Choosing a type of flooring for a space that will be used by multiple children on a regular basis presents a number of challenges. You need to find a material that can withstand the rough play and stains that kids can often leave in their wake. It should be easy to clean so that it can be sanitized periodically in order to maintain the health of the environment. You also want a floor that is comfortable, and preferably soft to help prevent injuries.
The use of bright colors can help to stimulate creativity, but can also inspire activity.
Rubber Floor Tiles
These materials are often used on playgrounds, where children are their most active and need to be protected. Plush and yielding, rubber floor tiles come in a variety of thicknesses which determine how soft the floor will actually be. Interior spaces such as schools and nurseries generally only require a ¾” or ½” thickness to create a safe and comfortable surface. For playgrounds and other active areas the material may be 2” - 6” thick or more.
In addition to its safe softness, rubber is also great for commercial children’s spaces because it is resistant to almost all staining agents. From spilled food and drinks to slobber, snot, and blood, rubber tiles will hold the offending material on its surface until it can be wiped clean. While there are a few things that can stain this material, such as grease and oil, those are not common substances found in most public children’s spaces.
Resilient Vinyl Sheets
Vinyl is a resilient flooring option that is resistant to virtually all staining agents. It is easy to clean, and it can be sanitized with any standard cleansing agent without fear of damaging its surface. Vinyl sheets can also be installed over a padded cork underlayment layer that will give it a soft springy feel, making the room safe for kids.
However the price of underlayment can as much as double the material’s cost.
Some people are hesitant to use vinyl in a commercial children’s location because it is known to offgas small amounts of Volatile Organic Chemicals. These are toxic elements that are released from the material after installation. Higher quality products will offgas significantly lower levels of these VOC’s and the amount given off by even the worst offenders is minimal. However, there is evidence showing that it can irritate children who have respiratory issues.
Natural Linoleum Flooring
Linoleum is a resilient flooring option that shares many of the qualities of vinyl. It is stain resistant, and easy to maintain, just requiring the application of an acrylic sealer on an annual basis to protect it from liquid spills. It can also be installed over padded underlayment to create a soft safe surface for kids to play. The difference is that linoleum is an all natural product that does not offgas any toxic materials, and is completely safe for children.
Carpeting is a common choice for nursery schools, day care centers, and anywhere you find small children on a regular basis. Soft, safe, and familiar, the plush surface of carpet lets kids hop down on the floor to assemble a puzzle, build a block palace, or line up toy soldiers for war and games. It also makes the perfect place for nap time.
The drawback to carpet is that it is susceptible to liquid damage in a variety of ways. Stains are always a potential problem, especially with lighter colors. You also have to be worried about the possibility of moisture penetrating down into the under padding, where it can start to form mold and give rise to a host of nasty microorganisms. Specially manufactured water resistant carpet can help to alleviate these problems to some extent, and steam cleaning on a regular basis can help keep the area free of contagions.
Commercial Cork Kids Flooring
Another soft surface material, cork is an all natural flooring choice that has a uniquely yielding feel that children find delightful. Bouncy and squishy under foot, the cork will be fun to play on, and will keep the kids in the space safe from accidental falls, with a soft traction and a cushioned catch. Unfortunately, the soft surface of cork means that it can be damaged easily, gouging, tearing, and scratching if treated carelessly by a child.
This is a standard flooring choice for elementary, middle, and high school interiors. Hardwood has a more refined, older feeling to it, making it appropriate for spaces frequented by teenagers and young adults. It’s also a familiar material, that can make a space feel more comfortable for kids when they first arrive at the beginning of the year. Relatively easy to maintain, wood floors can be damaged and stained but refinishing allows you to revitalize the look periodically every few years.