How to Soundproof a Floor? The Easy Solutions

How to soundproof a floor? The first consideration you should have is the type of noise to block. Footsteps, conversations, a noisy washing-machine, or a tap dancing neighbor. All these noises belong to 2 distinct categories: Airborne & Impact noise.

Based on the above category, your floor construction will depend. Another key consideration is how much you’re ready to spend. Whether you wish to soundproof a floor on a budget, or spare no expenses for floor soundproofing materials, we’ve prepared a guide with most common scenarios. Let’s dig into this!

The Fundamentals: Airborne Noise or Impact Noise

Airborne Noise

Airborne noise is the term used for sounds that move through air. Sound is a mechanical wave that needs physical matter (air) to travel. Without air, no sound. For instance, in the emptiness of space, no sound can be heard. There’s a famous horror movie quote saying: “In Space, no one can hear you scream”.

TV sounds, conversations, or the sound of a coffee machine are examples of airborne sounds.

Impact Noise

Have you ever bounced a basketball or ran like crazy on a wood floor? At impact, the footsteps create sound waves travelling through the house structure.

Structure Borne or Impact noise at home

That’s the main reason why you can still hear your neighbour drilling holes in his living room, while you can’t hear him talking.

Solving airborne noises takes a different approach than solving Impact noises. Naturally, the following question that comes into mind is:

What’s effective against airborne or impact noises?

The Rules for Airborne & Impact Noises

Go Heavy for Airborne Noise

To block airborne noise, we need to build a thick and heavy barrier. Those are the two main characteristics we want to emphasize in your floor assembly. Good sound blocking materials are:

  • OSB (Oriented Strand Board)
  • MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)
  • Cement board
  • Drywall
  • Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV).

The capacity of a material to block airborne noise is measured using STC ratings. If you’re curious about how STC is calculated, you can learn more about it here.

Insert a Decoupling Agent for Impact Noise

A decoupling agent breaks the sound wave travelling path into the floor structure. Doing so prevents sound vibration from propagating. For example, you can install an underlay between the flooring and the subfloor. A resilient underlay will prevent soundwaves from spreading to the rest of the house..

Decoupling agents are often made of soft compounds. Rubber, foam, fibers, and cork are resilient materials.

Now that we addressed what to implement for each type of noise, here are a few scenarios you might consider.

Solutions for Already Constructed Floor

If your floor is not under construction and you have no plans of changing it, the following section is for you. Stacking extra layers over your existing flooring is an effective soundproofing solution. Not only it’s simple to implement, it’s also how to soundproof a floor cheaply.

Carpets

Effective against Impact noise
Carpets are the most obvious option. You’ll have almost infinite possibilities of design, color and size. If you need to solve impact noise in a specific area, a carpet might be the perfect fix for you.

sound absorbing floor mat, soundproof carpeting

Carpet Rugs

Effective against Impact noise

In case you already have a carpet but it is not thick enough to dampen those footsteps, you can add a piece of carpet rug. The latter will give extra grip and add extra thickness to counter those impact sound waves.

For example, if you want a thick model,  the RUGPADUSA is a popular pick. A more budget friendly option would be this non-slip rug pad by VEXEN.

Interlocking Floor Mats

Effective against Impact noise

This type of layer has a friendly puzzle look. Its colorful, and customizable look is suitable for under your rowing machine or exposed. Tiles over your floor and your room becomes an indoor groundplay. Thickness ranges from 0.4 to 1 inch. It has non-slip properties. It can be cut to adjust to the desired size.

noise reducing floor mats (soundproof floor)

It will effectively dampen impact noises and protect your flooring. On top of that, the colored tiles give a warmer touch than most industrial floor mats. I personally think it’s a great fit for a child’s room.
You have the choice of colors with this model. If you need more thickness options, this other variant might fit you better.

Build an Additional Flooring over the Existing One

Effective against:
– Impact noise
– Airborne noise

Sometimes removing an existing flooring can become a big source of trouble. I had this type of experience in my flat. The carpet floor in my bedroom was coming off with the cement base level filler. It was mainly due to the carpet glue being too strong and aging badly. If I had known, I would have installed the laminate flooring over the existing carpet floor. 

