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What Are The Best Underlayments for Condos and Apartments

by Bob and Betsy
Published: Updated: 89 comments 13 minutes read

Dear Bob and Betsy,
I am responsible for reviewing and approving architectural modification requests for our condo association. Our documents state that our floors must have both the IIC and STC at 55 or higher. We have 6 inch solid concrete floors with no acoustical ceilings. What are the best underlayment for condos and apartments that meet our requirements? Thank you, Fred

Dear Fred,

This is a really important question! For those living in apartments or condos, and having the luxury to be able to renovate them, you will have to abide by the standards set forth by your condo/apartment association or HOA. One of these things that is commonly overlooked is the noise your neighbors underneath you will hear! We have compiled more information for you to help to decide what’s best for you. Cheers! Bob & Betsy

Understanding Underlayment

First, let’s talk about what exactly underlayment is, and what it is used for. If your apartment or condo is using a floating floor, like laminate or engineered hardwood, underlayment is always required. If the owner decides on a vinyl flooring, underlayment may not be necessary depending on the type of vinyl plank selected. Your HOA may need to specify instructions for each type of flooring.

Underlayment is a thin, foam or felt layer that is installed above the subfloor and below the floating floor. The types and thicknesses of underlayment will depend on a few factors. You can learn more about underlayment here.

Underlayment gives a few benefits to a homeowner, and even a neighbor underneath you. The main benefits of underlayment include:

  • Comfort underfoot (especially under concrete)
  • Moisture barrier
  • Smoothing out slight imperfections in the subfloor
  • Sound dampening
  • Thermal properties (depending on the underlayment)

What Does IIC and STC Ratings Mean?

Now, let’s talk about the IIC and STC ratings. While looking at underlayment for your laminate floor, you may come across IIC-STC with a number next to them. These are ratings that tell you how well the underlayment will dampen sound. The higher a number is following these letters, the less noise will be transmitted. The effect of this is mostly noticeable in rooms underneath the room in which the underlayment and laminate are installed. This is why many apartment buildings, commercial offices buildings, and condo associations require a minimum rating where sound is concerned. The general ratings are as follows:

  • IIC-STC 70  Virtually Sound Proof
  • IIC-STC 60   Superior Sound Proofing
  • IIC-STC 50   International Building Code
  • IIC-STC 40  Sound Proofing below most codes

(STC) Sound Transmission Class from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E336/E413 and (IIC) Impact Isolation Class ASTM E492/E989 ratings are measured in decibels reduced for certain types of sound. The STC rating pertains to airborne noise, such as voices, radio, television, etc. The IIC rating measures impact sounds, such as footfalls, dropped objects etc.

The transmission of these sounds through floor/ceiling assemblies (such as those found in multi-level homes and apartments) will be inhibited by underlayment with higher IIC and STC ratings. The International Building Code (IBC) states that all multi-family buildings must have a minimum sound insulation rating of STC 50 and IIC 50, but yours may vary. Check with your condo/apartment association to get the exact numbers, so you make your minimum requirements.

Which Underlayments Make The Cut?

Some premium underlayment will have ratings that exceed these strict IIC and STC ratings made by most condo/apartment associations. Brands such as Kronoswiss, Roberts, Quick Step, and Floor Muffler are all perfect underlayment for your condo or apartment. Let’s take a look at the wide selection available to you!

Bestlaminate 3-in-1 Felt Flooring Underlayment

Bestlaminate offers a superior felt option that includes a moisture barrier, cushion and sound dampening. This 3mm felt underlayment is available in a 100 sq.ft. roll and perfect for any floating floor, both laminate and engineered hardwoods. The STC rating is 66db and IIC rating is 69db, exceeding most requirements for sound dampening. This roll is made from recycled fibers and includes a self-adhesive overlap for easy installation!

Bestlaminate Felt Underlayment 3 in 1

Roberts Super Felt Premium Underlayment

This underlayment is manufactured by Roberts. It is 3mm thick and comes in either 100 sq.ft. rolls, or 360 sq.ft. jumbo rolls, which are perfect for contractors looking to cover many apartments quickly. The STC Rating is 66db, and the IIC Rating is 67db. It inclused a 3″ overlap and self-adhesive strip to make installation even easier. This underlayment also has a pre-attached vapor barrier to protect floors from moisture escaping concrete subfloors. The recycled fiber construction adds extra insulation and cushioning to make both residents, and downstairs neighbors happy!

Roberts Felt Underlayment

Quick-Step Combi Value Floor

This underlayment is manufactured by Quick-Step in the USA. It is 3mm thick and comes in 100 sq.ft. rolls, measured 40in x 30ft. STC Rating is 67db and the IIC Rating is 68db, well above the minimum requirement for apartments and condos!

Quick Step combi underlayment

Roberts Silent 3-in-1 Vapor Underlayment

This premium underlayment is 3mm and comes in rolls of 100 sq.ft. The Silent 3-in-1 underlayment is great for use over concrete and wood sub-flooring. It can be used underneath laminate flooring, engineered, and even solid hardwood flooring! The STC Rating is 67db and the IIC Rating is 68, perfect for condos and apartments! This unique underlayment retains 96% of it’s original thickness after 7 days, compared to only 57% by leading 3-in-1 foam products. The microbeads in the underlayment allow for maximum bounce back and circulation so no mold or mildew gets a chance to grow! A great, long-lasting underlayment.

