Choosing Flooring: Why the First Cost Shouldn’t Be the Most Important


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23 December 2021 – Contact the FacilitiesNet editorial staff »

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor


Flooring can make or break an installation when it comes to budget. Long-term maintenance can make affordable equipment cost two to three times more over a period of time than a more expensive product with fewer maintenance requirements. Several trends are invading flooring, but price remains a concern for facility managers.

“Unfortunately, clients are often more concerned with the upfront cost of materials as they try to work with a limited project budget,” says Amy Harrell, director of JCJ Architecture. “In these cases, we’ve found that material lifecycle costs are even more important to show your customer. Even on a budget, we can use life cycle cost comparisons to guide a customer to a material that both fits their budget and save them money – and headaches – down the road. to come up. Products that differ by $0.25 to $0.50 per square foot on day one can be several thousand dollars different in one or two years. With the current labor shortages, this exercise has become even more important for our customers. Showing a customer that they would need fewer staff to maintain a product is critical right now, when employees are hard to find and maintain.

Choosing the cheapest option can also put employees at risk. Improper flooring material choices are the leading causes of slips, trips and falls, making it one of the leading causes of complaints in commercial spaces, says Harrel. These claims can be reduced by paying attention to both the coefficient of friction and the transition between flooring materials. Most commercial flooring will have at least a DCOF of 0.42, however, many high traffic areas are now considering a DCOF of 0.6 to better maintain safety.

“Transitions between flooring materials must have less than a quarter-inch rise to meet ADA standards in commercial spaces,” says Harrel. “Often this is only considered closely in areas where the public will be. Maintaining this standard for background transitions is also essential, not only for ADA compliance, but also for safety. Transitions that are too high are tripping hazards for employees and also make it difficult for carts or equipment to pass over them, which can also lead to injury to employees.Just paying attention to height and style transitions in a facility, risks are reduced for all users of the space, whether employees or customers.

Yet the flooring trends for one installation may not be the right ones for the next. The tile industry is seeing more and more introductions of new shapes and larger sizes. Just five years ago, 12×24 tiles were the most common format, but now they’ve moved to 24×24 and 24×48.

“As tile sizes increase, it’s critical that designers and contractors remember the importance of proper floor preparation. These larger sizes allow for more creativity in flooring designs, but are prone to cracking if the subfloor is not level and sound,” says Harrel.

Meanwhile, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) are also on the rise due to advances in printing technologies that make the materials look more realistic. Additionally, 5mm LVT tile offerings are also increasing as they offer improved acoustic properties and a smoother transition to carpets and other adjacent materials. However, this leads to more competitive prices.

“With more and more LVTs to choose from, it’s important that designers and facility managers pay attention to the wear layer,” says Harrel. “With wear layers ranging from six mils to 20 mils, you have to be careful. The higher the wear layer, the more durable the tile will be and less scratch resistant. Even 0.05 to 0.10 $ more per square foot can provide you with a much more durable wear layer, which will significantly extend the life and appearance of your LVT.


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