ASK THE EXPERT: Karndean Designflooring on choosing the perfect care home floor

Every care home is built from the ground-up and operators today have a bewildering range of choices of surfaces, styles and materials on offer. Care Home Professional spoke to some of the industry’s leading flooring experts to find out how to specify floors for all areas of a home. Today, we hear from Matthew Speck, head of commercial sales at Karndean Designflooring, about how advances in luxury vinyl flooring and helping with the health, happiness and wellbeing of care home staff and residents.

Care Home Professional: In what ways can the choice of flooring, and how it is used, improve the lives of frail elderly people, particularly dementia-sufferers?

Matthew Speck: As the care home sector continues to strive towards looking less clinical and more inviting for residents, there’s been a real trend of late with operators, architects and designers looking to luxury vinyl flooring (LVT) in place of traditional laminate or sheet vinyl for its durability, ease of maintenance and endless design capabilities. It’s allowing the care home sector to achieve the desired look, with wood and stone effect planks and tiles, yet still maintain the key properties of safety and practicality.

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Whereas before care homes have felt restricted in their design, designers can now look to incorporate zoning, sweeping curves, rug effects and borders around key areas to add interest and guide residents around spaces. This can be easily achieved with LVT and there really are no limits. For example, Whitby Court Care Home specified Karndean flooring to complete its nautical beach themed design.

With many residents having limited, regular access to the outdoors when residing in a care home, we’re supporting the sector with applying the latest trend of biophilic design. With all our wood and stone designs taking inspiration from nature, we’re able to demonstrate how the right floor design can bring the outdoors in and reduce signs of fatigue and stress. It’s all about bringing nature indoors.

At the same time, the responsibility remains on architects and interior designers more than ever to deliver an equal mix of aesthetics and performance, when specifying the right floor for the care home sector.

CHP: What sort of

specialist knowledge, products and services does your company bring to this market?

MS: We work very closely with the care home sector and architects specifying in this specialist area, and our products offer the technical specification required including slip resistance ratings of R9 and R10 and individual Light Reflectance Values (LRV). From resisting spills to avoiding dust and mites, LVT floors that are non-porous have been proven to contribute to cleaner, healthier environments.

Recently, we’ve made our Karndean Designflooring, RIBA accredited CPD on ‘Inclusive Flooring Design: Where Form and Function Meet Legislation’ available to architects and specifiers, where we cover legislation and requirements to accommodate the elderly and the vulnerable when designing new spaces.

CHP:  What specific challenges do operators and their contractors need to consider when choosing floors for different areas of care homes?

Matthew Speck, head of commercial sales at Karndean Designflooring

Matthew Speck, head of commercial sales at Karndean Designflooring.

MS: Selecting the right floor surface is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions when planning a new build care home or retrofitting an existing space. The right surface needs to be straight-forward to install and easy to maintain, helping to reduce disruption to daily use. It must also strike the right tone aesthetically yet be durable enough to withstand heavy footfall, wheelchairs and the constant movement of on-site equipment.

Operators should look to LVT products with specialist slip resistance ratings of R9 and R10 and individual Light Reflectance Values (LRV). In particular, LRVs are a vitally important component during the product selection process. As a guide, floor surfaces, walls and doors should be 30 LRV apart as this provides good visual contrast that helps guide residents who may be living with dementia or a visual impairment.

Choosing the correct wear layer is essential to make sure a care home does not look tired before the next refurbishment is due. For peace of mind that the floor covering will stand the test of time in demanding living spaces, specifiers and operators should look to products with a wear layer depth of between 0.55mm and 0.7mm.

CHP:  Are there any regulations that they need to be aware of?

MS: The BS 7976 pendulum and DIN 51130/DIN 51097 ramp tests are the preferred methods of testing slip resistance in the UK and are most recognised by the HSE. The higher the pendulum value, more commonly referred to as Slip Resistance Value (SRV) in the industry, the higher the level of slip resistance.

In order to fully comply with the Equality Act 2010, incorporating the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 DDA), architects require up-to-date Light Reflectance Values (LRV). Building Regulations Part M and DDA recommends adjacent surfaces, so floors and walls, take on a LRV contrast of 30 points difference, in a bid to successfully deliver colour contrast.

Importantly, architects specifying various floor coverings such as vinyl and carpet, should look for the same or similar LRV rating to avoid confusion for people living with dementia or sight problems. Likewise, architects need to be careful with bold colours or busy floor patterns, as sharp changes in colour can be perceived as steps.

CHP: What have been the biggest technical advances to flooring for environments like care homes?

MS: From a technical point of view, the advances in surface texture and the aesthetics of the products mean that the design capabilities are endless. Having the ability to increase slip resistance without sacrificing the look or feel has also changed the market place and allows care homes to get the look they want and tick all the specification boxes at the same time.

CHP: Previously, flooring products with a 36 and above SRV were considered to be amongst the higher slip resistance available, particularly in Luxury Vinyl Flooring (LVT). Recently, there has been a growing desire for floorcoverings with an even higher SRV, especially in the care home sector, and predominantly in areas where there is a high propensity for the floor to become wet.

The growing and competitive LVT market has taken early steps this year, with Karndean Designflooring introducing the industry’s highest 40 plus SRV rating in the Pendulum Wet Test. Enhancing its PU coating for added grip, the Opus Enhance collection has seen Karndean hand select designs from its established commercial Opus range.

CHP: How has the market changed in terms of aesthetics and expectations for interior design in recent years?

MS: We’re expecting to see more texture and intricate details in the future as care homes continue to strive to create either modern, engaging or homely environments for residents. There has been a move towards reclaimed and repurposed materials, with limed, burnt, smoked and driftwood designs. To accommodate this trend, we have recently extended our popular Van Gogh collection by adding 12 new designs.

Importantly, a beautiful floor has become a vital component in care homes and one of the most valuable commercial tools they can invest in. A care scheme is only limited by the imagination of the designer or architect and when you face growing competition, there’s no time to play it safe. Ultimately, we love to inspire, but we also love to be inspired by designers and operators in the sector.

CHP: What are the key questions to ask a supplier, and what are the pitfalls to avoid for care home operators?

MS: Although our priority will always be to fulfil the legislative requirements of the care home first, the overall look and feel now plays just as an important role in the decision process. At the same time, our dedicated commercial team can advise on bespoke and special cuts available to fit unique design briefs.

CHP:  How much of your work is with new builds, and how much is renovations?

MS: The market currently offers projects on both areas, and whilst the intricacies of the fit differ slightly, we can assist and support operators in working to budget and challenging deadlines.

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