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Soundproofing For Wooden Flooring

Many years ago, in another life, I used to work as a recording engineer (how I ever ended up in the hardwood flooring business is still a mystery). Here I am, many years later, and – instead of listening to nonsense about whether the singer’s slightly off key, or whether the drums are too loud for the track – I frequently have to listen to the total nonsense spewed out about ‘soundproof’ underlays for wooden flooring, particularly engineered wood flooring.

Over the years, a great many people have called Türgon to ask about soundproofing, and they are usually put through to me. And, over the years, my arsenal of information on this subject has steadily been reduced to just three words. Nowadays, when a customer is put through to me for advice on this matter I know, even before I open my big mouth, that I’m going to sound like a parrot – but I just can’t help myself. So, brace yourself, because I am now going to tell you everything you need to know about soundproof underlays for wooden flooring.
Do soundproof underlays for wood flooring work?

No, they don’t.

And we really don’t need to get into any technical stuff here, because the facts are the facts: they just don’t work. If they did work, then why did this couple sue their neighbours over a noisy wooden floor even when fully approved sound insulation had been laid down? (Unfortunately, they lost and are stuck with a huge legal bill. I wish the landlord had called me for advice. I would have been on hand to give my three words of technical information. ‘It won’t work’ – could have saved everyone a fortune!) Why then, in Scotland last year, were wooden floors were banned from flats in Edinburgh and Dundee – with more cities to follow suit?

I’d like to try to give you some sensible advice on this really important topic, but there just isn’t much to give beyond my three word answer. Maybe you’ve read some mind-bogglingly impressive-sounding statistics from the manufacturers of soundproof underlays: ’28db rating on 6 billion kilotons of pressure applied by an alien with football boots, rated to ISO 500000 and conforms with blah blah blah…’ it’s all nonsense I’m afraid.

First, most of the statistics will have been derived from lab testing. So they are useless – unless you live in a lab.

Second, none of the testing I have ever read about actually involved using a wooden floor on top of the acoustic mat. This is because, in the real world, once you use a wooden floor on top of any soundproof underlay, its probably going to half any acoustic rating.
Unrealistic expectations

The real problem here is everybody’s high expectations of what acoustic underlay can achieve. The reality, I’m afraid, is very much different. Acoustic underlay will NOT stop the impact noise made from high heel shoes, or little Johnny and his friends running around over your head. If you really want to remain blissfully ignorant of your upstairs neighbours’ every move, then either you will need to lower your ceiling (or your neighbour will have to raise their floor) and then that space will need to be insulated in the same way that they soundproof recording studios – which brings us nicely back to the beginning!

Please DO lay acoustic underlay, and have your installation company do the best job they can: but don’t expect your floor to be ‘soundproof’, because it just won’t be.

There is one thing more that you can do. It doesn’t cost anything, and is good practice from not just your downstairs neighbours’ point of view, but also from your floor’s point of view.

Take your shoes off.