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When considering installing a hardwood floor in your home, it is vital that you take into consideration your neighbours and the issue of noise. For owners of houses or ground floor flats where you have nobody living directly underneath you, your choice of wooden floor will have little or no impact on the quality of life of your neighbours and you are free to choose what ever floor takes your fancy.
For those that live in flats or apartment blocks there are building regulations, lease agreements and simple consideration for others that can influence your choice of floor. As a general rule if you have anyone living underneath you then you have a duty to ensure that you minimise the amount of noise that is transmitted through the floor. This can be done is by floating an engineered wooden floor on top of a specified acoustic underlay or by replacing the existing sub floor with any one of a number of acoustic decks available on the market. The type of product you use will depend on your individual circumstances. Building Regulations Approved Document E (2010) sets out values for sound insulation that must be achieved to demonstrate compliance with the requirements. This document however refers solely to newly built dwellings or those that are being converted into flats. Existing dwellings or conversions are not covered by this document, and the fitting of new wooden floors are considered to be an “improvement” to the flat or dwelling and are not subject to building regulations. The requirements for Impact Sound Insulation as a maximum value are 62 decibels for purpose built dwellings and 64 decibels for conversions.
If you live in a purpose built dwelling that has a management committee or residents management committee, it is worth checking with them before going ahead and fitting a hardwood floor. They may have approved products for sound insulation that you must use to comply with their own requirements. People living in converted flats are governed by the terms of their lease agreement that will usually state “floorboards must be covered with carpets at all times”. This clause was inserted to prevent people from uplifting their carpets and sanding and varnishing their wood floors. Walking on uncovered floorboards offers no impact sound insulation what so ever and can be a living hell for the neighbours downstairs. A properly installed floating engineered wooden floor on an acoustic underlay can be just as good as a carpet and in some cases even better. One final pieces of advice; take your shoes off, not only will this reduce the noise you make when walking around your flat but it is the best way to look after your new wood flooring.