Renovating Your Floor In Condo, Townhouse or Single Family Home

August 20th 2018
Renovating Your Floor In Condo, Townhouse or Single Family Home

The Key to Finding the Proper Acoustic Solution

Developers, architects and builders are looking for products to meet building code guidelines in new construction.  Property managers and board of directors in condominiums are looking to solve or prevent problems in existing buildings. Owners are simply trying to follow their condo regulation chart when renovating floors. They do that by looking at soundproofing ratings, which can often become a nightmare. Being able to understand the basics of sound insulation in multi-storey buildings will allow you to compare apples with apples and choose the proper solution for your specific needs.

Noise transmission problems come mainly from the floor/ceiling assemblies (complete structure between floor and ceiling of the unit above) and through the party walls, that is to say between adjacent units. The noise problems associated with these assemblies come mainly from the transmission of airborne or impact noises. Airborne noises are caused by televisions, voice and music, while impact noises are caused by moving furniture or walking occupants.  These are all noises that, when the unit is poorly soundproofed, disrupt the comfort of occupants, but we are going to focus on impact noises here.

What does AIIC 60 Mean?

Condo owners often wonder what does AIIC 60 means. Is it normal to hear my upstairs neighbor? Yes it is normal to hear some noises, depending on the sound insulation quality of the building. On the other hand, when living in multi-housing, we live in a micro society in which one must learn to cohabit with the others in the respect of each other. Based on our experience and depending on your auditory acuity and tolerance towards noise, here is how you could expect noise to be below AIIC 55, you can clearly hear every step through the assembly and easily trace the person’s movements. Between AIIC 55 and AIIC 60, you can hear the steps when it’s calmer (low background noises, ex: late evening). You can also trace a person’s movements when it’s calm but mainly don’t notice it.  Between AIIC 60 and 65, you can hardly hear someone walking unless he is not cautious at all. It is very hard to trace a person’s movements.  Over AIIC 65, unless it is the wish of the person to be heard or he is not cautious at all, you can’t hear him.

What to Look for When Purchasing or Specifying an Acoustic Membrane?

Some acoustic membranes available on the market advertise very high acoustic ratings. Some will truly deliver decent acoustic efficiency in your building although others will rate below your expectations and even below the National Building Code recommendation. The same product can perform at AIIC 70, 60 or even 42.  Here’s why the acoustic performance of a membrane can vary significantly.  The building structure, quality of construction and installation methods, type of flooring to be installed overtop, room volume, etc. are all elements that play a significant role in the acoustic efficiency of the building. The membrane does not do all the work of attenuating noise; it is actually a small contributor to the overall rating of an assembly.  Each building is a little different. No acoustical barrier on the market place can arbitrarily claim to provide every home with the same sound absorbance. In fact they don’t. What they are claiming though is that under very specific test situations the product and substrate, when tested together, achieved certain IIC levels.  If in doubt ask, how was this product tested when it achieved an IIC of 72.  Only by knowing the test parameters can you understand what it is that you are actually buying or specifying and make sure this is the proper solution to respect your requirements.

Analysis & Facts:

• Product A is tested in a controlled lab, without windows, furniture and all materials are installed in perfect conditions. A suspended ceiling, including acoustic insulation, wires and gypsum board ceiling was added to the assembly.

• Product B is tested in a real life environment and takes the flanking into consideration. There is no suspended ceiling.

• Most condominiums made of concrete don’t have a suspended ceiling (they have a gypsum ceiling finish or visible concrete).

• A suspended ceiling can add up to 14 points more to the performance.

• Buyers think that product A is better and will meet their board’s requirements.

• Boards of directors and property managers often require to reach IIC 70+ for the replacement of floor covering, without knowing the efficiency of their structure and its potential.

• The available space/thickness between baseboards and the structure is neglected. For instance, some products or combination of products can really bring your ceramic tiles to AIIC 70 but with the consequence of cutting doors, baseboards and even cabinets.  This is something that usually can’t be done.

CONCLUSION: When purchasing an acoustical membrane, Product “A” appears to be more efficient than Product “B”. But after comparing the results, Product “B” is actually more efficient and more reliable to your building.

This article was in the BSIA magazine, written by the BC Floor Covering Association.