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Acoustic Underlay Requirements for Condos

Acoustic Underlay Requirements for Strata and Condos

Noise is often a contentious issue in multi-unit residences, as any condo dweller can attest to. When owners want to install hardwood or laminate flooring, strata bylaws often require the use of an underlay with acoustic properties to reduce to the sound transmission to the unit below. Here are a few commonly asked questions about the acoustic underlay required.

Which underlay should I buy to use in my building?
Each strata has different rules about the flooring and underlay allowed in their building. Some may require council approval of the materials before installation. Check with your strata before purchasing your flooring. If your strata requires approval before installation, your flooring provider can provide you with product specifications and documented test results to give to your strata council.

My strata requires an underlay with a certain STC and IIC rating. What does this mean?
These are sound-control ratings often used in building codes and strata guidelines. The higher the rating, the better the underlay is at sound reduction. Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings measure transmission of airborne sounds such as neighbours talking or playing music. Impact Isolation Class (IIC) measures impact sounds transferred from the floor to the unit below. Impact sounds are foot steps, objects falling on the floor etc. Manufacturers have their products tested in a lab according to ASTM International standards to determine the STC and IIC ratings.

Does an acoustic underlay reduce all noises for my neighbours below?
No. An acoustic underlay with good IIC and STC ratings will reduce noise transfer but will not eliminate all noise. The effectiveness of the underlay depends on your lifestyle and the construction of the building. If your lifestyle is noisier, your neighbours will be more likely to hear you. Active kids, walking in heavy shoes or high heels and dropping things may create noise that cannot be entirely quieted by any acoustic underlay.

The settings of the underlay lab tests may be different from the construction of the subfloor and ceiling of your building. Most underlay is tested on concrete slabs. IIC and STC ratings increase when the concrete slab thickness increases or when a drop or suspended ceiling is present in the unit below. Ask your flooring provider for testing results that specify the subfloor and ceiling assembly used during lab testing.

The ratings will be decreased for buildings with wood frames and plywood substrates since these materials are bad at preventing sound transference. If you do not have a concrete subfloor or acoustic concrete topping between floors, it’s highly recommended to look into additional sound barrier options. Your downstairs neighbours will thank you.

Is there anything else I can do reduce noise?

Adding a few area rugs to your decor will help reduce noise in areas where the rugs have been placed.

Can I do a nail down installation with acoustic underlay underneath?

No. The sound travels through the nails and negates the effectiveness of the underlay.

Is there a specific underlay you recommend?

We recommend using Shaw Silent Step Ultra. The 72 dB IIC and STC ratings satisfy most strata council requirements about flooring and acoustic underlay. Full testing data from a reputable third party lab is available upon request.

For more information we recommend reading:
Hardwood Floors – The Magazine of the National Wood Flooring Association. “The Lowdown on Wood Flooring Underlayments
Master Floor Covering Standards Institute. “Noise Problems and Acoustical Barriers”

Cork backed vinyl planks and tiles

Cork backed vinyl plank - Synergy planks

When we received samples of the Synergy, a cork backed vinyl plank and tile collection, our reps were excited. When the team is so enthusiastic about a product, it’s worthy of a blog post.

Vinyl planks and tiles have exploded in popularity over the last few years. Our customers love having the wood or tile look without the drawbacks of each. As a relatively new product category, there are always many ways a good product can be improved to be made even better. The Synergy planks and tiles succeed at doing just that.

Cork backed vinyl tile - Synergy tiles

The Synergy planks and tiles combine beautiful visuals with a rating for heavy commercial use. The natural embossed finish adds tremendous realism to the wear layer. The vinyl planks and tiles are waterproof, easy-to-clean and stain resistant. But it’s the attached cork backing that makes Synergy a truly unique product. The cork provides added warmth and sound absorption once installed. No glue down installation is necessary either thanks to the click locking system.

With it’s heavy commercial rating, Synergy could be installed in residential or commercial applications. It would be especially great for areas in the home that traditionally have a lot of moisture – think kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms etc.

Tile 101: Ceramic Tile vs. Porcelain Tile

Tile terminology can be confusing. When talking about tile, many homeowners refer to tiles as ceramic or porcelain as if the names were interchangeable. But it’s unclear for beginners what defines the difference – is it based on the texture? Glaze? Edges? (Hint: it’s none of these.) Most non-natural stone tiles fall within the larger category of “ceramic tiles.”  The ceramic tile category is split into two groups – non-porcelain and porcelain.

How do you tell the difference between non-porcelain and porcelain tiles? We recently had the tile experts from Ames Tile in for a tile product knowledge session and they broke the difference down in one simple sentence

“Porcelain tiles are stronger and less porous than non-porcelain, with a water absorption rate of 0.5% or better.”

Non-porcelain and porcelain ceramic tiles are similar in many ways – both can be glazed and the production method is identical. It’s the water absorption rate that differentiates the two types of tiles.

Let’s take a look at the other features and benefits of porcelain and non-porcelain ceramic tiles.

Ceramic Non-Porcelain tiles

Ceramic non-porcelain tiles (we’ll just refer to them as ceramic for simplicity) can be either glazed or unglazed. When ceramic tiles are glazed, the glaze is applied to the outside of the tile and the tile is fired in the kiln. The resulting glazed tile is hard, non-porous, stain resistant and easy to clean. Glazes can be high-gloss, matte, transparent or opaque, each creating many unique appearances. Since the glaze does not go all the way through the tile, if it is chipped a different inner colour will show through. Ceramic tiles are great for DIY’ers because they are easier to cut than porcelain tiles.

