It’s easy to understand why wood and tile are flooring are so popular in homes today. They add warmth and beauty to homes, as well as being easier to maintain and longer lasting.
One drawback to consider is they tend to perform much worse acoustically. An untreated hardwood floor can produce unflattering levels of echo and poor sound quality. If you’re considering tile or wood floors for your renovation, there are several products and techniques that can reduce the noise problems before they start.
What if you already have noise problems with an existing floor? Don’t lose hope, you just need to get creative with some different products to reduce the echo and sounds of footsteps. The following are the 10 best materials for soundproofing floors and improving your home’s acoustics.
Types of Soundproof Flooring Materials
There is a wealth of great looking flooring materials out there, but not nearly as many products that can make them sound as good as they look. The most commonly used product is a soundproofing floor underlay, but there are other options like soundproofing floor mat, insulation, and acoustic foam tile products. Here is an overview of each category of materials.
- Acoustic Underlayment – Special materials that lay over a concrete or plywood subfloor, cushioning the flooring and reducing the effects of airborne and impact noise. See the definitions of STC and IIC below.
- Sound Deadening Vinyl – Also known as Mass Loaded Vinyl, this is a thin but heavy vinyl sheet that excels at dampening noise, especially in floors, machinery, and vehicles.
- Sound Absorbing Floor Insulation – This would be acoustic insulation that gets stuffed between floor joists, immediately below the subfloor. It can also be installed from the ceiling in the floor below.
- Acoustic Floor Tiles – These are special floor tiles that help reduce echo and reverberation in rooms with hard surfaces and floors.
- Sound Absorbing Carpet Padding – Carpets with a cheap pad don’t perform as well as a carpet with a thicker, more dense, noise absorbent padding.
What to Look For: The Big Three
- STC (Sound Transmission Class) – STC is simply a numeric value defining how well a building, or in this case a floor, is at reducing the effect of airborne noise. A higher STC means the material is better at attenuating the everyday noise in rooms with wood and laminate floors.
- IIC (Impact Insulation Class) – IIC is the numeric value defining how well a floor assembly is at reducing the effects of impact noise, most commonly footsteps, but also furniture and machinery. The higher the number the better the material is at lessening those types of noises.
- Thickness & Density – In soundproofing, mass matters, and you’ll see our top choices are thicker and denser than the others. You’ll pay a little more for the increased performance if that’s important to you. But, even the thinner 2mm rolls are going to be far better acoustically than the cheap basic underlayment at big box home improvement stores.
Best Soundproof Underlayment
A soundproof underlayment is a type of material that is applied over the subflooring (many times plywood or Hardie board) and underneath the final flooring (wood, laminate, or tile)
Common underlay materials are cork sheets, vinyl, rubber, and foam. These materials are dense and offer good sound isolation and impact deadening (footsteps). Here are some of the top acoustic underlayment for wood, laminate, and tile floors.
*Last updated 2023-02-22 at 20:07 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. Roberts Super Felt Premium Underlayment
Made for soundproofing floors and to cushion flooring, Roberts Super Premium Underlayment is a high performance felt underlayment, made in part from recycled fibers using a high heat manufacturing process.
The felt is dense making it a good material for absorbing noise, rather than reflecting it. Roberts is ideal for laminate or engineered flooring and is naturally insulating, meaning it can keep chilly floors warmer in the winter, and cooler in summer months.
- Thickness: 3.0 mm
- Density: 14.5 lbs./ft.3
- STC Rating: 66
- IIC Rating: 67
- Data Sheet
The felt is 3mm thick, are easy to install, and correct any minor sub-floor imperfections. It has a film overlay that helps to protect laminate and engineered flooring from moisture. The overlap and adhesive strip allow for fast installation. There is a 2-1/2” overlap strip with adhesive, making it super easy to match pieces up with multiple rolls.
2. QuietWalk Plus
QuietWalk Plus underlayment is an excellent alternative to Super Felt. While slightly less dense (11.5 vs 14.5 lbs./ft. 3) but boasts similar noise proofing properties, all for a competitive compared price.
The performance and versatility of QuietWalk Plus make it one of the best underlayment for laminate, hardwood, and engineered wood floors. It can also be utilized under 5mm+ thick vinyl, LVT, and WPC/SPC planks (but not ceramic tile).
- Thickness: 3.1 mm
- Density: 11.5 lbs./ft.3
- STC Rating: 66
- IIC Rating: 71
- Data Sheet
Installation couldn’t be easier. It’s possible to float the flooring over the QuietWalk, double glue, or even nail the floor and underlayment to the subfloor. The vapor barrier self-heals around the fasteners to maintain the vapor barrier.
For the environmentally minded homeowner and builder, you’ll be happy to know QuietWalk Plus is LEED™ compliant with 94% pre-consumer fibers. The material also has the Greenguard certification for low chemical emissions. Here is a good video overview of all it can do.
