Acoustical Underlayment: The Sound of Silence

work boots on hardwood floor

work boots on hardwood floor

Is the bass from your teenager’s music vibrating through the house? Are your tenants complaining about the upstairs neighbors’ stomping around? Or maybe it sounds like your ceiling is going to cave in when the kids play upstairs? It sounds like you should consider having an acoustical underlayment installed under your hardwood or LVT flooring!


What is acoustical underlayment?

Acoustical underlayment is an additional layer between the floor and subfloor.  An acoustic underlay can make a big difference in noise levels in your home, multi-family dwelling, or business.  There are two types of noise a good acoustical underlayment should reduce:Large wood speaker

  • Airborne noise – sound that travels through the air – the neighbor’s dog, the sirens from a passing fire truck, or a crying baby.
  • Impact noise – caused by footsteps on the floor, moving heavy furniture, or dropping something on the floor.

As an added bonus, acoustical underlayment provides an extra cushion of comfort under hardwood floors that can help reduce foot fatigue – a lifesaver if you work on your feet all day! Take a closer look to find out what materials make the best acoustical underlayment.


The original material used for acoustical underlayment is cork. Acoustic underlay made from cork will deaden vibration and sound transfer more effectively than a hard solid surface and helps eliminate echo noise. Other benefits – and some drawbacks – of cork include:cork

  • Budget pleasing – more (well, less technically) bang for your buck!
  • Eco-friendly – cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree – and it is harvested without killing the tree! This is one of the most environmentally responsible acoustic underlay materials available.
  • Cushion – cork can make your hardwood and LVT flooring noticeably more comfortable. But it is not impervious to puncture and compression damage, careful installation is important!
  • Durability – cork can compress over time and may get brittle and dry. Ever open a very aged, expensive bottle of wine, just to have pieces of the cork fall in the bottle? That can happen to cork underlay over time too.


Acoustical underlay made from foam helps even out abnormalities in the subfloor, and also works well reducing the noise sometimes made walking on a floating floor. Foam underlayment reduces impact noise but is not as effective as cork in absorbing airborne noise. Other things you should know about foam acoustical underlayment are:

  • Budget-friendly – like cork, foam underlay is easy on the pocketbook
  • Green – many foam underlays are made from recycled materials, which makes it a smart choice for an environmentally conscious consumer.
  • Durability – like cork, foam compacts over time, and especially under heavy objects. Expect newer foam acoustical underlays to perform better than older ones.


Acoustical underlayments made of felt age well and have good sound dampening qualities. Felt is also a natural insulator, so this is a great choice to keep your home warm in the winter.

  • Felt is compatible price-wise with foam and cork
  • An environmentally sound choice – felt underlay is usually made from recycled textile fibers, and if you replace your flooring and underlay, it can be recycled!
  • Durability – felt is surprisingly durable. It may not be as resilient as foam or cork, but 


stack of recycled tiresRubber has strength and aging characteristics that make it very suitable for sound control underlayment.  Acoustical underlayment made from rubber also bounces back completely after having a heavy object moved from the flooring above, unlike cork or foam.

  • Higher up-front investment – rubber is generally has a higher price point than other materials, but its longevity makes it a solid investment.
  • Rubber underlayment is made from recycled materials like recycled tires
  • Durability – considered the most durable of underlayments, rubber is long-lasting

What is the purpose of acoustical underlayment?

The main reason to install acoustical underlay beneath the floors in your home is to reduce the amount of impact noise in your home. For commercial properties, it may be necessary to have acoustic underlay installed to meet building codes that regulate the acceptable levels of indoor noise in multi-family dwellings and businesses. Acoustic underlay serves many purposes and solves some common flooring issues including:

  • Acoustic underlay adds value to your commercial business or residential home when installed correctly
  • A common problem with floating floor installation is an excessive thumping sound when walked on due to space between the flooring and the subfloor. A sound control underlayment beneath a floating floor solves the problem!
  • If your business involves using and moving heavy objects, the noise generated without an acoustic underlay may make it hard for employees to work. Talking may even seem louder if no underlayment is installed.

Does acoustical underlayment make a difference?

Short answer – yes! Studies that measure the amount of impact noise with and without acoustic underlay– measured in decibels (dB) – consistently show that hardwood floors with an acoustic underlay have significant noise reduction, sometimes 10-20 dB less.

What is the best underlayment for hardwood floors?

The best acoustical underlayments for hardwood floors are made from cork, rubber, or foam. It is a good idea to consider how your hardwood floors are installed – whether they are glued or floated – or if they are nailed down. Sound vibrations from the floor can travel through the nails, so the underlayment needs are different for nailed-down hardwood floors.  Cork and rubber underlays are the best choice for nailed-down flooring.

high heels on hardwood floor

Should you put underlayment under hardwood floors?

Hardwood floors can be noisy…especially if someone in your family wears high-heels or heavy work boots in the house! The number one complaint from people with hardwood floors is noisy footfalls. An acoustic underlayment fixes that, and adds insulation and comfort to boot!

What is the best underlayment for luxury vinyl plank flooring?

Special considerations should be taken when you choose a sound control underlayment for luxury vinyl tile and plank flooring. The material should have additional stability to prevent indents, smooth out any imperfections from an uneven subfloor, and be thick enough to absorb sound.  Felt, cork, and foam are all good choices to use under your LVT flooring. Rubber can stain vinyl, even though it is an excellent acoustic underlay. If you prefer to use rubber make sure it is compatible with your flooring type.

Does luxury vinyl absorb sound?

But, you may ask, doesn’t luxury vinyl absorb sound already? Some LVT products do, depending on the thickness of the vinyl. A high-quality vinyl thicker than 3.2mm will absorb sound well. Many luxury vinyl tile manufacturers opt for an integrated acoustic underlay for their products. If you are installing new flooring for a noisy, high-traffic area of your home or business, LVT could be the all-in-one product for you.

If you need extra peace and quiet in your home, an acoustic underlayment may be what you’ve been missing. When considering new flooring, whether you want hardwood or luxury vinyl tile, make sure to ask about an acoustical underlayment. Contact Lifetime Hardwood Floors with any questions or to schedule a free consultation today! 

installing LVT


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