Porcelain tiles
Porcelain has a reputation for being versatile and long-lasting. Since porcelain tiles are produced using a dry-pressed or dust-pressed method, they are more dense and fine grained. They are highly resistant to moisture, staining, heavy loads and wear. The body of the tile is less porous, making it a suitable choice for high-moisture areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Within the porcelain tile category there are a couple different types:

Unglazed porcelain tiles
Unglazed porcelain tiles are known for being very tough and dense. They are a through-coloured product, which means if they are chipped or start to wear due to heavy traffic they will keep their original colour. Unglazed porcelain tiles can have a variety of finishes from matte to high-gloss. Some unglazed tiles even have textured finishes designed to mimic natural stones. These textures come from the mould used to produce the tiles.

Glazed porcelain tiles
Glazed porcelain tiles combine many of the same benefits as unglazed porcelain tile with the wide variety of looks a glaze can provide. They can be glossy, matte, or even polished to a completely flat surface. Like glazed ceramic tiles, any chips will show the inner colour of the tile.

What are rectified edges?
Many porcelain tiles boast that they have rectified edges. A tile with rectified edges was cut after firing. Tiles shrink about 15% after they have been fired and they do not shrink evenly. Cutting tiles after they have been fired ensures that all tiles are exactly the same size.



“My house flooded and my floors are damaged. What happens next?”

Flood damage

Water is the nemesis of flooring. While some flooring (vinyl for example) can hold up better against water than others, most need to be replaced after a flood. Once the insurance company has been called and a restoration company is on their way, many customers still have questions. Most of our customers have (thankfully) never been through a flood before and aren’t familiar with the insurance restoration process. Having answers to your questions and a guide on what is next to come helps to bring much needed peace of mind in this less than desirable situation.

Though we cannot speak to the whole claim process, we can provide some insight about  how the flooring portion of your claim works.

The Process

  1. A restoration contractor comes out to assess the damages. This restoration company can be one recommended by your insurance or one you chose.
  2. The restoration contractor writes a scope and gets their recommended flooring companies to come to your home.
  3.  The flooring company measures the affected areas and takes samples of the existing flooring.
  4. A like kind and quality product is determined. The method used to determine like, kind and quality varies based on the insurance adjuster’s request but we most often send our samples to an independent flooring lab that recommends a like kind and quality replacement product and value.
  5. The flooring companies send a quote to the restoration contractor. Once received, the restoration contractor sends the flooring quote as part of the larger repair scope quote to the insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster reviews the quotes they received (often from multiple companies) and approves one.
  6. Once a quote is approved, the flooring contractor receives an instruction to go ahead with product selection.
This is just the general process followed in most of the insurance claims we have done flooring for. Some steps may vary depending on your restoration company.

Choosing product: I want a similar product

Your flooring company will bring out samples to your home or invite you to take a look at their showroom. The samples shown are the ones recommended by the lab or other products that are similar in quality and price. With thousands of flooring options out on the market and a constant turnover of products to accommodate new trends, no flooring company can guarantee they will find an exact match to your original flooring but we will certainly try! If you still have them, providing receipts from the original flooring purchase can be helpful for finding the same product.

Choosing product: I want something different

Since the existing flooring is being removed, many home owners use the repairs as an opportunity to switch out their current flooring for something new. At MIRA, we will ask a couple of questions about what you’re looking for and find products meet that criteria. We can either bring samples to your home or invite you to our showroom to view a wider selection of options.

Once you have picked your samples, we will work out the upgrade cost for you. Depending on the complexity of the upgrade, we will either work out the price on the spot or email you the upgrade quote at a later date. Replacing your vinyl and carpet with tile and hardwood will often require a full upgrade quote, while the cost difference of choosing a higher priced carpet than your original carpet can be calculated in your home. We determine your upgrade amount by calculating the price of the product and installation, minus the amount covered by insurance. Often this amounts to one lump-sum total but we are more than happy to explain each of the costs to you, line by line if requested.

Do you have further questions about the insurance restoration process? Let us know in the comments!

Hardwood installation types

Hardwood installation types

You have found the perfect hardwood and and now it is time to install. The installation method to use is mostly determined by the hardwood flooring selected. There are three main hardwood installation types – each with it’s own pros and cons to consider.

Nail down

For a nail down installation, the flooring is affixed to the subfloor using nails or flooring cleats. Nail down installations cannot be done with a concrete subfloor – only with a wood subfloor. This installation method is a popular for solid hardwood floors. It is not recommended for condos where noise from walking on hardwood is a concern as the noise will travel through the nails to the suite below.


For this installation type, a speciality adhesive is spread with a trowel to glue the hardwood to the subfloor. Your flooring professional will recommend the best adhesive to use for your floor. This installation type is often used with engineered flooring or parquet. It is not recommended for solid hardwoods.


As the name implies, floating hardwood is not attached to the subfloor. Instead the hardwood floats on top of the subfloor. Floating floor installations require a underpad to be placed on top of the subfloor before installation.

There are two types of floating installation: tongue & groove and click. For a floating tongue and groove installation, a recommended adhesive is applied to the tongue and groove of the floor board to hold the boards together. A click system on the other hand, doesn’t use adhesive. The manufacturer’s patented click system allows the boards to stay together.

If you are still unsure which hardwood installation type is most suitable for your hardwood, your flooring professional can advise you on the best installation method.

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