3. Roberts First Step
First Step is another premium acoustic underlayment from Roberts Consolidated. This product is a foam material, which creates a layer of open-cell foam to allow air to flow and circulate underneath to inhibit the growth of molds. This means unlike other underlayments; First Step can be installed onto subfloors above or below grade.
- Thickness: 2.0 mm
- Density: 5.5 lbs./ft.3
- STC Rating: 66
- IIC Rating: 68
The thickness and density are lower than the top 2 materials, but First Step maintains equivalent noise suppression ratings. First Step is thinner, but still does a good job of smoothing out subfloor imperfections. Just make sure to only use laminate or engineered wood planks in a floating floor configuration for best results.
4. Floor Muffler Ultraseal Underlayment
Floor Muffler is a high-performance acoustic underlayment made of closed cell polypropylene foam. You can find it in both regular and Ultraseal configurations, but we recommend the Ultraseal for the ease of lip and tape installation.
Floor Muffler is similar in construction to First Step but boasts a higher STC and IIC rating. For the most noise reduction possible, Floor Muffler is a great choice.
- Thickness: 2.0 mm
- Density: n/a
- STC Rating: 73
- IIC Rating: 74
- Data Sheet
Like QuietWalk, this material can be installed in a variety of methods, giving your installer the flexibility to build your new floor exactly the way you want it. Lay down Floor Muffler prior to placing your favorite laminate or engineer wood product.
Floor Muffler is a safe product, in part by being an excellent moisture and mold barrier that protects your floor investment. The other safety and environmental benefits are the low VOC content (California compliant) and the fact that it is 100% recyclable.
5. Feather Step 3in1 Silent Vapor Barrier Underlayment
For the budget minded homeowner, Feather Step 3in1 underlayment is a great bargain compared to the other materials we’ve recommended. The 100 square foot roll is quite the savings over the bigger brand names yet has all the acoustic performance and features as they do. So, if you’re looking to save some money, Feather Step is the best cheap underlayment around.
- Thickness: 2.0 mm
- Density: n/a
- STC Rating: 65
- IIC Rating: 64
- Data Sheet
Feather Step is a 2.0 mm thick foam material with a foil vapor barrier film, and adhesive strips on the other for a simple flap over edge installation. Most buyers of the 3in1 are impressed with the toughness, remaking how less prone to tearing it is compared to other foam style underlayment materials.
Sound Deadening Vinyl
Sound deadening vinyl, also known as MLV, is a dense, rubber-like material with adhesive on one side. The dense vinyl has many different uses, including flooring. The density of the material helps to deaden sounds and foot traffic noise. It’s a versatile material and can be cut into just about any shape to fit your application.
6. Fatmat Sound Deadener
FatMat Sound Deadener easily absorbs the noises and vibrations that travel through vehicle floors, which can help reduce irritating noises. This includes road noise, engine and exhaust noise, and annoying rattles.
FatMat is easy to cut, peel off, and apply. It can be used as a barrier for your cars floor, doors, and trunk and can also be used on trucks, RVs, boats, and even homes. It comes in five self-adhesive sheets measuring 18”x 40”.
- Noise and vibration absorption to combat audio vibrational distortion.
- Easy to install with included installation kit.
- Self-adhesive and easy to shape and cut to fit your custom application.
7. TMS Mass Loaded Vinyl
TMS Mass Loaded Vinyl offers a 27 STC, and it is a one-eighth inch thick. The extruded virgin material that makes up this product produces no odor. The mass loaded vinyl allows you to wrap it around pipes and other obstacles. It reduces noise transfer and works for an array of noises.
- Designed for floors and walls and vehicles.
- Heavy and dense with a good STC of 27.
- Quality product made from extruded virgin material.
Use this acoustic underlayment for carpet and other floor materials. It also works for walls, HVAC system components, noisy pipes, and ceilings. Quickly trim it to size using heavy duty scissors or a utility knife. Roll it out, ensure the proper length, and secure it into place.
Soundproof Floor Insulation
If you are just starting your flooring project, one of the very best things you can do to soundproof the floors, is to put acoustic insulation batts under the subfloor between the joists. Just like when it is used in walls, the insulation will fit snuggly between the floor beams and can reduce the amount of sound between the floors in your structure. Click here to see the comparison chart of all soundproofing insulation.
8. Roxul Rockboard 60
If your acoustic project requires a rigid material, then choose Roxul Mineral Wool Floor Insulation. The batts are perfect for filling the floor structure before laying the subflooring but are also commonly used as bass traps, and for recording studios or home theaters.
