Wood flooring has a timeless aesthetic. In commercial spaces, it offers a great way to introduce an organic, biophilic feel into select areas, coordinating different styles around its simplicity and classic appeal.
But while wood flooring is a great fit in certain spaces, in some parts of the commercial environment, the rigorous demands of the modern workplace can mean that other flooring products might be a better choice.
Today, we're looking at five reasons you may want to reconsider wood flooring for your next commercial design project.
1) It's Not a Great Fit for Busy Spaces
With careful maintenance and use, wood flooring can last for years - but in a busy commercial environment, it's more prone to denting, scratching and wearing away the finish than other flooring types.
- Softwoods, like pine, spruce and cedar, are susceptible to denting and gouging.
- Hardwoods, like oak, maple and ash, are tougher than their softwood counterparts, but can still be scuffed and scratched by regular use, including foot traffic and office chairs.
- Laminate wood flooring is protected by a clear coating, usually a combination of melamine and aluminum oxide, offering greater durability than wood but changing the the aesthetic in the process.
- Engineered wood flooring has a hardwood wear layer, offering the classic wood finish but subjecting it to the same challenges of wear as conventional hardwood flooring.
2) High Moisture Environments Need Special Care
As with many types of flooring, even the most durable types of wood flooring share a common weakness: moisture.
Recommended moisture levels for wood flooring are in the region of 35% to 55% relative humidity. Any higher, and specialized moisture mitigation solutions will be required before installation can begin. Any lower, and the wood is liable to dry out, warp, and crack.
Many commercial installations have concrete subfloors, so this poses a problem. Because moisture can travel through the concrete, both on-grade and below-grade installations will require expensive vapor retarders or two-part epoxies; and even above grade, minor fluctuations in moisture levels can cause the flooring to swell and split over time.
In a world of accelerated construction schedules, this is particularly problematic. Most wood flooring products specify that installation can only take place in a sealed environment - requiring the construction site to be fully closed-in, with all windows and doors in place before flooring installation can begin. This poses a serious dilemma: either delay the project by weeks or void the warranty and risk damaging your newly laid floor.
3) It Can Be Difficult to Replace
Wood flooring is most commonly installed by gluing planks directly onto the subfloor. Though this ensures planks stay firmly in place, it makes it difficult to replace areas of worn wood without replacing the entire floor.
If you're able to pry up a damaged board, wood flooring often expands after installation, making it difficult to spot-remove worn planks without damaging the planks surrounding it. Wood flooring can also discolor in sunlight, making it challenging to find new planks to color-match the existing floor.
4) There are Better Choices for Health & Wellness
Commercial spaces have dramatically changed in recent years. Increasingly, trends like open-concept offices, increased collaboration and sit-to-stand working mean that the commercial environments of all types are more active than ever before.
This has brought with it a need to incorporate health and wellness directly into design choices. While wood flooring offers benefits by way of biophilic design, it isn't the best choice for underfoot support and standing comfort.
5) You Can Achieve the Aesthetic Another Way
For some people, there's no substitute for wood flooring, and it's undoubtedly true that the discerning use of wood in select areas of a commercial environment can work wonders for the aesthetic and feel of the space.
But for more widespread use throughout a commercial premises, it might be worth considering an alternative, such as Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring.
LVT planks offer a beautiful wood aesthetic, but combine it with unparalleled durability and extreme ease of maintenance - making it a great fit for even high-traffic areas.