June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26
By Reginald Tucker
Underlayment suppliers are focusing more of their attention on the all-important multi-family sector of the housing market. Specifically, they are developing products that aim to meet or exceed the stringent building code requirements for multi-family dwellings while complementing the vast array of flooring products designed to coordinate with them.
That’s certainly the focus of companies like MP Global Products, maker of the well-known QuietWalk brand of sound-deadening underlayment products designed to quiet noisy floating floors such as laminates. “Our company has concentrated on acoustic underlayment almost since our founding 20 years ago—which incidentally is exactly the same year the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing. “Together with NALFA, we helped the manufacturers of laminate flooring establish standards for underlayments with regard to several attributes, including sound attenuation.”
QuietWalk, MP Global’s hallmark product, is branded as such for its ability to draw sound in and deaden it. “The original train of thought was to help deaden the ‘clicky’ sound of laminate flooring within the room and make it sound more like solid wood,” Boesch explained. “During that process we also discovered that architects and designers loved our underlayments for use in condominiums and apartment buildings.”
Other major suppliers of underlayment products are busy at work tackling the noise-transfer issue in multi-family applications. For example, Diversified Industries, manufacturer of the popular FloorMuffler line of products, is looking to make sure it has all the bases covered in that respect.
“While flooring suppliers are working to develop products with better sound characteristics, the best solution for noise reduction is a quality underlayment,” said Colleen Gormley, national marketing coordinator. “We are continuously testing our products with the most up-to-date building code requirements to ensure flooring suppliers have a proven underlayment to partner with their flooring.”
Due to the advances in sound-reduction technology, Gormley is seeing the use of hard surface flooring becoming much more prevalent in multi-family construction than ever before—which is guiding much of the new product development within the company. “We have developed an entire line of products to provide superior noise reduction for every type of hard surface flooring installation. This includes our new line of rubber underlayments, FloorMuffler FLEX, which can be used under anything from tile to hardwood flooring.”
Dan Davis, national retail business manager, multi-family sector, HPS Schönox North America, also sees the multi-family market moving away from carpet and toward LVT. For its part, Schönox has developed several underlayments to address this trend. Chief among them is Schönox TS, an impact, sound-deadening underlayment made of cork and recycled urethane granules that not only provides impact and sound attenuation but also comfort underfoot. “This is used underneath LVT floors so the residents living below won’t hear anything,” he explained.
Schönox takes it a step further by focusing on the condition of the substrate prior to the application of a sound-deadening underlayment. To that end, the company offers AP, a dust- reduced synthetic gypsum compound that’s suitable over gypsum-based cement floors common in multi-family applications, and APF, a fiber-reinforced self leveling compound. “These are high-performance products that are proprietary to us and designed to go with these gypsum subfloors,” Davis said. “Our products are specifically designed to bond with gypsum subfloors, not separate or push away from them.”
Future Foam is also keeping a close eye on trends in the multi-family sector and is responding accordingly. “Multi-family is a very interesting sector for carpet cushion companies, including Future Foam,” said Mark Foster, regional manager. “We are often challenged by economic hurdles with carpet cushion, but we have seen an uptick in interest for sound abatement and comfort under LVT flooring.”
Builders, Foster notes, often lose sight of the advantages of providing a cushion under LVT floors. “Acoustical properties play a big role in deciding what is to be used in multi-family dwellings today, so Future Foam provides sound ratings for applications under numerous hard surface products. A cushion that provides comfort and sound absorption are the keys to these projects.”
Soundseal, which offers a range of underlayment products specifically for certain flooring categories, is also keenly focused on the red-hot LVT segment. “As new products become available we endeavor to find suitable products to use under them,” said Dale Asp, business development manager, Impacta Floor Underlayments. “We developed VC300 and Probase Vinyl to be used under LVT products in multi-family dwellings. We also offer our Cerazorb and Probase Rubber underlayments, which can be used under a broad base of flooring products.”
In that same vein, the increasing popularity of LVT has led WE Cork to its latest introduction, Silently-LVT, which provides a low-profile sound solution under floating and glue-down LVT. According to Ann Wicander, president, “Silently-LVT can also be used as a single-stick method over hard-to-glue to substrates—such as lightweight concrete or surfaces that are expensive to remove like asbestos tile—by loose laying the Silenlty-LVT over the floor and gluing directly on it. This method saves time and money during installation, and is the perfect underlayment for apartments offering a high sound insulation rating of Delta IIC 20.”
WE Cork has a long track record of developing products for the multi-family sector. Back in 1978, when condominium development began to take off, WE Cork initially offered sound-control products for ceramic tile applications under the WECU (WE Cork Underlayments) brand. That paved the way for Soundless +, a product Wicander called “the highest performing product under ceramic tile applications in a concrete structure without a suspended ceiling.” WE Cork then went on to introduce the Warm & Quiet product line for use under hardwood and laminates. “This offers an easy-to-install, lightweight yet highly insulating solution that meets all requirements in the U.S.”