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Guide to Acoustic Flooring


When Quiet Matters: A Guide to Acoustic Flooring

Sound treatment is a key design consideration for almost every building, regardless of industry, in order to reduce noise disturbance and enhance sound quality. Selecting acoustic flooring materials is crucial to effective sound treatment.

When noise is made within your building, it will either be absorbed, reflected or transmitted by your wall, ceiling and flooring. The goal of sound treatment is twofold: (1) prevent transmission of sound from room to room and floor to floor, and (2) reduce background noise to enhance the quality of speech or music within rooms. Installing acoustic flooring is an effective and efficient way of accomplishing the former goal.

While acoustic ceiling and wall treatments protect against transmission of sound from room to room, acoustic flooring is effective at preventing the transmission of sound from an upper floor to a lower floor. Together with ceiling and wall coverings, your acoustic flooring system will help create the best acoustic environment for your building’s application.

Types of noise acoustic flooring can help with

In general, acoustic flooring must prevent the transmission of two types of noise:

1.Impact Sound

Whether from foot traffic, carts or vibrating machinery, floors bear the brunt of impact within your building. The sound energy generated by this impact can be transmitted through the structure of your building, distorting noise and disturbing workers, guests or residents. Acoustic flooring is designed to insulate impact noise, preventing its transmission from your flooring into the rooms below.

A flooring material’s effectiveness at preventing the transmission of impact noise is measured by its impact insulation class (ICC). The higher a flooring’s ICC, the more impact sound insulation it provides.

A material’s ICC rating is measured using a “hammer machine” on an upper floor, and measuring the sound in decibels in the room below. Floating floors, carpet pads and sound-insulating underlayment can greatly improve a flooring system’s ICC rating.

A hammer machine is used on an upper floor to measure the ICC rating of the floor materials

2. Airborne Sound

Airborne sound typically stems from people, speakers and instruments. Like impact sound, airborne sound can transmit through your flooring into other parts of your building.

A material’s ability to prevent the transmittance of airborne sound is measured using a different metric—sound transmission class (STC). An STC rating is a logarithmic measure of a sound’s transmission loss between two rooms, measured across 16 frequencies from 125 Hz to 5000 Hz. Essentially, a material’s STC rating measures its ability to absorb airborne noise and, consequently, prevent its transmission.

Acoustic flooring options: 5 materials suited for sound treatment

Both metrics are important in comparing acoustic flooring materials, and choosing the underlayment and final flooring that best fit your building’s particular application. Still, a material’s acoustic qualities are not the only factor to consider when selecting a flooring material for your building.

For example, while carpeting might work perfectly within a classroom, it wouldn’t meet the sanitary standards to be used in an operating room. There are many factors to consider beyond acoustics—and a flooring contractor can guide you through them all.

While acoustic flooring materials are not one-size-fits-all, there are some materials that are better at preventing sound transmission than others.

Here are some of the best acoustic flooring materials:


Carpet or carpet tiles are known for mitigating impact sound, making them a perfect choice for hotels, classrooms and offices. Higher pile carpets or carpets with a thick pad underneath, are especially good at absorbing sound and reducing transmission.

Combining carpet with resin flooring can help to insulate sound where you need it most

2. Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is a sustainable, comfortable and sound-absorbent flooring option perfect for many commercial applications. Still, due to its tendency to stain and indent it is often used as an underlay to provide acoustic insulation.

3. Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) Flooring

Durable, waterproof and easy to maintain, WPC flooring provides great acoustic benefits, especially when it comes to mitigating the impact noise such as high foot traffic. Its acoustic benefits are largely drawn from its backing layer, which not only provides sound insulation, but also protects against mold and mildew.

4. Rubber Flooring

Commercial rubber flooring is known for its sound absorbent qualities. More than that, it is slip-, mold- and mildew-resistant. It is a great choice for hospitals, schools, gyms and kitchens looking for a durable acoustic flooring material.

Rubber flooring is known for its sound absorbent qualities as well as slip and mold resistance

5. Vinyl Tile

Vinyl tile, especially luxury vinyl tile (LVT) installed with a sound-insulating underlayment, is a great resilient flooring option used for sound treatment. It is selected by many facilities due to its design versatility, durability and relatively low maintenance costs.

LVT with sound-insulating underlayment is a great resilient flooring option used for sound treatment

One flooring material does not fit all. And a material’s acoustic quality should not be the only factor you use when selecting flooring for your facility. A flooring contractor can walk you through all the factors you need to consider so you can choose the material that makes the most sense for your building’s specific needs, while taking your budget into consideration.

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Aaron Hartung

Marketing Manager for Spectra Contract Flooring

3 thoughts on “When Quiet Matters: A Guide to Acoustic Flooring”

  1. Joy Butler says:

    My son has requested something for his birthday. Since his into music, he wants to play the guitar in his room quietly. It really helped when you said that providing an acoustic insulation or cork flooring is an option.

  2. Michael Hewitt says:

    Could you advice the best and most suitable flooring for sound absorption for a room which entertains 6 month to 3 + years children, where they crawl, walk, play, drag items and eat and drink during their day at Pre school.
    Also having suggested the most suitable, should include the cleaning of the covering for both health and hygiene principals and contamination of disease. Many thanks

    1. Dan Ash says:

      Hi Michael
      Thanks for your comment. It can depend a lot on the amount of use, budget and any design/colour requirements but in general a resin coating will provide acoustic properties and be durable enough to withstand the challenges of a pre-school environment. Alipathic, full PU, liquid vinyl type floors (also known as “comfort” floors) could be a good bet, as they provide a more elastic surface with better sound-damping properties. Hygiene-wise pretty much any resin floor is a good bet, as they are seamless and impervious and so are easy to clean. If you let us know exactly where you’re based we can put you in touch with a local flooring expert who can discuss this with you in more depth if you like?
      Kind regards,

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