Residence Hall Flooring Solutions

No doubt, campus officials want it all when it comes to residence hall floorcoverings. They desire products that have a low life-cycle cost, are easy to maintain, and are durable enough to look good through time — even in high-traffic areas. In addition, recyclability is a growing factor in the kind of flooring that is chosen.

The question is: Can campus officials have it all?

Location, Location, Location

Whether it’s privatized or university-run, student housing has the same three types of space: common areas, transitional areas, and student rooms. Because each of these spaces has different floorcovering requirements, each also has a number of potential floorcovering solutions.

Common Areas —“In the common areas, our biggest drive for residence living is to develop a residential appeal, a home-like feel,” said Cindy Von Gnechten, WRID, WIDC, facilities designer at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point (UWSP). That makes sense from the perspective that the common areas are used to encourage social development as well as enhance academic development.

“So we use a lot of carpet in the common areas,” said Von Gnechten. Specifically, in the lobbies, study lounges, computer labs, programming rooms and corridors, UWSP administrators use broadloom carpet that is saturated in both color and pattern to help mask soiling and staining. The carpet is on a 10-year replacement cycle.

Administrators at the University of Dayton (UD) in Ohio also use broadloom carpet in the common areas of a residence hall built just two years ago.“We chose the carpet for comfort, aesthetics — color and texture — and ease of care,” explained Craig Schmitt, executive director of Residential Services. “How stain-resistant is it and, if it does stain, how easy is it to take the stain out?”

Transitional Areas — Transitional areas can be a challenge because they’re high-traffic and must look good. Fortunately, there are a number of floorcovering products on the market to meet the challenge, and it seems as though the floors at UWSP include them all!

The residence halls have a “T” shape and traditional-style, double-loaded corridors. The areas where the “T”s connect are called T Centers. “Those areas have an eclectic mix of floorcoverings,” said Von Gnechten. “For example, we have stone, quarry tile, and vinyl composition tile. Of course, as we renovate, we upgrade, but the T Centers will always be covered in a hard surface for ease of maintenance.” The corridors themselves are carpeted in a broadloom.

Interestingly enough, UD officials also are using a variety of products in the transitional spaces of their new residence hall. The main lobby contains ceramic tile. The elevator landings are covered with vinyl composition tile. And the hallways are carpeted in broadloom. “In the main lobby and elevator landings, we were looking for aesthetics and ease of care,” explained Schmitt. “From both cost and long-term-use perspectives, it didn’t make sense to carpet these high-traffic areas.”

Student Rooms — In the resident rooms, UWSP administrators use a modular tile carpet. “It is a type 6,6 solution-dyed yarn on an 18 in. by 18 in. tile,” said Von Gnechten, who is a real advocate, partly because of the modular tile carpet’s durability and ease in replacing a soiled section.

Von Gnechten also prefers the carpet tile because of its recyclability. “Sustainability efforts are a priority when specifying any product for the residence halls,” she explained. “As we renovate, our supplier even removes the existing carpet, which isn’t theirs, and pays to ship it for recycling into carpet tile backing.”

Carpet is also used in UD’s new residence hall, but it’s broadloom, as compared to carpet tile.

Interestingly enough, Schmitt noted that, in an existing residence hall that is under renovation, they’re leaving the current vinyl composition tile in place as opposed to installing carpet. “We found that carpet in student rooms is very high maintenance,” he explained. “It’s not that the students are careless, it’s just high maintenance.” They also have found that, if they don’t provide carpet, 80 percent to 90 percent of students provide some type of carpet or area rugs of their own.

Maintenance Made Easy

Keeping all of these different types of flooring clean and well maintained can be a real challenge, especially because the residence halls are occupied for at least nine months of the year. At UWSP, maintenance is compounded by the fact that the residence halls are also used in the summer to host conference attendees.

For best results, both Schmitt and Von Gnechten recommend establishing and following a cleaning schedule.

To that end, both administrators note that their schedules allow for carpet to be hot-water extracted during semester break and in the summer. Then it’s spot cleaned as needed throughout the year.

Likewise, hard surfaces are stripped and waxed during semester break and in the summer at both campuses. Then they are cleaned as needed throughout the course of the year.

“We try to minimize interruptions of the spaces, and the students are very good about understanding that,” said Von Gnechten. “We keep them informed as to when maintenance will be occurring.”

All flooring at both campuses is vacuumed and/or mopped according to a schedule, most often daily. “There are schedules in each residence hall for that,” pointed out Von Gnechten. “Our custodial staff takes a lot of pride in their buildings and do their best to keep them maintained and in great shape.”

Because there are so many options available to fulfill residence hall flooring needs, campus officials can have all their needs met when it comes to choosing the right product for the right space. And, when the budget is tight, that’s good news indeed.


Choosing a Design

“When we update common-area spaces, like study lounges and lobbies, we ask for student input,” said Cindy Von Gnechten. She meets with the students to discover what they would like and what their needs are. Based on their recommendations, she assembles two design options. The students vote on the design they prefer, and majority vote wins.

“It’s a fun process,” Von Gnechten said. “We get a lot of positive feedback from the students.” She credits this to the fact that the students understand they are the customers and the administrators value their opinions and want to hear their voices.