Is bamboo flooring disability-friendly?
This is a question most people have never considered, but you may know an elderly person who has difficulty walking by themselves, or you may know someone with a disability and can’t walk at all. For people with slow reflexes, poor balance, or some kind of disability, it’s common to use a cane, walker, wheelchair, or scooter to assist them in simply getting around the house. And when someone does need one of these devices or vehicles, what is a good flooring choice?
When the budget allows, most people will remodel their home to adapt to the needs of a loved one who uses a cane, walker, or wheelchair. In addition to railings, ramps, and adaptive bathroom facilities, flooring type is also an important factor to consider. Below we review the most common flooring types and how they measure up to disability-friendliness.
One consideration is how soft the floor is in case someone does fall. Carpet is the obvious favorite in this situation because it is so soft and forgiving. However, carpet has a lot of drawbacks for those who have difficulty walking. For someone using a walker, just pushing the walker can be a strenuous activity. The resistance that carpet gives a walker can make using one even more difficult. Any other flooring is better than carpet for someone needing a walker.
Carpet is actually pretty good for someone using a cane. Because carpet has such excellent slip resistance, it grips the rubber on the end of the cane, making it difficult for the cane to slip out from underneath the person. However, like shoes, canes hold onto dirt which will inevitably be “wiped” off on the carpet, causing stains.
And for anyone who’s ever been around someone in a wheelchair in a home with a carpeted floor, they know that wheelchairs and carpet definitely do not get along. A wheelchair will bring dirt in from the outside and instantly deposit it right onto the carpet. If anything, a carpet makes a GREAT wheelchair tire cleaner! People who have been in this situation find themselves eager to seek out an alternative flooring solution.
Tile is the least soft flooring choice on the market, except for maybe marble. But either one is considered to be extremely hard and very unforgiving in case of a fall. Tile is one of the worst for slip resistance, making it very slippery and probably not very good for someone using a cane. Tile is a good choice for some using a walker, as long as they don’t fall. As for comfort underfoot, tile is not the best choice; almost any other flooring is better for comfort underfoot.
Tile is a very good choice for a wheelchair because it is hard, smooth, and easy to clean. A concern with tile and wheelchairs is moisture on the floor. A wheelchair can spin when hitting a moist spot. When this happens, it might amount to nothing, or the wheelchair can hit something hard and possibly flip over or at least cause damage to a wall or piece of furniture.
Cork is a very soft flooring choice, falling in between tile and carpet. Cork will grip a wheelchair, walker, and a cane very well, but cork can be difficult to keep clean, and a wheelchair may eventually tear up the cork because it is so soft. It is a good choice for someone needing a cane or a walker, and it would also absorb some of the impact if someone were to fall.
Laminate is softer than tile, but it is more easily scratched and dented. So in the case of someone falling, it would be better than tile. A cane, walker, and wheelchair would all scratch, dent, and in the long-term possibly ruin the laminate flooring. Unlike bamboo and hardwoods, laminate cannot be refinished. In terms of slip resistance, it is better than tile, worse than carpet, and somewhere in the same ballpark as hardwood and bamboo flooring.
Hardwood is a pretty good choice for someone using a cane or walker because it does have decent slip resistance. Again, nothing has better slip resistance than carpet and cork, but hardwood holds up much better than those two. Hardwood, however, will show scratches and dents from a wheelchair, walker, or cane, but it can eventually be refinished. One notable negative aspect of hardwood is that it is expensive.
Bamboo is a flooring choice that someone with ambulatory (walking) issues might want to consider. It grips better than tile and is extremely durable. Being softer than tile, it is cozier underfoot and not as dangerous in the case of a fall. Other positive factors include:
- easy to keep clean
- super durable
- costs less than hardwoods
- can be refinished in case it is ever scratched up
If you are remodeling a home or building a home to accommodate a loved one who uses a cane, walker or wheelchair, consider Bamboo flooring as one of the best, disability-friendly options. If you have questions, please contact us to speak with a flooring specialist today!