How flooring supports the needs of today's medical and healthcare facilities

By Sophia Daukus / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
August 12, 2015

As U.S. cities continue to grow, and the aging population places increased strain on the healthcare system, new hospitals and clinics are in the planning stage, while existing structures are being updated.  

When it comes to renovating or expanding existing medical facilities, flooring is an essential element that not only supports healthcare facilities’ ability to meet industry standards and requirements, but also provides unexpected benefits. Due to its ability to be highly customizable and its inherent performance properties, resinous, fluid-applied floor coating systems are quickly becoming the preferred flooring choice for healthcare facilities of all sizes.  

Whether medical facilities are replacing outdated carpet, failing vinyl/LV, or looking for a way to extend the life of new or existing concrete floors, high-performance coating systems offer many benefits. 

Pathogen control

One of the most compelling reasons to choose fluid-applied flooring is for its seamless nature and the fact that it is completely bonded to the concrete substrate. Grouted tile, with its often porous and crack-prone grout, can be difficult to properly clean and sanitize. Vinyl and composite sheet flooring, which is glued or floated on top of the slab, can develop dark pockets of moisture between the concrete substrate and the floor backing, encouraging dangerous microbe proliferation.  Only seamless, fluid-applied flooring provides a grout-free floor surface that is completely bonded to the concrete substrate, virtually eliminating these menacing pathogen-control risks. 

Antimicrobial properties and sanitation

Patient rooms, laboratories, operating rooms and emergency rooms are exposed to pathogens and biohazards that can threaten the health and well-being of patients and staff alike. Resinous flooring can be formulated with antimicrobial reagents that further help mitigate the spread of microbes in the facility.

Due to harmful bacteria, bodily fluids, viruses and other dangerous substances found on the premises, medical facilities adhere to stringent cleaning and sanitation regiments that can stain and damage many standard types of flooring. High-performance floor coatings can be impressively resistant to solvents, extreme pH chemicals and staining.  Select manufacturers even offer Betadine® stain-resistant finishes.

Added safety  

Medical facilities are places of intense action, where many people move about quickly, 24 hours a day.  Additionally, the needs of mobility-impaired individuals and ADA regulations must be taken into account. When flooring is slippery, uneven or if surface inconsistencies exist, floors can become a safety hazard. Slip-and-fall accidents are a common risk in healthcare facilities. Due to their ease of customization, fluid-applied flooring systems can be installed to meet the exact slip-resistance needs of a particular facility.  This allows healthcare facility managers to consider their user population’s needs and therefore the suitability of various levels of skid-resistance for each space. 

Additionally, because healthcare workers are constantly on their feet, hospitals and medical institutions now seek flooring solutions that reduce the physical strain on workers and still offer mobility for wheelchairs and carts. Resinous flooring manufacturers have begun offering ergonomic systems that can help absorb footfall shock without interfering with wheeled apparatus.

Aesthetic & Customization Qualities

Those designing healthcare facilities must take aesthetics into consideration as well. Industry evidence on the important role of healthcare facility design in the patient’s overall experience and healing process continues to grow. Taking every opportunity to create an environment that puts patients at ease psychologically and induces a sense of calm and safety is proving well worth the effort and investment. In this respect, flooring selection can make a powerful and budget-minded contribution.

It is known that the color within a room can be crucial to a patient’s sense of comfort and well-being. Resinous floor coatings, available in a nearly unlimited spectrum of standard and custom colors and blends, allow designers to be extremely flexible in selecting flooring motifs.  Organizational logos and wayfinding messages also can be incorporated into the flooring, supporting a sense of team spirit among staff, and expressing the facility’s unique patient-centered interior.

Fast, safe installation

Sensitive to the mission critical element of healthcare facilities, resinous flooring manufacturers have developed a number of specialized formulas.  Among these, depending upon site conditions, are floors that can be installed in a single day as well as systems with very low- to no-odor application.   

Performance and durability 

Medical facilities are held to intense safety standards that exceed those expected in most places of business or service. Flooring systems in these facilities must be durable enough to withstand the weight of heavy medical equipment, the dragging and rolling of gurneys and wheelchairs, the 24/7 foot traffic of doctors and patients, and the accidental dropping of sharp medical instruments. 

High performance epoxy and other resinous flooring can stand up to the intense traffic and use that a medical facility sees on a daily basis. Unique formulations can help ensure that the floor coating is antimicrobial, chemical and betadine stain resistant, moisture tolerant, scratch and puncture resistant, slip resistant, and much more. This unique ability to customize the performance of epoxy floor systems provides healthcare facilities exceptional lifetime performance and durability. 

Environmentally compliant and sustainable

With the number of governmental regulations and organizational mandates concerning the environment on the rise, healthcare facility managers and designers are demanding compliant, eco-friendly flooring solutions. Sustainable, long-lasting floor surfaces help minimize a healthcare facility’s carbon footprint. Resinous flooring can not only assist healthcare institutions in meeting environmental regulations and LEED parameters during construction, but their zero-to-low V.O.C., formaldehyde-free formulas support better indoor and outdoor air quality. In addition, a variety of epoxy and other fluid-applied polymer floors can economically resurface and refurbish existing concrete slabs, thus enabling their reuse in place of being destroyed.

The impervious seamless surface of resinous flooring helps keeps dangerous substances on the surface where they can be cleaned up and correctly disposed of, rather than leaching through cracks and grout, down though the porous concrete and into the surrounding environment.  In contrast to tile, carpet or sheet goods, fluid-applied resinous flooring systems produces no cut-off waste during installation—again, an important measure in avoiding the contribution to and cost of landfills. 

Upon reaching the end of their useful life, resinous floors can be refreshed with a recoat. Or, another type of floor altogether can be installed on top, typically without having to remove and dispose of the existing floor topping. These many benefits, in addition to the availability of systems with recycled content, renewable plant-based resins, recyclable packaging and locally obtainable aggregate components, make epoxy and other resinous flooring a surprisingly earth-friendly choice for healthcare.

Low maintenance and reduced maintenance costs

In addition to being highly durable, resinous healthcare floor systems require minimal maintenance with no stripping, waxing or buffing, greatly reducing custodial costs.  In fact, of the many flooring choices available, seamless epoxy floor coatings achieve some of the lowest life-cycle costs.

When selecting flooring for healthcare facilities, managers and designers would do well to consider not only the initial price of material and installation, but also the long-term costs to the facility, the surrounding community and the environment. When these are taken into account, fluid-applied, high-performance healthcare flooring emerges the winner.

Sophia Daukus is a business development manager for Florock Polymer Flooring, manufactured by Crawford Laboratories, Inc.



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