There is often a need for speciality flooring, particularly in the commercial and public sector.
This is flooring which, beyond the usual requirements of durability and easy-maintenance, often has to cope with additional demands such as slip-resistance, anti-fatigue, exposure to the elements and UV-rays and even static dissipation.
However, in some instances, specialty flooring can refer to those that are chosen for their aesthetic value alone, to complement a unique interior design, such as leather flooring!
Functional Speciality Flooring
With the wealth of synthetic materials produced nowadays, it is not difficult to create a floor covering specifically imbued with the properties to cope with a particular set of conditions.
However, many of the needs of specialty flooring are actually already met by just one material: rubber.
Rubber is one of the top choices due to its extreme durability and high abrasion resistance and also its wealth of other properties that cover almost all the requirements of different types of specialty flooring.
For instance, it provides cushioning underfoot due to its inherent resilience and flexibility; this helps to reduce strain on joints and muscles and create an ‘anti-fatigue’ floor, ideal for situations where workers may have to stand for long periods.
Rubber is also extremely stable, particularly under UV-exposure and extremes of temperature, making it ideal for outdoor use (e.g. flooring for sports facilities). Insulation is another requirement of some specialty floors and rubber excels again here, providing not only comfort in cold weather but also absorption of noise and thus a quieter environment.
Rubber is prized for its ability to retain its original shape following indentation by heavy objects, either rolling or stationary. It also shows great resistance to damage from sharp objects that may gouge or cut into the material.
Perhaps the most common type of speciality flooring is anti-slip floors and here, rubber is again a top choice, as its structural elastomers help to provide a high traction surface, giving more grip and preventing skidding and slipping.
Rubber also performs well as static-dissipative flooring which helps to control the build-up and discharge of static electricity in settings such as hospitals, computer rooms and electronic manufacturing plants. Its inertness means that rubber is also a good floor covering for places where Chemicals and Oils and present in large amounts.
Lastly, although it is not specifically formulated as such, rubber’s smooth surface and lack of cracks and crevices means that it provides high hygiene levels and does not harbour allergens.
Aesthetic Speciality Flooring
At the other end of the spectrum, there are floors that are chosen simply for their looks and their novelty.
One such floor is leather flooring, which is derived from the same source as leather soled shoes, believe it or not! It is tanned and treated with aniline dye and is often also treated with a wax finish that is heated into the leather.
Just like leather clothing and articles, leather flooring will develop an attractive patina over time and is soft and warm to touch.
While it is recommended for use throughout the home, it should be avoided in areas with high moisture, such as bathrooms, and is probably also not the best choice for entrance ways and other high traffic areas.
Similarly, it should be avoided in areas of strong sun exposure. Maintenance is relatively easy, involving just a regular vacuum with a soft brush attachment and occasional damp mop, although it will need yearly re-waxing to keep it in optimum condition.
Another designer ‘speciality floor’ is metal flooring which can range from stainless-steel tiles to industrial-look grated floors, as well as metal composites that resemble bronze and other metals. Metal flooring is not as odd a choice as you might think – in fact, steel staircases are a popular option due to its superior structural strength.
Metal floor tiles are often used in combination with other flooring materials, such as ceramic, stone and wood, and create attractive accents. They are also considered an environmentally-friendly flooring as they usually contain a high proportion of recycled products.
Maintenance again is relatively easy with just a regular sweep with a soft-bristled broom and an occasional damp-mop using a non-abrasive, pH-neutral cleaner.