More than just noise
By Ortwin Top Product Manager Itec Contract Floors.
THROUGHOUT all commercial, public and education environments, the presence of noise is often problematic, particularly in areas where partitioning or furniture cannot act as acoustic insulators. Even when such insulators are present, anything that can be done to combat noise is welcome. As one of the largest surfaces in any building, the floor has a role to play in dealing with acoustics but one must also bear aesthetics, practicality and durability in mind.
For many retro-fit environments when the application of advanced acoustic subfloor constructions isn’t possible, the ability of the floor covering to absorb sound can be even more significant. Traditionally, acoustic absorption has been left to textile-based floorcoverings, but there are instances when these simply aren’t practical.
In areas that need to withstand high levels of wear, provide ease of use for wheeled traffic and remain easy to clean under normal schedules, then alternatives need to be sought.
Acoustic performance from vinyl flooring
Vinyl flooring meets these performance requirements and is favoured in healthcare and education establishments for this very reason, but until quite recently did little to deal with noise-related issues. However, there are now specially developed acoustic vinyl floors that are tested to reduce impact sound by up to 19dB, while retaining the performance characteristics of traditional heterogeneous vinyl flooring.
The chief advantage of the heterogeneous vinyl construction employed by Itec Contract Floors is that the backing can be adapted to alter acoustic function without affecting performance characteristics notably, meaning it is possible to manufacture a vinyl floor that can combat sound through a compact foam back while also providing high performance levels.
Floors within the Acoustic Flooring Collection can reduce impact sound by up to 19dB while still achieving the all-important Class 33 Commercial Heavy rating under EN ISO 10874.
Essentially, acoustic vinyl flooring features a cellular foam backing developed through researching the impact of different thicknesses, densities and combinations of layers. Not only do these influence the floor’s ability to absorb sound, but they also impact on the performance characteristics of the floor, so it’s important both are tested to ensure the ideal combination of acoustic absorption and performance.
The main consideration in the manufacturing process is to find the right level of acoustic performance without adversely affecting performance and durability. Keeping in mind that acoustic performance and rest indentation performance are more or less opposites in production, this is no easy task. If a higher dB value is to be achieved, the product must be made less compact, so you’ll naturally have floors more susceptible to indentation, the goal is to get the right balance.
Excellent acoustics in a wide range of environments
A chief advantage of acoustic vinyl is that it can deliver excellent acoustic performance in a wide range of locations. In fact, if there is a need for a low maintenance, hardwearing floor that stays looking good but that can also deal with sound; acoustic vinyl is an ideal choice.
Education facilities can benefit greatly from the use of acoustic vinyl flooring, where it provides a surface that can provide an environment more conducive to learning. So, it can play a role in social housing, helping to create a more homelike atmosphere while remaining easy to care for and durable.
Of course, commercial premises can enjoy the benefits of the floor as well; in these locations it can help to combat noise with a low maintenance and tough floor, available in a wide range of natural and architectural finishes.
More than just noise
With such wide-ranging applications, it’s certainly important acoustic flooring delivers performance and so floors are packed with technology that enhances usability. All acoustic flooring from Itec Contract Floors is equipped with Hyperguard+, a polyurethane wear layer technology that provides a long-lasting low maintenance surface that resists scuffs and stains.
Ensuring acoustic flooring can slot straight in to existing maintenance regimes or newly-established ones without complication, Hyperguard+ is a real boost in all environments, but particularly where floors come under intense pressure from traffic and activities alike.
Rated R10 under DIN 51130, also means a good degree of slip-restraint, not safety flooring standard, but enough for acoustic flooring to be suitable for use in congregation and thoroughfare areas, as well as classrooms.
Selected collections also benefit from the addition of Sanitec, an antibacterial treatment that helps to provide a more hygienic floor – a great addition no matter what the location, but something that will prove a real benefit in residential care environments.
Universal performance in a range of authentic looks
Using a drum-printed décor layer, acoustic vinyl is extremely adaptable when it comes to aesthetics. With everything from popular wood and stone effects, through to mineral looks and even bright and bold colours; it proves that delivering a functional flooring surface doesn’t have to mean a compromise in aesthetics.
A prime example of this is in multi-occupancy housing, such as student villages, where the flooring choice must ultimately contribute to an environment that attracts business year-after-year. A floor that can prove attractive with homelike decors and that feels comfortable and quiet underfoot will certainly achieve this in the short term, but it must continue to do so with every intake.
The only way to achieve this is with a floor that’s easy to clean and resists wear. While certainly attractive, natural materials such as wood simply can’t match acoustic vinyl flooring’s combination of assets and so it is increasingly being specified for more than just acoustic performance.
A huge tell-tale sign of all types of vinyl flooring, including acoustic, has always been the presence of ugly welded seams. At best a noticeable division and at worst spoiling a perfectly good wood effect, these four-mm wide joins have long been seen as the only way to install vinyl flooring. While manufacturers had done much to colour-match weld rods, it is still a rather unsightly method.
However, the heterogeneous nature of acoustic vinyl from Itec Contract Floors makes it possible to use an installation method that’s been widespread throughout Europe for several years, and which has been proven to leave a stronger joint that’s almost imperceptible to the naked eye.
Rather than melting a weld rod to ‘hold’ vinyl sheets together, Invisiweld relies on a much stronger chemical bond that fuses each vinyl sheet together. With virtually no tell-tale seam, it is a far preferable way to enjoy the benefits of acoustic vinyl flooring and helps all locations to retain aesthetic principles.
A matter of width
Selected acoustic flooring ranges, including Silento Design and Silento Timber from Itec Contract Floors, are available in two and four-metre roll widths, ensuring waste and seams are minimised. Fewer seams reduce potential failure ‘hotspots’ and this is making four-metre wide vinyl flooring particularly popular in open congregation areas, where the wider sheet also helps create a more attractive floor. Of course, in thoroughfares, a two-metre wide floor makes more sense, and this can be achieved without comprising aesthetics: the same décor can be selected in the most appropriate width.
As a floor that can help combat the issue of noise as part of wider measures throughout the rest of the refurbishment or build, acoustic vinyl flooring makes complete sense. However, it shouldn’t be relied solely on as while excellent at reducing noise without compromising performance, it’s by no means as effective at dealing with impact sound as a dedicated subfloor construction would be. Nevertheless, in occasions where acoustic performance is being combatted through other measures it makes a formidable partner.
Durable enough to achieve a Class 33 Heavy Commercial rating, resisting marks and scuffs to ensure long-term appearance retention, easy to clean and relatively low-cost; acoustic vinyl flooring is ideal for high-traffic areas in a large range of locations including in the hospitality, corporate, retail and education sectors.
Itec Contract Floors