How to make a quiet floor?

Choosing the right flooring is one of the most important considerations when renovating or building a home. When choosing the right material, make sure it’s high quality and has sound-absorbing properties. Flooring is not something you can replace quickly, cheaply or inconveniently – so it’s worth investing in.

Floor underlays – what are they used for?

First and foremost, make sure you buy the right underlay for your new floor. It is not there to level the subfloor. Thanks to underlays you will ensure acoustic insulation, or simply speaking – you will muffle your panels. This is how you ensure a quiet floor. The choice of the right underlay is before you.

Kinds of underlays

In construction stores you will find underlays made of natural materials. You will come across wood-like boards, cork mats and corrugated cardboard, among others.

In addition to these, there are also underlays that have been manufactured from polystyrene and polyurethane, which are artificial materials. They can be of different thicknesses, from two to five millimeters. It is the thickness that determines how good the floor insulation will be. The thicker the underlay you choose, the better soundproofing you will get

Whether you choose a natural or synthetic underlay should depend on the subfloor you are laying on. On a concrete subfloor you can use either a natural or synthetic underlay. On wooden planks or wood-like material the insulation layer must also be natural.

When choosing a subfloor, you should also consider what sounds you actually want to dampen. Do you want to reduce noise in the room where the floor will be laid? Or do you want to ensure that footsteps cannot be heard in the room below? Depending on which solution you have in mind, you will need to choose a different type of underlay.

Underlays made of artificial materials

Artificial underlays include polyurethane-mineral underlay, the so-called PUM. Its effectiveness in soundproofing footsteps is almost thirty percent! This is the underlay you should opt for if you also plan to install underfloor heating. It conducts heat perfectly, which is definitely an advantage.

Another example is an underlay made of extruded polystyrene, called XPS underlay for short. This will not work well with underfloor heating as it may cause less heat to enter the room

High-density polyethylene, or PEHD for short, is one of the thinnest underlays, yet it can easily dampen all kinds of noise.

Underlays made of natural materials

Among natural underlays, you will find, for example, those made of cork. This is because the structure of cork means that this material does not transmit vibrations and sounds, but instead cushions them. This makes them less audible. This type of underlay can be laid under floor panels. Due to the thickness of the cork underlay, you have to be prepared for the floor in the room to rise up, which is not something that everyone is ready to do. You should also know that the prices of cork underlayments are quite high.

A cheaper natural underlay is corrugated cardboard. Unfortunately, it does not dampen sounds to a degree that will satisfy everyone. This is mainly due to the fact that the layer is very thin – it will not level out uneven floors.

Take care of proper subfloor preparation

Buying the right materials is not everything. No matter how good a subfloor you decide on, if you lay it on an improperly prepared subfloor, you will only waste quality material. Make sure that the subfloor is dry, even and clean. Thoroughly washing the surface is especially important if you are renovating your house or apartment

Next, smooth out any unevenness with a joint compound. Remember to put an insulating foil – thanks to it your panels will be protected against moisture! It is worth to know, because thanks to that, when renovating a kitchen or a bathroom, you will remember to put thicker foil. It is much easier to flood the floor in these rooms than in the living room. Only then can you install the purchased floor underlay on the subfloor and enjoy a quiet floor.

Main photo: Neven Krcmarek/unsplash.com

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Toby Kenney

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