- Solid soundproofing qualities, high NRC rating
- Water-repelling, easy to cut and install
- Class A fire rating
It comes in 6 piece cases, in 24” x 48” x 2” panels. When installing this product, it’s important to wear proper safety gear to avoid breathing in the material and to avoid contact with eyes and skin. It is recommended you wear gloves, eye protection, and long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing as well as a respiratory mask.
Acoustic Floor Tiles
These products are meant to be used in addition to other floor soundproofing materials. By themselves, they can have a decent effect on noise, but the best results are when used with underlayment and floor mats to deaden echoing. The mats can be placed in high traffic areas to absorb footfall noise, and on walls to absorb sounds.
9. Pro Source EVA Foam Tiles
These interlocking foam tiles are a great choice for laying over your existing floors. Lightweight, durable, and easy to install, they are the perfect fit for gyms, weight rooms, martial art studios, trade shows, the kid’s playroom, daycares, and more.
These tiles provide style, cushion, and soundproofing, and come in several colors to choose from. Each pack comes with 12 interlocking tiles that measure 2” x 2” for a total of 48 square feet. Borders are also included.
- Non-skid interlocking tiles can be placed virtually anywhere in many configurations.
- Lightweight, water resistant, cheap method of reducing some noise an echo in homes and gyms.
Sound Absorbing Carpet Padding
Soundproof carpet pads are a thicker and denser version of the carpet padding people are most familiar with. The pad is dense to absorb sound, as well as prevent the sound of footsteps from transmitting to other rooms in the house.
10. Premium Grip Rug Pad
Made from 100% recycled all-natural rubber and felt, this non-slip rug is designed for hard surfaces, such as hardwood floors, as well as carpets.
It is designed to keep your rug securely in place and extend its life. It comes in reversible 8′ x 10′ rugs that add cushion to your already existing rug while protecting surfaces and providing a non-slip surface.
- Reversible and made of recycled materials, will not slide around.
- Spot cleaning typically works for moisture messes.
- Green air label certified and low VOC content.
Take the Next (Quiet) Steps in Your Project
You’ll be spending a good chunk of money on your new flooring project, you would be wise to not cheap out at the point of installation. The options for soundproofing floors are quite good these days. Investing in a good acoustic underlayment not only makes the flooring install and float properly but improves acoustic performance and acts as a moisture barrier.
Out of all the materials available today, two stand out from the rest. Roberts Super Felt and QuietWalk Plus are both made from recycled materials, are easy to install, and have excellent acoustic absorbing and impact deadening performance. They are the ideal acoustic underlayment for hardwood, laminate, floating engineered, and vinyl plank floors. Invest in your underlayment now and enjoy hearing the results for years to come.
*Last updated 2023-02-22 at 20:07 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
This is not so much a comment as a question. My boss authorized new tiling for my office without taking into consideration the noise level. I run an Army Testing Center in the Middle East and need a quiet area that I can keep relatively clean due to all of the sand. The company, that did the tile work, thankfully took out the sand laden old carpet that was laid over an already existing tile floor. They put the new tile on top of the old tile and now I have loads of noise to contend with. Is there a sound absorbing coating of some sort that can be applied to reduce the noise? I am trying to stay away from putting carpet down again due to the sand and allergies. It took a week for the guys to lay the tile and I can’t be out of commission that long again.
I think some cork sheets or panels could help cut down the echo. You can try different spots, either on the walls, or on the floors.
Here are a couple ideas – http://amzn.to/2ov14PB http://amzn.to/2CQzsbL
This is some really good information about how soundproof a building. It is good to know that it would be smart to think about an underlay in the floors. It is good to know that there are multiple different types that you can use.
For under laminate in the last section, you state, “Out of all the materials available today, two stand out from the rest. Roberts Super Felt and QuietWalk Plus.”
But the Floor Muffler seems to have superior ratings to all of them and is cheaper than the Quietwalk plus.
Why are you recommending the Quietwalk plus and Roberts over the Floor Muffler? Is it hard to install, or other?
Great question, they are all great products, I simply prefer a higher density/mass whenever possible. If the Floor Muffler fits your project budget, I would just go for it.
I m considering buying an 1848 schoolhouse. I would like to put 3 apartments in the 2 story building. The building has been gutted and is ready to be put back together. 2 floors, wide open. I would like to put one unit on the first floor and two smaller units on second. The first floor has 10′ ceilings with original 3×8 floor joists notched into the carrying beams with rough cut 1x decking. Gorgeous. The second floor deck is made of 2 layers of that 1x laid perpendicular to each other, it looks like a layer of 3/4 plywood and then topped with 3/4 hardwood. I really would like to leave that ceiling exposed. The way I see it ,that only leaves me the option for sound deadening by adding layers to that second floor deck. Any recommendations?
Yeah, I would tend to agree with you. If you can get an underlayment down between that subfloor and final hardwood, that’s about all you could do without diminishing the authentic aesthetics you are describing.
