If you are in the process of shopping for new floors, you may have come across the acoustic ratings for some of the products you are considering. This is especially relevant with hard surface flooring, like hardwood, laminate, and vinyl. In many cases, the customer just sees a number rating, but what do those ratings mean? Let’s look at the most common acoustic ratings used for flooring products.
Impact Insulation Class (IIC)
The Impact Insulation Class rating, or IIC, is a measure of how well a product attenuates impact sounds, such as footsteps. This tends to be the rating that is used by multi-family buildings in their bylaws for replacing flooring, especially in strata buildings. Since many apartment units will have someone living above them in these buildings, residents generally want to have a quiet floor above them. If a flooring product has a high IIC rating, there will be less chance of the resident below hearing impact noises.
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
The Sound Transmission Class rating, or STC, is a measure of how well a product attenuates airborne sound. Airborne sound can include talking, music or TV sound, or even machinery sounds. Many hard surface flooring products use the STC rating in conjunction with the IIC rating. However, some flooring manufacturers do not test their products for STC ratings because they feel that the STC rating of a particular apartment will be more influenced by the construction of the walls, ceiling, subfloors, doors, and windows. It may not be fair to rely on your flooring product to achieve a desired STC rating for your individual apartment unit.
Which flooring products have the best acoustic ratings?
When it comes to acoustic ratings it is very tough to surpass carpet and carpet underlay. Carpet and the appropriate underlay will help to minimize the sound of footsteps and other impact noises. Carpet will also help to minimize airborne sounds. However, not every person shopping for new flooring wants to choose carpet.
If you are looking to have a hard surface floor installed in your home, and the new floor needs to meet certain acoustic ratings for strata or landlord, there are underlay products on the market that can help. For products like laminate and hardwood, there are a variety of underlay options available with different acoustic ratings that will almost always meet the standards set out by the strata or landlord. For these installations, the laminate or hardwood will not be nailed down or glued down to the subfloor. Instead, it will be “floated” over top of the underlay. This means it will not be attached to the subfloor, but will sit on top of the underlay.
For vinyl flooring, there are fewer options for acoustic underlay products. Since vinyl is usually much thinner than laminate or hardwood, it is not possible to use the typical underlay products designed for those flooring types. There are a few underlay options specifically made for vinyl floors that will help raise the acoustic values for the floor. However, even with these underlay products vinyl flooring will sometimes not meet the acoustic ratings set out by the strata or landlord.
It is always important to do you research before you begin a flooring project. If you live in a strata building, make sure to review all of the bylaws they have set out for installing new floors. This will often dictate which products you will be able to choose from for your project.
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