The First Wealth is Health

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1860 “The first wealth is health”.

Emerson’s quote, reminds us that good health is our most important asset and indeed the foundation on which to build—a life, a community, an economy.­

The world is still dealing with the worst outbreak of the Corona virus on record; a grim reminder of our vulnerability.

In this article we’d like to celebrate the great progresses flooring manufacturers around the world have made to develop interior floor finishes for healthcare facilities.

Interior finishes play a vital role in the healthcare environment and contribute substantially to the delivery of healthcare service and the protection of staff and patients.

Flooring is probably the most important dimension of a health facility contributing to public and patient perceptions. Floor finishes cannot be considered independently of their applicable sub-floor, installation, adhesives or underlays and the relevant cleaning protocols, and need to be evaluated as a whole in terms of the various criteria.

Four main categories of floor finishes:

  1. Hard finishes

This would include rigid finishes such as porcelain or ceramic, marble tiles, or seamless coatings such as cementitious or epoxy coatings.

  1. Resilient finishes

This would include flexible and semi-flexible sheeting such as vinyl, linoleum, rubber or cork.

  1. Soft finishes

This would include textiles such as carpets as well as walk-off mats and anti-fatigue mats.

  1. Hybrid finishes

This is a relatively new generation floor finish commonly called LVTs/LVPs that combine various materials and is topped off with a wear layer.

Each flooring type has different applications and resultant benefits and disadvantages. The various characteristics would need to be weighed up against the functions of the various rooms within a healthcare facility.

Environmental aspects in the choice of finishes also need to be accounted for, which entail embodied energy of materials, life cycle costing and toxicity which effects the indoor environment quality.

Selecting the correct finish is a complex process with many aspects to consider, however, in healthcare facilities, the importance of the effect of a particular finish on the prevention of infection control must be prioritised. This impacts the choice of materials in two aspects, firstly, is the surface likely to become a reservoir for infectious agents, and secondly, the ability to clean the finish.

Resilient finishes are generally flexible floor coverings that provide a continuous impervious finish well suited to the healthcare environment’s needs. It is critically important that the sub-floor is of adequate strength, perfectly level and has controlled moisture content, as any failure in the substrate will affect the performance of the floor finish. Any imperfections will be emphasised, creating scuffing and uneven wear.

All sheeting must be fully bonded to the substrate as per the manufacturer’s specifications and all joints heat welded for a seamless finish.

Vinyl sheeting is commonly used as a floor finish in health facilities because it provides a durable, resilient and impervious finish. FloorworX provides various range types to choose from, namely homogeneous, directional or non-directional patterns and uncoated or coated surface finishes.

Vinyl sheeting as a material has been found to inhibit the growth of bacteria, and particularly MRSA. The welded joints prevent dust or dirt congregating in areas that are difficult to clean, and the integral skirting supports this seamless appeal. This has made vinyl sheeting very suitable for use in healthcare facilities. Some heterogeneous products also have silver-ions in the finishing layer to create an antibacterial surface.

Vinyl sheeting is relatively soft underfoot and has superior sound absorption qualities.

Vinyl sheeting can be installed with a variety of skirting solutions. The use of the flooring material as an integrally welded skirting, forming a coved joint between the wall and the floor is the best solution in terms of infection control as the joints are welded and the ‘corner’ is smooth, rounded and easy to clean. The cove former which supports the turn-up of the sheeting can be sealed off at each end to ensure there is no access into this gap.

Extruded PVC-skirting are usually set in to abut the floor-sheet, with a small ‘foot’ taking the curve into the wall. The set-in skirting is then welded against the floor-sheet. Capping strips can be used with all these types to create a neat line on the top edge. A complete range of colour co-ordinated Extruda vinyl accessories are available from FloorworX to ensure a perfect finish.

Contact your nearest FloorworX Accounts Representative or the FloorworX Technical Department directly via e-mail on technical@floorworx.co.za to assist your design team when they need to select ‘fit for purpose’ healthcare facility materials and finishes.

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