Open-access content Thursday 13th June 2013
Trevor Horsley breaks down the requirements of the current building regulations to provide sound, heat and insulation in walls and floors.
17 June 2013
The Building Regulations 2010 and the accompanying Approved Documents ensure that building work carried out in England and Wales meets set standards on issues such as fire safety, ventilation and conservation
of fuel and power.
There are currently 14 sections. Flooring issues, namely around noise and heat insulation requirements, are addressed mainly in Part E, 'Resistance to the passage of sound' and in Part L 'Conservation of fuel and power'.
Part E sets out the rules around acoustic insulation requirements in dwelling-houses, flats, rooms for residential use and schools,
and covers not only floors, but also external and internal walls.
The rules are an attempt to address an increasing number of complaints about noise, partly due to a higher density of housing per hectare. The adverse impact on health and well-being from nuisance neighbours and their barking dogs, loud music, raised voices, banging doors and DIY activities has been well documented.
Even the sound of a neighbour's footsteps overhead, caused by inadequate flooring insulation, can impact the quality of life of those down below. Earlier this year, a couple took legal action claiming their lives had been made hell by the clicking of heels on the hard floor of the £5 million apartment above their West London flat.
Part E of schedule 1 specifies that buildings shall be designed and built to provide reasonable resistance to sound from other parts of the same building and from adjoining buildings. This
is achieved by ensuring that internal walls and internal flooring provide reasonable resistance
to sound and reverberation.
Table 1a stipulates that floors and party walls (a dividing partition between two adjoining buildings) need to achieve an airborne sound insulation of at least 45dB. For houses and flat dwellings formed by material change of use, the figure is 43dB. These are about the sound level of a quiet conversation. Party floors need to achieve an impact sound insulation of less than 62dB (64dB for dwellings), about the sound level of conversational speech from about one foot away.
Pre-completion testing must then be carried out a minimum of one in every 10 dwellings of
the same house type. Depending on the mix of different types of dwelling in a development,
testing will be required on 10 to 30 per cent of the development. Testing is to be undertaken by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)-registered test organisation, or European equivalent.
Section 3 of Approved Document E sets out examples of floor types which, if built correctly, should meet the performance standards set out in Table 1a. Each floor type - concrete floor with ceiling and soft floor covering, concrete floor with ceiling and floating floor, floating floor or timber frame base with ceiling and platform floor - should use a specified ceiling treatment.
This includes plasterboard on proprietary resilient bars with absorbent material, plasterboard on timber battens or proprietary resilient channels with absorbent material, and concrete base with ceiling and soft floor covering.
Then there are specific requirements around issues such as thickness of material for soft floor coverings and junctions of flooring materials. It's also essential to opt for reputable tradespeople to ensure the quality of the workmanship. Sealing of air paths, clearing of cavities and good detailing are all key aspects in maximising sound insulation.
The installation of insulation in flooring must meet the minimum energy efficiency values set out in Approved Documents Part L. Approved Document L1 is specific to (new and existing) dwellings, and L2 relates to all buildings other than dwellings.
It controls fuel and power conservation by prescribing the insulation values of building elements, the allowable area of windows, doors and other openings, air permeability of the structure, the heating efficiency of boilers, the insulation and controls for heating appliances and systems, hot water storage and lighting efficiency.
Specific to insulating floors, the floor should achieve a U-value of 0.25 W/m2K in new dwellings and 0.22 W/m2K in existing dwellings, even less if possible. The U-value is a measure of how quickly heat will travel through the floor. To achieve this standard, at least 70mm of high-performance foam insulation or 150mm of mineral wool is normally needed, according to the Energy Saving Trust, but this will vary depending on the floor type, shape and size. These standards even apply when at least half of a floor is being replaced.
Estimates from the Energy Saving Trust suggest that insulating a timber floor saves around £60 and around 240kg in carbon dioxide per year. Filling in the gaps between the floor and the skirting board saves around £25 per year and around 100kg in carbon dioxide. Insulating a concrete floor also saves around £100, but can be more expensive to do, meaning that it takes longer to pay back.
In Scotland, work is regulated by the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, with guidance on achieving the standards set out in Technical Handbooks for Domestic Buildings and Non-domestic Buildings. While both sets of legislation are intended to ensure that buildings are safe, efficient and sustainable for all, they differ in their specific requirements. Always seek advice from reputable flooring experts that have knowledge of the applicable legislation.
Aside from the legal issues, slips and trips can be caused by flooring choice, poor maintenance and management and the impact of the wrong type of flooring in the wrong area. Conversely, the right materials well-installed and correctly-maintained in the right colour can act as a boost to a business.
Trevor Horsley, Strata Tiles