When a sound or noise is generated — like two people talking inside a room or an item dropping on the floor — the structures and finishes within an interior space such as ceilings, walls or flooring will absorb, reflect or transmit the sound. The materials and finishes you select, along with the structure assembly, will dictate what happens to those noises. In commercial spaces such as hotels or apartment complexes, acoustics refers to how sound gets transferred from room to room and floor to floor. Absorption is ideal in these spaces, and achieving quiet, noise-absorbent rooms with sound treatment is critical.
Sound treatment seeks to limit background sound and stop the transition of noise between spaces. This practice improves the quality of wanted sound in a particular area. One of the most effective forms of sound treatment is the application of acoustical flooring.
The use of acoustic flooring helps to reduce the transmission of sound between spaces, lending it to applications in commercial environments such as:
- Multi-family living spaces including the living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathrooms, as well as common areas like hallways or shared media rooms.
- Senior living environments.
- Educational settings like classrooms, lecture halls and libraries.
- Student living spaces from dorm rooms to student apartments.
- Healthcare settings such as hospitals and medical office buildings.
- Hospitality, including hotel guestrooms and hallways or lobbies.
- Fitness areas, from fitness studios to personal training spaces.
Acoustic Floor Testing
To explore the different types of sound transmissions, let’s define the most common terms used when it comes to luxury vinyl flooring, as well as the testing results and ratings that various flooring types offer the industry.
Impact Insulation Class (IIC)
This evaluation gives a single number rating to describe how impact noise transmits between flooring and ceiling systems. Impact noises include footsteps or footfalls, items dropping on the floor or the movement of furniture (or dancers) moving across the floor, for example:
The test is performed in a controlled environment with particular constructional parameters in place such as a defined substrate like concrete or plywood. For years, commercial flooring products would often standardize their tests using a concrete slab with an overall thickness of 6 inches or 8 inches, though as flooring configurations broaden, flooring assembly requirements will range among thickness and material types such as concrete versus metal or wood beams. In addition, the assembly is also defined as drop ceiling or open assembly, and testing configurations may vary based on the specific market segment the flooring is being tested for.
Using a tapping machine, the flooring material being tested is struck with a hammer-like device which generates a sound, and the vibrations that pass through the flooring into the room below (through the ceiling) are recorded to determine a number rating. The higher the number rating, the most sound is being blocked. To start, consider an exposed concrete floor; typically, its rating is 25 IIC to 35 IIC. Once resilient flooring is added to the floor assembly, the rating is increased based upon the thickness of the resilient flooring material and other specific acoustic attributes it may offer.
TAJ 5mm luxury vinyl modular acoustic flooring featured in our Wavelength and Color Infused collection — also a luxury vinyl loose lay construction — has a test rating per ASTM E492 of 57 IIC (6-inch concrete slab, drop ceiling). This makes it an ideal choice for various commercial interior environments requiring materials that contribute to soundproofing spaces like in apartment units where surrounding tenants live close together with little barrier between units. And in many instances, building codes or HOAs often require a minimum flooring IIC of 50.
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
This rating applies to a product’s ability to block airborne sound from transferring through a floor, wall or ceiling structure. For example, the sound from a television or music. For example:
This testing is commonly considered for commercial interior projects in North America. Like IIC, the higher the STC rating of a product, the greater the ability it has to block sound. Also, keep in mind that the testing is not for an individual product or component — like IIC, it is for the entire assembly of the space so the configuration of the room such as a slab thickness or ceiling structure will affect the overall rating.
Building codes and HOAs often require a minimum flooring STC of 50. TAJ’s Wavelength and Color Infused products STC rating is 62, per ASTM E90 (6-inch concrete slab, drop ceiling).
Delta IIC (△IIC)
A Delta IIC rating is a rating of an individual component of an assembly and does not take into consideration the floor or ceiling assembly such as the thickness of the concrete slab or ceiling construction of the room below it. The rating shows how each component of an assembly contributes to the impact sound isolation of the assembly as a whole, and is helpful when comparing the IIC of varying materials or different testing configurations.
Contact us for more information on sound testing, or to discuss testing for your commercial project.
Resilient Acoustical Flooring Options
Acoustic flooring refers to much more than carpeting or acoustic floor underlayments. One of the most effective options for soundproofing commercial interiors is resilient flooring, and more specifically 5mm luxury vinyl loose lay.
Let’s break down the characteristics of 5mm luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring, or loose lay:
- Curling Prevention Balance Layer: The backing is pressure resistant and has anti-slip qualities to prevent the tiles from slipping, which means LVT may be installed without the full application of an adhesive or may be used on access flooring systems.
- Stabilization Core Layer: This layer is a source of support and stability.
- Fiberglass Stabilization Layer: A fiberglass layer provides dimensional stability and controls how LVT expands and contracts with temperature changes.
- Extra Sound Absorption Layer: An additional layer centered within the product construction to help absorb sound.
- HD Design Print Layer: The printed film layer is the visual of the tile or plank. From the look of stone and wood to abstract designs, this layer offers limitless design options.
- Clear Design Protection Layer or Wear layer: A clear design protection layer is resistant to foot traffic, scratches and scuffs contributing to the longevity of a flooring.
- Polyurethane Coating: A poly finish adds a layer of durability to LVT floor. This final layer protects against microbes, scuffs and other damage that can shorten your floor’s lifespan or detract from its appearance. TAJ 5mm modular acoustic flooring features Protech Plus, an extra ceramic bead infused UV cured coating with antimicrobial technology.
This layered construction of 5mm luxury vinyl flooring supports its commercial use success, and stacks up well when compared to other acoustic options like cork, rubber or carpet. While cork floors and LVT offer strong design aesthetics, luxury vinyl is a more durable solution for high traffic areas, is less susceptible to indentation, and is a more affordable flooring solution for commercial interiors.
LVT shares the same easy-to-clean qualities as rubber flooring — however, luxury vinyl’s design offering is more suited for commercial living spaces, as rubber is limited in its design options. Vinyl also produces less odor during installation and is less prone to discoloration. Otherwise, its maintenance and installation are fairly similar to those of rubber tiles.
For some time now, carpet was a highly sought-after flooring option for its acoustic benefits. Over time, with the developments and enhancements of resilient flooring — especially in regard to its cleanability and ease of maintenance — 5mm luxury vinyl flooring has surpassed the qualities of carpet and has equivalent sound reduction benefits. While carpet tiles are easy to repair like LVT, broadloom can be less forgiving, which adds onto the installation time. With carpet tile, the vinyl component gives it its stability, though relies on the fibers to absorb the sound and is often matted down due to high commercial foot traffic and poor maintenance.
Skip the Acoustic Floor Underlayment
In the past, sound absorption was typically achieved through underlayment applications and acoustical ceiling constructions. Today, 5mm luxury vinyl (or loose lay luxury vinyl) is a leading flooring option for commercial spaces that require sound absorption qualities as it only entails a single installation process; applying adhesive and laying the tiles. With an acoustic floor underlayment, however, it requires an additional step in the installation process — and underlayments also have a higher rate of failure.
TAJ 5mm modular acoustic tile installs in less than half the time of products with or requiring an underlayment, and for less cost. The average installed cost for installing a 3mm LVT product with a 2mm rubber underlayment is $7.75 square foot installed. 5mm modular acoustic luxury vinyl averages around $5.75 per square foot installed. In addition, since fewer steps and materials are required, the installation overall is more reliable.
Advantages of Sound Absorption
The benefits of acoustic flooring in your commercial building are numerous. Sound absorption improves the user experience by limiting background noise and disturbances from other occupants. Additionally, there are other perks of using 5mm luxury vinyl acoustic flooring for the end user. These flooring solutions are more comfortable underfoot than other hard surfaces, and they also provide insulation that translates to thermal benefits for occupants. These perks are applicable to hotels, student living solutions and senior care spaces.
High-Quality Acoustic Flooring and Unmatched Customer Service
Your commercial interior design project benefits from easy-to-install components that also cater to the end user. Durable acoustic flooring is one of those elements. When you request a sample from TAJ Flooring, we’ll send the options you’re considering right to your project. Our team seeks to make your design process as efficient as possible at every step.