In addition, as the population ages, modular carpet tiles’ patterns and colors are increasingly being used in assisted living centers and retirement homes as a way-finding method. “The tiles help seniors identify their hallway and other pathways they take,” says Bethany Richmond, CRI’s director of communications. She adds scientists from the University of Manchester, England, recently presented research about plastic optical fibers placed under carpet that can detect changes in walking patterns. “The sensors were developed to predict when someone’s gait is declining to the point where they are getting close to having a fall,” Richmond says. “Once this technology becomes available, we can prevent accidents with an electronic sensor under carpet.”
Wood has long been a popular product in residential flooring applications and is growing in marketshare within the commercial building industry because of certain characteristics. For one, it is considered a unique flooring type when used in stores, restaurants or office spaces. “Hardwood flooring has this aura about it that when you see it in a commercial space, you’re looking at something that is not typical; it gives it a feeling of more elegance,” says Ron Hendricks, self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades with the National Wood Flooring Association, Chesterfield, Mo. The organization was founded to provide a voice to installers, contractors, manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer reps and others involved in the hardwood flooring business.
Hendricks says wood can be finished to match a building owner’s specification. Bold colors can be applied to wood floors and then sanded off later should the owner decide he or she wants a natural wood floor look. And if a wood floor is uncovered in a historic building, it often can be repaired and reused; in places where the wood floor must be replaced, the new floor can be treated to match the existing floor. “We can make new floors look like old floors with certain techniques,” Hendricks adds.
In addition to reusing existing floors, reclaimed wood has become a hot trend in recent years. NWFA has several members that pull logs out of rivers and lakes around the country or salvage wood beams and floors from buildings slated for demolition. The wood is then reused in new or existing buildings. This business adds another layer to wood’s classification as a renewable resource.
To maintain a wood floor’s appearance, a commercial building owner must follow a maintenance program. “In commercial applications, it’s the finish on top of the wood flooring that really takes the abuse,” Hendricks says. “Depending on the environment, we recommend that every one or two years they screen and recoat the floor. If the owner doesn’t recoat, he will have to go through the sanding process; screen and recoat is a much quicker application.”
Hendricks says linear installations are more popular than parquet or patterned wood floors in commercial and residential applications, and sound-deadening installations are growing. “We have products available, like rolled cork and other insulated materials, that can be installed under hardwood to help deaden the sound when you’re walking across,” he says. Floating wood floors also are popular, Hendricks adds, and work well over UFAD and raised-access floors.
“The many options available for wood floors make them popular,” he notes. “There are more than 100 imported species, and we have 37 domestic species that can be used in many different applications.”