Soundproofing the homes of the future

Lisa Tomlin, CEO of Carpet & Flooring, the UK’s largest independent flooring distributor, looks at the role of acoustic underlay in reducing noise pollution in residential buildings.

It is no secret that the UK is in the midst of an ongoing housing crisis, and with the Government pledging to build 300,000 new homes per year, housebuilders and developers are under increasing pressure to provide volume. However, in this rush to develop, it is crucial to consider the needs and wants of future occupants and design and build homes that cater to their requirements.

The impact of excessive noise on wellbeing

In order to create the sheer number of homes required, there will need to be a focus on building taller residential developments, such as apartments and flats. One area, in particular, that impacts the occupants of this type of building and has been a key consideration for housebuilders for some time is noise pollution. Noisy neighbours from above or below can significantly impact the wellbeing of residents who often have to put up with loud televisions, music and loud voices. The problem is highlighted by the fact that two-thirds of Brits are suffering or have suffered from a nuisance neighbour with more than a third saying they were considering moving as a result.

Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a number of health problems for residents. The most obvious issues originate from interrupted sleep with fatigue, stress and poor concentration impairing day to day activities and leading to productivity losses in the workplace.

Even if a person does not wake up, continual noise sets off the body’s acute stress response, which raises blood pressure and heart rate, potentially mobilising a state of hyperarousal, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Other serious issues can also occur as a result of exposure to excessive noise including cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss. It is therefore crucial for housebuilders and developers to put in place measures to reduce noise pollution.

Solving the problem

There are a number of actions that housebuilders can take to mitigate noise pollution in the home, including upgrading the building fabric or positioning noise-generating spaces away from noise-sensitive spaces. Another measure that can efficiently reduce noise is acoustic underlay. Sitting beneath the flooring, high quality acoustic underlay creates a barrier to sound, ensuring any noise is concealed. There are several options available, suitable for any project, so housebuilders and developers should work with flooring providers to specify the correct underlay.

For properties with carpet, wood or laminate flooring, triple layer acoustic 12mm underlay is the type of underlay which improves airborne sound insulation with an impact sound reduction of around 31 decibels. There are also acoustic underlay options designed to work with ceramic floors which are usually made from cork and rubber and are around 6mm thick.

For projects that will incorporate underfloor heating, there are thinner underlay options available in 4.5mm for laminate and engineered wood floors, 3mm for carpet types, sheet vinyl, click LVT and linoleum. There are also stick down 1.6 LVT options available which are ideal for use under luxury vinyl tiles.

Meeting environmental targets

Whilst reduced noise is the key benefit of acoustic underlay flooring, there are a number of further advantages that come with it. With the Government committing to reaching net zero carbon by 2050, for example, there is a growing requirement for housebuilders and developers to create environmentally friendly homes. Some suppliers provide acoustic underlay which is made from recycled raw materials.

Prolonging the life of flooring

There are further benefits to fitting underlay under wood or laminate flooring on ground level, in particular, a good quality underlay with a barrier will help to keep moisture at bay for cold concrete or stone floors, protecting both the underlay and flooring from potential damage.

A sound solution

As more and more residential developments are built to help ease the housing crisis, housebuilders and developers have a responsibility to consider the requirements of future occupants. With noise pollution from above and below representing a particular issue for residents of flats and apartments, the use of acoustic underlay in buildings is becoming increasingly important and is likely to play a key role in future homes.