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Are hardwood floors an anti-social choice?

Posted on August 8th, 2012 In: Floor Sanding News, News

While hardwood floors may be the on-trend choice for interior design right now, a shock ruling in Scotland has led to them being banned from thousands of flats in two of the country’s largest cities. Thanks to a growing cacophony of complaints from neighbours, landlords in Edinburgh and Dundee have been ordered to fit carpets over their wooden floors. The decision, which was prompted by a revision in Scottish Parliament guidelines, could cost landlords thousands of pounds per flat to replace the existing wooden floors with carpet.

The ruling in Scotland directly affects flats in multiple occupancy properties, where more than two unrelated people live. The guidelines state that all flats on the first floor and above that have residential properties directly below them must fit carpets in the bedrooms and living rooms, and cushioned vinyl in the bathroom and kitchen. The cost to landlords could be as much as £4,000 per flat, and they have reacted furiously to the decision. Some tenants who specifically looked for wooden floors when they were flat-hunting aren’t exactly thrilled with the new legislation either.

However, for those living underneath a flat with wooden floors, noise penetration can be a serious problem, making life a misery for those who have to put up with constant noise from above. Many landlords have removed existing carpets in multiple occupancy properties, not merely for aesthetic reasons but because it is far easier to maintain. This decision is also popular among tenants, but often the decision to rip up the carpets has been taken without any consideration as to how exposed wooden floor boards may affect the tenant below.

Noise penetration

Noise penetration – the constant sound of footsteps or the noise from a TV or music system filtering down through the floor – can cause massive disturbance to those living underneath. In many cases, the buildings are not architecturally suited to having wooden flooring on upper storey flats. One of the most common complaints to environmental health officers is ‘noisy neighbours’, and noise penetration from wooden flooring could most certainly constitute grounds for complaint.

However, there are ways of ensuring that noise penetration is minimised and that your neighbours downstairs are not disturbed by your movement across a wooden floor. Sound insulation can be relatively easily installed underneath wooden flooring, which will cut the levels of noise penetration down to an absolute minimum. However, landlords with multiple residences may find that this is a costly decision, but the price of installing sound-proofing needs to be weighed against the cost of replacing wooden flooring with carpeting that is also acceptable to their tenants. In the long term it may in fact be cheaper to choose soundproofing over carpeting, which will have a shorter life span and needs to be replaced on a fairly regular basis.

Making the right choice

The decision by the Scottish Parliament could have far-reaching consequences. Other cities are already looking at the decision, and some councils have already indicated that they will examine each situation on a case-by-case basis. But if the general consensus tips in favour of the complainants, then landlords across the country could find themselves with a very hefty bill on their hands, either to replace wooden flooring with carpets or to install soundproofing in upper storey flats.

While wooden floors are both fashionable and easy to maintain, in multiple occupancy properties consideration for the well being of your neighbours has to also be a factor in your flooring decisions. Hearing every single footfall, the sound of a television or raised voices filtering down through the floor can make life miserable for those living below, so make sure that your wooden flooring isn’t an anti-social choice.

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