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Flooring is the general term for a permanent covering of a floor, or for the work of installing such a floor covering. Floor covering is a term to generically describe any finish material applied over a floor structure to provide a walking surface. Both terms are used interchangeably but floor covering refers more to loose-laid materials.

Floor surfaces cover a large area of the room and are subject to constant wear. They are expensive and replace less frequently than other furnishings. Improperly laid floors or damaged floors can cause accidents and damage to the equipment.  Floor surfaces must be comfortable and quiet besides contributing to the décor of the room.  The traffic in the area and utility of the room must also be considered.

Factors Determining the Floor Finish

Appearance: Colour, pattern and texture of the floor surfaces should be compatible with the size, décor and activity of the room. Pale colours provide a cool appearance of warmth. Patterned surfaces add interest to the room.

Comfort: Foot fatigue should be reduced by use of soft resilient surfaces.  Floor surfaces should not be noisy or slippery.

Durability: Grit, dragging of furniture and placement of equipment or circulation of heavy traffic should not damage the floor surface.  They should also not be affected by the cleaning reagents and food spillages.

Life Expectancy: Since floor surfaces are not changed frequently, they are expected to last for longer time.

Safety: Safety to the guests and occupants must be considered.  Fire resistance, slip resistance and accident proof surfaces must be selected.

Ease of Cleaning: Ease of maintenance and cleaning costs must be considered while selecting them.

Cost: The cost of the floor surface, cost of laying and maintenance should be considered before selection.

Types of Floors Surfaces/Finish

Floor surfaces are divided into two types hard and soft floors.  A subfloor is laid below the floor surface, which may be made of softwood or hardboard.  It should be free from dampness, dirt and unevenness.  This protects the top floor.


Stone Floor Surfaces: These are commonly used in areas that must withstand heavy traffic, repeated washing and movement of goods. These floors are extremely durable and hygienic.

Concrete: It is composed of cement and sand. Pigments may be added to provide colour.  This floor can withstand large weights but is damaged by acids and alkalis. It is suitable for stores, sub-floors, laundry, staircase etc. Concrete is extremely porous, hard and soiled easily.  A scaler may be applied to make it stain resistant.  These floors are suitable in halls, lounges, corridors, and bathrooms and as tabletops.

Wooden Floor Surfaces: These floors are used in all types of establishments for corridors, dance floors, bar areas, dining halls, game rooms etc.  They are more attractive than stone but are very porous and easily damaged by moisture and pests.  A ceiling polish must be applied to increase durability. Strips of wood are cut into varying lengths and laid on a subfloor.  The colour of the floor will depend upon the type of wood used.  Oak and teak are the common types of wood used for flooring. Designs can be created by varying the colour of wooden tiles (blocks) and arranging them in different patterns.

Cork Tiles: Cork is obtained from the bark of the cork of oak tree.  It is the least resistant of the hard floor surface.  It is a good insulator, warm, resilient and quite easy to maintain.  It has a high degree of slip resistance but the tiles cannot withstand heavy furniture, grease, and moisture and alkalis.  The colour of natural cork is brown and pigments may be added to obtain other colours e.g. Green.

Resilient Floor Surfaces: These floor surfaces include certain plastics or finishes which make them moisture and grease resilient.

Terrazzo: This consists of marble chips, set in cement.  It may be plain or coloured and ground smooth.  This is not used in small areas but preferred around pools and in gardens.  These floors are porous and damaged by acids, alkalis and grease.  They are unharmed by water and have good slip resistance when polished.  The common colours are white, green, blue and black.

Ceramic Tiles: Ceramic tiles are made of clay and fired at high temperature.  They are hand or machine made, glazed and unglazed. Shapes of the tiles may be square, rectangular or hexagonal. Tiles are waterproof and impervious to cleaning liquid.  They are commonly used in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry, canteens, bars etc. These floors are hard, noisy and tire the feet.  Ceramic floors should not be polished since that would make it dangerously slippery.

Mosaic: They are made of glass, silica and clay.  They may be set directly on the floor or made as tiles and laid on a subfloor unaffected by pests or fungi and the glass can be retained for a long time.

