By Leigh Smith | February 08, 2021
Have you ever been trying to work, but you can't seem to focus because of the dozens of noises around you? Maybe you live in an apartment, and you are enjoying a weekend morning when the couple above you decide they want to redecorate. Or, perhaps you're in class trying to listen to the instructor, but all you can hear is the shuffling of backpacks and a chorus of whispering classmates. Sound is everywhere and can be distracting, but it can also significantly impact our health and well-being. Prolonged noise exposure can increase your heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure. Noise can also interfere with sleep, concentration, and mood. For these reasons, it is crucial to have proper acoustic control of a space.
Noise is transmitted in two ways: airborne and impact. When you think about airborne noise, think about conversations, alarms, and music. Impact noise comes from sources like HVAC systems, foot traffic, and machinery shaking a structure.
Sound is measured in volume (decibels). For perspective, a whisper is around 25 decibels; a conversation falls somewhere around the 40-60 decibel range. A crying baby and a busy restaurant fall around the 90-100 decibel range... this is the volume level that people begin to feel uncomfortable at.
How do you minimize noise and its adverse effects? While there are several ways to dampen sound, flooring has one of the most considerable impacts. The best floors for reducing noise include rubber floors and carpet. Luxury vinyl floors are another great option, but the underlayment has a more significant effect on sound dampening than the floor itself. Many luxury vinyl floors have a cork or rubber pad attached for insulation and comfort, but these pads are also great sound reducers.
Let’s look at applications for carpet, rubber, and luxury vinyl. First, carpet is widely used across residential and commercial applications for its acoustic properties. One commercial sector that significantly benefits from the use of carpet is hospitality. Sound must be controlled from level to level and room to room in places like hotels. Using carpet in rooms, hallways, communal areas, and event spaces can significantly affect sound transmission. This is especially important for getting a good night’s sleep and focusing on work.
Rubber floors are great for spaces like gyms and workout stations. Rubber absorbs the impact noise from all the different equipment, dropped weights, and foot traffic. Imagine if a gym had tile floors instead of rubber. The noise from all these different sources would reverberate throughout the room and create an uncomfortable experience.
Luxury vinyl floors are found across many sectors but are most often found in offices and retail spaces. The ability to mimic the look of stone and wood with better acoustic properties is a substantial plus to choosing luxury vinyl. These floors are easy to clean and stand up well to heavy foot traffic and rolling loads. The core and underlayment options of luxury vinyl are what give them their sound-absorbing qualities. A luxury vinyl floor glued to a concrete subfloor without an underlayment will not be as quiet as, say, a loose-lay floor with an attached pad or underlayment.
The best way to determine if a product will help with sound control is to check the specifications. When looking at the specifications, you will want to look for an IIC or STC rating. IIC is for impact noise, while STC is for airborne noise. For noticeable acoustic performance, you will want to look for something with a rating of 50 or above.
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