Soundproof Flooring Materials: Which are the Best? (STC & IIC Compared)
Sometimes you just wish that upstairs neighbor of yours isn’t so darn loud!
As if a stampede of elephants has just run through the house! Even the TV sounds as if it’s right there in your room, and you don't even have one. For all those of you who got seriously tired of all the echoes and loud sounds, I have prepared this guide on best soundproof flooring materials.
Robert Super Felt Underlayment
First Step Underlayment
Quiet Walk Plus
Floor Muffler UltraSeal Underlayment
3in1 Silent Vapour Barrier
Even when there’s no upstairs, you still have that noise all around you. If you are an avid follower of my tips on soundproofing so far you have learned that anything can be treated for noise reduction. So, my focus here will be on soundproofing floor using the best materials there are.
Before I give you the list, let’s talk about soundproofing floors in general. There are two types of noises- impact and airborne. Each of them is treated using different methods. All that noise sound different when there are different floor types, such as:
Speaking of, each of these require a different type of underlayment, so pay attention to that when considering noise reduction. I shall list you the best underlayment materials and products I have found.
Types of Soundproof Flooring Materials
There are so many different materials which people use for soundproofing, and the choice depends on many factors. Some people look for thermal insulation, some are looking for products which are effective in nice reduction and there are those who want to have both characteristics in one.
As soundproofing is my main concern, I shall list you few materials which are mainly used in floor soundproofing. They are called resilient materials, and they do wonder with impact noise, such as footsteps, dragging furniture over the floor and drooped items. Here they are:
It has numerous positive characteristics, such as durability, appearance, and soundproofing properties. This combination puts it in the highest place when it comes to floor soundproofing. The most notable feature is certainly its sponginess.
The bark of a cork tree which grows in southern Europe is harvested every few years without damaging the tree. That makes cork eco-friendly and sustainable.
To point out how effective and the powerful cork is when it comes to soundproofing, I shall tell you that this is the material which recording companies use to eliminate background noise in studios.
Just so you know, you can use cork in many ways- as a floor, underneath it and as an accessory with sound dampening properties. Moreover, cork is cheap and effective.
It’s also a widely used material both for thermal and sound insulation as it is very effective and most affordable. Foam is a durable and lightweight material.
There are many different types of foam. If you want to get the best of them, I suggest you use foam in combination with some other materials, such as vinyl. Even though it can be used as an underlayer, you will notice that more often people use it in form of mats, tiles and similar.
The most popular ones are interlocking foam tiles, which are installed within a few seconds.
As a cost-effective solution, rubber is also a very popular material for floor soundproofing. When you use it with ceramic tiles, for example, the rubber provides an excellent protection by reducing the tile breakage. It can also be used under hardwood and carpet.
This material is also highly durable and can be used as finished floor as well. It provides fantastic performance regarding noise control.
All the materials I mentioned here are very effective and affordable, which means you won’t have to spend a fortune in order to fix the problem of unwanted sounds. As I said, what matters the most is that you precisely define noise type that bothers you and finds the material which is good for the occasion.
Moreover, mind how these materials for with different types of floors, as combining some of them which don’t go together won’t fix the problem.
Different methods of floor soundproofing
Even though you may think there are numerous products which can do the job, still there aren’t many which are indeed effective. Here are the most popular methods used for floor underlaying.
What to look for when soundproofing a floor?
Before the list comes, let’s take a look about three main parameters when soundproofing a floor. Here’s what you should look for, besides matching floor types and underlayment:
These parameters are of vital importance as they vary when different materials combine together. When soundproofing floor, always have a wider picture. All the things are important, doors, windows, furniture, size and shape of the room, etc.
Top five soundproof flooring materials
Step by step, you are closer to finding the right solution for your problem with annoying sounds. Now that you know what are the necessary factors to take into consideration when thinking about soundproofing floors, without further delay, here comes the list.
1) This Robert Super Felt Underlayment combines with laminate and engineered wood, providing cushioning over subfloors made of concrete and wood. With very good STC (66) as well as IIC (67), this one is a frequent choice by people dealing with unwanted sounds. A bonus feature of this one is a film overlay which serves as a protection from moisture.
2) Another one from Roberts, this First Step Underlayment is an open-cell foam product, which allows the air to flow and circulate. That means no mold growth. Like the previous one, this one has good STC (67) and IIC (68) values. You will get the best of it if you combine it with laminate or engineered wood planks.
3) With STC of 66 and IIC of 71, Quiet Walk Plus is also an excellent choice. It provides superior sound reduction as well as moisture protection. This one is environmentally safe, due to low chemical emission. You can use it with laminate, luxury vinyl plank as well as on click-together floating engineered floors. Moreover, you can install it over wood and concrete subfloors.
4) Floor Muffler UltraSeal Underlayment is also a foam product but a closed cell polypropylene one. With very high STC (73) and IIC (74) values, this is an excellent choice for laminate and engineer wood products. This product provides excellent protection against moisture and mold. Moreover, the VOC level is very low and you can recycle it 100%. It’s definitely a favorite choice by environmentally minded people.
5) 3in1 Silent Vapour Barrier is a good choice for those looking for a budget-friendly product, as it’s the cheapest among all above mentioned. With STC of 65 and IIC of 64, this product is excellent for laminate and engineered floating floors. You can use it with wood and cement subfloors. It's a thick foam and it features a foil vapor barrier film, which makes it less prone to tearing.
The choice you will make depends on the type of the floor you have, the type of noise you want to dampen as well as your budget. Have in mind that if you are looking for long-term solutions, it is better to invest a bit more money, because it will pay off later.
6 Tips for Floor Soundproofing Products
1. Use solid materials
For very loud and annoying sounds coming from the room under you, such as people's voices, it's best to use solid materials for sound insulation. Oriented strand boards are the most common choice and the most suitable one for most situations.
