Making sound flooring choices

Unwanted noise is not only a nuisance, but it can have a real impact on our stress levels, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Here, Jason Pethard, Head of Key Accounts at Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses why the specification of an acoustic floor covering within multi-occupancy buildings, such as those found in the private rental sector, is key for developers in order to ensure acoustic comfort.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities. It can disturb sleep, reduce performance, provoke annoyance responses and cause negative effects on social behaviour. As a nation that is continuing to spend more time at home than ever before, it is vital that housebuilders carefully consider acoustics in the design of properties for the private rental sector to avoid adverse effects on the health and wellbeing of future occupiers. Unwanted noise pollution could lead to countless complaints, poor sleep quality and the risk of clients losing tenants.

In dwellings, the WHO recommends bedroom guideline values of 30 dB LAeq* during the night for undisturbed sleep, and in the day time, outdoor sound pressure levels should not exceed 50 dB LAeq to prevent people from becoming ‘moderately annoyed’. Noise can either be transmitted through the air or through the building fabric itself, vertically or laterally, and the various exterior and interior elements of the building, including the floor finish, should act in combination to combat noise pollution and achieve target levels of sound insulation.

Impact sound is generated by people and objects that come into contact with the floor and can make a significant contribution to noise pollution, both within a room and transmitted through the floor to the spaces below. For example, in multi-occupancy buildings, moving around furniture or even the clatter of footsteps can quickly become very loud, which can be detrimental to the health, concentration levels and general comfort of those living in the building. As such, housebuilders should look to specify an acoustic floor covering to reduce impact sound to an acceptable level.

Acoustic flooring can contribute to the acoustic performance of a building in two ways:

  • Reducing the level of in-room impact sound generated within a room will help to lower overall ambient noise levels within the space itself, improving the acoustic environment. In-room impact noise for floor coverings is tested to standard NF-S 31-074 with performance classifications from A to D. Products receiving a Class A classification offer the best performance in terms of reducing in-room impact sound.
  • Reducing impact sound at source will also reduce the level of noise that can be transmitted through the floor and into the spaces below. Here, the impact sound reduction performance of the floor covering is the most important factor to consider. Impact sound reduction values are measured across a range of sound frequencies and the weighted value is quoted in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel value of the floor covering, the better the flooring performance in reducing impact sound.

Whilst acoustics are essential in terms of a floor’s performance, property developers and their clients do not need to compromise on aesthetics. As the trend for bringing a natural look and feel into living spaces continues to rise, wood and stone effect designs remain ever popular. Modern and sophisticated, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) offer the ability to replicate the realism of its natural counterpart, with the advantages of improved durability and design freedom to create striking flooring schemes. And now, there are even LVT options on the market that offer high levels of acoustic performance, enabling the best of both worlds.

For example, Forbo’s Allura Decibel range has been developed to offer 19 dB impact sound reduction, without compromising on aesthetics or ease of installation. Pushing the boundaries in acoustic LVT, Allura Decibel consists of 30 tile and plank formats in a balanced colour palette of wood, stone and concrete designs, combining beautiful floor design with high impact sound reduction and best in class dimensional stability for this type of product. The range can be mixed and matched to create unique floor plans.

Designed by Forbo’s in-house team of passionate creators and manufactured in Europe by Forbo, the Allura Decibel collection is 100% phthalate free flooring, resulting in low indoor emissions. As it is installed using a tackifier, Allura Decibel can also be easily installed alongside carpet tiles, without the need for transition strips, for areas that require a variety of floor finishes for different functionalities. Individual planks and tiles can also be easily lifted and replaced in case of damage.

Noise can cause annoyance and fatigue, interfere with communication and sleep, reduce efficiency and damage hearing. In a global move to create better indoor environments, it is increasingly important that housebuilders are recognising the negative effects of poor acoustics within multi-occupancy buildings, such as those found within the private rental sector, and the impact that interior building products can have.

In order to stay up-to-date with the latest trends or for advice on acoustic floor coverings, it is recommended that housebuilders and developers liaise with a reputable manufacturer, such as Forbo Flooring Systems, who can offer dedicated portfolios specifically for the private rental sector. For more information on Forbo’s work in the Private Rental Sector, please visit or for more information about Allura Decibel, please visit