Article Dispelling Myths of Flooring Acoustics

Get the scoop about different building noises and design options for mitigation. The good news? You don’t have to compromise on flooring.

flooring accoustics

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Noise happens. In office spaces, it’s often “people-noises” that are the most distracting and challenging. As a designer, it’s important to get the scoop about the different types of building noises and the options for mitigation. Want the short version? Ceilings and wall treatments are the surfaces with most opportunity for sound absorption. Flooring types have comparatively little effect on building noise, so you have a lot of leeway in your choices.

Sounds Abound

The sounds you hear inside a building are transmitted to you in two ways: airborne or direct impact. The sound of someone speaking is an example of airborne transmission. When you hear footsteps, that sound is created in direct contact with the structure. When you hear a piece of equipment operating, the sound you hear can be a result of airborne sound waves combined with direct impact vibrations transmitted through the building itself.

In an office setting, background sounds, like HVAC noises are predictable, manageable, and easier to ignore than disruptive sounds like talking, laughing, and cleaning machinery. Attention to wall and cubicle height and their surface material, combined with sound deadening acoustic ceiling tiles, proves to be the most effective approach to noise management in offices. Similarly, findings from a study at the Center for Health Design at Palomar Health suggest that a combination of hard flooring and acoustic ceiling tiles may be the most effective approach to absorbing and deadening sounds in healthcare facilities.

Sounds Perfect

Aesthetics, durability, cleanability and cost – those are the primary drivers for selecting the best flooring for any interior. Healthcare facilities will have especially stringent requirements for the cleanability of flooring, with cleaning standards aimed at disinfection. A clinic might opt for a sealed floor, like Medintech with Diamond 10® Technology, for the well-being of patients and staff. If you’re designing an office space, you might place high value on aesthetics and durability, and create a design using a floor like Natural Creations with Diamond 10® Technology. Conversely, the use of carpeting in office spaces, will dampen some footfall noise, but will not provide the level of sound absorption obtained from acoustical ceiling tiles, and surrenders the cleaning, durability, and aesthetic advantages of hard surface flooring.

Office hallway with natural creations NA932 flooring

Quiet Confidence

Here’s a fun fact about Armstrong Flooring: our headquarters in Lancaster, PA, is a third-party accredited acoustics testing facility. The facility is actually built on giant springs so that structural sound vibrations will not affect testing results! 

Armstrong Flooring Solutions

You don’t need to be an acoustic engineer to understand your clients’ concerns about noise. Just remember those categories: background noise versus disruptive noise. And remember that the primary opportunities for interior surface choices to mitigate noise will be acoustic ceiling tiles and sound-absorbing materials on upper walls. This means you’ll be free to meet important client objectives by selecting from Armstrong Flooring’s full palette of floor styles and designs.

Download our Flooring & Acoustics White Paper and read all the science behind our research.