FLOORING ISSUES TO CONSIDER WHEN AGING IN PLACE
When the time comes to plan the remodeling of your home in anticipation of retirement and beyond, the choice of flooring options should be at the very top of your list.
Choosing a flooring material doesn’t need to be intimidating or complicated. It also doesn’t need to change the look and feel of the home you’ve invested so much time and money in creating. There are plenty of options that will allow you to maintain the integrity of your living space, while being mindful of the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
While there are many factors to consider when deciding on the best flooring, these are the five most important issues to focus on, including:
Maintaining slip resistance is one of the most important considerations for those who are aging in place. Not only does slip-resistant flooring prevent hazardous conditions that can cause you or your guests to slip and fall (thus risking serious injury), it also can be highly beneficial for added traction, making mobility easier when navigating the home with a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
- Ease of movement
Moving easily about your home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style and aesthetics, but it does mean you have to be informed about the choices you make. For example, an area rug that’s installed without the use of transition strips can become a major source of trips and falls, and even with transition strips, area rugs can pose a danger to those navigating a room with walkers or canes.
- Cushioning in the event of a fall
When choosing flooring for your home, it is a good idea to choose an option that minimizes injury in the event of a fall. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose a harder surface but staying away from stone, glass, and hardwood flooring might be a good idea. Choosing a premium underlayment also can help tremendously for surfaces like vinyl, linoleum, cork, and carpet. Rubber flooring is also a great option for aging in place, though it can get pricey.
- Ease of Maintenance
Some surfaces lend themselves to easier cleaning more than others. For example, high-cut pile carpeting won’t be as easy to clean as short-cut pile, and vinyl, laminate, and linoleum flooring are going to be the easiest. Maintenance should definitely be considered when selecting the type of flooring that’s right for you. You want to avoid any flooring that requires any type of waxing or polishing as those types of flooring tend to be dangerous as we age.
At the end of the day, comfort is a key consideration for any type of flooring you choose. Drafty rooms can be helped tremendously by carpeted floors, and warmer areas can be cooled efficiently by linoleum or vinyl solutions. Comfort should trump style when it comes to aging in place, but with such a wide variety of options to choose from, it doesn’t have to.
It’s important to remember that your priorities will change when going from room to room. There are safety considerations in some, comfort in others. Let’s take a look at the most common types of flooring for the aging in place.
FLOORING TYPES THAT ARE IDEAL FOR AN AGING IN PLACE HOME REMODEL
Carpets are the softest and most comfortable flooring under your feet with the added benefit of cushioning in case of a fall. Carpets are also relatively warm, compared to harder materials, and help absorb household noises. If you do decide to install carpeting or carpet tiles, keep in mind that you may prefer to opt for short- or mid-cut pile, which is tighter and denser than high-cut pile. That means easier travelling when using a cane, walker or wheelchair in the high traffic areas of your home. However, you may feel safer to have plusher carpeting in your bedroom, for example, in case you’re concerned about falls from the bed. (It also means warmer feet for you on cold mornings.) Again, it’s taking each room and determining what flooring works best for you and your home.
Carpeting is also the best option for stairs. Wall-to-wall carpeting is probably the more cautious choice, but carpet runners on the top of wood treads also provide a relatively reliable safety option.
There are some drawbacks to carpeting, however. For example, cleaning and maintenance can both be more difficult than with other surfaces. Cleanliness is important for more than superficial reasons. Your carpet may appear pristine, but as dirt and dust tend to collect in the carpet fibers, they migrate and float through the air. This is particularly problematic for those with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory sensitivities.
Cork is the softest of the “hard” surfaces. It provides cushioning for your feet, and has some of the same thermal and sound properties as carpet. Unlike carpet, though, cork provides a smooth surface for efficient wheelchair travel. Cleaning and caring for cork is comparatively easy, as well, and the sealant over the surface protects it from staining.
However, because of the soft nature of cork, it can be damaged relatively easily from punctures, scrapes, and indentations made from furniture legs. The porous quality of cork also means that, while it is water-resistant, it isn’t waterproof, and standing water can get into the seams and damage the core material.
One of the chief benefits of opting for vinyl and linoleum is the ease of cleaning and maintenance. They are also relatively stain- and spill-resistant. If not properly installed, however, standing water can seep through the seams of linoleum and damage the subflooring, but you can choose sheets to help avoid this problem. Vinyl, meanwhile is almost impervious to water. The fact that vinyl and linoleum are both hard and smooth means that travel with walkers and wheelchairs is easier than many other flooring options. However, it’s these qualities that also offer very little cushioning to ease your feet and back.
The difference between vinyl and linoleum is subtle. Vinyl is composed of synthetic material, while linoleum is comprised of natural elements. Both are sold in sheets or in tiles and both are considered resilient flooring, which means they restore their shape after being dented. Both are used in commercial and residential environments, although vinyl is more commonly used in home décor and construction because of its lower cost. Vinyl is also considered less durable than linoleum.
TIPS FOR KEEPING FLOORS SAFE
The type of flooring you choose is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to safety. There are several basic steps a homeowner should take to keep their floors safe as they age, including:
- Smooth floor transitions: The more consistent they are, the better. Transitions like saddles or thresholds have proven to be tripping hazards, particularly as we age. For the transitions you do have, try to minimize the height differential wherever possible.
- Area Rugs: Area rugs are another tripping and slipping hazard. Small rugs are particularly dangerous, as they don’t have the weight to hold them down. If you must use an area rug, make sure it’s heavy enough to stay in place and that the height differential is smoothed out with transition strips.
- Moisture: Keeping the floor dry is important for many reasons: maintaining the integrity of your flooring and avoiding accidents are just two. The kitchen and bathroom are areas of particular concern when it comes to water on the floor. A good option for those rooms is to use anti-fatigue mats, which are heavy enough to hold themselves in place. They’re also soft and cushiony, making standing while cooking or cleaning easier on your feet and back.
- Clutter: Your floors should be as clutter-free as possible. This doesn’t only apply to obvious tripping hazards such as toys, clothes, and the like – but also ensuring that any wires or cables are safely out of the way.
When it comes to flooring, you shouldn’t leave safety to chance. Taking these tips into consideration and choosing the right flooring options room by room will help you live life to the fullest in retirement and beyond.
At Aging in Place Contractor, we’re not your everyday licensed general contractors. We’re also certified Aging in Place Specialists as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. We’ve experienced first-hand the difficulty our loved ones have had in transitioning to life on their own as they advanced in age. We want to help, so contact us today.