Best acoustic underlays (top 7 picks & when to use them)
Does acoustic underlay make a difference?
Acoustic underlay does make a difference in sound reduction when done right!
There is a wide range of options available so understanding how they work is the key to choosing the best one for you.
You reduce airborne sound by efficiently de-coupling high mass products from the ridged floor surface to reduce the transfer of the airborne sound vibrations. Translation: you need to make a gap between two heavy things to stop the noise vibrations travelling straight through them with relative ease.
Impact sound is reduced by the energy being absorbed through deflection in the product. It is important that the product does not bottom out like an open cell carpet underlay otherwise your heel will hit the floorboard and the sound will still travel through.
Which acoustic underlay is best for soundproofing?
To choose the best underlay for soundproofing in your home then there are a few questions we need to answer.
You will use a different underlay for a concrete construction than you would for a timber construction due to the mass and density of the build-up.
The best stand-alone acoustic underlay is the MuteMat 3 which helps with both impact and airborne sound reduction. This is a 3-ply acoustic underlay with 2 layers of mass-loaded-vinyl and a 6mm closed cell foam. This is a popular build-up for soundproofing underlay as the 2 high mass layers are separated by a 6mm closed cell foam which reduces the transfer of vibrations. The MuteMat 3 can acoustic underlay help you reach part E building regulation.
The special thing about the MuteMat 3 is the 2 high mass layers of different weights and thicknesses to efficiently reduce sound through all frequency bands. This works as every thickness and density of product will have a natural resonant frequency which is a frequency a material will then vibrate at. It will be shown on the performance graph as a little dip in the performance. By having multiple layers of different thicknesses and densities you can smooth this dip in performance to achieve the best soundproofing with your acoustic underlay.The MuteMat 3 acoustic underlay can help you reach part E building regulations.
Best acoustic underlays for carpet.
For carpets, you need a product that is soft but does not bottom out like a lot of acoustic underlays on the market.
We have designed the MuteMat 2 and MuteMat 3 to give a comfortable feel but not fully bottom out under a footstep. This works by having the high mass layer bend with your foot but still spread the load over a larger surface to reduce the footsteps coming through the ceiling
Best acoustic underlays for laminate flooring.
The top acoustic underlays for a laminate floor are the MuteMat OSF 750-10 and the MuteMat 2. These are both 10mm so do not raise the floor height significantly more than a standard underlay. These products reduce the transfer of sound vibrations passing through the floor/ceiling due to the change in the density of materials.
You can lay an engineered wood flooring directly over both these soundproofing underlay products using a perimeter flanking band around the edge of the room to reduce the flooring from knocking against any of the walls.
The best acoustic underlay for a click-together laminate flooring is the MuteMat OSF 750-10 as this will still reduce the sound from passing through but will not deflect too much. This product has been tested to deflect by only 14% when subject to 2000kg/m2.
If you need an acoustic underlay for LVT then the best option is to lay a 6-9mm ply over one of the above soundproofing underlays to give a stable base for the LVT to be laid on. This is the same with acoustic underlay for vinyl flooring.
Best acoustic underlay for wooden floors. (timber floors)
For wooden floors, the best acoustic underlay systems are the MuteMat 2 Plus and MuteMat 3 Plus. These have the additional benefit from the Tecsound layer which is a vibration dampening layer. This means it will absorb sound vibrations from any surface you apply it to. The reason it can do this is because of the visco-elastic membrane and its very high performance in vibration dampening.
By adding Tecsound you combine both the vibrations dampening and a high mass layer in 1 product and it is only 2.5-5mm thick so will not add much height to your timber floor.
This coupled with the MuteMat range gives the highest performing acoustic underlay combination whilst keeping the build-up as slimline as possible.
The cheapest soundproofing underlay available is the MuteBarrier product. This comes in 5kg/m2 and a 10kg/m2 options. I do not recommend the 5kg/m2 as a stand-alone mat as the additional mass would not be significant enough to reduce the sound due to mass law.
How does acoustic underlay stop sound?
The science behind acoustic underlays can get complicated but the main factors in reducing sound come down to 3 components.
Mass Law- This states when you double the mass of a partition you will reduce the sound by 5dB. This is why sound reduction is a logarithmic scale and it becomes harder to reduce sound the higher-performing a partition gets.Every 6dB is a doubling in sound pressure but this does not translate well when talking about how you hear sound.
The important thing to take note of is every 10dB is a perceived doubling of the sound. Therefore, every 10dB reduction is what you perceive as the sound being halved.
In the most basic sense, we can take the MuteBarrier as an example. 5kg/m2 MuteBarrier will reduce 25dB and 10kg/m2 MuteBarrier would achieve 30dB.
To then achieve 50dB by just adding mass to a surface you would need 160kg/m2 according to mass law.
It is obvious to see that this is not the most cost-efficient way of reducing sound.
Once you de-couple mass from an existing surface you start to reduce the transfer of vibrations more efficiently and therefore the mass can then increase the performance above the restraints of Mass law. In real terms, this de-coupling is with a full floating floor system or mimicking the same kind of de-coupling.
With on-site testing our MuteMat 3 has achieved a 5dB improvement on a floor which is already performing at 50dB taking that total result to 55dB. According to mass law, you would need an additional 160kg/m2 if this was a similar mass attached directly to 1 solid piece of mass but due to the de-coupling of the system, you can achieve a much higher reduction.
Another way you can efficiently improve the sound reduction is by using the Tecsound in conjunction with the MuteMat to add further mass and vibration dampening. This combination of acoustic underlays allows you to achieve far higher results with the thinnest soundproofing products.
How to fit an acoustic underlay
- Starting in one edge of the room, roll out the Tecsound, you may find it easier to cut the roll into smaller manageable pieces.
- If possible, ensure the Tecsound layer is staggered over any joins in the subfloor.
- Peel back the Tecsound film and adhere to the floor, ensuring a smooth application.
- If any air bubbles are trapped underneath, push to the side or make a small cut and stick back down.
- Continue laying the Tecsound until your subfloor is completely covered, laying each sheet/roll right up to the previous.
- Fold the perimeter flanking band back over the Tecsound. - Cut the flanking band vertically in corners to help fold it back.
- Fit the skirting boards to the perimeter, applying slight pressure down onto the folded flanking band.
- Using a sharp blade cut off the remainder of the perimeter flanking band.
- Peel and stick the self-adhesive gripper strips around the perimeter of the room, leaving a 2-5mm gap between the wall and the gripper strip.
- Seal the gap left around the perimeter with acoustic sealant.
- Loose lay / glue the MuteMats in a brick bond pattern.
- Tape all joints on the MuteMats using cloth tape.
- Attach the gripper rods to the gripper strips and fit the carpet as usual. - An additional underlay can also be used if required.
Tips and tricks to fit an acoustic underlay
Airtight seal against a wall - Offer your acoustic underlay up to the wall, place a washer on top of the mat, and use the inside of the washer to draw a line down the mat by dragging the washer along the wall to get an exact replica of the shape and curve of the wall. This will give you an air-tight seal against the wall.
Fitting the end mats- place the last mat under the previous mat to get the exact length needed to finish against the wall.