Underlayments are used under wood floors for two reasons. One is to make the floor sound better inside the room by reducing the clicking sounds. The Second and often the most important function is to reduce the Impact Sound of ‘Footfall Noises’ to the living space below. There is a big problem however in that decisions about flooring materials are often made based on price – especially when large amounts are being purchased by builders and developers. Even for home owners, price is understandably an important consideration. But like nearly everything in life, you get what you pay for! Sound Control Underlayments are no exception.
The first issue is that the underlayment is not seen so it’s deemed less important than the finished floor you see and walk on. Fair enough, but the functionality and longevity of an underlayment is so important that if not considered carefully it can compromise the entire installation. This can cause early floor failure and possible legal problems in the case of underlayments used in condominiums.
The underlayments that are being offered today consist of: cork, felt, foam and rubber.
Cork – is an old school underlay. It has been used for so long it’s been ‘grandfathered’ into many specifications. The issue with cork is that it is the bark of a tree and it dries out, crumbles and cracks over a short period of time.
Felt – does a reasonable job, but if there happens to be a spill of any kind, it will seep through the joints where the felt will wick it under greater areas the floor with disastrous results.
Foams– These are the real problem in the flooring choices today. As this market is so ‘price driven’,the sellers of foams are happily offering up re-purposed packaging foam to be used as floor underlayment because they are so cheap. Back to the ‘you get what you pay for’ – foam underlayments often crush out in a very short period of time compromising floor joints and the whole installation. Along with the diminishing thickness, so goes any acoustic performance claim. Foam underlayments are generally considered ‘temporary’.
Rubber– This class of underlayment is currently the King-of-the-Hill as they offer the highest acoustic performance and unsurpassed life span. These underlayments are manufactured from reclaimed tires and will never crush out under residential loads. The ones manufactured with polyurethane and acrylic binders offer zero smell and zero off gassing.
Iso-Sep PM Sound Control Underlay is made right here in North America. It is one of the highest performing and lowest cost underlayments made today.
Wilrep Ltd. www.acoustiguard.com has been supporting its clients with Sound and Vibration Control Solutions for over 39 years.