Flooring factors

Carpet, ceramic tile or wood; what flooring is most suitable for public spaces?

Fabrica Ladera’s room scene by Al Aqili.
Fabrica Ladera’s room scene by Al Aqili.

Flooring is often the first thing you notice when walking into a commercial space and has a huge impact on the atmosphere and feel of the place. But of all the elements that make up a building, nothing has to withstand such an amount of wear and tear, being in near-constant use, as flooring. This is why it is imperative that time and care is taken when choosing the right flooring for a public space.

Rashid Yousif Al Aqili, of Al Aqili Flooring Division outlines the main requirements when choosing flooring: "The main consideration should be identifying the requirements and the type of project it is, be it a hotel or a corporate office. Other considerations are safety, design element, cost and time-effectiveness, maintenance and acoustic resistance." According to Al Aqili the three major flooring types he would recommend are carpets - both wall-to-wall and carpet tiles - PVC flooring and wood.

Carpet is good for acoustic resistance, design flexibility and easy installation, and comes in two classes: broadloom and carpet tiles. But what type of carpet should be considered for public spaces that have a heavy footfall? Amanda Doyle, business development manager, InterfaceFLOR explains: "I suggest modular carpet tiles, as with these it is easy to replace damaged areas without disrupting other areas. I would also choose a 100% solution dyed nylon modular carpet tile and then take into consideration both the yarn weight and pile density. Typically you should choose a yarn weight of 26 oz to 30 oz and a pile density of between 6,500 to 8,500."


Iris Seiffer, director of Middle East business development, Object Carpet adds that the style and colour of the carpet is important: "Random patterns hide much more dirt than single-coloured carpet and dark colours are less sensitive than light colours. Object carpet also uses Invista fibres, which are hollow resulting in less visible dirt due to increased light scatter." Although initially more expensive than broadloom the cost of carpet tiles is offset by the lower installation costs. About ten percent of broadloom is wasted during installation.

Making sure an appropriate carpet backing is chosen for the application will add considerable life expectancy to the carpet. Backing gives carpet strength and binds the yarns to the carpet. It also provides a moisture barrier so spills and water will not penetrate the underlying surface. High performance backings like polyurethane and vinyl increase the cost of the carpet but they offer resistance to delaminating from wheel and roller traffic, recover better from spills and wet cleaning and may even have anti-microbial properties.

Wood as a flooring choice is becoming increasingly common with the influx of expat workers from Europe and North America and is proving popular with more affluent organisations. It can provide a striking option for a public area as Nikolaus Gregorcic, area sales manager, Admonter explains: "Wood is comforting and warm. It creates a balanced room climate and is a beautiful piece of nature, which allows almost unlimited design possibilities."

Strong hardwoods like Robina, Oak and Ash need be chosen over softwood alternatives and interior designers should shy away from short-term finishes like polyurethane or UV oil if sanding is to be avoided. Wood is not a good choice in high moisture spaces or areas where sound inhibition is needed.

Maintenance issues also go hand-in-hand with the installation of a wood floor. Gregorcic adds: "A natural oil finish (high-solid oil) ensures the longevity of wood flooring. The floor can be refreshed when necessary by applying a new coat of oil. High-solid oil finishes perform very well in high-traffic areas, and has been used in commercial applications before such as Copenhagen Airport."

Resilient flooring is also a wise choice for high-traffic areas. Vinyl floors are inexpensive, resist scuffs, clean easily and offer many styles, from neutral patterns to bright, highly saturated colours. Linoleum is also a popular choice and is not synthetic, but rather a renewable material consisting of wood, cork flour, linseed oil, natural resins and pigments.

When choosing the correct flooring for a public space health and safety will play its part if slips and trips are to be avoided. This is why ceramic tile and marble, despite their prevalence in the region, is not recommended. Robert Keddie, director of sales and marketing, Ishtard Decor explains why: "Anything that doesn't give security under foot should be avoided. High glaze and smooth soled shoes are a bad combination."

But with the amount of abuse public flooring receives, repairing it without too much difficulty is essential. This is one of the reasons ceramic tiles, which are installed during the construction of a building, are losing popularity to other forms of flooring, such as carpet tiles. Over time the cost of labour to maintain flooring will be higher than the initial installation cost. The life expectancy of a public floor often comes down to the correct maintenance and trying to keep the floor clean.

Seiffer expains: "Considering that 85% of the dirt entering a building is brought in on the soles of the shoes, 2kg of soil can build up in one m² in less than 2 weeks in dry weather. 95% of appearance problems on textile floorings are caused by tracked dirt." Walk-off areas made from different substances in the entrances of buildings can remove dirt. Seiffer adds: "Object Carpet manufactures this kind of dirt trap known as the ‘Step-In', which is available in eight different colours."

Current trends in the region are being affected by the change in demographics according to Angela Schaschen, managing director, Deutsche Messe Dubai, organisers of the flooring show Domotex. "In the past and still to an extent now, flooring has been predominantly ceramic tile or marble. But because there are so many expats living here they are bringing their tastes from Europe and North America with them, so we are seeing a lot more carpet and wood."

With regards to wood Gregorcic says that one strong trend is towards dark flooring and thermo-treated wooden flooring such as Admonter Mocca. This is more stable than untreated species, is ecological coming from sustained forest management and is naturally dark by caramelising the sugar in the wood.

He also stresses the increasing popularity of antique wood flooring: "There is a growing demand for antique wood floors. Such floors like Admonter Antico are the perfect choice for people who love their floors to have the beautiful characteristics of traditional hand-finished floors. Features like handscraping, heavy brushing, big bevels and distressing give the floor the rich appearance of having matured over a number of decades. They are good for high-traffic areas, as the ageing look limits the recognition of additional signs of wear and tear."

Whatever choice of flooring is made by an organisation the aesthetics are an important factor to consider according to Schaschen. She concludes: "It's good for a company to have attractive flooring [in a public space] as it is one of the first things you notice when you walk into a building."

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