How Does Your New Flooring Sound? Acoustics Count

When it comes to acoustics and flooring, it’s not only important to look at the type of material required that best supports the space, but how sound transmission will play into the newly designed area.

The type of vertical will also dictate materials to be used as areas of high traffic will have different needs as opposed to less accessible, private locations. Other considerations include acoustic properties that relate to moving furniture which is more the norm with today’s modular commercial work environments.

commercial flooring Toronto

Photo by ROOM on Unsplash

Acoustics and Flooring Materials – The Difference is Sound

Armstrong Flooring reports that building materials and furnishings can affect the acoustics of a building in three ways through information gathered on Acoustical Data – Impact Insulation Class (IIC):

  • Sound Absorption: They can absorb sound, lowering background noise levels and reducing reverberation within a room.
  • Airborne Sound Transmission: They can serve as acoustical insulation and reduce transmission of airborne sounds, such as voices, between rooms.
  • Impact Sound Transmission: They can serve as impact sound insulation and reduce the transmission of impact sound, such as footsteps, from one room to another below or adjacent to it.

According to Armstrong, “As in the case of airborne sound transmission, the total floor/ceiling structure strongly influences the impact sound transmission, the floor covering is also important. This is because the impact sound is generated by a shoe or other object impacting directly on the floor covering. The floor surfacing material can help cushion the impact and therefore reduce its effect on the sound transmitted to not only the rooms below, but also through the structural floor to adjacent rooms on the same floor.”

Sound transmission and commercial flooring Darwin Fisher

Photo by Borna Hrzajna on Unsplash

Through IIC data Armstrong reveals, “The impact sound insulation properties of a floor/ceiling structure (including the flooring) are usually tested by measuring the transmitted sound in a room below while a standard ‘hammer machine’ bangs on the floor above. The results of the test are rated in terms of the IIC. IIC values can range from as low as 25 for lightweight residential construction with no floor covering to over 65 for commercial construction with carpet.”

Acoustics and Flooring By Industry Vertical – Carpet and LVT

As mentioned above, the type of industry/vertical will also drive acoustic and sound transmission considerations. Carpet offers a softer surface so it’s no surprise that it can deliver high sound absorption quality and offer greater acoustic benefits. Noise levels are significantly reduced with carpet tiles when compared to any other type of hard surface flooring product. According to the Milliken Flooring Blog carpet absorbs 3x more noise than hard flooring and will also absorb impact traffic. It can increase productivity by offering extra cushioning for employees who spend a lot of time standing.

carpet tile examples Toronto

Darwin Fisher carpet tile installation

This makes carpet tile is ideal for high performance office space, schools, transportation, hospitality, airports, public spaces and retail as it is extremely durable and helps to reduce sound transmission.

Flooring used in the healthcare field has started to move away from using only ceramic tile to newer finishes like vinyl plank flooring and LVT. Part of the reason beyond new finishes and designs, is that these technologies offer sound transmission protection.  For healthcare, dentists and doctors stress the need for soundproofing. Walls, ceiling and flooring materials selected need to help protect patient privacy and hinder sound travel.

commercial flooring in healthcare

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Acoustics and Flooring in Healthcare

“I do think there has been a move toward LVT in medical offices,” says Doug McDonald, President of Darwin Fisher Commercial Flooring. “LVT is a better solution acoustically especially as the product further develops its qualities into becoming more sound absorbent, chemical resistant and water resistant. It also offers more cushion for dentists and staff who are on their feet all day. Plus, it’s easy to maintain and repair. More than 80% of our installations in dental offices are now LVT. We are also getting requests for carpet tile in the dentist office and consultation rooms for the same reasons.”

Through technical advancements, LVT has also become thinner in profile. To remedy issues associated with product progression, such as denting, InstaFloor has developed a unique, environmental and cost-effective solution which also absorbs sound transmission. We have examined this product in greater detail in a past blog post.

Acoustics and Flooring and Green Technology

“The biggest demand for our product is for acoustics, especially for condominiums and large hotel refits,” says Paul Laporte, sales manager for Instalay North America. “Instalay recycled rubber crumb is obtained from used truck and car tires,” “We keep old tires out of the dump sites. In addition to being environmentally friendly, Instalay provides outstanding acoustic properties, superior cushioning for underfoot comfort and impact energy absorption.”

Instalay and Darwin Fisher

Photo by InstaFloor North America

Instalay for LVT, which is a patented technology developed and owned by InstaFloor, is stable, durable and non-collapsing. This environmentally sound solution is supported by recycled vulcanized rubber crumb granules. When compressed they provide cushioning performance, however, when the weight is removed the granules return to their original shape. Instalay alleviates denting of tiles via the rubber cushioning and reduces the risk of subfloor imperfections showing through the finished surface.

There are a number of different types of products on the market, when considering flooring materials.  Many manufacturers offer different performance ratios from one product to another, from the surface of the product to type of backing used and flooring underlays. Ensure your flooring installer is knowledgeable of the differences, quality and applications that would best suit your environment for design, maintenance, traffic and acoustic considerations.

For more information about acoustics and flooring installation solutions please provide details of your inquiry through our website or email us directly at