I am willing to bet that you haven’t even thought about how allergies, falls, noise levels and degree of comfort are influenced by the floor coverings that you select.
Rosemary Bakker in her book “Revitalizing Your Home,” points out that homes that use universal design features use floor covering materials that are easy to walk and wheel on. This means you will be looking at flooring that has a matte, unpolished finish; contributes to good air quality; and is level throughout the house. She discusses the advantages of wall-to-wall carpeting, wood flooring, ceramic tile, and sheet flooring, as they are all eco-friendly and have built in safety features.
Wall-to-Wall Carpeting: Carpeting has long been a favorite and contributes to a warm homey feeling. Carpeting has come along way since the ugly green shag of yesteryear. If air quality is super important to you because of allergies, you will want to look at carpeting that hasn’t been treated with chemicals, such as permanent stain resistance, mothproofing, anti-microbial agents (fungicides).
Dense, low-pile carpeting with a tight weave is a good choice because it is easy to walk or wheel over. It also absorbs sound, reduces heat loss, and cushions a fall. Choose thin, non-plush padding because it will provide a stable floor surface. No, your feet won’t sink luxuriously into it but it will provide a stable walking surface. Light colors will make your room look larger and if you pick something with a small pin dot pattern it will hide dirt marks.
Wood Floors: Some of us love hard woods floor because they are easy to maintain. Wood floors can be finished with a matte finish that will make them less slippery and reflect less glare. Area rugs are attractive on a hardwood floor but use them cautiously because they can cause falls. They will be safer if securely fastened to the floor with two-sided tape or have a nonslip liner underneath.
Ceramic Tiles: Ceramic tiles are popular floor coverings in foyers, kitchens and bathroom. You will be pleased to note that you can find slip resistant tiles. When you start looking around you will find that tiles have something called a “coefficient of friction” rating (COF). A high COF, of 0.6 or higher indicates that the tiles are generally safe and slip resistant. If you love the look of ceramic tiles but hate the cold; consider installing radiant heat.
Sheet Flooring: Sheet flooring, especially linoleum is an old time favorite. Linoleum is a wise choice, can be found in a multitude of attractive designs, is easily cleaned, and softer underfoot than ceramic. It is available in a wide array of colors and patterns and is very durable.
Universal design flooring is a good idea for those who walk slowly or have difficulty getting around safely. Keep in mind that moving from one type of floor surface to another may contribute to falls. Consider using one type of flooring material for all of the rooms in your house (other than bathroom and kitchen). Look for something that is slip-resistant and resilient. You also want something that easy to maintain, eco-friendly and easy on your knees.