Asking The Right Questions About Rubber And Other Healthcare Floorings
Picking the right healthcare flooring means asking the right questions about rubber and other options.
4. Rubber. Rubber flooring, in sheet goods or tiles, is used extensively in healthcare and has been a proven performer. Recycled rubber materials in tiles or sheet goods are also very good performing products. However, these products can be compromised by chemical spills, chemical applications, and repeated introduction of chemicals that can cause them to break down. Furthermore, the correct adhesive must be used to install these products, and the manufacturer's specifications must always be followed. In a recent case, several floors of medical testing labs with new recycled rubber flooring tiles were destroyed by chemicals and the installation compromised because an adhesive was used other than what the manufacturer specified. This product should not have been specified for this application.
Other flooring materials may not be suited for certain parts of healthcare facilities, although they may be used in other areas, such as cafeterias, entry areas, lobbies, gift shops, waiting rooms, office and administrative areas, etc. Consider asking the following questions for these other materials:
- Will they be slippery when wet?
- Do they have grout that can be contaminated?
- Are they forgiving if someone should fall on them? This should be a major consideration in assisted care facilities.
- Do they stand up to topical chemical spills?
- Are they suited for rolling traffic?
- How easily will they indent?
- How easily will they scratch?
- Can they handle the types of chemicals used in the maintenance of flooring in a particular type of healthcare space?
- How will they hold up to spills?
- Can they be wet cleaned?
Facility managers should also use caution when purchasing flooring materials from overseas. Evaluations of failures with these products have shown wear layers thinner than stated on the specs; those thin wear layers were the reason for the flooring material wearing out beneath chairs and next to hospital beds. Some imported vinyl tiles have shrunk because they were cut from sheet goods that were not stable; right next to them in some facilities were domestic vinyl tiles that were years old and still snugly fitted together. Do not judge based solely on the initial purchase price; rather, evaluate the products carefully. The cost of problems down the road can far outweigh any front-end savings.
There are thousands of new healthcare facilities popping up all over, from hospitals to critical care facilities and doctors' offices. The flooring needs in these facilities must be clearly understood; otherwise the failure rates will increase. And in fact, failure rates are rising. Flooring failures can be due to the wrong product having been used, poor installation, and any number of other issues such as substrate conditions, moisture, and indentations. The common denominators in these failures are that the challenges in healthcare facilities were not fully understood and that expectations were not realistic.
Think of healthcare facilities as race cars; they are still called cars, but their performance characteristics are far from those of normal cars. Healthcare flooring performance is far from the normal commercial flooring criteria. It requires a different mindset and the conditions cannot be taken for granted. Saying a flooring material will work and thinking so doesn't make it so.
It is also important to make sure the flooring contractors and installers on a project are competent and knowledgeable, as well as having the experience to work on these types of projects. They should be hired based on experience and not price. And the architect or designer on a project should also understand the specific needs of the facility and understand what can and cannot be used. With so many new flooring products on the market, it's easy to get excited over something that looks great but won't work.
Lewis Migliore is president of LGM and Associates, which offers technical flooring services, including help or guidance with a new flooring project or a failure on an existing floor. Contact him at email@example.com.