They are quite inexpensive and easy to work with. Some of the other widely used materials in this category are Medium-density fiberboards and Cement boards. I would recommend you to use damping compound in addition to any of these materials because you will improve sound reduction significantly if you do so.
You will achieve more by doing this than by adding multiple layers of boards. It would be very useful for you to remember this when we start talking about all of the following options because this rule is applicable to pretty much all of them.
You will accomplish a higher level of sound insulation by adding multiple thinner layers of materials than adding fewer layers of material that is very thick.
2. Put resilient materials
Resilient materials are the best choice for those of you who are having problems with impact noise such as footsteps or the sound of furniture being dragged on the floor. Some of the materials that are the most suitable for this are rubber, foam, and fiber. There are many pads available for sale that are made of one of these materials or a combination of them.
You can put a resilient pad under your carpet for the best possible results. They are really not expensive and yet they are probably one of the best solutions for noise problems in this entire article. For example, you could use a rubber mat. It’s really affordable and it will solve your problem immediately.
This rubber pad is likely one of the best possible solutions that I've come across. It's especially effective if you use it in a combination with a rug. This product is described as very durable, strong and thick, which is exactly what you'll need if you want to prevent impact noise.
The customer reviews for this pad are almost completely positive, which means that buying it certainly won't be a mistake. You can get it for under $35, which is a rather small price for getting rid of noise if you ask me.
3. Stick to some damping materials
If you're having trouble with some kind of low-frequency noise such as music, for instance, then you should opt for damping materials. The Green Glue Compound is definitely considered to be the best possible choice for this kind of a situation.
There is actually a huge number of lab tests that prove the effectiveness of Green Glue, which is why it's such a widely used material. It's not too complicated to work with it. All you need to do is apply it between two rigid panels and then screw those panels together.
Remember the rule we talked about – it’s better to use multiple thinner layers of material than to use fewer layers of very thick material.
You can get as many as six tubes of Green Glue Noiseproofing Compound on Amazon for the price of under $120. Keep in mind the fact that Green Glue is only useful for blocking low-frequency sounds, but not very effective when it comes to sounds of other frequencies.
It’s quite easy to work with this glue, just make sure to apply it evenly over the boards and not apply too much of it at once. You should also make sure not to inhale too much of it, since it’s rather toxic and harmful when inhaled, just like regular glue.
4. Finished flooring surfaces
There are only two options where these materials that are a realistic possibility – either your house doesn’t have floors yet and you plan on installing the best possible flooring or you plan on completely renovating your floors and investing a bunch of money into this project.
You can make your choice between hardwood, laminate, and tiles, depending on your preferences and your taste. Laminate is probably the best choice among the three since there is practically no sound at all when you walk around on it, but it doesn't really look as good on the floor as hardwood does. Tiles can be quite annoying, especially if you mind impact noise, which is certainly the loudest on tiles.
Hardwood can become squeaky over time and even though there are ways to fix this, it can be too complicated to do it, especially if you live in an apartment. While all of these floors have certain flaws, some of them can be the perfect choice for you if you consider everything on time.
Do you live in an apartment with a neighbor downstairs or do you live alone in a house that has two floors? Do you plan on spending more or less money on your floors?
All of these things need to be considered before you make a choice. It's probably best if you hire a professional to work on your floor because once any of these materials are installed wrongly, the entire floor could become a mess and you will need to hire someone to fix it for you.
5. Acoustic caulk
Another possibility is to use acoustic caulk or an acoustic sealant. In fact, I recommend you to use these materials in some of the previous options as well. Acoustic caulk is crucial for gap filling, and if you miss a gap when you’re soundproofing, it will be like you never did anything at all and the noise will continue. This material is especially good for floating flooring systems.
I believe that you should definitely get some acoustic caulk if you plan on doing any soundproofing work on your floors, which is why I found the most affordable option with the best reviews for you. This Sashco 10016 Big Stretch Caulk is one of the best acoustic caulk products out there and it's incredibly cheap as well.
You can get it on Amazon for only around $6, but that's if you chose the white color. There are a plethora of other colors, from grey to the brownish color of the wood so you can rest assured that the caulk will not stand out from the rest of the floor once you apply it. Other colors are slightly more expensive, but the product is still quite cheap considering the effect it has.
6. Carpets and padding
Many noise problems regarding the floor can be easily fixed by simply putting a really thick and heavy carpet on the floor. Still, heavier carpets are usually more expensive than you may expect, so do consider if you really need them.
Maybe you can solve your problem with some of the options above and save some money. However, if impact noise is your greatest concern, then a carpet or some kind of a padding is probably the best possible choice for you. Footsteps are practically inaudible on the carpet, as well as the sound of furniture-moving or dropping stuff on the floor.
For example, this European-style carpet is obviously very thick and it’s clear from the look of it that it would do more than a decent job at soundproofing the floor. If it seems like something that would match the look of your living room, click here to get it on Amazon.
Still, since I believe that this carpet may seem a bit tacky to some of you, I made sure to find some simpler and more elegant options. For instance, this Blue and Ivory Moroccan Ogee Plush Area Rug seems like a great choice if you want to improve the decor of your room a little bit and soundproof the floor at the same time.
Final thoughts on Floor Soundproofing Materials
As you can see, all it takes is a reasonable approach and you are close to the most desired thing- a piece of your mind in your beloved home!
All it takes is some investigation, which I did to make your quest easier. I do hope that my guide was of use for you. It’s up to you to make a good plan of yours and start fixing the issue as soon as possible.
Now that you know which factors are important for choosing floor soundproofing methods and materials, the chances that you will make a mistake are minimal. If you have some useful tips and tricks that worked well for you, feel free to share them!