5 Best Flooring Options For Wheelchairs

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

The type of flooring to install in a home with a wheelchair user is one of the most important considerations. Quality flooring makes accessibility easier for persons that use wheelchairs. Balancing function and comfort though can be a tough thing to accomplish.

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The ADA has requirements that state that the best flooring for wheelchair use is stable, firm, slip-resistant and level enough not to affect balance. Is that the best choice for your individual needs? Let’s take a closer look.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is a piece of legislation that was enacted in the 1990s that guarantees equal opportunity accommodations for people living with disabilities. The ADA standards establish the design requirements and standards for the construction an alteration of facilities in accordance with the law. The standards also apply to flooring.

How to Choose the Best Flooring Material for Wheelchair Use

Choosing the most wheelchair friendly flooring for your home doesn’t have to be a difficult task.. All you need to do is consider the 5 key factors below and to prioritize those factors for each type of flooring discussed below along with where and how you will use it.

The 5 factors are:

  1. Slip Resistance: Is the flooring material still non-slip even when wet?
  2. Cushion: Does the flooring material offer some shock absorption in case of a fall?
  3. Maintenance and Cleaning: How much effort is needed to maintain the flooring?
  4. Ease of Movement: Is the flooring material easy for a wheelchair to glide over?
  5. Comfort: How does the flooring material feel underfoot?

Top Flooring Options for Wheelchair Use

Here are the best flooring options for wheelchairs that meet the ADA requirements:

1. Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring looks great in any home. The downside with using this type of flooring is that it will show signs of wear and may scratch more easily from wheelchair use. Despite the term “hardwood”, some hardwoods are actually softer than others.

To get a floor that effectively resists scratches and dents from wheelchairs, you should choose a wood species that’s ranked high on the Janka hardness test such as Pine, White Ash, or Hard Maple. A higher Janka hardness rating means that the hardwood floors will be more resistant against damage caused by wheelchairs.

If you opt for hardwood flooring, it can be a good idea to go for a matte finish as opposed to a highly polished surface since this provides better slip resistance while still being smooth enough to allow a wheelchair to easily glide across the floor. You should avoid placing throw rugs over hardwood flooring since they can make it difficult to maneuver a wheelchair and can be a tripping hazard too.

2. Low Pile Carpeting

Carpeting can be a cozy option for living rooms and bedrooms, but it isn’t always ideal for wheelchair users since it requires more effort to move across a carpeted floor compared to a smoother surface. That said, if you like the comfort and warmth of carpeting, ensure that you only pick wheelchair-accessible carpeting.

The ADA specifies that carpeting should have a low pile height (i.e., less than 1/2”) since thick carpet can make it difficult to maneuver wheelchairs or transition between rooms. Wheelchair wheels can also crush thick carpeting thus deforming the shape of the padding. The carpeting should also be tightly secured to the subfloor to ensure that bubbles and/or wrinkles don’t form.

Carpeting, however, is more high maintenance compared to other types of flooring and requires regular vacuuming to keep it looking great. If that’s an issue for you, it can be advisable to pick a low maintenance flooring option such as vinyl.

RELATED: Lightweight Vacuum Cleaners for Seniors

3. Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring, specifically WPC, SPC, and sheet vinyl is durable, stain resistant, easy to maintain, water resistant, and allows you to mimic the look of more expensive flooring materials such as tile or hardwood. It also provides a smooth, sturdy, and level surface that makes it easier for people to get around with wheelchairs.

Vinyl flooring has a smooth surface, but it is not as slippery as highly polished hardwood flooring. Commercial-grade vinyl, however, is recommended for wheelchair users since it is designed to last longer. Thinner, residential grade vinyl can easily get damaged over time, which means that you will eventually have to replace it – perhaps more often than you’d like.

4.Tile Flooring

Tile flooring is a great option for wheelchair use even though many people believe that this isn’t the case. Floor tiles are not only durable but also come in a wide variety of styles and colors for you to choose from.

Tile flooring is ideal for wheelchair use for a variety of reasons. First, they are highly durable, which means that they won’t dent under a wheelchair. They are also available in a wide range of texture and size options, which means that you can optimize them for better traction.

The best tiles for wheelchair use should be preferably ceramic or porcelain, small in size, and have a textured surface such as wood grain or stone textures because they provide more slip resistance since they require more grout lines and grout provide a better grip for the wheelchair’s wheels.

RELATED: Floor Cleaning Tips for Seniors

5. Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is made to look like wood flooring, but it is more affordable than real hardwood flooring. It is an excellent option for wheelchair use since it provides a hard, stable surface. It is also highly resistant to wear and tear.

If you decide to choose laminate flooring for wheelchair use, you need to find out what its Abrasion Class (AC) rating is. The AC rating is designed to help buyers understand the differences in durability among laminate flooring products.

A higher AC rating is more preferable for higher traffic or heavy users. Laminate flooring with at least a rating of AC3 is ideal for wheelchair use since it is rated for heavy residential use or a commercial setting with moderate traffic. It will resist scratching, scuffing, as well as wear and tear.

RELATED: Great Flooring Options for Seniors

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for the best flooring for wheelchair use, all you need to do is follow the ADA’s recommendations. You have plenty of options to choose from to get a stable, durable, and stylish floor.

That said, all the 5 flooring options discussed here are all great for wheelchair use and it is up to you to choose the best one based on your needs and preferences.

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