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Wheelchairs run great on hardwood flooring. Flooring like thick carpet is not ideal for wheelchairs. Ideally flooring for wheelchairs should be firm, with flat transitions from one room to the next.
It should be non-slippery and still offer enough traction to easily maneuver. Regular and power wheelchairs place lots of pressure on the flooring and might even track dirt on it, therefore it needs to be durable.
Flooring that work best for wheelchairs are hardwood, certain laminate finishes and ceramic tile.
Hardwood Flooring: Beauty and Function
Hardwood flooring stands up great to wheelchair use while offering sufficient traction for easy wheel movement and is easy to clean. Go with hardwood instead of softwood like pine for flooring.
The harder the wood the more durable it is. As per the Janka scale which measures the hardness of wood, maple, hickory and cherry are much harder compared to pine flooring. Laminate flooring of a commercial grade is also durable options. The look like wood but are much less expensive.
Rubber for Grip and Comfort
Solid rubber flooring gives great non-skid traction for wheelchair wheels and is more forgiving than hard flooring if there should be a fall.
The Americans with Disabilities Act suggests a friction coefficient of over 0.42 for rubber flooring which applies to most rubber flooring.
Ceramic Tile for Toughness
Ceramic tiles give great traction and durability that stands up to even power chairs. Small tiles are better suited for damp areas like the bathroom since larger tiles are slippery when wet and are easier to break.
For good traction, go with tiles that are a maximum of 2 inches square. Another great option is natural stone tiles. Choose tiles that are non-glossy since glossy tiles are usually slippery and produce glare.
Texture and Room Transitions
Plush or thick carpeting with under-padding that is thick is not suitable for wheelchair use. A better option would be short fiber carpets and no to very thin padding gives the wheelchair better traction. Piles that have 1/4" to 1/2" are better for wheelchairs. Lower piles are better for wheelchair movement. Carpeting that is commercial-grade has better stain resistant qualities compared to regular carpeting.
Avoid carpet pads to make wheelchair movements easier. Flooring might be different in various rooms but the transitions should be as level as possible to make wheelchair movement easier. A mini ramp should be provided over raised edges to prevent the wheelchair from getting stuck.
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