Hardwood flooring is much coveted among homeowners because of its beauty and durability. However, it does creak, a situation that only gets louder over the years. This is even more true if its installation was not up to the mark. Soundproofing, however, is possible, at least in part, and is a wise decision when you want a quieter household. Here, we share several suggestions on how to muffle your hardwood flooring.
When Do You Need Soundproofing?
Understanding the circumstances in which you need and do not need soundproofing is important to get the maximum value-for-money from your flooring installation project. The following are situations where soundproofing your hardwood floor is necessary and recommended:
- If you live in a condo/townhouse/multi-storeyed home and need to reduce the noise travelling to the floor below.
- If airborne noises and impact noises are high in your home.
- When you have older people, infants or light-sleepers in the house who are disturbed by the creaking of hardwood.
- When building codes necessitate it.
- If you live in a multi-family unit and move around during odd hours, soundproofing will prevent you from disturbing your neighbours and protect your privacy.
Types of Noise
Noise can be either from impact or airborne.
- Airborne noise is also known as ambient noise. It is transmitted through air and passes through walls, floors and ceilings. Sources include traffic, people talking, or radio or TV.
- Impact noise refers to the sound generated by an object coming into contact with another object with a force. This kind of sound travels differently, as the impact creates a vibration. From dropping something on the floor to walking around while wearing shoes or stomping in bare feet, everything can generate impact noise.
The method of reducing noise is influenced by the type of noise it is and varies accordingly. In the case of flooring, impact noises are more common and the best solution is to devise a way to absorb the impact. For both types of noise, the solution should be as close to the source as possible.
Tips to Reduce Impact Noises
You can manage impact noises from above the floor or beneath the flooring material. The following are materials you can use to reduce the noise generated from any kind of impact:
Carpet and area rugs
This is the easiest way to reduce impact noises on wooden flooring. Lay down a carpet with a thicker padding underneath to effectively reduce the impact noise. The thicker the padding, the better it absorbs the sound.
These need to be laid down during installation. They can be laid between the layers of subfloor, between the subfloor and the frame, or above the subfloor and below the flooring material. Using two to three layers can reduce noise transfer effectively in hardwood flooring.
In case your hardwood floor is already installed, a single layer can be laid between the area rugs and the hardwood. It can provide up to 50% noise reduction but is not intended for vibration or contact noises such as the sound generated by noisy appliances.
This sheeting material acts as a sound barrier and is easy to install beneath hardwood flooring. Since it is moisture and mould resistant, it can also be used along with other soundproofing materials. It can also be used behind drywall on the ceiling and the walls, as long as it is properly sealed and bonded to the surface.
Tips to Reduce Airborne Noises
Airborne noises can be a bit trickier to soundproof against, as you may not always have access to the source. But there are ways to significantly reduce the amount of sound you have to put up with:
Damping compounds can be applied directly over the existing subfloor. However, damping compounds need a rigid and stiff surface to work properly. If the existing subfloor is not thick enough, a rigid layer must be placed over it first, followed by the damping compound and then the hardwood planks. The rigid sheets that have damping compound in-between have to be screwed together to reap the maximum utility out of the product.
Acoustic mineral wool
This is a very useful material for reducing noise between floors, suspended ceilings and partition walls. Mineral wool is fire safe, chemically inert and non-flammable, making it a safe choice in every way. Moreover, it is resistant to mould and mildew and denser than other loft materials. Hence it can easily absorb airborne noises that pass through the floors and walls.
Using this sealant can help reduce airborne noise, provided it is used right. Install hardwood planks over the underlayment using the floating technique. Leave a slight gap between the floorboards on the edge and the walls. Fill these gaps with acoustic sealant. These gaps will provide space for the wood to expand and act as a decoupler. Sound can travel through any medium, and the acoustic sealant in these gaps will prevent that transmission from the walls into the building structure, thus reducing the noise.
You may need soundproofing against impact noise, airborne noise or both. The key is to judge what noise reduction measures you need to take and the ones that best suit you. The above-mentioned materials, tips and criteria are all you will need to know before undertaking a soundproofing project for hardwood flooring.