Trying to ensure that your home is safe and secure for anybody in a wheelchair can be tricky. The American with Disabilities Act makes three recommendations for the type of flooring you should use to make a room wheelchair accessible:
- Your flooring material should have a coefficient of friction of about 0.5
- You should avoid high transitions; and carpeting should be firmly attached to the subfloor,
- You should have a pile less than 1/2-inch high.
Durability is also an issue; wheelchairs are heavy and can quickly wear down some floor coverings.
These bullet points can be difficult for a layperson to understand. The coefficient of friction is simply measure of the material’s slipperiness, with possible values ranging from from 0 to 1: The lower the value; the more slippery the flooring. So floor materials with a coefficient of friction of about 0.5 are considered slip-resistant. These include such options as hardwood, some types of ceramic tile, sheet vinyl with an embossed surface, luxury vinyl tiles and laminate flooring boards. Thin-pile carpets are also slip-resistant, but thick carpets are difficult to navigate in a wheelchair – they have a coefficient of friction greater than 0.5 and should be avoided.
From there, it becomes a matter of taste and, to come extent, cost. Let’s examine the options and their pros and cons.
Hardwood and Laminates
Hardwood floors are not only ADA-compliant, but attractive. You need to pay attention to the hardness of the wood you choose. Softwoods, such as pine and fir, dent easily, while hardwoods such as maple, hickory or virtually any exotic species, should resist the bumps and grinds of regular wheelchair traffic better.
Factory-finishes are harder and less likely to sustain damage than on-site applications. Laminate flooring has a comparable appearance and a factory-finished surface hard enough to resist dents. Scuff marks come off easily with little danger of ruining the finish.
Ceramic tiles are more water-resistant than hardwood or laminates and are a better choice for the kitchen or bathroom. The ideal tile size is 2 inches square. Larger tiles are more fragile and likely to crack under the weight of a wheelchair, while floors with smaller tiles are filled with grout lines that scuff easily and are difficult to clean. If the floor has 2-inch tiles, however, there are enough grout lines to improve traction. This is an important safety consideration both for wheelchair-bound people and caregivers when transferring from the chair to the shower.
Vinyl and Carpeting
Vinyl is a water-resistant choice for kitchens and bathrooms that is less expensive to buy and easier to install, but inlaid sheet vinyl and tiles are more likely to be slip-resistant enough to be ADA-compliant. Luxury vinyl tiles are another non-slip option; they have a foam backing that gives them a cushiony feeling, and they install like laminate flooring planks. If you must have carpeting, the maximum allowable pile length is 1/2 inch, but you should keep it shorter than that to make propelling the wheelchair easier. It’s best to install the carpeting without a backing, and it must be firmly attached to the subfloor.
Call Jim Boyd’s Flooring America for Your Home Flooring Needs
Jim Boyd’s Flooring America, located in Timonium, MD, will provide you will all the best flooring tips and flooring options. We carry everything from carpeting and hardwood flooring to ceramic tiles and vinyl flooring. Whether you’re looking to improve your home or business, we have the knowledge, expertise, and experience to take on your project and do it right. If you’ve got questions, don’t hesitate to call our experts for advice. Call 410-667-0620 or click here to contact us.