Future-proofed bathrooms

Smart bathroom flooring choices can help people stay independent in their own homes for longer, explains Esther Bond of Altro

Home adaptations allow individuals who are disabled, ageing or vulnerable to continue to live in their own homes for longer. This does require, however, homes to be adapted to provide a safe and comfortable environment for them to live in. When houses are adapted, you need to not only consider the needs of the individual now, but in the future. Physical and mental health can deteriorate over time, and to have a familiar environment that does not have to be changed reduces stress and confusion after the house modification.

The bathing experience is an important part of life and environments should help people feel safe and relaxed. Colour is a way of achieving this, creating a warm, comforting and homely environment, even where the home is adapted with specialist equipment. We can recommend colour combinations that are appropriate for people with dementia and those with visual impairments.

More accidents happen at home than anywhere else. That’s why safety should always be an important consideration when adapting a home. Slips and trips can easily happen when floors are wet or there is an uneven surface. Wet environments are not just about water; it’s also what we use in those areas, including shower gel and shampoo. The slip risks that these contaminants create are potentially dangerous and could cause serious accidents.

Slips and falls aren’t the only consideration in wet environments. Indoor humidity and poor cleaning can lead to build-ups of bacteria and mould, which can impact health as well as the appearance of the rooms.

For bathrooms, look for safety flooring that guarantees to reduce the chance of a slip or trip to one in a million, for the lifetime of the flooring so you can rest assured your home adaption will be safe for years to come.

In practical terms, adaptions that are easy to clean and maintain is an important consideration. Quite often carers are in the workforce or are themselves elderly. Having an environment that is easy to keep clean makes life easier – and safer – for everyone. Surfaces that are impervious and can be washed and even steam cleaned allows the highest levels of hygiene to be maintained.

Look for bathroom solutions such as a watertight and integrated floor and wall system that is easy to clean and is safe with a number of contaminants such as shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Also look for the latest specialist safety flooring, designed to keep you safe in wetrooms, bathrooms, toilets, whether you are barefoot or wearing shoes, so you are safe no matter what you’re wearing (or not!).

There are many reasons to choose safety flooring over tiles in domestic bathroom adaptations. Tiles and grouting are porous, making them more susceptible to harbouring bacteria. Tiles chip and crack more easily, allowing dirt and bacteria to collect and hide from cleaners. They can also allow water to reach the substrate, causing damage to walls. Grout lines are particularly vulnerable and even epoxy grout is susceptible. Unlike tiles, safety floors have no grout, giving bacteria nowhere to hide.

In people’s homes more than anywhere, a comfortable, welcoming and attractive look matters. There are plenty of safety flooring options with contemporary shades that suit any domestic environment, including latest innovations with a soft-look finish that is more homely than traditional safety flooring.

Specifying checklist

Floors

  • Drainage/existing substrate
  • Type of equipment that will be used in the room
  • Extra impact resistance for walking aids and wheeled mobility aids
  • Cleaning
  • Stairs or ramps
  • Ground floor or upper floor location
  • Shoe and barefoot usage
  • Spillages of food, bodily fluids or chemicals
  • Potential for staining of floor
  • Contrasting colours on walls and floors, which can help those suffering from dementia or visual impairments
  • Design and appearance
  • Time available for installation

Walls

  • Existing substrate/wall finish
  • Extra impact resistance for walking aids and wheeled mobility aids
  • Pipes, vents, ducts, wall furniture, window and door frames
  • Colour/contrast finish requirement
  • Hygiene requirement
  • Cleaning
  • Time available for installation
  • Coved skirting for hygiene and easy cleaning

Esther Bond is specifications consultant at Altro