Hardwood floors are getting to be the most desirable floor treatment in a home–they’re beautiful to look at and extremely durable, and they enhance the value of your home. There’s a downside, however; they tend to echo and to elevate noise levels and if not properly installed can squeak and creak. A lot of this can be avoided with the proper underlayment, a precaution that you take before you add the wood strips or planks that will repay you handsomely for your expense and effort.
You will save time in the long run with a good firm subfloor of plywood or particle board that is firmly anchored to the studs underneath. Often you will forestall noises this way. Nails tend to work loose with traffic, adding to the movement of the subfloor, and they have a tendency to squeak as they move up and down. Some contractors advise using screws instead, since they hold the subfloor more firmly. The subfloor material should be thick enough to be rigid and strong enough to bear the weight and movement.
Noise Barrier Materials
There are a number of soundproofing materials that can be used under wood flooring. These materials can be glued or nailed to the subfloor. A good-quality, flexible adhesive is the best bet in the longterm for these installations, since it allows for more of the inevitable movement of the floor.
A mass loaded vinyl (MLV) noise barrier without a foam backing is recommended for hardwood floors and for floors that are going to take a lot of impact, such as those under exercise machines or that will receive heavy traffic. There is a “dimpled” underlayment that can be used with the MLV layer to further deaden noise.
Cork underlayment is a truly green product that is completely natural, made from the bark of the tree. It is used for sound control under many types of floors and has been given a good rating for this application, meeting the code requirements of most homeowner associations, according to FloorBiz.com. You can buy it in rolls and apply it directly to the subfloor.
Rubber underlayment, which can be made of recycled rubber, can provide effective sound control. Acoustical-backed flooring is also available. As the noise barrier is part of the flooring, in this case there is no need to install a separate noise-reduction layer.
Whatever underlayment you decide on, it would be a good idea to ask the dealer to document the acoustic rating so you can compare it with other brands and types of underlayments.
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