Underlayment: Options for keeping it quiet

December 18, 2015

December 21/28; Volume 30/Number 13

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.06.26 PMOne of the main reasons to consider using underlayment is the sound-deadening qualities it provides. Depending on the type of floor, underlayment is an essential part of sound abatement in both residential and commercial settings. This is especially true when it comes to laminate floors, which often sound hollow underfoot.

“Excessive noise is an irritating pollutant, and people prefer floors that do not produce sharp or harsh noises,” explained Duonne Erasmus, managing director, InstaFloor. “In commercial environments, a noise-generating floor is often perceived as cheap, while a solid, less noisy floor is perceived as more expensive.”

While quieter floors are more desirable, acoustic underlayments are often specified by architects because of local legislation. “The reason most consumers and retailers are looking for underlayments with sound-deadening qualities is to meet the criteria set forth by the International Building Code (IBC), which requires a minimum IIC and STC rating of 50 for multi-family buildings,” said Andy Stafford, marketing manager for Healthier Choice. “Underlayments allow for installation of a variety of floors throughout the building while still meeting code.”

Oftentimes, building owners will elevate the criteria to ensure a higher level of noise reduction for the comfort of their tenants. IIC represents impact noise, which is generated by anything that comes into contact with the floor such as footsteps or furniture, while STC pertains to airborne noise, which includes sound generated by voices, music or television. “These are necessary to ensure both the unit above as well as below are able to maintain a certain degree of quiet and privacy,” said Jeffrey Castor, national sales manager, North America, Diversified Industries.

Ray Rodriguez, president and CEO of Starline Associates, added, “Sound abatement or reduction is equally important for the room where the noise can be created and any rooms that are near or underneath to keep things more comfortable for anyone in the affected areas.”

Form and function

All flooring products provide some level of sound attenuation, however, certain products are specially engineered to reduce noise. Healthier Choice manufactures two lines of underlayment: Sound Solution and OmniChoice. Both have proven acoustical properties and are available with or without an attached vapor barrier. Sound Solution is designed primarily for laminate and hardwood floors, while OmniChoice is used with LVT, LVP, ceramic tile, porcelain tile and stone in addition to laminate and hardwood.

Starline Associates’ acoustic underlayment offering, Silent Blue, is made for nail-down and floating wood floors as well as laminate flooring. A firmer and thinner version is available for use under vinyl floating floors, which typically do not produce the loud noise associated with other floating floors.

InstaFloor’s InstaLay offers at least one product that is compatible with each specific type of flooring, including carpet, carpet tile, wood, laminate, LVT and ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tiles. These products have been specifically developed with a patent-pending self-adhesive membrane to create a flooring installation system that provides the reduction of impact noise. Other benefits include durability, comfort, speed of installation, reduced subfloor preparation and environmental friendliness.

FloorMuffler by Diversified Industries is a patented, premium-grade polypropylene foam. It can be used for floating and double glue-down installations for most laminate and engineered and solid hardwood applications in both residential and commercial settings. It is tested in an independent laboratory with an IIC rating of 74 and an STC rating of 73. In addition, it is lightweight, allowing for a quick and easy installation for both professionals and DIYers, according to Diversified Industries.

QuietWalk, MP Global’s underlayment offering for floating wood and laminate floors, is designed to smooth out subfloor imperfections while quieting impact sound and floor-to-ceiling noise. Its filaments are randomly air laid, creating a capillary effect to cushion the floor and absorb sound simultaneously.

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