Roberts Silent 3-in-1 Underlayment
Roberts Silent 3 in 1 Vapor Underlayment

Kronoswiss Provent Silent Vapor 3-IN-1 Underlayment

This is another 3-in-1 underlayment, but it’s manufactured by the flooring company Kronoswiss. These rolls are 3mm thick and come in rolls of 215.28 sq.ft., bigger than the average sized roll! The STC rating is 67 and the IIC Rating is 71, which gives you even better noise absorption than the leading premium underlayment! Kronoswiss’ MicroPumping System provides air circulation underneath the boards when you walk on it, inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew on your subfloor! This underlayment is also non-allergenic, so there will be no issues for residents with asthma or allergies!

Provent Silent Vapor 3-in-1 Underlayment
ProVent Silent Vapor 3-in-1 Underlayment

Floor Muffler UltraSeal Underlayment

Now, for the cream of the crop, the grand-daddy of all sound-reducing underlayments, Floor Muffler. This underlayment is STC Rated 73db and IIC Rated 74db. It will be hard for your downstairs neighbors to hear anything coming through their ceiling! This underlayment comes in 100 sq.ft. rolls and 700 sq.ft. jumbo rolls, making this a contractor’s dream! It’s suitable for cement and wood subfloors, so it can almost be installed over anything! It even comes with a self-sealing strip to make laying it out as quickly as possible. To top it all off, it’s made in the USA!

Floor Muffler 700 sq.ft. Roll and 100 sq.ft. Roll Comparison
Floor Muffler 700 sq.ft. Roll and 100 sq.ft. Roll Comparison

We hope we have given you plenty of choices of underlayment to meet your condo/apartment association IIC and STC rating requirements that fit your needs and budget. If you have any questions, please write us in the comments below or call us at 1-800-520-0961!

More Information On Underlayment:

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89 comments

Mike Sherman November 4, 2023 - 5:26 am

I recently did an expensive repair of the laminate flooring in our bathroom due to undetected moisture. To hopefully prevent this from occurring again I purchased a pin less moisture meter. It has settings for hardwood, softwood, wall, and masonry. Unfortunately there is no information on which setting to use to measure through laminate flooring. Switching through the settings produces wildly different readings. Any recommendations would be very appreciated. Our flooring is 20 year old Pergo.

Thanks in advance.

Reply
Rachel Vahcic November 10, 2023 - 9:25 am

Thanks for your question, Mike! We would suggest contacting the manufacturer of the moisture meter to fully understand how to read it and what setting to use. If you have any other flooring questions, please reach out to our customer service team!

Reply
Dimitrii August 31, 2023 - 6:29 pm

Hello! Our Condo Board of Directors has very strict requirements to floor installation. It says that “Any kind of underlay is permissible providing it is installed according to manufacturer’s specifications and has an IIC rating of 85 or more”. For reference it’s a 2-store wood frame building with concrete floor. The best I could find so far it’s a 12mm laminate with IIC 75 and Cork Underlayment with IIC 73. Is there a way to count combined IIC rating and would it be sufficient to get IIC 85+? Thank you.

Reply
Rachel Vahcic September 26, 2023 - 1:58 pm

Thanks for your question, Dimitrii. We would suggest checking with your condo Board to see what exact products and brands are used in other condos to get an idea of choices that will be allowed under the board of directors. An IIC rating of 85 or more can be tricky to come by, so asking them directly will be helpful in narrowing down the search!

Reply
Jim Risotti November 19, 2021 - 7:37 am

Bob&Betsy, Our condo building has 6″ concrete slab, with NO suspended ceilings below. Your article of underlayment e.g. the muffler in the article has an IIC of 73. My question is was that number as well as some off the other underlayments tested with or without suspended ceilings below?

Reply
Vanessa December 9, 2021 - 11:32 am

Hi Jim. It is standard sound rating testing procedure to have suspended ceilings for underlayment.

Reply
Fernando Barros August 18, 2021 - 5:22 pm

I have Shawn hardwood floor HW 486. 7.5″ kingston Hickory color 933 coat of Arms in the entry and the kitchen. I am planing to extend it to the hall way and living room which will replaced my existing carpet. I need to prove to HOA board that: 1- i need to to proposed that with the proper insulation and sound proofing hardware i can be as quit or quiet or than the carpet. 2 What is the Best underlayment for this case? Is the underlaymentSTC Rated 73db and IIC Rated 74db my best option? i am open for your suggestions and appreciate the help

Reply
Vanessa August 20, 2021 - 12:51 pm

Hi Fernando, With hardwood installations, I always recommend using a felt underlayment. This is going to be the most conducive sound control that you will get with hardwood installs. A close second would be the Floor Muffler Underlayment. Most of our underlayments have spec sheets attached to their page where you would be able to present that documentation to your HOA.

Reply
CakePlease July 19, 2021 - 3:33 pm

Is it wise to use the Floor Muffler UltraSeal with an additional layer of cork under it, in order to increase the sound proofing on top of a concrete condo flooring? On the very top, we will be using engineered wood.

Reply
Vanessa August 2, 2021 - 9:10 am

We recommend contacting the manufacturer, just to ensure they will allow double padding under the floor you are installing.

Reply
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