Floors for FMs

The region plays host to many different flooring solutions. Kurt Parry cross-sections what's available and discovers what happens to badly maintained floors.

Flooring can give you different effects.
Flooring can give you different effects.

The region plays host to many different flooring solutions. Kurt Parry cross-sections what's available and discovers what happens to badly maintained floors.

It may be one of the most essential but overlooked factors of any room in any building.

The common floor can play as important a role as the thousands of dollars worth of equipment and furniture that rest upon it.

 

Anti-slip flooring has been a huge boost to safety at work and at home.

Whether it is functional, fitted or simply for aesthetics, many designers believe flooring should play an integral part of the interior and be recognised for its contribution to productivity and cost efficiency.

While that may sound a little overstated for the humble ground beneath our feet, the fact is that carpets, ceramics, granite, marble and their counterparts are generally only noticed when something is wrong.

It is a matter of common sense that an abattoir wouldn't enjoy the luxury of Persian rugs or that surgeons in an operating theatre are unlikely to feel deep pile between their toes, but there is a real science to finding the right materials for the right environment.

Fatally floored

The health and safety aspect is one of the primary factors.

The potential for severe injuries or even fatalities is a very real threat and one that can be reduced dramatically with a little common sense and the right advice.

EGE Carpets in Dubai is a supplier to many of the hotels across the region and safety features heavily in their products.

It provides carpets which are potential lifesavers in the event of a fire.

Many traditional methods of manufacturing use materials that will give off toxic fumes, which are a bigger killer than the fires themselves.

EGE has carpets that are flame retardant and also have tiny molecules of water within them that are released at high temperatures to stop the fires from spreading.

Regional director, Michael Bogsted says it is a major consideration for his customers.

"Floors and the materials that cover them are often not a primary concern. They are the largest single area of a room, but only account for maybe only 6% of the cost of decoration. The fact that these carpets can literally save lives is a massive incentive."

Of course they also have less vital, but nevertheless important parts to play.

"When you walk into a room, it's that first impression that will determine your enduring like or dislike of your surroundings. Gaudy patterns and mismatched flooring can make the difference between return trade and one-time visitors."

While marble may sometimes look more luxurious, the functional and practical factors come into play.

"You don't want to hear the guests above you walking around when you're trying to get some sleep. Carpets are great sound insulation," Bogsted adds.

There is also the structural considerations.
 

You have to spend a lot more money on development to withstand heavier loads, but for many of the residential properties in Dubai, marble is the preferred choice.

Terrazzo LLC is one of the largest processors of granite and marble in the UAE. Sales executive, Vasudevan Babu, believes that it is a natural choice for housing in the Middle East.

"When you're living somewhere that reaches 50 degrees in the summer, the last thing you need is heat insulation. Marble has always been a part of the region's residential buildings and it has that history because it's effective, elegant and cool. It is easy to clean and generally very low maintenance."

The green grain

As far as aesthetics are concerned, some flooring may even be a deciding factor on whether to purchase a property.

When you view a property and find a dining room with matt black walls, it is difficult to imagine it as the venue for a sophisticated soiree with family and friends, and the same applies to the floor.

Wood tends to give the impression of style and sophistication.

Many of Dubai's most prestigious residential and retail properties have opted for the 'natural' look.

Icon Emirates Flooring (IEF) has supplied timber and laminate flooring to villas and apartments on the Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach Residence as well as outlets in the Mall of the Emirates and Burjuman Center.

"There's no doubt that flooring is a large factor in buying a place," he says.

"People want to have that feeling and ambience of natural beauty. We tend to supply the high end of the residential and retail market and source all our flooring from Austria, Germany and the UK because there is a real demand for it here and that's growing day by day," says Mansukh Canbi, managing director, IEF.

IEF prides itself on using eco-friendly materials, which may sound obvious when it comes to wood, but timber is often treated with man made compounds.

"We don't use chemicals or dyes and while that may make our flooring slightly more expensive (AED 400 - AED 700m2), it is incredibly durable. We offer a 30 year warranty, which shows our own confidence in that."

But wood isn't the only material with green ambitions in the flooring world.

EGE Carpets is constantly evaluating its products and is currently applying for certification from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

"The durability of the products, the environmental impact of the materials and the manufacturing processes are factors we take very seriously and we have gained an excellent reputation for our approach to the environment," says Bogsted.

Once the surfaces have been laid, treated or tiled, their upkeep is paramount.

In specialised environments such as sports halls, hospitals and kitchens, maintenance is a must.

Where sterile conditions are essential, the obvious consideration is the ease of cleaning but it is not just a case of wiping down what is visible.

Where possible the entire floor space should be one continuous surface.
 

The spaces between tiles can harbor millions of bacteria and as a general rule, the more gaps, the more grime.

"I could see wires underneath the floorboards... it was horrific."

Again, the vital but unappreciated floor is a poor cousin to the four walls and ceiling it supports.

A crack in the wall will be reported immediately to the front desk and the building's facilities management, but the surface with most wear is given little attention.

Sue Bailey, a former resident at the New Gold Souk Building in Dubai says her concerns were not only ignored, but that she was put in danger by the lack of help she received.

"It started as just a few cracks in the floor outside a couple of apartments and I informed the manager, but nothing was done. After a while, more started to appear and a few of us approached the management company again to complain. One boy tripped over and cut himself quite badly, but still nothing was done," she says.

"About a week later I could see wires underneath the floorboards and told them it was essential the floor was repaired. In the end, someone actually put their foot through the floor and the entire ceiling below us collapsed, leaving live wires hanging down. It was horrendous."

While a lack of floor care may not always have such catastrophic results, neglect or apathy can still be a hazard.

Anti-slip flooring has been a huge boost to safety at work and at home.

Abdul Ghani of Yes General Trading in Sharjah supplies swimming pools, saunas and gyms with wooden non-slip floor tiles.

"They are easy to install, easy to clean and above all, they will stop skidding and sliding. If you are in wet conditions, there's always a danger you will really hurt yourself."

But there is a less glamorous side.

The company also supplies PVC versions to garage workshops where oil is a constant culprit and Ghani says the products are ideal for slaughterhouses.

"They hold up very well under the pressure hose and because they can be kept so clean, there is definitely less risk of disease."

Perhaps not as romantic as the sauna environment, put practical nonetheless and at around AED 40m2, certainly a cheaper alternative than more ornate flooring.

The general consensus is that the flooring should suit the surroundings.

The Burj Al Arab has leopard skin print carpets and for their guests - or some of them - nothing less would do.

A local shisha café, regardless of its social standing, should have a non-flammable floor and any branch of a fast food chain should have a spotless kitchen.

Whatever the circumstances, the building management team has an obligation to ensure that flooring is safe and structurally sound.

While each manufacturer, supplier and distributor inevitably extols the virtues of their respective products, personal taste is another matter.

Regardless of pastels, patterns, or pigment, each has their own floored argument.

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