Is Vinyl Flooring Good For Wheelchairs?


Wheelchairs need a smooth, flat, and solid surfaced flooring to be able to roll on and traverse smoothly. Not all flooring types and options will work well with wheelchairs and choosing the wrong floor may limit the wheelchair’s movements, or it could wear faster and get damaged with the frequent use of a wheelchair. There are actually several good flooring options for wheelchairs that you can choose from. Is vinyl flooring one of them?

Is vinyl flooring good for wheelchairs? Most vinyl flooring type is good for wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs usually don’t have any issues but if a power wheelchair is to be used, make sure to get a glued down vinyl floor type. The floating floor types may not be able to withstand the torque from the power wheelchair and can break apart.

There are several types of vinyl flooring and not all are designed the same. Read on to know which vinyl floor types exactly are good to use for wheelchairs.

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Which Vinyl Floor Types are Good for Wheelchairs?

To understand which vinyl floor types are good for wheelchairs, you need first to identify the type of wheelchair that will be used on the floor. There are different types of wheelchairs but we can generally categorize them into two. They can either be the manual type, or the electric type.

Manual wheelchairs are powered by the user’s hands. Users propel the wheelchairs forward or backward by grabbing the handles by the wheels on the sides. Manual wheelchairs can also be pushed by someone standing from the back.

Also known as power wheelchairs, they are battery-operated electric wheelchairs that use an electric motor, controlled by the user, to propel the wheelchair back and forth. They are usually heavier and bulkier than manual wheelchairs because of the weight added by the batteries and the motor.

Below is a table showing which vinyl floor types can be used for which wheelchair type. Each vinyl type also has its own sub-types with different qualities but the table below can be used as a quick guide for choosing the vinyl flooring type to use.

Vinyl TypeGood for Manual WheelchairsGood for Power Wheelchairs
1. Vinyl SheetYes. Thinner varieties can wear faster.Yes. Thinner varieties can wear faster.
2. Traditional Vinyl TilesYes, but will wear fast.Yes, but will wear fast.
3. Self-Adhesive or Glue-Down Luxury Vinyl FlooringYesYes
4. Interlocking or Floating Luxury Vinyl FlooringYes, but with some caution.No

1. Vinyl Sheet

Vinyl sheets come in rolls and are glued and fixed directly to the subfloor. When installed, it creates a smooth and durable flooring with fewer seams compared to the other types. They sometimes get confused as linoleum flooring but both materials are completely different from one another.

There are several types of vinyl sheet, with some being thinner than others. Vinyl sheets also come as inlaid or printed type designs.

Inlaid vinyl sheets are made with color granules embedded into the vinyl sheet and goes completely through the depth of the material. They maintain their color even when they get chipped or scratched, making any damage unnoticeable.

Printed vinyl sheets, on the other hand, have their design printed directly onto the surface of the vinyl. A transparent wear layer is applied over the printed design to protect the floor. Any damage that goes through the wear layer will easily show up.

Both inlaid and printed vinyl sheet types will work well and are durable enough to stand up to both manual and power wheelchairs. Inlaid vinyl types though will last longer than the printed types. They also tend to have more traction for the wheelchairs to grip on to.

For both inlaid or printed vinyl sheets, if the flooring will be subjected to medium to high wheelchair usage, go for the commercial grade. They tend to have a thicker wear layer and will last longer for wheelchair use than the residential grade. Commercial grade vinyl sheets can last for more than 20 years.

2. Traditional Vinyl Tiles

Traditional vinyl tiles or the standard vinyl tiles come in 6 in. to 18 in. square tiles. They were the only tiled vinyl option before luxury vinyl tiles came out. They are very thin, and the cheapest type of vinyl flooring.

Tradition vinyl tiles are fixed and glued down directly on to the subfloor. Similar to vinyl sheets, they also come as inlaid or printed types which offer the same qualities as how they are in vinyl sheets.

These vinyl type can be used for both manual and power wheelchairs without any problem. Since they are generally thin, they will wear faster. And for a low to medium wheelchair usage, traditional vinyl tiles could last up to 10 years.

One of the upside to tradition vinyl tiles, aside from them being cheap, is the ease of repairing or replacing a damaged tile.

3. Self-Adhesive or Glue-Down Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Luxury vinyl flooring is an upgraded version of the traditional vinyl tiles. The designs are mostly printed onto the vinyl surface but they are made with a thicker wear layer, made more durable, and are longer-lasting than the traditional vinyl tiles. They are more expensive than the traditional vinyl tiles though but the better qualities they possess over the traditional vinyl tiles justifies the cost.

Luxury vinyl flooring comes in tiles or planks. The printed designs look excellent and usually mimic the look of real hardwood or stone. The textures of wood or stone are also sometimes added matching the print layer of the vinyl surface, making it look more realistic.

