When choosing a material for flooring and wall coating for senior living bathrooms, there are a few essential considerations you must take. You need something that is durable, hygienic and easy to maintain, as well as something that promotes the safety of your residents.
Two popular choices for residential bathroom flooring are vinyl and tile. While these might work in most homes, your facility has different requirements of bathroom flooring that leave these options less than desirable. That’s where epoxy flooring systems come in.
What is Epoxy?
You might not be familiar with epoxy flooring by name, but you’ve almost certainly encountered it. Epoxy flooring is made up of resins and hardeners that are mixed together and chemically react to form a rigid plastic material that is strong and durable. Epoxy flooring is so strong that it’s often the flooring choice in the most demanding of industrial environments.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Epoxy vs. Tile vs. Vinyl
Tile, vinyl and epoxy all have certain advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their use in bathroom flooring for your residents. Here are a few common areas of concern.
Safety is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing flooring for the bathrooms in your facility. In assisted living communities, you’re dealing with aging populations who are more susceptible to injury and might face barriers to accessibility, which we’ll discuss further later in this guide.
Tile and vinyl can both be slippery, especially when wet, which can increase the risk of one of your residents slipping and falling. However, the texture of epoxy flooring can be tailored to your specific needs for slip resistance. Slip resistance is essentially the ability of a floor, or any other surface, to create positive traction that reduces the risk of slipping. With epoxy flooring, different materials, or aggregates, are mixed in to the resins and hardeners that typically make up epoxy flooring. These pieces, flakes or grains can be colored quartz, silica sand, aluminum oxide, plastic media, glass spheres, polypropylene spheres or even walnut shell pieces. Each aggregate has its own properties that contribute to the final product, including the floor’s degree of slip resistance. Different aggregates may be appropriate based on where the flooring system will be located and what the facility is used for, whether the area experiences high traffic, what conditions the flooring will be exposed to and more. Colored quartz, for example, provides a good amount of slip resistance and can lend itself to aesthetically appealing designs.
Increasing the safety features of your facility and decreasing the risk of a slip and fall also reduces your liability risk, which protects your residents and your investment and elevates your facility’s reputation for helping maintain the safety of its residents.
The next important consideration to make is cleanliness. Choosing a flooring material that promotes better health and disease prevention, while also cutting down on maintenance and janitorial costs, is ideal.
While tile and vinyl flooring might be relatively easy to clean, they pale in comparison to the advantages of epoxy flooring. Troweled epoxy has no seams or joints, unlike vinyl or tile, so it allows for fewer opportunities for mold, mildew or bacterial growth in hard-to-clean spots. Not only is troweled epoxy easier to clean because there are no failure points, but epoxy is also much more durable than tile or vinyl, which means it can stand up to even the harshest cleaning chemicals and methods and still look and perform exceptionally well. Epoxy floors can also be easily sloped to allow for better drainage, which reduces the opportunity for standing water and issues related to it, including a more hazardous floor.
It’s apparent that epoxy is the clear winner in the hygiene department. It improves cleanliness, mitigates mold and infectious diseases and is easier to maintain. Because epoxy is so easy to clean and maintain, your facility will save on janitorial costs and labor. This improved cleanliness also helps promote a healthier living environment for your residents, keeping them happy and healthy and reducing the chance for a health department citation or fine.
Cost is another extremely important factor in your bathroom flooring decision process. You obviously want to choose a material that’s made to last and worth the expense you’re putting into it.
On the surface, sheet vinyl and tile are clear winners over epoxy in terms of up-front costs. The materials are typically cheaper to purchase and install, and installation time is quick, saving you time and money.
Epoxy, on the other hand, has a rather time- and labor-intensive installation process, often taking a few days for one job. It also involves labor with a higher degree of skill compared to tile or vinyl installation, which means you’re less likely to save by hiring cheaper labor. Epoxy is also often custom-made for your needs, meaning the job will require a skilled team of outside contractors from start to finish—from identifying what sort of epoxy you need for your facility to creating and installing it.
However, though epoxy has some higher costs up front, it far exceeds the value of a tile or vinyl floor in life cycle costs.
Epoxy is easier to clean and maintain than tile or vinyl flooring, and it’s much more durable, so it holds up to repeated cleaning using the harshest chemicals. Because it’s easier to clean and maintain, your janitorial expenses related to cleaning the floors will be lower. It also has a much longer lifespan than tile or vinyl, often surpassing the alternatives by decades, which will reduce the costs associated with replacing the flooring.
Because of its hygienic and safety advantages over tile or vinyl, another area where epoxy can save you money—or possibly even make you money—is in the reduced number of health or safety issues. This could be in terms of a reduction in fines for noncompliance issues or a reduction in insurance or legal costs from residents who are hurt. The reduction of these issues could serve to boost your reputation, which could increase residency numbers and otherwise improve profit margins.
The final consideration to make when choosing a flooring material is how the material will look and fit into the design for residential bathrooms in your facility. Obviously, the aesthetic appeal of your facility is an important factor. The assisted living industry is competitive, and you want your facility to be attractive enough to entice residents away from other communities. This need for modern, appealing design applies to the entire facility, including residents’ rooms and bathrooms.
For that reason, many facilities might choose to utilize vinyl or tile flooring for bathrooms, because those two materials would seem to offer more aesthetic (and aesthetically pleasing) options than epoxy. Or, they might be choosing either vinyl or tile because they’re not familiar with epoxy at all, and even if they were familiar, they might not know that epoxy’s ability to be tailored to meet your exact needs doesn’t end with slip resistance and other functional benefits. That customization includes the flooring’s visual appeal. It can look modern, sleek and beautiful, all while offering more benefits to you and your residents than tile or vinyl.
As we mentioned above, different aggregates can be mixed into epoxy flooring to provide different functional benefits. There are also aggregates that contribute to the flooring’s color and design. Typically, epoxy flooring comes in different “base colors,” the most popular of which are neutrals, some of which have pearlescent or metallic accents. Then, patterns that range from simple to complex are created within the epoxy base using powdered pigments, glitters, metallic colors and more. Because these designs are custom mixed, epoxy flooring can mimic nearly any design or pattern you have in mind. Some can mimic the look of high-end marble, a very luxurious touch in any bathroom. Depending on the materials used, designs can range from very cohesive and subtle to high-contrast and bold.
In addition to aggregates that contribute to the epoxy’s color and design, grains of colored quartz, as we mentioned above, can increase your flooring’s positive traction and help make it more non-slip. It also lends aesthetic appeal to the floor’s design. Similarly, other aggregates that are often used in non-slip epoxy flooring can lend visual appeal and a textured look to your floors.
After reviewing the pros and cons of epoxy flooring when compared to tile or vinyl, it’s clear: Epoxy is the winner. Though it is more of an investment when it comes to installation and contractor costs, it’s an investment that pays for itself in lifecycle value and its benefits for the safety and hygiene of your residents and your facility. And, contrary to popular belief, epoxy can look just as visually appealing as tile or vinyl.