Anyone who has ever used a wheelchair, or tried to push a wheelchair or child’s buggy over a thick carpet or rug (particularly in a hotel corridor!) knows how hard it is to move the wheels over the carpet. The rubber almost sticks to it and makes it really hard to move. So what flooring is best for a wheelchair user? Here’s my top tips for what works well for wheelchair users if you’re thinking about switching up your floors…
Vinyl (or Lino as we called it when I was growing up!) is a really good option and one you might not have thought about. Vinyl isn’t like the lino of the 70s really, modern vinyls are thick, cushioned, warm and some of the designs are photo realistic so you really think it’s a wooden floor.
We have vinyl flooring in Mr WCH’s home office and it’s excellent. This particular one came from CarpetRight (not an advert, I paid for both the floor and the fitting) . It was really cheap to buy and it took a matter of minutes to be installed (seriously, the fitters were in and out in about 40 minutes). The great thing about this is it looks like an expensive parquet floor, but it’s one large sheet. It’s easy to roll over and because it’s one sheet there’s no individual boards at different heights to worry. Vinyl flooring is also well rated for being non-slip so are great for kitchen or bathroom too.
It’s very easy to vacuum and to wash with the steamer or a mop, so it’s simple to maintain. If I had a gripe about it, it would be that if you drop anything sharp or something heavy you could make a nick in the top layer. Mr WCH dropped something and there’s a tiny tear under the desk but it’s barely visible unless you’re really looking for it. It’s something to keep in mind though, if you’re edging towards vinyl.
There’s also loads of designs available if you pick a vinyl floor, wood planks in dozens of colours and designs, tile effect in so many designs it’ll make your eyes water, or you could even go for patterns, florals, stripes – there’s going to be a design out there for you, that’s for sure!
Laminate and Engineered Wood
Laminate flooring gets a bit of a bad rap from time to time, and it’s true that the cheapest ones can be pretty poor quality, but laminate has improved a lot over the last few years, and if you go a little more mid-high end in terms of pricing then you really wouldn’t be able to tell it from real or engineered wood boards.
Laminate is easy to fit, in that it clicks together easily and if you’re able to add skirting boards afterwards (or slice into the bottom of the skirting boards so it slides underneath) then you don’t have to use the beading that goes round the edges to keep it down. If you can’t slot it under the skirting, my top tip is to paint the beading the same colour as the skirting boards and it becomes almost invisible!
Laminate boards come in a variety of thicknesses, ideally the deeper you can go, the better it will be, but it will depend on the underlay you get with it (to make it insulated and to stop movement). Don’t skimp on the underlay either, you might not see it underneath the boards but you will definitely feel it!
We have laminate in the hallway and kitchen/diner. It’s incredibly easy for Mr WCH to roll around on and with muddy wheels it’s easy to keep clean. Ours is old and has some chunks missing from the day we moved in and the removal men took a chunk out of the floor trying to get the fridge through the kitchen door (rolls eyes!) and it needs replacing soon, we will probably go back down this path to be honest.
It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to fit and the range of wood effects is really amazing. You can really ‘old’ looking wood effect planks and a variety of colours. When I get this replaced I’ll go for something with more texture and character I think.
If laminate flooring isn’t your thing, you can try engineered wood, which is a thin layer of real wood on top of either a laminate board or ply. The beauty with engineered wood is that it will feel like real wood, and you are able to sand and paint the top if that’s what you’d like to do. It’s much more expensive than laminate but will give you the look and feel of real wood with some insulation underneath, and they click together like laminate. If you have an older property that might be the option to go for.
With all flooring I really recommend trying to keep the same through the whole house to avoid thresholds and small changes in height. We still have carpet in the living room and bedrooms and Mr WCH has trouble getting into the living room as he has to bump over the threshold. When we get the flooring replaced it will be across all of the rooms.
If you’re after the really modern look or are building a new home, then polished concrete is great. You can use it with underfloor heating and it’s so smooth to roll over, we visited a house recently with concrete floors (see the blog post here) and Mr WCH was getting around so easily, he said it was a dream to roll around on.
Concrete isn’t something you’ll necessarily do in your 2 bed semi-detached in a housing estate, but if you’re building an extension or if you’re starting a new build then this is something to consider. It could have the potential to be a little slippy, so check with your builder to review what the options are for you, but if you’re in a chair most or all of the time, this could really work.
Tiled floors are of course popular with wheelchair users because they are easy to wheel around on, and you can get ones with a high nonslip rating for areas like bathrooms, utility rooms or kitchens. Do check the slip rating first to make sure that the ones you’re looking at are safe for you.
Also recently tiles have had a bit of a makeover and you can get wood effect tiles (great idea for a bathroom if you want the scandi or rustic vibe!) or go wild with some patterns and bring a bit of boldness into the home.
Tiles are for the most part, easy to keep clean. I say for the most part because the black ceramic tiles in our bathroom are an absolute nightmare to keep clean. I think it’s because they’re black and every speck of dust shows on them – BUT we are replacing them soon in a new project that I can’t wait to share with you and we will definitely be getting something that’s not black!
Some of the bathrooms I’ve featured in previous posts have had great tiled floors, it’s such a cool way of getting some personality into your home, particularly in the smallest room in the house, why not go a bit crazy!
If you miss your rugs
I miss having rugs in the home, Mr WCH finds it difficult to get over them as we discussed in this old post here. I love the cosiness of a rug and also how it breaks up a large expanse of wooden floor. I’ve seen some great ideas recently that might help to give you that rug look.
Firstly, take a look at a Vinyl or Outdoor Rug – they are incredibly thin, durable, washable (great for muddy wheels) and if you tape them down with double sided rug tape you’re on to a winner.
And secondly, if you’re an artsy type, then I’ve seen great ideas where people have stencilled their floors – here’s a great couple of examples from Instagram – you can do this to a smaller size to make it look like a rug in the middle of the flooring, put a hardwearing clear varnish or top coat over the top and you can create your own faux rug for a few pounds.
Both of these floors in the pictures below are painted with a stencil. If you’ve got the patience to do it, it’s a fabulous idea to give you that wheelchair friendly ‘rug’!
I’m hoping to get our kitchen/diner flooring done this year, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on our choices! What other ideas have you got for wheelchair friendly flooring?
NOTE – before putting any flooring down please check with the experts for the best option for your home and your individual needs. I’m providing you with some inspiration but please do your research to make sure you get the best one for you.