By Larry Lyons, Amorim Cork Composites
A few years back, before LVT was on the front page of every publication related to the flooring industry, we had an inquiry from a company in regards to an impact sound solution for vinyl plank flooring.
Before the Great Recession, our focus in marketing sound control underlayment products was the condominium market, which at its peak in 2006 offered about 150,000 units of new construction opportunity. In the pre-recession condo era, vinyl flooring was not an application that we addressed or had much in the way of inquiries in regards to, as the condo market was focused on high-end hard surface finished flooring products.
The company that contacted us in regards to a solution for vinyl flooring was a property manager, who owned well over 100,000 apartment units in properties scattered over multiple United States metropolitan markets. The company had a problem. They had embarked on a program to replace the carpet and pad in the living and dining room areas of existing apartment units with vinyl plank (LVT) flooring. They had started this initiative for two primary reasons; one was to give a more modern look to existing properties, but more importantly, they had done a life-cycle cost analysis of carpet versus vinyl flooring. This study revealed vinyl plank flooring was a much lower cost alternative, over its longer anticipated lifespan. The problem they encountered with their early conversions was that the tenants in the downstairs units, below the units converted to vinyl flooring, were complaining about hearing almost every footstep of their upstairs neighbors.
What they had discovered is that they had solved one problem, in replacing the high maintenance and short life span carpet with vinyl plank flooring, but created another problem with impact or IIC noise issues. The carpet and pad were part of a total floor/ceiling system that was designed to attenuate impact noise, as well as providing a finished floor for the tenants to walk on.
By replacing the soft carpet and pad, which was probably in total about 1″-thick, with a 2mm vinyl plank flooring product glued directly to the structural subfloor, the floor/ceiling system had lost a great deal of its impact sound attenuation capability. With the carpet and pad, their floor ceiling assemblies probably had IIC ratings over 60, whereas with the 2mm glued down plank LVT plank flooring without acoustical underlayment, the IIC rating of their floor/ceiling assemblies were now in the 30’s. This was a problem because the Uniform Building Code requirement for IIC ratings in multi-family structures is a minimum of 50.
Since their floor replacement program was an initiative in progress, involving multiple vendors and installation contractors all over the US, they needed a workable solution to address the tenant noise concerns, and they needed it quickly. Thankfully, due to our global presence, we had a proven solution for direct glued resilient flooring that had been used successfully in the European market for many years. This application was not very common in the U.S. at the time.
We were able to supply this solution quickly, and through our nationwide network of distributors set up a supply chain to service this business, in a just-in-time manner, with their designated installation contractors across the country.
As a result, we have been working with this same client for almost seven years, in the renovation of about 5,000 apartment units annually. Today, when they do a carpet to LVT conversion, they install LVT plank flooring throughout the units, including the bedrooms. They use our sound control underlayment in all 2nd floor and above units and have had zero claims or issues over the span of nearly seven years.
As a result of this experience and the exponential growth of LVT plank flooring in the multi-family, hospitality, student and senior housing markets, we have developed a whole range of products, specifically designed for the challenges presented in providing code compliant impact sound attenuation for vinyl flooring.
The thicker acoustical underlayment products that we had used in the past for previous hard surface flooring products for condo applications, were not appropriate for vinyl flooring, as using underlayment products much thicker than the vinyl flooring products themselves will cause issues with residual indentation from point loads or heavy objects.
Our LVT/resilient flooring underlayment range has been designed from the ground up to provide code compliant impact sound control, and also provide solid foundation for the vinyl flooring and prevent problems like residual indentation from occurring. In the span of just a few years, we have more than 20,000,000 s/f successful vinyl flooring installations over our resilient flooring specific sound control underlayments.