There are three things to look for when looking for the best underlayment for noise reduction.

A high STC number, which indicates it’s good for dulling everyday noises. And a high IIC value, a measurement of how much impact noise is absorbed, and lastly, a high thickness and density.

Keep reading, and I’ll explain what the above abbreviations mean, and point you in the right direction when it comes to the type of floor you have and what to use underneath it.

Best Noise Reducing Underlayments

If you’re part of the TL;DR crowd, here are my top recommendations for noise-reducing flooring. I’ll provide more info on each further below. I’m not including vinyl, since most vinyl comes with an underlayment attached. However, if you want more info, see the vinyl section below.

STC/IIC:NameTypeLink
66/67Roberts Super Felt PremiumFeltLink
66/71QuietWalk PlusSynthetic BlendLink
67/68  Roberts First Step UnderlaymentFoamLink
65/64Feather Step 3in1 Silent Vapor BarrierEVA FoamLink

Noise Reducing Underlayment Buying Guide

As I mentioned above, there are three critical things you need to look for when choosing a noise-reducing underlayment.

Sound Transmission Class (STC)

This is a value the represents how well your flooring will do at reducing airborne noise. This would be things like people talking—or yelling—music or the TV playing. The higher the value the better, but typically a spread of one or two STC points is irrelevant.

To get really technical, STC is measured by determining the difference in decibels between where airborne sound hits the originating side of a structure—in this case, the floor—and how it sounds on the receiving side. In this case, the space below.

The following table is subjective but will give you an idea. Bear in mind that the noise in the room a person is in will impact how loud the noise from above or beside sounds.

Sound Transmission ClassWhat You Can Hear
25 
30You will be able to understand normal speech
35You will be able to understand loud speech
40You can hear loud speech, but not understand it
45You can detect loud speech, but only as a murmur
50You can barely hear loud sounds
60+Good soundproofing that will mute most sounds 

Impact Insulation Class (ICC)

This rating corresponds to impact sound transmission which moves through the floor when furniture is moved, things are dropped, or footsteps hit the floor. The higher the ICC rating, the better the sound insulation properties. Or simply, the less noise for people downstairs.

A concrete subfloor without an underlayment will have an ICC in the range of 28 to 35.

A wood floor without an underlayment will have an ICC in the range of 40 to 45. And without any underlayment, the sound transmission in wood floors is much higher than something like concrete.

The International Building Code requires apartment buildings, condos, and hotels to have a minimum ICC of 50. However, many states demand even higher ratings. Of course, you can do whatever you want in your own home.

You can find underlayment that has an ICC of 68. If you’re building a home theater in the basement, you’d want something that offered this kind of noise reduction.

Density

The thickness and density of the underlayment your choice directly correlate to how much sound is absorbed.

Density is measured in pounds per cubic foot and indicates the weight and volume of your underlayment. The denser it is, the better job it can do at supporting the joints of the flooring that is placed on top of it. In turn, that helps control noise.

Thickness

The optimal thickness for a noise-reducing underlayment is 5mm.

Underlayment Soundproofing Materials

Underlays are available in a variety of materials, the most common of which are cork, felt, foam, rubber, and vinyl. All of these are high-density materials, making them an ideal choice for absorbing both airborne and impact noise.

However, each of the above-mentioned materials isn’t suitable for each type of flooring.

Here are recommendations for the different flooring options.

Carpet

You can choose between either foam or rubber since both will make the floor softer to walk on. Ultimately, this creates a flooring combination that will absorb a significant amount of impact or structure sound transmission.

male rolling carpet
Cork and rubber underlayments create a flooring combination which absorbs significant amount of noise

Hardwood

The best choice of underlay for hardwood is cork since it won’t flex. Instead, it will maintain its firmness and do a great job at deadening sound. Although it won’t last as long, hold up as well, or offer the same level of performance, the next best option is foam, as long as you choose one that is both thick and dense enough.

cork and tape on floor
The best underlayment for hardwood is cork since its firm

Laminate

If you are putting down laminate, choose a foam underlayment that has a vapor barrier. This is because laminate is extremely susceptible to moisture retention. However, if all you care about is noise reduction, choose cork instead.

male laying down laminate on floor
For laminate, a foam underlayment with vapor barrier is the best choice

Tile

Frankly, the best thing for tile is for it to go done directly onto a thick subfloor. However, if an underlayment is necessary, choose a rubber-cork underlay.

male laying down tiles
If an underlayment is necessary for tile, rubber-cork is the best choice

Vinyl

Before you do anything, check to see what underlay your Vinyl manufacturer demands. If you choose something else, you could void your warranty.

