When designers get to work on senior care settings, they must always be concerned about what they put underfoot. Textures, colors, composition, cleanability and many other factors come into play. And yet there is, of course, no single kind of flooring that should exist throughout a facility. Experts advise here on how to decide on appropriate surfaces and locations for them.

For residential-type rooms, there is a wide range of consumer-oriented carpeting products available, carpeting industry veterans point out.

But for common areas and spaces that are more prone to high traffic or spills, there is a “performance-based” product, says Paul Young, director, healthcare markets for Shaw Contract Group.

Products of this sort feature commercial fabric constructions and include a critical moisture barrier.

“This type of product can be more expensive on the initial purchase, but can be maintained more aggressively and allow for multiple resident use,” Young says.

Public and common areas will need high-performance, patterned carpeting products, Young adds. These include increasingly popular carpeting tiles, which can be installed and substituted out more easily than most carpeting.

Young also put in a vote for resilient luxury vinyl (planks and tiles), which is commonly used in resident lounge, spa and certain dining/drinking areas.

“The wood, stone and new textures are creating visuals that add to the upscale, home-like environment,” he notes.

Of course, there is no single “perfect” flooring for a facility, given the wide range of challenges and functions needed in a senior care setting, reminds Ridley Kinsey, director of healthcare markets at Patcraft.

“A good approach is to identify the most important needs and select floor coverings that do the best job of satisfying the most priority needs the best — that is, a weighted-average approach,” Kinsey believes. “The variety of residents and patients and their activities requires a somewhat customized approach.”

For both mobility and safety reasons, highly trafficked areas should be firm and level — suitable for walking and rolling, and with an appropriate coefficient of friction in order to minimize slips and falls.

For areas where there could be frequent incontinence or spills, providers should choose floor coverings with quality moisture barriers, Kinsey points out. 

Colors and patterns also must be appropriate for the spaces. Light or solid colors will show more soiling and traffic patterns in busy areas. That’s why most providers choose “medium” colors and patterns.

“However, high-contrast or busy patterns should not be used in Alzheimer’s or memory care areas since they can cause confusion or become passive restraints,” he adds.

Many experts remind not to confuse material price with life-cycle cost.

“It is crucial for today’s healthcare facilities to measure both first costs, such as material cost, installation, sub-floor prep, etc., and life-cycle costs, such as maintenance, repair, replacement, etc.,” says Joe Martere, national sales vice president, healthcare, Tandus | Centiva. 

Facility managers and maintenance personnel should consider moisture and contaminant control first and foremost when shopping for any “soft surface” flooring, Martere says.

“While most all carpet will improve safety, comfort and acoustics, many are not suitable for use in healthcare,” he adds. “It is imperative that facility managers select flooring that maintenance personnel can properly maintain, and disinfect when necessary.”

Flooring should be impermeable, even at the seams, so that contaminants are not driven in and cleaning is easier.

One aspect often overlooked is installation parameters, such as odors and displacement, Martere notes. For example, many major carpet manufacturers offer installment options that do not require wet adhesives and might use low-volatile organic compounds. 

Others do not require significant “setup” time, he says, which is critical in any 24/7 environment. 

Mistakes to avoid

– Make sure the areas prone to any kind of liquid spills have a strong moisture barrier.

– Don’t allow an installer to upend your community with unpleasant odors, setup time or unnecessary displacement of residents.