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Reducing Noise Problems with Floor Insulation

Anyone who lives in an apartment block will be aware of the noise that neighbours can make, whether on the floor above, below or to the side. This will be particularly true if you have neighbours who play music loudly or otherwise disturb the peace of your unit. Even in a detached house, you may get disturbance from other occupants.

If you are planning to replace your carpet, or lay a different type of flooring, the opportunity arises to do something to alleviate the noise. However, it may be the only chance you have to deal with the problem for a number of years, so you should aim to do the job properly.

Identifying the Problem before Establishing a Solution

Many people believe that foam underlay underneath carpet will be enough to solve noise problems. To solve the problem properly, you need to identify the:

  • type of floor you have – this will usually be either solid concrete or be comprised of timber joists with floorboards on top and plasterboard on the ceiling below;
  • type of noise you are dealing with, which will be one or both of two types – impact noise that is normally represented by footsteps, by furniture being moved or items being dropped, or airborne noise caused by music or voices…
  • level of noise, since loud noises will require more insulation than low, muffled sounds that cause a minor disturbances.

Improving the insulation of floors can be achieved by a combination of:

  • adding high-density materials to increase the mass of the floor – some materials perform better for different sound frequencies and so a combination of materials will be better than only one;
  • acoustic materials that will reduce echo and prevent sound resonating and amplifying, and/or
  • using materials that absorb sound energy and vibration, thus reducing impact noise.

Solving the Problem

To counter impact noise on a timber floor, acoustic insulation may be placed between the floor joists to prevent resonance and amplification. A suitable underlay that is thick enough for the level of noise you encounter can then be placed between the flooring and joist/slab. For airborne noise, higher density is required for the underlay. Both impact and airborne noise will require a combination of different layers of underlay to provide mass and absorb vibration.

Concrete floors have a high level of mass and so are effective in blocking airborne noise. However, their hard surface means they are much worse for impact noise and so a suitable quality and thickness of underlay needs to be laid to absorb this.

Both timber and concrete floors will allow noise to travel through unless you can find a way to prevent this. So, when re-laying a floor, you have the perfect opportunity to take corrective action.

Identifying the type of floor is easy, as is determining the type and level of noise you want to overcome. The more difficult part is choosing the right materials to effectively overcome the problem. Koikas Acoustics can undertake to tests and recommend the right materials based on your preferred flooring system. A wide range of high quality, high-performance materials providing the right insulation, and a description of where and how each should be used is available. However, if you’re at all unsure about what you need, get in touch and we’ll arrange a session with one of our experienced consultants and prepare a plan so you can do it properly from the start.  It is always best and most cost-effective to test various samples before installation as you can ensure compliance with the relevant regulatory authorities  (BCA, AAAC star rating, Strata to name a few).  You can then look forward to a much more peaceful life with minimal disturbances from noise.

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