Flooring is an especially important design element in the nursing home environment. Nursing home flooring must stand up to heavy traffic, be subjected to spills, prevent slips, cushion falls and offer a soothing aesthetic. The commercial grade flooring necessary for this type of environment should also be engineered with anti-bacterial properties, is easy to maintain, environmentally friendly and cost effective. Plus, it should ease the repetitive stresses and strains the staff experience from walking and standing during their shifts.
Even with a broad array of demands, balancing aesthetics, safety and maintenance is challenging but achievable. Today, senior living communities like nursing homes are striving to be more natural and homelike in the public spaces, corridors and patient rooms. These updated facilities now contain as many areas and amenities as a hotel: dining areas (formal, casual, bistros and cafes), gift shops, beauty salons, spas and wellness centers, physical therapy facilities, fitness areas, lounged and social areas, meeting rooms and often arts/crafts studios, library and an auditorium for concerts and speakers. Staff areas are also part of the mix, including nursing offices and stations, administration areas, meeting rooms and training rooms. Flooring materials are supporting this trend. Flooring that offers low-maintenance cleaning and is available in colors and styles that create a homelike atmosphere are important factors, especially those that support evidence-based design studies that claim soothing physical environments promote healing and safety.
Though the abilities and physical needs of senior living residents are varied, the flooring requirements are similar between the residence types. To help prevent the spread of germs and bacteria, hardwood flooring is recommended by architects as the “hypoallergenic flooring product of choice.” Nursing homes have been installing hardwood flooring for years as a way of battling the spread of germs and allergens.
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is fast-becoming a popular choice because of its proven performance, ease of maintenance and less institutional-like feel. Not only does it afford a wide array of high-end design options (from vibrant colors to natural earth tones, including wood, stone or ceramic visuals), but it’s also easy to maintain and install. A durable, abrasive-resistant wear layer reduces the chemicals and labor needed for routine maintenance while also preventing staining and damage. LVT lends itself well to the hospitality-like environment many nursing homes are becoming.
Other popular choices for flooring in the nursing home environment include rubber and solid vinyl. With a wide range of texture and color combinations to choose from, rubber flooring provides a safe and cushioned surface, and it’s resistant to damage from gouges and scuffs.
Solid vinyl tile is another attractive option, as is linoleum. Not only does solid vinyl tile have a built-in antimicrobial barrier to control bacteria and fungi, it is available in a variety of aesthetic options. Its maintenance is also less labor intensive.
Linoleum is gaining renewed interest among healthcare facilities concerned about their impact on the environment and wanting to provide a healthy space. Not only does it have strong antimicrobial properties, it requires less use of harsh chemicals and is easy to maintain. Linoleum is generally being used in public spaces, such as hallways, nurse’s stations and waiting rooms, in addition to patient rooms.
Carpet is still widely used in nursing home flooring, especially in the common social areas and individual patient rooms. In the residential rooms, carpet tends to be loop pile construction, often with a moisture barrier backing. The look and underfoot softness of a tight sisal is one flooring option that can offer a home-like feel. Residents use more assistance devices in these situations, and the carpet generally gets more day-to-day abuse. Bathrooms present challenges for both slip and fall and moisture issues. One option is a safety floor that integrates mineral grains to create a non-slip surface.
Carpet tiles are producing good results for its flexibility and ease of change. Carpet tile functions well in nursing wings, memory support areas and in assisted living facilities. The benefits of using modular carpeting in nursing areas include the ease of swapping out tiles if an accident should occur, less chance of injury due to slips and falls and the acoustic advantages of sound absorption.
Nursing home flooring is a very important and visible aspect of the healthcare environment. The success of a flooring installation depends on many factors, not just the material itself. Selecting the right product for the right application, hiring experienced and skilled installers and following the recommended maintenance procedures will help keep any floor looking its best and last for years to come.