The laughter and squeals of little children might be sweet music to a mother’s ears, but to neighbors living in increasingly popular multi-unit housing, often it is simply “noise.” And what about the loud office guy…you know the one...discussing the big ballgame at the water cooler in a voice that could have been heard above the din of the packed stadium the night before. Other common noises such as the dropped pot or pan, the soft thud of footsteps or the powerful entertainment system can also cause mild to major annoyances that disrupt our lives or at least slightly annoy or distract us.

Now, with newer, more efficient technology and a huge boom in construction of multi-level residential and commercial units such as apartments, condominiums and high-rise office buildings, contractors and builders are finally taking notice. They see the clear need for effective sound-reducing barriers and also recognize it as something homebuyers, renters and office tenants now expect.

The increasing popularity of tile flooring has accelerated the demand for a proven acoustic underlay system that reduces sound transmission through sub-floors for tile installations. Leading companies in the flooring-related businesses are now developing effective noise-reduction solutions in a wide range of technologies. It’s important, however, to select a product that bonds efficiently, dries quickly, installs easily and meets all of the relevant codes.

“There is the need for sound reduction that not only meets or exceeds Sound Transmission Class (STC) requirements, but also falls within LEED guidelines for environmentally responsible materials,” said Tim McDonald, Chief Operating Officer of Mer-Krete Systems, a leading supplier of waterproofing, crack isolation and underlayment products for tile and stone installations. “Our Sound Shield 7000, for example, is sound-rated up to 63. This is well above the standard accepted rate of 33. And it is designated as a ‘green building’ product that earns LEED credits. It’s also rated extra heavy duty on the Robinson Floor Test, and that’s important because product durability is essential.”

Companies such as Mer-Krete are offering sound-reduction products that have the ability to diminish both airborne noise and impact noise, from TVs and stereos, to human voices, loud appliances, people walking on hard-soled shoes and objects moved or rolled across the floor. Installers are using a wide range of materials, including foam, fiberglass, various types of wood, rubber and even glass.

Floor Underlayment Products, for instance, offers a three-dimensional core of extruded nylon filaments that has the ability to convert and store vibrational energy. Cerazorb, from Impacta, is a synthetic anti-microbial cork underlayment for ceramic tile that is touted for the fact that it will not rot, swell or absorb water. AMI’s Proflex™ MSC90 product consists of a rubberized membrane that reduces noise transmission and also works to eliminate the transmission of cracks from the concrete slab base.

Mer-Krete, however, offers a complete system. The Sound Shield 7000 product is combined with the company’s Thin-Set 801 polymer-modified fast-setting mortar to provide highly effective sound protection for use with ceramic tile and stone, as well as other installed flooring surfaces. The thin, load-bearing Sound Shield 7000 mat is a fiber-reinforced underlay that meets ASTM E989-E492 requirements. As an ANSI A118.2 rated anti-fracture membrane, the product provides crack isolation protection up to 1/4”. Consequently, it not only noticeably reduces sound, but also works as a crack preventive and a 100% vapor barrier.

Because it is made of recycled rubber, highly resilient Sound Shield 7000 is a popular choice for “green building” projects. It performs equally well as a complement to standard construction.

Sound Shield 7000, at just 1/8” thick, is thinner, lighter and stronger than conventional underlays. The 4’ x 3 1/2’ panel sheets eliminate the problem of curled edges and make the product simple to install…even for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. A polyester fabric on both sides of the mat gives it extra adhesive strength.

Sound-reducing materials are traditionally non-porous, by virtue of what they are designed to do. When laying porcelain tile or some other vitreous-type material on top of it, there is no room for moisture to escape, which ultimately destroys the thin-set’s properties. That’s why Mer-Krete’s Thin Set-801 is such an integral part of the system. This self-curing mortar not only dries quickly, without need for the evaporative process, but it also features superior bond strength without any shrinkage when placed between two dense, impermeable surfaces such as porcelain tile or granite. When mixed with water, it is then troweled to form a high-performance mortar that meets the strict standards of ANSI A118.4. Make sure that, whatever thin-set you choose, it is non-shrinking and non-staining, non-toxic and non-flammable, all features of Thin-Set 801.

“Our research tells us that in cases where the sound reduction material does not dry properly, significant problems can occur with cracking, crumbling, an unsteady floor surface and improper bonding,” said McDonald. “That’s why a sound reduction mat by itself is not the solution. It requires a complete system with complementary qualities.”

Today’s business offices and residential structures, particularly those of multi-unit design, should utilize some type of effective sound reduction system. The choices are much more diverse than in the past, yet the concept remains virtually the same…shut off the noise to create an aesthetically-pleasing atmosphere where people can live, work and play without distraction. Responsible companies such as Mer-Krete and others who blend solid engineering, environmentally-friendly technology and a full systems approach provide the kinds of solutions that are music to every installer’s ears.