Whether you've recently suffered a debilitating injury or illness that has left you unable to walk without assistance or you have recently taken charge of caregiving for an elderly parent or other relative, you may be interested in retrofitting your home to become more accessible to those who rely on canes, crutches, or wheelchairs to move about. One of the first (and easiest) steps may be to replace your carpet or peeling linoleum with a more durable, safe, and smoothe surface. However, with a wider variety of flooring options from which to choose than ever before, you may wonder whether you're making a wise decision when selecting a specific flooring type. Read on to learn more about some of the best flooring options for handicap-accessible homes.
What should you consider when selecting flooring for a handicap-accessible home?
While you may simply assume you'll need to tear out any carpet and replace it with a hard surface, there are a number of other important factors you'll want to take into account when making your flooring selection.
While thick carpet is generally a bad idea for handicap-accessible homes (due to the difficulty of navigating a wheelchair through shag carpeting, as well as the risk of tripping), you also don't want a surface that is so hard and unforgiving that it could potentially cause serious injuries during a fall. This often rules out tile and concrete flooring, as well as hardwood flooring without a high-quality underlayment.
Canes, crutches, and wheelchairs can be rough on solid-surface flooring -- so you'll want a floor that is either impermeable to scuffs and skids or can be easily refinished or buffed to remove minor scratches. This may eliminate cheap linoleum from your list of finalists, as this flooring tends to be more fragile than hardwood, laminate, bamboo, and other solid-surface materials.
Given these considerations, what are the best handicap-accessible flooring options?
There are several types of flooring uniquely suited to homes with handicap access.
Bamboo flooring is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional hardwood floors. Because bamboo is a fast-growing plant, it can regenerate itself just a few years after harvest -- compared to decades for most hardwood trees.
Despite its ecological origins, bamboo's main advantage for handicap-accessible homes is its durability. Bamboo floors are significantly harder than most oak, walnut, and maple floors, which can mean fewer scuffs and scratches over time. If you select an engineered bamboo floor with a thick veneer, or solid bamboo, you should be able to have these floors refinished, which will keep them looking new for decades.
Although you may be afraid to install a floor that is even harder than hardwoods, by choosing a well-cushioned underlayment, you should be able to give your bamboo floor enough "give" that it won't pose any danger to brittle bones. These floors are also great options for moist areas like kitchens and bathrooms, as they won't expand with heat or humidity.
Another environmentally-friendly option is a cork floor. While you may picture rows of wine corks fused together, cork flooring is actually made from the bark of the cork tree, and is compressed to form a solid surface that is warmer and slightly softer than most hardwood floors. This flooring has a unique look that will give your home some extra personality.
One disadvantage of cork flooring is its softness -- it can be more prone to scuffs and gouges than other solid floors. You'll also want to avoid this flooring in kitchens and restrooms, as it is not nearly as water-resistant as bamboo or hardwoods. However, if your primary concern is providing a relatively soft surface that is still easy to navigate by wheelchair, a cork floor may be your best bet.
For kitchens and bathrooms where cork or bamboo may not be a good choice, rubberized tiles can be a great handicap-accessible option. These tiles are springy and won't break dishes (or bones) upon impact and are available in a variety of colors that can match any decor. These tiles are also relatively easy to install, even for the novice DIY-er.
If you'd like to keep up the eco-friendly theme throughout your home, you may want to investigate rubberized tiles that are made from recycled rubber. These tiles provide several benefits -- they keep old tires and other rubber items out of landfills, minimize the demand for new crude oil, and are often available at a lower cost than non-recycled options.
For more information, talk to a professional flooring company, like National Carpet Mill Outlet.