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How Smooth Surfaces Help Mobility

Mobility issues can creep up on us as we age. We tend to become more sensitive to slipping, tripping and maintaining our balance. The use of crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs can aide us when we have these issues. Some surfaces become harder to stabilize on with these mobility issues as well. It is very important to provide the proper flooring to keep your home fully accessible and safe. So what type of floor do you choose?

At first, you might think that carpet is your best bet because it provides some protection of injury from falls. Hoping to make your floor safe for falls is not good. Worrying about floor impact should not be your first priority, preventing the fall is. Fall injuries involve striking objects like furniture appliances more than the floor. So, plan for fall “prevention” opposed to “surviving” the fall. To prevent a fall, your flooring surface should be hard, stable and regular. Not to mention that carpet is not ideal for wheelchair and walker use. Long-pile presents a trip hazard. Bunches or tears can also cause stability issues.

Now you know that hardsurface flooring is the way to go. You want a floor that looks nice, is stable and will last a long time. You also want to be comfortable, have cleaning and maintenance be easy and not break the bank. However, your main determining factors are slip-resistance and the ease of travel with a cane, walker or wheelchair. What hardsurface is best?

HARDWOOD AND LAMINATE
Both hardwood and laminate have sufficient traction for easy movement, give a soft, natural look and are easy to clean and maintain. Vacuuming often is good to remove grit that could damage the finish.

They both can be slippery when wet and that water can make that smooth surface not so smooth anymore. Moisture can swell and buckle hardwood and pop and peal laminate. Moisture issues make both not very suitable in kitchens or bathrooms.

Hardwood is durable and long lasting if properly cared for. However, hardwood can be relatively expensive. Laminate might be the fraction of the cost of hardwood, but residential grade is not ideal for wheelchair traffic. With mobility assistance devices, commercial grade would be best.

Both tend to be loud not having any sound absorption. Laminate is particularly noisy when something is dropped, under hard shoes or mobility devices. However, the ease of mobility with hardwood or laminate flooring is top notch. If you are looking for soft natural look and cost, moisture and noise are not an issue – hardwood or laminate would be a good choice.

VINYL
Both sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can cover a wide price range but seem to be the more affordable option for hard surface flooring. When choosing vinyl, make sure to select a non-slip matte finish for mobility issues as they provide the best traction. Vinyl has a wide choice of colors and patterns. You can even select a wood print LVT and you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t the real thing!

Sheet vinyl is highly water-resistant, and a high-quality luxury vinyl is virtually waterproof. However, LVT is not always good in standing water because the seams in vinyl tile and planks can let water through to the sub-floor. Sheet vinyl doesn't have seams except along the edges of the room but can be more slippery when wet. Sheet vinyl is not as easy to repair or replace as LVT and can sometimes look and feel like plastic. Between the two, a quality luxury vinyl tile or blank is your better option.

There are not many negatives with quality vinyl flooring making it the ADS first choice of flooring. Vinyl is very wheelchair friendly and provides the best surfaces for mobility aides. It is very easy to clean, low-maintenance, durable and hard-wearing.

FLOORING TO AVOID
Natural stone is very hard and rigid. It is harder to maintain and keep clean making it higher maintenance than other hardsurface flooring. It is extremely slippery when polished or wet making it not very friendly for someone with mobility issues.

Ceramic or porcelain tile is not an ideal choice for several reasons. It can become a trip hazard with wide grout joints making it an uneven surface. Larger tiles tend to crack with wheelchair traffic. Tile is known for its water-resistance, but that combination becomes a dangerous mix because it is extremely slippery when wet. Tile can also tend to be more expensive.

Area rugs are also an issue. Area rugs are slippery on hard floors and tend to bunch up easily creating a trip hazard. You should also avoid tall transitions between rooms or different flooring materials. Keep transitions as flush as possible for travel ease and preventing tripping accidents.

It is essential to provide a proper floor for easy maneuvering to accommodate someone who can walk but is less mobile, or wheelchair bound. When choosing a flooring, mobility and safety are the most important issues to take into account. Our flooring consultants at Creative Carpet & Flooring can help you make an educated decision in choosing the best flooring option for your mobility needs. Contact us today!

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