#MAPEITechTip: LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) & LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank): Sound-reduction in multi-unit residential high-rises and hotels


MAPEI Product Support

 December 8, 2016. 4:44 PM

So we think vinyl is vinylsheet, tiles or in planks, however this couldn’t be farther from the truth, since vinyl tile & planks have taken very different paths, particularly in the last few years.  The demand for floors that ‘mimic nature’, in a man-made flooring, whether in porcelain tile (large format tiles and panels) or in vinyl flooring has pushed flooring manufacturers to produce more realistic flooring, ie: wood look luxury vinyl planks (LVP).  These flooring solutions feature a photograph set below the wear layer. This printed layer (which may also be textured to add to the realism) gives the flooring its design—stone and wood, the most popular styles today, are available in both sheet, plank and tile form. However, because of the difference in production processes, vinyl tiles and planks far exceed sheet vinyl in terms of variety, type, and natural replication and can be installed in any desired configuration and pattern.  Vinyl tiles and planks made using the ‘hot press’ method are more durable and stable-the vinyl is pressed under immense heat and pressure creating well-bonded and extremely hard layers.  Due to this process, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) will withstand daily use better than vinyl sheets. Additionally, if LVT or LVP are damaged, similar to porcelain tile or stone, the damaged piece can be removed and replaced with little to no noticeable change to the damaged area. On the other hand, damaged sheet vinyl sheet typically has two methods of repair, 1.) replace the entire floor or 2.) cut the damaged section out and fit a new piecerequiring a high degree of expertise to hide the inserted piece and treat another seam.  In some commercial installations, sheet vinyl is the preferred flooring of choice due to its ability to be a hermetically sealed floor system by heat welding the seams, this is especially important in healthcare institutions and clean rooms.  However, LVT and LVP has definitely gained in popularity, especially in multi-unit residential high-rises and hotels, this type of flooring is increasingly being specified and installed, offering home owners another option to real stone or wood flooring.

If you have ever lived in a high-rise condo, sitting down to a quiet evening dinner, while the neighbor in the unit above you playing ball with their dog.  You can hear every bonce of the ball on your ceiling and every click of the dog’s nails running across the floor as he chases the ball. Or the exercise enthusiast who has not idea that jogging on their tread mill sounds like a military invasion across your ceiling.  No one wants to spend thousands of dollars to live in a luxury high-rise only to feel like a prisoner in their own condo unit listening to a barrage of noises on their ceiling.  In most high-rises there are condo association by-laws in addition to local building codes to regulate the acceptable decibel level and transmission from one unit to another, particularly from floor to the ceiling below.  Sound control standards were developed to regulate the amount of noise allowed to permeate through common walls and floors from unit to unit-higher the number the better the sound reduction.  Many condo associations by-laws restrict the decibel levels within a condo unit (noise being transmitted from the floor above one’s occupied space) along with local codes, such as International Building Code. Many properties are now requiring sound control ratings above 50 to 60 range.

The International Code Council (ICC) has developed as set of codes to quantify acceptable levels of both airborne and impact noises within multi-unit hi-rise buildings. Sound Transmission: Section 1207.1: “This section shall apply to common interior walls, partitions and floor/ceiling assemblies between adjacent dwelling units and sleeping units or between dwelling units and sleeping units and adjacent public areas such as halls, corridors, stairways or service areas.”  These building codes use standards of measurement.

STC = Sound Transmission Class measures airborne sound transmission. The level of sound from your upstairs neighbor’s TV, stereo system or voices that are transmitted through their flooring system and walls below to your living space.  ASTM E90 is measurement of the ability of the flooring system or underlayment to reduce/diffuse airborne sounds. Typically, the minimum building code requirements is 50 STC-the higher the number the better the sound control.

IIC = Impact Insulation Class measures the sound that is transferred via impact (ASTM E492 & ASTM E2179). This would be sound made on an upstairs neighbor’s floor by high heels, a dropped glass or dish, or the dog’s ball bouncing across the floor. Typically, the minimum building code requirements is 50 STC-the higher the number the better the sound control.

Due to their physical properties, there is a greater chance with tile or stone to produce sound waves throughout the entire installationcausing a ringing effect that resonates through the entire assembly. While you can install any tile over an existing floor, the material of the floor will influence sound absorption qualities. Top quality vinyl will help nullify that factor and provide a nearly soundless surface that has spring and give for comfort. Quality vinyl flooring that is backed with foam and has a cushioned, flexible surface, makes it a good choice for a sound reduction. That is what makes luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) an excellent choice for high-rise residential buildings and hotels.  However just like tile or stone, the same sound control codes also apply to LVT and LVP.  Including a ‘sound control’ membrane to the layering system will further enhance the sound absorption properties of LVT and LVP, maximizing the STC & IIC for the entire installation system.

When specifying and selecting membranes to provide additional sound control, it’s important to compare ‘apples to apples’, meaning that variations in the slab thickness (6” to 8”) and whether there is a suspended ceiling or insulation in the ceiling can effect membrane performance.  Look at the entire system, not just the manufacturer’s sound rating for a membrane. Sound ratings with a suspended ceiling will be higher, but does it accurately reflect the ‘actual installation’?

MAPEI provides a solution for high-rise residences and hotels with a complete installation system using Mapesonic 2 sound-reduction membrane and Ultrabond ECO 360 adhesive for LVT and LVP.  As discussed Mapesonic 2 addresses both installations-designs over a 6" concrete slab with and without a suspended ceiling.  As previously stated, it is important to identify the ceiling configuration-since Mapesonic 2 provides an IIC of 50 and STC of 52 (Delta IIC of 20) without a ceiling whereas with a suspended ceiling the sound control increases to an IIC of 70 and STC of 67.

When considering LVT or LVP for your next high-rise or hotel installation, why not consider MAPEI’s system approach to sound control.


MAPEI Product Support

MAPEI Product Support


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