Questions and Answers
Q: Help me understand sound testing for my floor.
A: When it comes to having our product tested for their sound absorbing qualities we rely on independent laboratories and utilise their expertise to make sure the correct tests are being completed for the corresponding application.
For our flooring underlayment products, the sound laboratories have directed us to be using the Delta test, completed to ASTM standards alongside the typical IIC and STC tests. We have been informed by the labs that the Delta test is the best test to measure what an underlayment's sound absorption capabilities are. Whereas the IIC and STC test are actually designed to measure the sound absorption qualities of the complete floor system. Since the floor systems change from building to building and floor to floor, the IIC and STC test of one floor system may not be used as a blanket test to cover every floor.
The laboratories are the ones completing the tests and certifying that they have been completed to governed standards. They have expressed concerns of the possibility for misuse of the test reports and stress that the flooring industry use the information in the correct and proper application. We support the laboratories in ensuring the proper use of the test results.
A practice in the industry is to post FIIC sound numbers. The “F” identifies the test as having been completed in the “field” meaning on location and not in a controlled environment. With the possibility of variables interrupting the quality of the sound tests when conducting an FIIC the results are usually only pertinent to the building it was completed in.
We strive to be a resource for our customers and assist them at every step. Understanding sound tests has been one the main areas in which we have been asked to help clarify the complexity of information and then apply it.
Q: Where can I find third party information on understanding sound tests?
A: North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) has two articles that specifically discuss understanding sound tests and their application in flooring installations. We've included the two articles below:
1. Understanding IIC & STC Sound Testing
2. Flooring Underlayment Acoustics
Q: What is the difference between a vapor barrier and a moisture barrier?
A: The first step in this process is to differentiate the difference of a moisture barrier from a vapour barrier. To do this we start with understanding that water has three forms; 1) solid – ice 2) liquid 3) gas – vapour. We will be focusing on the liquid and gas/vapour forms to explain why you need a vapour not moisture barrier.
The term moisture barrier is commonly used to describe materials that will block water in its liquid form. Unfortunately this terminology is often misunderstood to also block water in its vapour form, which it does not. There are many materials that can block water in its liquid state but will allow vapour to pass freely. The most recognizable example of this is the textile, GORE-TEX®. “The secret of GORE-TEX® products -- which are both completely waterproof and completely breathable at the same time” www.gore-tex.com
This term is correctly used when the material will effectively inhibit the flow of water not only in its liquid form but also in its vapour state. This is crucial in flooring as many of the flooring materials can be greatly affected by water vapour which has caused numerous floors to fail. It is for this reason that building codes require vapour barriers and not moisture barriers.
The standard membrane for vapour barrier in building codes is 6 mil non-crossed linked polyethylene. So when you install our underlayments you are also installing the industry’s leading vapour barrier. Our underlayments start out as 36 mil cross linked polyolefin (blended) plastic, which give you a three pronged advantage:
1) We have incorporated polypropylene into the blending of the plastic because of its strength less porous properties then polyethylene.
2) Before our products go through the foaming process they are 36 mil (0.95 mm) which is 6 times the thickness of 6 mil poly (0.15 mm).
3) The cross linking process forces a tighter molecular connection of the cellular structure which increases its vapour protection.
It is through these technological advances that our underlayments are leading the flooring industry with a WVTR of .3 lbs/1,000ft2/24hrs.