To have great sound in any room, all surfaces need proper treatment. There is no doubt that people first pay attention to the walls, but the ceiling and flooring are essential surfaces as well.
This becomes even more of an issue if there is another level below the room. Sound is much more likely to not only be heard from below, but it can become an issue for those down there as well.
Despite its importance, acoustic flooring is something a lot of people do not know all that much about. This guide helps people better understand how things work with acoustic flooring, and just how much of a change is noticeable.
What is Acoustic Flooring?
Technically speaking, anything that helps reduce noise disturbance and enhances sound quality that goes on the ground falls in the category of acoustic flooring. Of course, certain materials do a much better job than others. It is a broad term, with varying levels of effectiveness overall.
The goal of every person is to find something that prevents sound from transmitting from floor to floor, and to reduce background noise within a room. If it is doing better than just the floor itself, that is considered a worthy investment.
What Type of Noise is Handled Best with Acoustic Flooring?
All acoustic flooring options help to stop the transmission of two different types of noise. That includes both impact sound, and airborne sound. Some people might not know exactly what this means, so below is a definition and a few examples of those types of noises. (source)
An impact sound can come from anything as innocent as basic foot traffic, all the way to slamming weights down on the ground. The impact generates the sound, and it goes straight through the structure of the building. Some flooring handles the sounds better than others, but even acoustic flooring is probably not going to eliminate deafening sounds.
The goal of a good option with acoustic flooring is to insulate impact noise. This helps to stop the transmission of sound from the flooring to any rooms below. The standard way of measuring a material’s effectiveness is by going off of Impact Insulation Class, also known as ICC. If the flooring has a high ICC, it provides solid impact sound insulation.
To measure a material’s ICC rating, a hammer machine is used. Once turned on, the decibels are measured in the room below. It is a pretty simple test, but does a great job of getting all materials on the same page from a judging point of view.
Sounds that are considered airborne come from some type of source, depending on the use of a room. Most people associate an airborne sound with people talking or yelling, but it can also relate to sound coming from speakers, instruments, and more. The sounds can go through the flooring and affect other parts of the building, although things work a little bit differently.
Material to help with airborne sounds have a slightly different type of measurement, known as Sound Transmission Class. An STC measures how good a material is at absorbing airborne noise, preventing transmission between two rooms.
It is measured across 16 frequencies, ranging from 125 Hz to 5000 Hz. Much like the ICC rating, it does a great job of getting everyone on the same page for a uniform type of test with sound control.
What is the Best Material to Use For Acoustic Flooring?
Great acoustic flooring will be able to handle both impact and airborne sounds. While it is nice to have a few dependable options, obviously some flooring will not work in certain situations. For example, carpet is something that works very well in certain settings, but just couldn’t be placed in other areas. That is why an alternative is needed to help with acoustics.
Below is a list of five materials that help out with sound. Out of the five, at least one of them should work in most settings. Try a few of them out and see what has the best effectiveness.
There’s something very dependable about carpet when it comes to impacting sound transmission. There is a reason why it is used in anything from hotels to offices. It is also common in homes, and it is not just because it is very comfortable on the feet.
Generally speaking, the higher the pile, the more impact it has on absorbing sound. Try to put as thick of a pad underneath as possible to help with sound control as well. Most can get away with hiding a pretty nice pad underneath the carpet, and it only helps with the comfort level as well.
Some people are not exactly crazy about carpet in certain areas, which is why it is not the only solution out there. Not only that, but it is a little difficult to clean and maintain at times, which is why people might shy away from it in high traffic areas.
Most people find rubber flooring in a commercial setting, and it helps out a lot with sound absorption. Not only does it do a great job of controlling sound, but it is slip-resistant as well.
Places such as schools, kitchens, hospitals and more will use this type of flooring and really benefit from it in a lot of different ways.
It is not going to win any style prizes, but this is perfect for places where looks do not matter. Do not expect it to make an appearance in many homes, but businesses love it.
As a standalone option, very few places actually use cork flooring. It is sustainable and comfortable, but it stains a lot and is not the most durable.
Think of it more like something that goes underneath another layer. It can provide some nice acoustic insulation, and it makes for a comfortable surface as well.
If the other options just do not work, try out cork flooring in a smaller area at first to test how it feels.
Wood-Plastic Composite Flooring
This type of flooring has taken off in the last few years, and it probably won’t be slowing down any time soon.
WPC flooring is very popular because it is durable, waterproof, And takes virtually no effort to maintain. This works very well fighting against foot traffic that is walking across all the time.
High-quality vinyl tile works very well, especially if it has a sound-insulating underlayment (Amazon). Not only does it fit in many different settings, but it is very durable once installed.
It might be a little costly at first, but the good news is that maintenance is pretty cheap.
What’s the Best Way to Pick Out a Flooring Material that Works?
As one can see, all five options above are great choices to make. If a person is having trouble picking out which one works best for their particular setting, the best thing to do is to talk to a flooring contractor.
They work with many different materials throughout the day, and they may be able to assist with decision-making. They can help a person better understand the set up they have, and what works best.
Do not be afraid to try out some samples as well. It might not give the same type of experience, but there are always places to pick up sample material and give it a bit of a test drive.