The benefits of carpet in care homes

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Carpet may not be suitable for all locations in a care facility, but when it comes to areas such as bedrooms, corridors and communal lounges, carpet can have a key role in creating a therapeutic environment for residents, staff and visitors.

Danfloor’s recommendations for the use of carpet within non-clinical healthcare environments have been published in the 2017 edition of the Department of Health building design notes, Facilities for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The recommendations refer to the use of carpet within care environments and address some of the misconceptions associated with its use, especially when it comes to cleaning and infection control.

The National Association of Psychiatric Intensive Care and Low Secure Units (NAPICU) also refers to the use of carpet in its design guidance notes, ‘Where possible, flooring should incorporate cushioning below the finish to reduce physical effects on staff and patients when restraint is required. The use of carpet or carpet tiles with an impervious backing and an anti-bacteriological treatment together with the correct cleaning regime and replacement programme can reduce infection control issues.’

Acoustics

Unwanted noise can have an adverse effect on people living in care facilities, leading to a reduction in levels of comfort and wellbeing. Staff performance levels and the ability to concentrate can also be negatively impacted by noise. UK building regulations stipulate that a suitable floor covering should have a weighted reduction in impact sound pressure level of no less than 17 dB when measured in accordance with EN ISO 140-8 and calculated in accordance with EN ISO 717-2.

Much of the sound within a room is absorbed by carpet, which reduces sound reverberation. Carpets also improve acoustics by reducing impact noise, which relates to the control of sound from one space to another, helping to create a calm and peaceful living and working environment. The installation of carpets in corridors and bedrooms can also help to absorb unwanted noise, which aids rest and relaxation and helps to reduce stress levels.

Alternative therapies such as music can help residents relax. They should also be able to play music, either as a
form of expression or to aid with relaxation, and be able to do so without affecting other residents. Again, carpets can reduce the impact of sound and music on others.

Cost savings

Unlike hard flooring, carpet gives a room a warm and welcoming feel and provides a soft cushioned layer for extra comfort underfoot. Research also suggests that carpet is one of the most effective thermal insulators and that the temperature in carpeted rooms may be up to 2°C higher than it is in rooms with hard flooring. Carpets therefore improve energy consumption and have low heat conduction and it is estimated that they can reduce heating costs by 8-13%.

Infection control

A carpet that has been designed for use in the care sector can offer many functional benefits. Traditionally, carpet may be considered more difficult to clean and maintain. However, although carpets are sometimes thought of as a hotspot for the spread of infection, research has shown that the most common MRSA sites
in hospitals are in fact bed linen, gowns and tables rather than floors.

Furthermore, carpet is often thought to be susceptible to contamination by fungi and bacteria. Again, studies suggest otherwise. One study showed that pathogens such as vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) survive less well or for shorter periods on carpet than on other floor coverings including rubber tile, linoleum, vinyl sheet and vinyl composition tile. The research also found that less VRE was transferred to hands via contact with carpet than via rubber or vinyl flooring.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) states, ‘There is no legislation that forces you to replace your carpets in favour of hard flooring or lino. You can have carpets as long as you keep them clean and infection free.’ A life cycle cost analysis for floor coverings in school facilities showed that it takes two and a half times longer to clean hard floors than carpet annually and the cleaning chemicals needed for hard floors are seven times more expensive.

Environmental issues

Indoor air quality should also be considered when choosing a floorcovering, especially if some of your residents have breathing difficulties, such as asthma. Fine dust can present a significant health hazard, especially for allergy sufferers, as particles may cause irritation when they are breathed in and enter the respiratory tract.

Studies conclude that carpet can improve indoor air quality by capturing allergens in its fibres, thereby preventing them from re-circulating in the air. The allergens should then be removed through regular vacuuming. Other studies suggest that walking on hard surfaces disturbs more particles, causing them to become airborne. In comparison, more of these particles remain in the carpet fibres, resulting in less dust in the air.

The BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and is used to assess a building’s environmental performance. Environmental requirements and targets make sustainability a key priority in the design and operation of care facilities. The BREEAM addresses a range of environmental and sustainability issues to enable designers, developers and building managers to demonstrate their environmental credentials to clients, planners and other parties. It provides market recognition for low environmental impact buildings and demonstrates a commitment to sustainable building
practices and an interest in community, staff, residents and the general public.

The BREEAM has a positive impact on the design, construction and management of buildings, demonstrating
a good management approach with efficiency and effectiveness at its heart. The associated rating provides a
transparent reflection of the performance of the building to identify those that have performed better than
the regulatory baseline and a tool to help reduce running costs and improve working and living conditions.

Under HEA 05, which addresses acoustic performance, including the fact that sound insulation should meet the appropriate standards, an additional four credits can be awarded under the category ‘multi-residential and other residential buildings’ (for individual bedrooms and self-contained dwellings). If impact sound insulation values exceed the British Standard by 3 dB, one credit is applied, by 5 dB, three credits are applied or by four credits, 8 dB are applied.

‘When selecting a floor covering for a care environment, it is important to consider a number of factors including aesthetics, suitability, functionality, cost and the ability to keep your chosen flooring clean and maintain it’, says Catherine Helliker, Marketing Manager, danfloor UK

Conclusion

Before selecting a flooring solution, there are many factors to consider. You should always choose a product that has been tried and tested within the care home sector. It is also important to check the carpet specification to ensure you are getting the best possible product and protecting your investment.

A good way of comparing otherwise identical looking carpets is by considering their total pile weight, which includes not only the weight of the yarn but also the backing. As a general rule and in combination, cut pile carpets with a pile height of no more than 5mm, a total pile weight exceeding 1000grams per square metre and a pile density – the number of stitches per square metre – of more than 180,000 tufts, will provide you with a carpet that will perform better and last longer.

Finally, aesthetics, suitability, functionality, cost and the ability to keep your chosen flooring clean and maintain it, are all factors that you should take into account to ensure you make the right choice of flooring for your care home.

References
NAPICU, Design in Mental Health Network. (2017) Design Guidance for Psychiatric Intensive Care Units.
McNeil S. The thermal properties of wool carpets. New Zealand, Christchurch: AgResearch. Technical Bulletin 2016.
PRODIS. Carpet Benefits.
Dancer SJ. Importance of the environment in meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus acquisition: the case for hospital cleaning. Lancet Infect Dis 2007; 7.
Lankford MG, Collins S, Youngberg L et al. Assessment of materials commonly utilized in health care: Implications for bacterial
survival and transmission. Am J Infect Control 2006; 34(5): 258–63.
The Carpet and Rug Institute. (2002) A Life Cycle Cost-Analysis for Floor Coverings in School Facilities.
Neumeister-Kemp H. (2005) The School of Biological Science, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia.
Asbury G, Professional Testing Laboratory Inc. (2002) Cleaning and Foot Traffic Emissions Analysis, Test Number 0072198.