Tread lightly

Robust floors are essential for tenant safety. Barry Eagle of GripClad offers advice on picking the right type of flooring for high-traffic areas.

Private landlords and housing associations are responsible for the welfare of their tenants, and so it is vital for specifiers to choose a flooring solution that not only provides safety, but is also reliable and requires low levels of maintenance throughout its lifetime. Heavy footfall contributes to the gradual wear of floorings, and as defects develop, the risk of injury increases. However, opting for a solid material such as concrete is one way to address these concerns. Easily shaped thanks to its fluid state and extremely robust, concrete is a popular option for high-traffic areas.

Concrete

For communal spaces, concrete is an ideal alternative to wood, vinyl tiles or carpets, and when combined with steel rebar it can withstand wear and tear from vehicles for years. Furthermore, concrete is a very low cost solution that’s highly customisable and can be poured into any shape. However, facilities managers should look to take an extra step to ensure longevity of the material by applying a protective coating. The application of such coating safeguards the surfaces against breakages or stains and enables the material to better endure heavy foot traffic. This is of particular importance if concrete is used in external areas, as it can begin to spall and crumble when exposed repeatedly to water.

Resin

Another option for high-traffic areas is resin flooring. Epoxy and polyurethane resin floors can be layered over existing flooring to provide a safe, anti-slip surface that is easy to maintain. This versatile type of flooring also offers hard-wearing quality finishes for both internal and external spaces. Moreover, resin flooring inhibits bacterial growth as there is no grouting, seams or joints, thus contributing to a hygienic environment.

Resin floors can also be used to protect concrete floors while providing an attractive, high quality finish designed to keep floors clean and odour-free. However, while resin floors are considered broadly slip-resistant, a textured finish should be considered for communal areas, where spillages are common, in order to mitigate the risk of slips.

Installing a resin floor can also take longer compared to other types of flooring as the base floor requires thorough cleaning to remove any grease, oil or solvents before the resin coating can be applied. Since resin doesn’t “breathe” once it cures, any moisture trapped below the surface may necessitate refinishing of the floor if bubbling or buckling in the flooring material occurs.

Vinyl

Available in sheets or squares, vinyl flooring varies in strength and quality grades, and this versatile material is a popular and cost-effective solution for those looking for flooring that is easy to install and maintain. Vinyl sheets can be laid in communal corridors as well as inside properties.

The material is also easy to clean, making it an attractive choice to landlords looking to keep costs down. Moreover, compared to other flooring options, vinyl is relatively inexpensive and can be cut to shape and installed fairly quickly. However, vinyl bonding can perish quickly when exposed to very high traffic and is susceptible to rips and tears. If this occurs, it cannot be refinished like resin – instead, the damaged area must be removed and replaced. Furthermore, vinyl can be stained more easily than concrete or resin.

Overcoming limitations

There is a huge range of flooring options available for managed sites and depending on your needs, one might be better than another, but all flooring types have their limitations. These can be overcome by enhancing the materials with anti-slip solutions.

GRP strips and nosings can be retro-fitted to existing flooring to protect both your flooring and the people walking upon it, making them ideal for entrance ways and other high-traffic areas. For example, anti-slip stair tread covers are an easy to install solution for busy stairwells. They are a complete one-piece section, which includes a drop down nosing over the stair riser.

This allows the edging to be colour contrasting, which has the additional benefit of assisting the visually impaired to define the step edge when descending or ascending the stairs. They will resist the high footfall and impact for many years without any wear or tear, making it ideal for any high traffic area. Beyond periodic cleaning, anti-slip stair treads require no maintenance and can have a 100 per cent non-corrosion and rust guarantee thanks to their GRP structure. Furthermore, anti-slip covers and treads are designed to take long-term punishment.

The aggregate grit surface of GRP treads is aluminium oxide, which is embedded within the base resin surface of the tread. This makes it very resistant to wear and when combined with traditional flooring materials and the flooring surface can last for years with little upkeep. When it comes to flooring safety, a “belt and braces” approach is always favourable. Combining your flooring choice with a GRP anti-slip solution will give you the best possible resilience and protection for your property and the people walking through it.

Barry Eagle is the managing director of GripClad