This article originally appeared on About.com
When choosing flooring for a bathroom that will be used by senior citizens you have to consider both functional maintenance concerns, as well as safety issues that can arise in this space. Materials that are resistant to stains and impervious to water penetration will be easier to clean and keep sanitary. At the same time choosing a softer bathroom floor surface can help to eliminate some of the slipping dangers that can plague this place of puddles and soaps.
Soft Surface, Water Resistant Bathroom Flooring
Padded Vinyl: This option combines the stain and water resistance of manufactured resilient flooring, with a plush feel that will be gentle on accidental trips and falls. Vinyl sheets are very thin, and when installed over a padded cork or foam underlayment they take on the soft yield of those materials. However the vinyl itself is very durable, and will be impenetrable to liquids, eliminating many of the common bathroom mold and mildew problems that can arise.
The drawback to vinyl bathroom flooring is that lower quality materials can off-gas small amounts of Volatile Organic Chemicals, which can harm the air quality of your bathroom. That can be particularly troublesome for seniors with respiratory problems, and can be compounded by small, enclosed bathroom spaces. Higher quality materials will release fewer toxins, and over time these can disperse with proper ventilation.
Rubber Bathroom Flooring: Rubber is a common flooring option for hospitals, retirement centers, and nursing homes because it is resistant to stains, impervious to water, and can inhibit the growth of micro-bacteria. It is also very easy to clean, with most staining agents wiping up easily without a trace, allowing even a disabled senior citizen to maintain the sanitation of their bathroom flooring.
The one issue that can arise for elderly residents with a rubber bathroom floor is that this material can sometimes have a slight odor to it. This is physically harmless, and is not toxic in any way, however it can be slightly uncomfortable for some people. Bathrooms are enclosed spaces which can exacerbate this effect to some extent.
Soft Surface Bathroom Flooring For Seniors
Padded Linoleum: This material is similar to vinyl in that it is easy to clean, easy to install, resistant to stains, and can be laid over a padded surface to create soft safe flooring for a senior citizen’s bathroom. However linoleum is not as resistant to water damage as vinyl, and can have issues with curling, and warping in wet, humid spaces. The advantage of linoleum is that it is made from all natural linseed oil, so it will not offgas any VOC’s or contribute negatively to the air quality in any way.
Cork Flooring: A cork bathroom floor is naturally soft and yielding, creating a padded surface across the room which will cradle a senior citizen gently if they trip and fall. When sealed properly, cork is resistant to stains and most water penetration. However the seal will wear away over time, requiring it to be re-applied periodically. The moisture and humidity of a regularly used bathroom will also eventually degrade this material, rotting it away and necessitating replacement.
Bathroom Carpeting: Another soft safe material, carpet is generally avoided in a bathroom because it is very prone to the moisture dangers this environment can present. There are some specially manufactured water resistant carpet fibers which may have limited success in this environment, however these can still be prone to mold and mildew issues over time. Regular maintenance may require steam cleaning which will be difficult for an elderly person to undertake on their own.
Water Resistant Hard Surface Bathroom Flooring
Ceramic Tile: When treated with a melted glass glaze, ceramic tile is a low maintenance, stain resistant, easy to clean bathroom flooring option that is impervious to water penetration. Cleaning these floors is a simple matter of mopping, and they can be sanitized with nearly any disinfectant that you desire. The drawback to these floors is that their unyielding surface can be dangerous for a senior citizen’s body if they slip and fall. Some ceramic surfaces can also be particularly slippery when wet.
Choosing ceramics that are manufactured with slightly textured surfaces can provide greater traction against falls. You can also soften the surface of these tiles by using bathroom throw rugs, which can be spaced through the entire room to give the surface the feel of carpeting. These rugs can be periodically tossed in a washing machine to get them clean, and clear out any micro-bacteria that may start developing in their moist strands.