Flooring trends: Carpet’s new options

During the building boom following World War II, the installation of wall-to-wall carpeting became all the rage, replacing the traditional hardwood flooring. Healthcare facilities have experienced many additional flooring trends since then, including resin, linoleum, vinyl and rubber.

Commercial long-term care (LTC) and rehabilitation facilities have seen the same trends, and today many organizations are using their remodeling phases as a chance to explore the options carpeting can provide.

Cost savings: When older facilities prepare for remodeling, flooring is often among the top discussions. If the existing flooring is worn or needs to be replaced, installing carpeting over it is often a cost-effective option.

Safety: This is definitely a factor for long-term care facilities, since reducing the risk of resident falls is a major concern. Even when a floor is finished with a slip-resistant coating, slip-and-fall accidents can still occur. The right choice of carpeting can reduce the incidence of falls, and, if there is a fall, the carpet may provide some cushioning, minimizing possible injuries.

Sound: A common complaint in care facilities is the noise created by walking on hard flooring. Carpeting is highly effective at controlling noise; some studies have been shown that carpeting can reduce noise levels by up to 70 percent compared to hard flooring.

Air quality: A study released in January 2014 by Airmid Healthgroup, an environmental indoor pollutants testing firm, found that compared to hard-surface flooring, “effectively cleaned carpets have the capacity to trap allergen and microbial particles, making these particulates less available to become airborne and thus maintaining [enhanced] indoor air quality.” This is just one of several studies that have concluded that carpeting can play an important role in maintaining indoor air quality, a special concern in LTC facilities, where residents may have chronic pulmonary conditions.

Psychological factors: Some facilities use carpeting to create a mood, and this can be especially important in an LTC community. Some research suggests that colors such as light blues, greens, teal, coral or peach tend to have a soothing, warming effect on LTC residents. What’s more, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, residents with dementia seem to remember colors and can be assisted by them in wayfinding. If such residents become disoriented within the facility, wall and floor-covering colors can help direct them back to familiar areas.


One increasingly popular type of carpeting is carpet tiles, or “modular carpet.” Thanks to a boost in carpet tile product lines during the past 30 years, designers and architects found carpet tiles to be a worthy and very cost-effective alternative to both traditional carpeting and hard-surface floors.

Modular carpeting offers many of the benefits listed above, but can specifically address some issues found in LTC facilities. For instance, deep-pile carpeting can make it difficult for residents to maneuver wheelchairs wheeled walkers, and can impede staff members’ ability to maneuver carts. Modular carpeting eliminates most, if not all, of these issues. Modular carpeting is also less likely to stretch, ripple, or lose its shape.

Modular carpets also tend to be very durable and are often much easier to clean and maintain than deeper pile carpets, as well as many types of hard-surface flooring. More importantly, if a tile or section of tiles becomes heavily soiled or worn, that area can usually be replaced without having to redo the flooring in the entire room—something that is much more difficult with other floor coverings, whether hard or soft.

Other advantages are making modular carpet the “in” carpet for many LTC facilities:

  • Modular carpeting is often very cost competitive when compared to other floor coverings.
  • It is relatively easy to install and can often be installed over the current hard-surface floor.
  • Many newly constructed facilities place both electrical wiring and HVAC functions directly under floors; having a modular carpet installed over floor panels makes it very easy to access these mechanicals.
  • Unlike most carpets, extra carpet tiles can often be stored in a facility and then used to replace soiled or worn tiles or to carpet new areas.
  • The look and appearance of carpet tiles have come a long way in recent years, resulting in a wide variety of colors, patterns and styles.


Any healthcare facility should do solid research when exploring the decision to install carpeting. Be sure to work with a reputable carpet dealer who markets quality carpeting. Most commercial carpet is designed to last five to seven years (possibly longer). Typically, a higher-quality carpet will prove more durable and last longer.

Another concern is the warranty. Carpet warranties typically cover the product for about 10 years. Warranties include a variety of different terms and conditions intended to protect the carpet’s lifespan and maintain the buyer’s warranty. For instance, some carpet warranties require that the carpets be cleaned only with hot-water extractors. Others require that the carpet-cleaning technicians be certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC). [This nonprofit organization provides training and education regarding carpet cleaning in more than 25 countries and offers course training to become IICRC-certified.]

The cost of carpeting can vary dramatically, ranging anywhere from $5–10 per square foot, to more than $30 per square foot. It is always a wise idea to get two or three quotes when pricing carpeting, being careful to differentiate between the cost of the carpet itself and the cost of installation. It is usually less expensive to install carpeting than most hard-surface floor coverings, but installation charges do vary. Some facilities choose to purchase carpeting from one dealer and select another vendor to perform the installation.

Nylon carpets are by far the most prevalent choice of carpet for commercial locations and LTC facilities. Nylon tends to be stain resistant, durable and cost effective. Olefin is another popular choice. Olefin can be less expensive than nylon, and it also tends to minimize static electricity.


Several studies have shown that carpeting can help protect indoor air quality, but of course that remains true only if carpeting is properly cleaned and maintained.

As much as 80 percent of the soil in carpeting is estimated to be “particulate” soil. This refers to dry soil that can be removed using high-performance vacuum cleaners. If your facility’s building has more than one level, the lower levels should be vacuumed more frequently than upper ones to prevent particulate soils from being tracked onto the upper floors. More vacuuming attention should also be applied to elevators and locations where different room types connect (such as a cafeteria connected to a carpeted hallway). To protect carpets further, the proper matting should be installed both inside and outside the cross-over locations.

Spots should be removed from carpeting as soon as they are discovered. This helps prevent soiling from attaching to shoe bottoms and spreading, and can prevent spots from becoming permanent stains. While virtually all spots and stains can be removed, it is typically far easier to remove a spot while it is still fresh.

While there is no set cleaning schedule that fits all carpets in all types of facilities, most experts agree that carpets should be cleaned periodically using the hot-water extraction method. Hot-water extractors heat the cleaning solution to 212°F. This heat provides several benefits: it helps the cleaning solution work more effectively, dissolves and/or loosens soils so that they can be removed more easily, and expedites drying time—a key concern in long-term living locations, where wet carpets can create a slip-and-fall hazard.

Hot-water extraction also provides a health benefit. Researchers have found that in order to protect indoor air quality, carpets must be cleaned regularly with hot-water carpet extractors. According to Dr. Bruce Mitchell, CEO of Airmid Healthgroup: “[The] hot water-based extraction cleaning process is very effective at reducing the levels of harmful bio-contaminants. To maintain the healthiest environment for occupants, we recommend hot water extraction cleaning two to three times per year and vacuuming at regular intervals.”


Is carpeting the right choice for your next remodel? Ultimately each administrator must make the decision on an individual facility basis. However, today’s carpeting options offer more reasons to consider carpeting than in the past.

Joe Versluis is national sales manager for U.S. Products, manufacturers of portable hot-water carpet extractors. He can be reached via the company at www.usproducts.com.

Related articles:
Evidence-Based Flooring Guidance
Focus on Flooring

To learn more about carpet and other flooring choices, visit us at the Environments for Aging conference, May 3-6, 2014 in Anaheim, Calif.

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