With many of us getting older, it’s no secret that a growing industry in so many areas of business today is anything having to do with our aging population. Resilient floor covering is no exception, so here are several different categories of “senior living” facilities and some ideas on the types of flooring being used.

Independent living (IL), assisted living (AL), and nursing home are terms you may hear with regard to different types of facilities geared to seniors, depending on an individual’s health situation. Continuing Care Retirement Communities may have all three categories in one location.

Independent Living facilities are often a type of apartment complex or condominium geared towards seniors. I have a friend living in one of these facilities, and it’s very much like a luxury apartment building, with some public areas and recreational facilities, and living space that’s no different from an apartment, including a full kitchen. These facilities have flooring needs not unlike a typical residential property. Carpet would be typical in most of the unit, but resilient is used in kitchens and sometimes bathrooms for underfoot comfort and ease of maintenance. It would not be unusual to see residential resilient floors used in these types of areas, although commercial products are often preferred for the added durability. Vinyl tile or sheet flooring is typically used.

Assisted Living facilities provide a higher level of care than IL facilities. Some resident rooms may have scaled-down kitchens, but most often residents live in individual rooms, and the facility has a group dining area and common areas for social and recreational activities. The décor tends to be as residential or hotel-like as possible, with carpet typically being used in the majority of the space including the resident rooms and corridors. However, resilient is used in many of the public spaces for added durability and ease of maintenance.

For example, I met with a designer with a major senior living chain recently who was working on an assisted living project. They use Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) for “back of house” areas such as employee lounges, sheet vinyl for the bathrooms, and wood-look vinyl plank for the dining rooms. Other than the VCT, their flooring selections lean to a more residential look and feel, with wood looks a common choice in tile or sheet. The designer said she used a lot of “LVT,” or “Luxury Vinyl Tile.”

The term LVT is usually applied to “printed film with clear wearlayer” stone and wood-look products, but not all LVT is suitable for commercial use, so be aware of the differences between materials in this very broad category. The industry standard to follow is ASTM F 1700, Standard Specification for Solid Vinyl Floor Tile. F 1700, section 5.5.1 states, “For commercial applications, the wear layer shall be a minimum of 0.020” (.5mm) thick.” This is commonly called a 20-mil wear layer, so if a product meets this standard it is suitable for these types of areas.

Many AL facilities have “Memory Care” units for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Flooring and carpet in these areas are generally simple designs, with very little pattern. Borders and busy patterns are not used so as to not confuse the residents with too much activity on the floor.

By the same token, hard surfaces in these areas are specified to be low gloss. High gloss floors are used so often in health care facilities because of the misconception that “shiny is clean.” However, studies have shown that a high gloss floor can create the perception of being wet, which in the case of these patients may change the way they walk and actually lead to falls.  Resilient manufacturers are producing products geared to health care that are very low gloss.  Some are “no wax,” but for floors that need a coating, floor finish manufacturers have “matte” finishes as well.

Another resilient flooring option that is being promoted for senior living are cushioned products, for added comfort underfoot and reduced noise. Products being used include vinyl floors with cushioned backing, or rubber underlayment installed beneath resilient floors.

Other public areas where resilient floors may be used in Independent Living and Assisted Living facilities can be fitness centers and outdoor areas. Fitness flooring could be an article in and of itself, as rubber flooring dominates this category and various cushioned back vinyl products are also available. Both provide underfoot comfort, cushioning and noise reduction for fitness activities such as aerobics.

For outdoor areas, there are some beautiful sheet vinyl and rubber products, and many designers don’t know these are available. Budgets being what they are, concrete and stone is predominant outdoors, but from an aesthetic and comfort point of view, outdoor resilient is worth considering. Whenever I work with someone on a project in an inner city, I point out “footed” rubber flooring for outdoor use. These products can be used on rooftops because they are “loose laid” and don’t interfere with drainage or the integrity of the roof itself. They can allow an area that is otherwise not usable to be converted to a usable outdoor space.

A Nursing Home is normally the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital, and the floor coverings in these facilities tend to be more like what you’d see in hospitals. There is far less carpet used, so you’d expect to see resilient  such as vinyl, linoleum or rubber. There is more rolling traffic on these floors, so the selection of product needs to be made accordingly. Because of more frequent mopping, many areas may require sheet goods with heat-welded seams.

Finally, in addition to specifying the right floor for the right usage – such as commercial grade Solid Vinyl in high traffic areas, there are several technical considerations that need to be considered in any resilient flooring specification. Concrete floor moisture problems continue to plague our industry so follow the ASTM F 710 standard that says “All concrete floors shall be tested for moisture regardless of age or grade level.”

Adhesive choices are many for resilient flooring. In addition to the common sense of using the specific adhesive for the floor being installed, there are other things to consider. High-use or very wet areas may require reactive adhesives such as epoxy. Spray adhesives for resilient can tolerate higher moisture levels and higher point loads than most standard adhesives, and allow for immediate seam welding and immediate traffic after installation. There are “loose lay” resilient products that don’t use adhesive at all. These can be handy for quick turnaround projects or installation over less than perfect substrates.

Initial maintenance is often a confusing part of resilient flooring projects. It’s not so much what gets done as who does it. Not all flooring contractors are in the maintenance business, so if the floor has some type of specialized initial maintenance requirement, it’s best to clarify who will be responsible early on so there is no confusion after the floor goes down.

I’m glad to be writing for Floor Trendsagain, and I hope in this short article that I’ve shed some light on the topic. There is a lot more to learn, and there are many experienced sales reps in our industry that can help a designer or a flooring contractor navigate the wide variety of choices for senior living and healthcare flooring.

Christopher Capobianco’s multifaceted career path has included time as a retailer, architectural sales rep, technical support manager, consultant, instructor, columnist and more.

Reach him at Christopher@spartansurfaces.com.