Friday, July 20, 2012

Not All Flooring Is Created Equal

In this article reposted from the National Post, Mike Holmes talks flooring. When it comes to choosing flooring, it's not just about what's in style. Homeowners must ask themselves several questions first, such as where am I installing it?  Am I putting it in an entry way or a mudroom? Will it get wet and slippery? This article comes to me at a time where my family and I are tossing around the idea of replacing the carpet in my 90-year-old great grandmother's home with something more durable and easier to clean. I objected to ripping the carpet out and laying down laminate because she's susceptible to falling, and I thought that having something hard and slippery on the floor would put her in greater danger. Cleaning up the occasional accident is far less inconveniencing than a trip to the emergency room. In our circumstance, choosing an anti-slip flooring is very important. Long story short, buying the right flooring the first time may (or may not) cost more upfront, but you'll pay less for it in the long run.

Not all flooring is created equal

Mike Holmes Jul 17, 2012 – 8:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Jul 17, 2012 8:56 AM ET

Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group

Anti-slip tiles suit mud rooms.

People doing renovations think a lot about flooring. They think about what’s in fashion, about what’s in the magazines and on design shows. Sometimes they think about budget. They might even be practical and think about whether the flooring is the most durable and easy to maintain.

But have they ever asked about how slippery the floor will be? Most people never think of it, until they are injured. Do you really want polished marble in an entry foyer or a bathroom where the floor will get wet? Sure, it’s beautiful and stylish. But it won’t look so great up close, if you end up face down on it after getting out of the shower.

Homeowners want to redecorate their homes and they may fall in love with a particular type of hardwood flooring or tile. But, that choice might not be ideal for the application, such as a bathroom or mud room where it might get wet a lot of the time.

You need to educate yourself about what’s the best flooring for your situation. Do you have elderly people or people with limited mobility living in the house? What about young children running around? You need to be aware of their safety, and that of visitors to your home.

One of the leading causes of emergency room visits is falls in the home, especially among the elderly. But in the case of the elderly, a simple slip can lead to sad consequences. A fractured hip can ultimately be fatal, since it’s often the beginning of a rapid decline: slip, fall, injury, hospital, pneumonia, death or loss of independence and a forced move into assisted living or a nursing home.

Slips and falls also cost a lot of money, because of medical costs and insurance claims and even lawsuits. It makes a lot of sense that we should start paying attention to how slippery our new floors are — not just how good they look.

New national standards are being introduced in the U.S. and Canada around slippery flooring. All flooring sold will have to bear the label of the Traction Scale. It doesn’t mean you can’t have your marble tile, just that you will be made aware of how slippery it is. It’s time to create awareness of the issue and consider getting it into building code.

Educate yourself about the types of flooring you are considering in your renovation. If you are buying a polished marble floor, odds are you know it’s going to be slippery wet or dry. And you can take your chances. But what about wood laminate, vinyl floor covering or ceramic tile? What about hardwood flooring?

Laminate and vinyl flooring are popular because they’re inexpensive and low maintenance, easy to install and to clean. But most laminate flooring can also be slippery. Some manufacturers have been developing slip-resistant laminates, but you need to ask the right questions.

Hardwood can be slippery too, depending on its finish. Is it high-gloss and smooth? Or more textured, like a hand-scraped finish?

Stone, ceramic and porcelain tile can all be very slippery. But again, it depends on the tile size and its finish. Is it polished or textured? You know intuitively which is the better product for a floor — the textured one.

Have you been in a gym shower or around a public pool? The tiles are small, with lots of gaps between for grout. They are textured and less slippery that way. You aren’t going to see large polished slabs of marble — that’s like a skating rink without the ice.

Your supplier should recommend the flooring best suited to your needs, in terms of slipperiness. A good tile store will steer you in the right direction: bathroom or kitchen, shower or backsplash, they all need a different type of tile and finish.

But no matter what store, they won’t necessarily tell you if you aren’t asking. Ask the questions. See if there are any ratings on the product or information that tells you how slippery it is, wet or dry.

How you clean your floors —the polishes and waxes or other products you use on them — may make them more slippery.

You can apply some products to ceramic, porcelain and marble tile floors that increases the amount of friction created when you walk on them. That will probably lead to fewer falls, but the product will need to be reapplied. And, the products are not designed for wood floors.

Some of these products will actually etch the surface of the tile — not a good idea. By removing the glazing of a ceramic tile, you’ll expose its inner core, which is not the same colour as the surface. Not only will it look bad, the tile will collect dirt and deteriorate. A porcelain tile has the same colouring throughout so it might not look as bad, but it is still not a good solution.

Anti-skid products are on the market to help prevent slipping. Some are only appropriate for exterior use on concrete. They contain grit and aggregates that would ruin the appearance of your hardwood or fine tiles. Others are a clear liquid topcoat that is not that noticeable.

But, why not just buy the right flooring in the first place?

It’s not about cost. Higher traction floors don’t necessarily cost any more than low-traction floors. It’s about awareness. Think of your family’s safety. Choose flooring that works first, and looks good second. There are plenty of options for flooring that is both — you aren’t sacrificing anything.


  1. Hardwood flooring can change the character of a room. Going from carpet to a new flooring material can give the space a rustic or classic charm, depending upon your tastes. Whether you're considering new or replacement hardwood flooring for a home or commercial building,

    vinyl flooring
    carpet shops

  2. I agree with the above poster, hardwood flooring can make such a difference to a room that you wouldn't believe it from just one small character change. I think they suit both homes and offices, as they're comforting, long lasting whilst looking smart as the same time.