Vinyl floor has cork underlayment already attached

Many vinyl floor products ship with a cork underlay already attached, often making additional underlayment unnecessary. If you are allowed to use something more, then cork will work the best, but you can also use felt or foam.

Soundproofing Tips and Tricks for Existing Floors

What if you need to deaden some noise in your home, either structural impact or airborne? Is tearing up your existing floor and installing new underlay and new flooring your only option?

Thankfully, no.

Having said that, if you’re not prepared to renovate or remodel—meaning pull up your current floor—you are going to be limited when it comes to a more comprehensive soundproofing solution.

So if you live in an apartment or are included in the group above, here are some options.

Soundproof from below. This will be easier if you have an unfinished basement or a basement that has ceiling tiles. As long as you have access to your first-floor floorboards, you can add a layer of insulation that will act as a sound barrier.

If you do have a basement with a drywalled ceiling, your best bet is hiring a contractor to come in and spray blow-in insulation into it.

Make use of your furniture.  The more furniture you have in a room, especially upholstered furniture, the more sound is absorbed. The emptier a room, the more sound echoes, and bounces around.

No room for more furniture? You can add throw cushions and draperies. If you have a sofa against a wall, put a layer of foam between the wall and your furniture, just be sure the sofa is against a wall that has the most unwanted sound coming through.

Use throw rugs. And not just any old rug. Look for thick rugs and then add an underlay. This will do wonders for dampening sound in the room.

The 4 Best Underlayments for Noise Reduction

I linked to these in the table above, but here is some more info on each.

1. Roberts 70-193 Super Felt Premium Underlay

For use under laminate or engineered wood floors.

Thanks to a high STC and IIC rating, 66 and 67 respectively, this is a great choice. Especially if you take into consideration an International Building Code rating of at least 50, but 60 for multi-unit buildings.

This is a high-performance underlayment, manufactured in part using recycled fibers. And since it’s naturally insulating, it will do far more than reduce noise. You have the added benefits of a floor that’s warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Specifications:

  • Density: 11.5 lbs./ft.3
  • Thickness: 3.1 mm
  • IIC Rating: 71
  • STC Rating: 66

2. Roberts First Step Underlayment

For use under laminate or engineered wood floors.

Our number 2 choice is from Roberts as well. Its makeup is open-cell foam, meaning it allows for the circulation of air and inhibits mold growth. This makes First Step unique, as it can also be installed below grade.

While this product doesn’t match up to others in the thickness and density categories, it out-performs all others when it comes to STC, where it has a rating of 68. So despite its thinness, it still offers excellent noise suppression.

Specifications:

  • Density: 5.5 lbs./ft.33
  • Thickness: 2.0 mm
  • IIC Rating: 66
  • STC Rating: 68

3. Feather Step 3in1 Silent Vapor Barrier

For use under carpet or laminate.

If you’ve already blown through most of your budget on your carpet, this is a great choice in the bargain category.

Despite being less expensive than others recommended here, this product still has the noise reduction properties that we’re looking for, offering great acoustic performance and features.

If you’re looking for something to put under laminate, this is an excellent choice, since the recommendation for laminate is foam that has a vapor barrier. This underlayment comes with a foil vapor barrier film and adhesive strips for easy installation.

Specifications:

  • Density: N/A
  • Thickness: 2.0 mm
  • IIC Rating: 64
  • STC Rating: 65

4. QuietWalk Plus

For use under hardwood, laminate, or engineered wood floors.

If you’re shopping for underlayment for under laminate or engineered wood floors, this is a good alternative to number 1 above, the Roberts 70-193 Super Felt Premium Underlay.

It is less dense, coming in at 11.5 instead of 14.5 lbs./ft. 3 but in terms of its noise-canceling properties, it’s in the same range.

Note that this can also be used under 5mm+ thick vinyl, LVT, and WPC/SPC planks, but be sure to check that doing so won’t void your warranty.

Specifications:

  • Density: 11.5 lbs./ft.3
  • Thickness: 3.1 mm
  • IIC Rating: 71
  • STC Rating: 66

Conclusion

Choosing the best underlayment for your flooring type is critical, but it can get a bit more complicated when you’re also looking for something that reduces noise.

Above, I have listed my best choices for noise reduction underlayments, but keep in mind that the best isn’t necessarily the best for you. So be sure to do your due diligence. Remember the things you want to check. Density, thickness, IIC, and STC ratings.

And if you live in a rented apartment or aren’t interested in pulling up the current flooring in your house, there are some alternatives for you as well.

Hopefully, you found the answers you came here looking for. Why not check out our related posts below? Maybe we can help you with something else as well!

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