Acoustic Underlay for Floors. What is it and Why Does It Exist?
At Pliteq, we manufacture and sell acoustic flooring underlay, but the truth of the matter is you may not need acoustic flooring underlay.
You might be living in a condo with no acoustic regulation or designing/constructing a building in a location where there is no building code legislation which stipulates you must use it.
But we can educate you on what it is, why it exists and where it is commonly used so you can make an educated decision on whether it is something you need to buy or specify to the benefit of your customers.
What Is Acoustic Flooring Underlay?
Firstly Acoustic Flooring Underlay can be called many things in different parts of the world including:
- Acoustic or Acoustical Underlayment
- Floor underlay
- Sound Mat
- Impact Mat
- Resilient Underlay
- Rubber Mat
- Soundproof Mat
- Sound Control Underlayment
There is no right or wrong name!
It is typically manufactured and supplied in single sheets or rolls which are then laid flat on the floor and installed between the finished floor surface and the base structure below (typically concrete or wood) of a floor ceiling assembly in a building.
How Is It Installed And Under What Types of Flooring?
The underlay will either be glued in place or loose laid depending on what type of floor finish is being used.
The rule of thumb is, if the finished floor would normally be installed loose then the underlay can also be installed loose. But always check this with your underlay and flooring supplier.
A good quality flooring underlay can be installed under all hard surface floor finishes including laminate flooring, vinyl flooring, wood flooring in addition to masonry finishes such as ceramic, porcelain or marble. Check which one is best for you.
The underlay (with floor covering) should be acoustically tested to show how much impact noise it reduces. This is because not all underlays are created equally so it cannot be assumed that one 5mm underlay performs the same as another.
A good acoustic flooring underlay will always come with a number of test reports from the vendor which were:
- Conducted in an independent laboratory
- Tested with a very similar construction to what you are installing
- Tested within the last 5-10 years
Checking the test reports is one of the most import elements when looking for products to buy, install or specify. Second to this would be the sustainability credentials of a product.
Why Does Acoustic Flooring Underlay Exist?
The sole function of the acoustic flooring underlay is to reduce the amount of impact noise travelling through a floor from objects dropping, footsteps and furniture movement on hard surface floor finishes in any type of building.
It is these little everyday noises especially at quieter times of day that over time can cause us stress in what should otherwise be relaxing environments.
Should You Use Acoustic Flooring Underlay?
In some cases no, it’s not necessary. It all depends on your demands or those of your customer or client. As this is installed under the floor it benefits your neighbour below, not you. So really we should be trying to convince our neighbours above us to install it!
Acoustic Underlay is predominantly used in multi-resident dwellings such as:
- Hotel or Serviced Apartments
- Student Residences
- Retirement Homes
- Long Term Care Homes
Or anywhere that we expect a quiet environment and do not want to hear the activity of people located above us. So this is your first consideration regardless of the below.
In some countries it is a legal requirement to design and install a floor/ceiling assembly that will bring the noise levels down by a specific amount. In these situations it is almost always necessary to use an acoustic flooring underlay to meet these regulations.
The building management of some condo/apartments can also stipulate that if you are changing the flooring in your unit from what was originally installed then you must install an acoustic flooring underlay to make sure the impact noise performance is maintained. This is typically done to maintain the as-built standards of the building, minimise complaints and reduce tenant/owner turnover.
But in other places there is no requirement and no local legislation and then acoustic flooring underlay becomes a nice to have.
Good Acoustics Creates Sustainable Built Environments.
Acoustic underlays are one of the most effective ways to improve our overall internal living environment and reduce noise intrusion from our neighbours, if selected and installed correctly.
It has been documented and surveyed that noise effects our sleep and using acoustic flooring underlay is just one of the ways to reduce these intrusions to create more sustainable built environments.
We always recommend working with an independent acoustic consultant where ever possible as this is their area of expertise.
So whether you are buying, designing, constructing or developing the newest place to live, rest or recover remember that a sustainable built environment is more than low levels of energy consumption and “green” materials being used, but also how healthy a place it is to live.
And to round out this article here is one of our favourite videos on the topic which is frankly hilarious but such a true reality for so many people.