Flooring Material Recommendations for Condominiums and Apartment Units

Flooring replacements (and even the selection of flooring in new construction) is probably the sorest of sore spots, when it comes to condominium owners and apartment renters alike. With the exception of the lucky folks that live on the top floor, everyone else that lives in a multistory building is subject to the noises that come from above.

Especially for people who are not used to living in shared housing, noises from footsteps, vacuums, chairs, children, high heels, and animals can be downright shocking!

When flooring is changed from carpet to hard surface flooring the subjective (and measured) differences can be downright shocking. In today’s world carpet is viewed as a very inferior material compared to hardwood, engineered wood, laminate, and tile flooring. People (rightly or wrongly) look at carpet as a dated floor covering that is difficult to keep clean. Similarly landlords look at carpet as a consumable that needs to be replaced every few tenants.

All of this drives the multifamily housing market toward hard surface flooring.

So what’s the problem?

Hard surface flooring (by its very nature) allows significantly more energy to pass through the floor/ceiling structure, leading to both noise and vibration complaints from the people living in the units below.

Apartment managers and HOA’s alike are no doubt familiar with the litany of complaints that follow when flooring is changed (or the wrong flooring for the construction type was installed in the first place).

On the surface it can be difficult to unwind who exactly is at fault, the unit owner changing their flooring upstairs or the oversensitive person living below them?

Luckily the question can be answered in a standardized, repeatable, and scientific way (it’s not sufficient to just have “impartial” people from the HOA or management company listen from the downstairs unit).

There are two testing methods that are used to determine whether a floor/ceiling complies with the required (in all 50 states) standards or not, they are:

  • AIIC Testing – Testing is conducted by using a machine in the upstairs unit which taps on the floor according to a ASTM/ISO standardized method. The subsequent noises are measured from the unit below and a determination is then made whether the unit is in compliance or not. This test method tests for structure borne noise (chairs, walking, etc)
  • ASTC Testing – Testing is conducted by using a special omnidirectional loudspeaker replaying pink noise which floods the upstairs area with a calibrated noise level. This noise level is measured upstairs and then again downstairs and then a determination is made whether the unit is in compliance or not. This test method tests for airborne noise (talking, music, televisions, etc)

Of course there is more to the process that as described above, but that is a basic outline of the testing.

All of that then brings us to flooring selection! We are able to assist with flooring selection by performing a combination of the two tests above along with sample patch testing (which involves laying a section of the proposed flooring type/s directly upon the upstairs subfloor and performing the AIIC testing. The sample patch testing allows for the assessment of different flooring types without the difficulty or expense of laying flooring in a complete room.

When we conduct the sample patch testing, we recommend testing multiple kinds of finish flooring and underlayment during the same site visit, in order to maximize the probability that one (or more) combinations will meet the required standards.

On-Site Acoustic testing has helped many HOA (and building management companies) define appropriate standards for their buildings.

Use the convenient form below to start the process:

Please list the city and state where testing will take place.
List the project criteria and type of testing required, if known (noise survey, dosimetric, AIIC, ASTC, NIC, air quality, etc.)

Or speak with one of our specialists at 1-800-665-0080