Solid hardwood floors are among the best of all flooring materials, but they come with one notable disadvantage – the density of sold hardwood floors mean that they easily transmit sound vibrations. In a two-story house, it’s common to be able to hear the noise of people walking overhead on hardwood floors. Here are some solutions that are recommended by flooring manufacturers and installation professionals.
With Nail-Down or Glue-Down Flooring, Use an Underlayment
- Red rosin paper or builder’s felt. These materials are the traditional underlayment that is installed between the hardwood flooring and the subfloor. These materials do help minimize squeaking between the bottom of the floorboards and the top of the subfloor, but they do not actually absorb sound, nor do they make the surface any softer to walk on, in the way that foam padding does with laminate flooring.
- Solid underlayment: You can put down a solid underlayment that is specially designed for absorbing sound. The underlayment does not need to be nailed to the subfloor, but the hardwood planks will be nailed down to the underlayment.
- A rubberized membrane. It is not a foam material, but rather a peel-and-stick rubberized fabric sheet product that is perfect for finished hardwood floors. This membrane is waterproof and eliminates cracks; and it offers a notable reduction to the sound-transmission quality of a hardwood floor. In is installed over the plywood underlayment just before the hardwood flooring is laid.
Construct a Sound Isolation Layer
A more extreme solution, but one that is perhaps the very best if you truly want to minimize sound, is to install a sound-isolation underlayment between the wooden subfloor and a layer of plywood underlayment.
Glue, Don’t Nail
Some types of hardwood flooring have the option of being nailed or glued down. Because metal nails act as small sound-transmission rods, your floor will be quieter if you can glue it down instead.
Choose a Denser Hardwood
Solid hardwood itself does a remarkably good job of absorbing sound. Of all the types of flooring you can install, it is the best in that respect. Within the category of solid hardwood, dense exotics like mahogany cherry provide better sound absorption than less-dense domestics such as oak or maple.
Underlayment for Floating Hardwood Floors
A floating floor is one that does not need to be nailed or glued down. These products are not solid hardwood, but are instead engineered products with a thin layer of solid hardwood bonded to filler layers. These, too, can be susceptible to noise transmission, but manufacturers often provide a resilient underlayment product that will help level and cushion floors, and which also help with sound transmission, serving as a very efficient noise blocker that also has a membrane to resist moisture, mold, and mildew.
Use Rugs and Runners
Adding fabric rugs and runners will go a long ways toward eliminating the sounds of footsteps on hardwood floors overhead. They have the added benefit of protecting hardwood surfaces against wear and tear.