There are two general types of luxury vinyl flooring when it comes to installation methodology. There’s the self-adhesive or glue-down type, and there’s the interlocking or floating type. The floating type will be discussed on the next item of the list.

Self-adhesive or the glue-down luxury vinyl flooring type is just like how it sounds, it is fixed and glued down directly on to the subfloor. Both manual and power wheelchairs will work well with luxury vinyl floors with this type of installation.

For medium to heavy wheelchair use, look for commercial grade or commercial quality of luxury vinyl floors. These types often have a thicker wear layer and can stand up better to heavy rolling traffic. With the proper maintenance and care, luxury vinyl floors can last for more than 25 years.

4. Interlocking or Floating Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Interlocking or floating luxury vinyl flooring is the other type of installation methodology. These types of floors have locking designs on the edges which allow the tiles or planks to be snapped together side by side. These allows the whole floor to move as a whole unit and you generally don’t need to glue them on to the subfloor.

Problems sometimes can occur when power wheelchairs are used. Snap-together or interlocking vinyl floors can sometimes break apart when rolled on by a power wheelchair. It can’t withstand the torque generated by the wheels.

Since manual wheelchairs don’t generate the same amount of torque in their wheels as in the power wheelchairs, it can safely traverse floating vinyl floors without any problems but caution should still be taken because heavy loaded manual wheelchairs may still cause the floors to break apart.

Generally speaking, you should always go for the glue-down type luxury vinyl floors when planning to use if for any type of wheelchairs to be on the safe side.

Other Floors that are Good for Wheelchairs

Aside from vinyl flooring, there are other floors as well that is good to use for wheelchairs. All of them have the same characteristics of flooring that are good to use for wheelchairs and these are smooth and firm surface, durable, non-slip, and easy to maintain. These floors are the following:

  • Hardwood flooring
  • Engineered hardwood flooring
  • Strand-woven bamboo flooring
  • Engineered bamboo flooring
  • Laminate wood flooring
  • Cork flooring
  • Linoleum flooring
  • Rubber flooring
  • Ceramic tile flooring
  • Porcelain tile flooring
  • Natural stone flooring
  • Concrete flooring
  • Epoxy floor coating system

Each has its own pros and cons but any of these types of floors can work well with wheelchairs.

If there is one flooring to avoid to use when it comes to wheelchairs, it is carpet flooring. Although you can roll wheelchairs over carpets, the carpet fibers and piles adds friction to the wheels. You’ll find the wheelchairs becoming a bit heavier when pushing and traversing on carpets.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vinyl Flooring

Just like with any type of flooring, vinyl floors have its own pros and cons and let’s go through each one of them below.

Advantages of Vinyl Flooring

  • It is very easy to clean and maintain. Regular sweeping and vacuuming are often enough to keep it clean.
  • It is 100% waterproof and stainproof. You can install it in rooms that are exposed to water or extreme moisture without getting damaged such as in bathrooms, laundry areas, mudrooms, and wet basements.
  • High scratch-resistance. This flooring can also be used for dogs or pets with sharp nails.
  • Except for the traditional vinyl tiles, vinyl flooring, in general, are hard-wearing and will last long.
  • Most higher quality vinyl floors are non-slip. and is also a safe floor to use for seniors or the elderly.
  • It is very affordable and one of the cheapest flooring you can get.
  • It is DIY friendly, installing it usually won’t require any professional help.
  • Luxury vinyl floors come in beautiful simulations of stone or wood. It can be a very good alternative to the expensive hardwood flooring if you’re after the wood floor look.

If you’re looking for floor options for seniors, I recommend you read this article – 6 Best Floor Options for the Elderly.

Disadvantages of Vinyl Flooring

  • Although it is 100% waterproof, it may still let water through the subfloor if standing water is left unattended for a long time. If you’re planning to use vinyl for wet areas such as in bathrooms, make sure you have applied a waterproofing system on to the subfloor to protect any water seepage from damaging the subfloor.
  • Lower quality vinyl floors can off-gas. Although it is usually extremely minimal this may still pose some health risk to people with allergies or respiratory problems. Providing a proper ventilation inside the room usually helps keep the gasses at bay.
  • It seldom adds value to the home.

What is the Best Way to Clean Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl floors are very easy to clean. Normally, just regular sweeping or vacuuming does the job. For deeper cleaning, you can use a wet mop or a steam mop to clean vinyl floors. Any commercial floor cleaners made especially for vinyl floors can be used.

For a natural homemade floor cleaning solution, you can try using vinegar. Just add 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water. And then simply apply it with a damp mop as usual.

If your vinyl floors get some black scuff marks from the frequent use of wheelchairs, you can simply remove it by using a soft pencil eraser and rubbing the mark off.

Angelo

He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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