Timber: Well-maintained timber floor surfaces provide attractive hygienic, warm and serviceable floors for a long time.  They may be laid as strips, boards or blocks.  Floorboards are made from softwoods while strips are constructed from hardwoods.  The colour of the floor depends upon the natural grain.  A sealer may be applied or a polish given to the wooden floor to make it glossy and dirt resistant.

Chip Board: Chipboard is obtained by mixing wood chippings or sawdust with resin or cement at high temperature and pressure.  Unlike timber, it does not warm or split.

Linoleum: This is made up of lignum, i.e. flax and ileum in oil. Ground corkwood, linseed oil and resins (gum) are pressed on to a jute backing.  This is prepared in sheet or tile form.  Plain colours marbling or patterns may be applied for decorative effect. Linoleum may crack if laid on the poor quality subfloor. It is hard wearing, resilient and warm, but may peel, rot and gets destroyed by alkalis.  It is non-flammable but burns marks can be seen.  This is suitable for the linen room, store pantry, kitchen stores.

Rubber: Rubber floors are usually made by a combination of natural and synthetic rubber.  They may be laid in sheets or tile form.  They may be coloured and mottled with inlaid patterns.  The floor is hard wearing, resilient, quiet and waterproof.  It is non-slip and maybe grease resistant.  Damage may occur due to alkalis, acids and spirits.  They are not affected by mould, bacteria and pest infestation.  It is commonly used in kitchens, bathrooms, health clubs, near swimming pools etc.

Thermoplastic Floors: These are made of asphalt, fibres, mineral fillers and pigments or synthetic resins with a vinyl binder.  The tiles are usually dark coloured and quite durable.  They have good thermal insulation and are resistant to water.  They are damaged by heat, acids and alkalis.  They are useful in canteens, corridors, shops and offices. PVC may be added to make hard thermoplastic more flexible.

Vinyl: Vinyl is made from asbestos, fibres, mineral pigments and PVC.  They are very hygienic and deal in hospitals, kitchens, dining area, nurseries, common rooms, lifts etc. They are water and oil resistant and can be made slip resistant.  They are damaged by cleaning gels, high temperature and acids.

Floor Coverings or soft floors

Floor coverings or soft floors are used for variety in colour, texture and design.  They are warm, durable, quiet, slip resistant and economical.  Various types of colourings may be used in different areas depending upon the cost of maintenance, cost of installation, attractiveness and use. 

Soft floor coverings commonly consist of two types: Carpets and Rugs.

Carpets: Carpets are used extensively in hotels and institutional establishment.  The type of carpet selected will depend upon the suitability and traffic in the area.  They may be used in bedrooms, lounges, TV rooms, restaurants, office and corridors.  A good quality carpet should be able to withstand spillages, cigarette ash and grit.  They must also be resilient to heavy furniture.

Carpet Construction: Carpets consist of three layers: a pile, a background and an underlay.  The pile is held into the backing with knots and adhesives.  The underlay acts as a shock absorber between the backing and the subfloor.  It makes the carpet softer and provides insulation.  Underlay may be made of felt, rubber, foam or jute with polypropylene backing.

Backing: Natural materials like jute, hemp, glue and starch are used with resin, synthetic rubber and polypropylene to form the backing.  A secondary backing may be added to improve resilience.

Pile: The carpet pile absorbs most of the wear.  It should be strong and resilient, shrink- proof, moth proof and flameproof.  The carpet pile is frequently made of blends of fibres.

Wool: Woollen carpets are warm, soft, resilient and do not attract dirt.  However, they are difficult to maintain and quite expensive. They may be blended with 20% nylon.

Acrylic: This is close to wool in appearance, wears well, is warm and resilient but soils easily.  This is not easy to clean and not fire resistant.

Polyester: This is often blended with nylon.  This is waterproof, easy to clean, soft and hard wearing.

Viscose Rayon: This is inexpensive and not hard wearing and is sometimes used in blended carpets along with nylon.

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