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Understanding Sound Ratings

Sound can have an important impact on your quality of life. Foot traffic, ambient noise, sirens outside, arguing neighbors…the sounds of day-to-day life can make a big difference! Some flooring materials have sound ratings you may encounter during your research process. We’ve broken down the most common ratings for you:

STC Rating

Sound Transmission Class. This is the most common unit in North America for airborne sounds like speech, dogs barking, and outdoor traffic to name a select few. STC ratings indicate a material’s ability to absorb sound: the higher the rating, the better the material. This rating is used for a lot of building materials.
In order to reduce noise level, building codes and home owner’s associations frequently have a minimum STC rating requirement for their materials.

IIC Rating

Impact Insulation Class. This measures how much an impact sound travels through a material. In some cases this measures how much of the sound travels to the room below. Just like with the STC rating, a higher number indicates better absorption. To offer a visual, imagine dropping a book onto a hardwood floor and the thunk you’d hear. Now imagine dropping that same book onto a carpet. It would make a much softer and more insulated sound. The carpet would have a better IIC rating than the hardwood.

NRC Rating

Noise Reduction Coefficient rating. This measures how much sound is absorbed by a material and doesn’t reflect back into the space at large. Since sound travels in waves, it bounces off of hard surfaces like flooring and walls when it’s not absorbed. A higher NRC rating indicates how efficiently a material can absorb sound. Vinyl, cork, and rubber are some examples of floors with high NRC ratings.

What’s The Best Way To Reduce Sound Pollution Inside?

There are a few simple ways to reduce noise in your home without breaking the bank or upsetting your décor plan:

•  Add Some Throw Rugs. Not only do they add variety, but they help reduce noise from foot traffic as well as absorbing sound traveling up through your hard surfaces.

•  Seal Gaps. One sneaky way sound travels throughout your home is under doors and through electrical outlets. Even little openings like outlets provide sound waves with ample room to bounce around, so plug them up while you’re at it.


Meredith Foster is a content writer at Floors To Your Home.

Posted in Glossaries

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