repair as the planks are easy to replace.
  • They are resistant to water, and therefore ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, and basements.
  • They are easy to maintain and a vacuum cleaner with soapy water will do the trick.
  • They are comfortable and offer a less cold environment compared to other floors.
  • They are economically feasible and cheaper than other floor systems
  • They are available in a variety of colors, textures, and shapes.

NB: Ensure to use a thicker vinyl compared to a thin one because a thin one is high risk. A thick vinyl is also less resistant to scuffs and marks on the furniture and appliances. This type of flooring is also likely to be delaminated in order for its wear surface to be detached.

Foam

Foam is widely used for sound as well as thermal insulation. It is extremely effective and the most affordable flooring material. It is also a highly durable and lightweight material.

There are many types of foam that you can choose from, but the best way to use them is by combining them with other materials such as vinyl. You can also use it as an underlayer, but it is mostly used in tiles, and floor mats.

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Acoustic flooring solutions

There are many options to choose from, and the following are some of the best:

Acoustic underlay materials – in this case, the materials are installed under the floor finish and also above the structure of the building so as to reduce the impact of sound from the source.

In order to get the most effective results, however, and have the best feeling underfoot, the surface finishing that you use should always be considered.

Under screed isolation – This is a flooring solution that is usually installed under the floor and it helps provide a soundproof layer between the main building’s structure and the screed.

It also reduces any transmitted vibrations. The result is an acoustic floor with excellent performance.

Floating floors – There are two types of floating floors; either made of timber or concrete.

Floating floors are usually nailed or glued to the subfloor, which is the building’s foundation or structured floor. The surface finish panels are usually attached together instead of separately. 

The materials are then filled with other materials such as neoprene or coiled springs or fiberglass pads so as to boost the noise reduction.

Conclusion: On Acoustic Flooring

Noise can have adverse effects on you, such as stress, headaches, and sleeping disorders.

Acoustic floors help you deal with unwanted noise, especially in buildings that have more than one floor. There is nothing as annoying as hearing your upstairs neighbors' footsteps as they are walking around their house all the time.

Investing in something as simple as a heavy-duty carpet can go a long way in solving this problem, however for landlords and building owners, investing in a good quality acoustic flooring material will help your tenants have a better life.

Related: How to Soundproof Floors in Apartment