Architects task themselves with maximizing the potential utility and comfort of a space. While some obvious design elements—such as a building’s layout—may come immediately to mind, the construction of functional and peaceful spaces also demands consideration of more subtle design choices, such as sound transmission control.
The materials used during construction to protect tenants or guests from sound pollution ultimately impact occupant satisfaction with the space. Consider: a lack of sound-controlling barriers can result in a continuous low-level sensory assault—which needless to say, reduces the overall occupant experience.
You can address occupant satisfaction by adequately implementing sound control solutions from the start, during the construction process. Construction managers can do this by selecting sound-dampening materials such as gypcrete underlayments over traditional alternatives; however, you’ll find the most effective method of noise reduction is combining quality materials with sound control mats.
What are Sound Control Mats?
Sound control mats are a component of the flooring underlayment system that is installed prior to pouring gypcrete or lightweight concrete topping. The mats are flat sheets of acoustically absorbent materials such as mineral fiber, dense vinyl, or nylon filaments; they deaden sound waves by resting between the subfloor and the topping.
Without these absorbers, a room with primarily acoustically-reflective surfaces like wood or tile will bounce sound waves around. These rogue sound waves will also pass through floors and walls into other private spaces. Sound control mats prevent impact noise transmission between spaces by working as an absorbent cushion.
Say, for instance, an upstairs occupant is walking around their apartment floor—also the ceiling of their downstairs neighbor. A lack of absorbent materials such as sound control mats lets the sound transmit between the two apartments. This may cause the downstairs neighbor some auditory discomfort and ratcheting up tension and dissatisfaction within the complex. The issue may even result in broken leases.
However, the presence of absorbent materials within the flooring can prevent these ongoing issues. For this reason, sound transmission control is a critical concern for conscientious building designers.
How Sound Control Mats Work
The cushioning that sound control mats add to flooring prevents airborne or impact-generated sound waves from vibrating reflective construction materials and transmitting noise between units. As a result, tenants or guests can enjoy privacy and peace within their space.
Notably, this auditory isolation proves vital for retaining occupants over time. So proactively addressing excessive noise concerns during the construction process can vastly improve the long-term ROI of the project.
Of course, high returns on an installation are partially determined by the initial cost of the investment. Luckily, this is another area where absorbent mats can outperform other soundproofing solutions.
Understanding Standards and Regulations (STC and IIC)
While the potential boost in ROI generated from sound control mats is generally enough to convince most savvy investors of their value, this isn’t the only compelling reason to prioritize noise-absorbing design. There are minimum Sound Transmission Class (STC) and Impact Insulation Class (IIC) regulations that you’ll need to meet in order to lawfully rent out your building’s units.
STC testing determines a space’s transmission of airborne sounds, such as music or speech. Meanwhile, IIC testing is generally conducted on floor and ceiling partitions, determining the transfer of impact-based noises such as walking or dropping things.
Building codes typically set a minimum STC and IIC rating of 50 as a standard. This requirement level still allows a partition to transmit loud speech in a way that can be heard, if not understood—so you may want to consider aiming for a higher rating when it comes to both STC and IIC scores. After all, improved scores directly translate to a boost in the satisfaction of building occupants, especially if you’re constructing higher-end units.
STC scores are determined by the mass of the space’s walls, meaning that additional insulation within the walls will further control sound transmission across a room. When it comes to IIC ratings, installing sound transmission control mats can similarly increase a unit’s score to help meet or exceed minimum standards—depending on which mat you select.
How to Choose the Right Sound Control Mat for Your Requirements
The level of sound control a mat provides is entirely dependent on its thickness—the thicker the mat, the more sound control it offers. However, you’ll need to balance your sound control mat thickness with what your building can sustain for weight and elevations.
It’s also important to select the appropriate thickness for each space’s utility. Determine the level of privacy necessary for distinct spaces within the building; for instance, private living spaces or office meeting rooms require greater soundproofing than communal spaces such as lobbies or cafeterias. Areas with loud equipment or machinery should also leverage thicker mats.
If you’re conducting a building renovation, start by measuring existing internal and external decibel levels throughout a week in the building. Then, speak with your contractor about possible solutions.
On the other hand, if you’re working on new building construction, you can proactively consider soundproofing as you design and implement your plans.
Incorporate Sound Control Mats into Your Project
Sound transmission control is an essential component of creating a peaceful environment for occupants. An uncomfortable space will drive occupants away; therefore, sound-absorbing installations like sound control mats can vastly increase the project’s returns over time. These mats also improve the IIC rating of spaces by dampening impact noises, so if your project involves floor/ceiling partitions, installing the right level of sound control mats now will save you significantly down the line.
However, every space in every building is different. That’s why you should turn to the underlayments experts at Kent Companies when designing your flooring system.
Our team has over 35 years of experience with sound control products and underlayment installation. We’ll help develop a custom solution that meets or exceeds your project’s specifications. Reach out to Kent Companies to learn more about our offerings and get an estimate on your next project today.