Where are the underlayment recommendations for use under tile. Everything listed here is noted as *not* for use with tile or tile isn’t mentioned at all.
You could add a layer of cork or other insulating material above the baseboards then add more baseboards and lay your tile on top of that. It will add a bit of height to your floor and you will need to adjust accordingly.
None of the products recommended were for porcelain tiles. Could you recommend one for a condominium building?
I live in a ground floor flat and the noise from upstairs is a nightmare. The room above my bedroom is the worst and the landlord says it’s already carpeted. Would any of the above work to lay on top of wooden floorboards and underneath the carpet? The landlord is ok with lifting the carpet to add an underlay if that would help.
I think any benefit of adding just the underlay would be minimal. Sounds like the whole floor structure is old and would need insulating and double drywall. Not an easy fix.
I recently moved into an apartment. There is already, a laminate floor, down. Much noise travels up to me from the apartment below; and I believe much noise travels down to them, from me.
I am planning to fit a carpet over the laminate floor to help reduce the noise but wonder if there is a material that I could put down, first, over the laminate, and below the carpet, to help insulate the 2 apartments?
Could you recommend something, please?
Yep, the thickest padding you can find.
These are great – thank you!
I live in a top floor flat built in the 1920s so sound insulation is non existent! The bumps and bangs (and sometimes conversation/loud music) from downstairs often wakes me up / keeps me awake at night. I am looking into laying some kind of floor insulation. The floor is solid concrete – what would you recommend? At the moment the whole flat is carpeted with a thin layer of underlay (the carpet is very thin too).
Lots of options, Laura Check out this post.
We are considering to purchase a timber loft apartment. We are prepared to cap the ceiling for overhead soundproofing, but are not interesting in replacing the existing hardwood flooring.
Our friends in a similar unit have put down vinyl flooring planks, which we like as they can withstand tough use from our kids. We were considering to do the same in our unit. Would it work to lay down a layer of something like quietwalk plus between the hardwood flooring and the vinyl flooring planks to help with soundproofing or would we end up with something that was bumpy / unstable?
Quietwalk is intended to go over wood subfloors, so I would think over wood flooring is OK too. You could always call their customer support before starting the project.
Hi, I have a workshop with plywood floors and living space underneath. I’m looking for a product that will deaden the noise but also serve as a floor covering. Most of these products are underlayments. I want the sound proofing product to be the material I walk on and work on. Trying to avoid expense of underlayment and flooring on top of it.
I’m not aware of any product that would work for that. Deading the noise requires some “give” in the material, and it likely won’t be durable enough in a workshop environment.
We live in a first floor apartment and we have a little baby who loves to run around and like all children he throws his plastic toyys all oven. My downstairs neighbour has complained about the noise. What can we put over the tiles that would absorb the sound of his toys and our foot steps? We have tile floors and a tight budget.
Thick rugs and rug pads underneath. There are a bunch on Amazon.
I recently received 2 quotes for having laminate flooring put in an upstairs bedroom. One company’s quote used the Whisper Step Pad and the other used Quiet Walk (are there different grades of Quiet Walk?) Would you recommend one padding over the other? Or are they about the same? Thank you!
Quiet Walk has a slight edge over Whisper Step as far as higher STC/IIC. But if one is significantly better priced, it will still work well.
I’m trying to address noise from my downstairs neighbor. Has anyone had success installing carpet and padding on top of MLV?
I’m in an upper duplex rental apartment and I’m trying to improve the impact IIC rating of my floor. It’s currently just vinyl floor over the original wood flooring. I doubt insulation was put into the floor structure. Because it’s a rental, I’m looking at a floating floor situation that is also cheaper, so the interlocking foam tiles with some kind of underlayment but not sure what underlayment to get as I can’t adhere to floor and I plan to remove when I move out. Do you have advice on what is a compatible underlayment to reduce impact noise?
Great article – v helpful thanks. I’m putting on engineered wooden floor in ground floor flat in the London Victórian property and I really want to make sure my neighbours downstairs don’t complain if I have occasional late night out with friend.
So far – I was looking at various thick (10-15mm) and expensive (gbp25/sq meter) underlays my builder recommended (for example -https://www.insulationsuperstore.co.uk/product/jcw-impactalay-10-acoustic-floor-underlay-12m-x-1m-x-10mm.html)
I’m probably asking very stupid question here but the options you’re recommending show very high dB noise absorption better than much more expensive options I was looking at (eg floor muffler 70db vs above option which is only 50db according to my understanding)
How is that possible given much lower tickness and lower price tag? Am I perhaps misunderstanding the properties between the two or is floor muffler genuinely superior?
My condominium building requires 1/4 cork underlayment for any type of new flooring. I will be installing ceramic tiles in the kitchen and am concerned that the tile and grout may crack with cork underlayment. What are your thoughts and recommendations?