It’s the perfect opportunity to give your room a new look and improve sound insulation. You can choose the type of flooring that suits your taste. Floating installation has proven very reliable, on top of being very convenient.

The procedure should follow as below:

  1. Remove the skirting baseboards (if applicable)
  2. Install a soundproof underlay (under your new flooring). It will mainly help for impact noise.
    Note: If you already have a carpet floor, you can keep it to serve as a soundproof underlay. Indeed, carpet does a good job at dampening impact noises.
  3. Install your new flooring
    Note: You can add some acoustic caulk to fill the gap between the new flooring and the wall. It will prevent sound leakage from the room below.
  4. Install your new skirting baseboards

Solutions for Floor under Construction

There is a vast range of flooring materials available on the market. Making a choice can be confusing, especially if you’re starting from scrap. The following section aims to guide you through the relevant materials for your need.

Add a Flooring Underlay

Once the type of noise problem (airborne or impact) is identified, one option is to integrate a soundproof underlayment in your floor.

1) Resilient Underlay for Impact Sounds

For impact noise, you can add a soundproof underlay made of resilient materials. The sound waves will travel from the floor to the underlay, instead of spreading straight to your house structure. The underlayment will absorb and reduce soundwaves at mid and high frequency. The nature of your flooring is also essential. To soundproof hardwood floors, floor tiles, or laminate flooring require different types of underlay. You can check here to learn more about resilient floor underlayments.

Resilient materials are mainly the way to go to counter impact noises. For example, rubber, foam, fiber, and cork are resilient materials.

2) Solid Underlay for Airborne Sounds

Effective underlayments to block airborne noises, like voices or TV sounds, are heavy. Soundproofing under hardwood floors (or any type of floors) by adding extra layers of mass is the way to go. You can see it as stacking a sound barrier to your floor. You can achieve this by integrating layers of heavy materials like:

  • OSB (Oriented Strand Board)
  • MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)
  • Cement board
  • Drywall
  • Mass Loaded Vinyl (MLV)

Note about the MLV: The Mass Loaded Vinyl is an excellent material if you’re looking for a thin and heavy material. However, it’s more expensive than its alternatives considering the weight achieved.

To block low frequency sounds like bass music sounds, adding a damping compound is a great fit. The Green glue damping compound is effective at it. It needs to be applied between two solid layers of similar weight and thickness. For example, 2 OSB boards should do the trick. Everytime the two layers are excited by a sound, the wave will be absorbed by the glue and converted into heat.

Resilient underlay floor with OSB Boards and Green Glue

Insert Decoupling Agents

As said above, a decoupling agent will create a gap in the home structure preventing sound waves from propagating in it.

To decouple the floor to the ceiling below, you can insert Noiseproofing joist tape or u-shaped rubber spacers. Application must be done on the joist face in contact with the subfloor.

Joist tape as a decoupler to the floor structure for sound reduction
U-shape space rubber to dampen noise and prevent sound propagation in floor structure

There is no need to decouple the floor from the wall around if you have a floating installation. Note that Acoustic sealant is a good addition if you want to fill the gaps between the wall and the floor.

Other means of decoupling exist for ceiling and wall structures. You can check out here about wall decoupling methods. Here, you can learn more about ceiling decoupling methods.  

Final Thoughts

When choosing a material, I strongly recommend reading the manufacturer’s recommendations. It applies to installation and materials compatibility. This present guide gives you guidelines about floor soundproofing, but it doesn’t cover every nuances of all the materials.

If you have any doubts, make sure to ask for professional help.

To be effective, soundproofing combines 4 major elements (Mass, Damping, Decoupling, Absorption). We only covered 3 of them on how to soundproof a floor. You can check out here more on how the 4 principles of soundproofing can be used on walls.

I hope this guide gave you a better understanding of the means to soundproof a floor.

If made right, and accompanied by the right people, it can become a real fun DIY project.

Thank you for reading,

Peace & Zen-Up

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Ludovic
Ludovic
Ludovic uses his technical experience as a Mechanical Engineer to compile Soundproofing DIY guides. You’ll often find him breaking down complex topics to make it clearer for others. He also finds inspiration in sharing mindful habits.

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