Flooring for Tough Spaces

Heavy traffic, cleaning requirements, environmental considerations and potential exposure to chemicals make flooring in kitchens, laboratories and industrial arts areas different from the student union or the admissions office. While flooring options are more limited in these areas — carpet and hardwoods usually aren’t appropriate for a number of considerations — aesthetics don’t have to be compromised. Industry experts say that thoroughly evaluating use and maintenance requirements will enable facility personnel to choose flooring that is durable and that meets all user requirements.


“The primary considerations in a kitchen involves durability, slip resistance and cleanability,” says Mark Paggioli, marketing director for Dur-a-Flex. “You need a seamless floor that can withstand heat, water and lots of heavy traffic.”

Floors with three different chemistries are options according to Paggioli: epoxy, acrylic and urethane. Each has different chemistries and strengths, and should be selected based on user and institutional preferences.“Epoxy is very durable and some finishes are high gloss,” he says.“However, it takes four to six hours to cure, which is longer than the other two options.”

Urethane cures quicker than epoxy and is also durable. The one drawback is that it’s less decorative than the other two options. On the plus side, urethane withstands higher temperatures and thermal shock well.

Methyl Methacrylat (MMA) or acrylic cures in 40 to 60 minutes, so set up is very fast. It’s also very resistant to a variety of chemicals, which is another plus.


Bob Currie, assistant director of Facilities at Iowa State University (ISU), says that specifying the most durable floor product depends on the activity within the lab. “Building things, such as might be done in an engineering lab, requires a different floor from a pharmaceutical research lab. You must consider all users including possible exposure to chemicals, as well as requirements for sterile environments.”

Currie says that concrete floors are applicable in many instances. The surface can be prepped with a power-trowel finish and then sealed with a clear sealer. This reduces staining and firms out the concrete.

Ease of repair and maintenance are always considerations for any floor. “We use environmentally friendly cleaning materials,” Currie states. “Our floors must be easy to clean, and that includes having easy-to-follow procedures for our cleaning staff.”

Industrial Arts

Concrete and other seamless surfaces are also appropriate for industrial arts areas, according to both Paggoli and Currie. Epoxy or other surfaces provide seamless solutions, as does concrete.

Aesthetics can be addressed for concrete by painting the surface, ISU makes sure that the right type of paint is used, which is what Currie says occurs in some of ISU’s industrial and graphic arts rooms. “Our students enhance the aesthetics of our concrete floors in some instances. It allows them to express their creativity and livens the floor.”

Environmental Considerations

Carol Fudge, marketing manager for nora® Rubber Flooring, a division of Freudenberg Building Systems, notes that environmental issues are also part of the flooring equation. “Colleges and universities are addressing sustainability issues more and more,” she says. “Healthy indoor air quality is important, so many institutions don’t use flooring that off gases.”

Fudge also says that maintenance is a key factor regarding whatever type of flooring is used, a point stressed by both Paggioli and Currie. “Some institutions prefer to use floors that don’t have stripping or waxing requirements,” she states. “This reduces chemical use and also minimizes financial outlays for maintenance.”

Again, the floor should be seamless so that minute particles don’t become embedded in cracks between materials. Individual tiles should be avoided, especially in areas where sterilization is important, as they can be hard to clean.