Flats and flooring

The laying of a laminate or hardwood floor in place of carpet results in more impact noise (for example, footsteps, chair scrapes and dropped items) travelling into the floor. These noises can quickly become an annoyance for downstairs neighbours in flats, often without the upper property being aware of it.

Laminate and hardwood flooring is an attractive alternative to carpet, but is not recommended for every type of building. Residential flats are generally designed to take carpeted floors, hard timber floor finishes are not normally suitable in these buildings because of their susceptibility to impact noise transmission. Flats affected by impact noise problems can also suffer from more general issues of poor sound insulation for example hearing noises from neighbouring properties such as voices, TV and stereos.

Before removing soft floor coverings, it is recommended that you speak to your downstairs neighbour about the existing level of sound insulation between properties in order to identify if the sound insulation is good enough to allow the use of a hard floor surface. If the sound insulation between flats is described as only satisfactory or worse, it is recommended against either revealing floorboards or installing timber laminate or hardwood floor surfaces.

It is generally only specially designed flats with substantial floor structures that are able to feature hard floor surfaces without causing adverse neighbour reaction.

New laminate and hardwood floors should always be laid on an underlay. This extra layer helps level the sub-floor, prevents the joints from cracking and helps extend the life of the floor. Their use also helps reduce the amount of impact noise passed through the floor, although underlays do not prevent all noise, and are considerably less effective than carpets at reducing neighbour footstep noise. Advice on appropriate underlays, specially designed to reduce impact noise transmission, can be obtained from the flooring manufacturers.

Prior to the purchase and installation of new laminate or hardwood flooring in an upper floor flat, confirmation should be made that there are no tenancies of deed conditions forbidding their use.

If you live in a lower flat and are affected by neighbour noise there are limited options to address the problem. Whilst a legal option can be tried, progress is only likely to be achieved where the root issue can be attributed to structural alteration of the floor or unreasonable behaviour by the residents.

Good practice installation tips:

  1. Only install a laminate or hardwood floor surface on a clear, level, prepared sub-floor and only ever with an underlay designed to reduce impact noise transmission.
  2. The floor surface should be a floating layer, so there are no nails or fixings passing through the underlay surface.
  3. The floor should not be butted up hard to walls, skirting boards or protruding pipes. A small gap should be left around the edge of the floor surface.

Quiet neighbour tips:

  1. Avoid wearing outdoor footwear on hard floor surfaces, particularly high heeled shoes.
  2. Use rugs, particularly above neighbour's bedrooms and living rooms.
  3. Fit felt pads under chairs and tables.

If you would like to report a noise nuisance, please complete our online form: