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How to Choose the Right Classroom Flooring

Posted on Jan 10, 2018, by Mike Patrick

The classroom environment plays a crucial role in student success. A positive environment correlates with better test scores and higher achievement, whereas a negative environment makes it difficult for students to focus on their studies, leading to lower achievement rates.

There are several factors that impact the overall environment in the classroom: noise levels, comfort, cleanliness and aesthetics. Surprisingly, there's one thing that can affect all of these factors: your choice of flooring. Here are five things to look for when choosing flooring for your classrooms, to create a positive learning environment.

1) Flooring that Lowers Noise Levels

The link between academic performance and classroom noise levels has been well-documented. In a study of 570 separate lessons, the average classroom was found to have noise levels of 65dB - loud enough to cause elevated stress levels, which can lead to serious health risks later in life.

While there are several design choices you can make to reduce classroom noise levels, such as installing acoustical ceiling tiles or sound control doors, your choice of flooring offers an often-overlooked acoustic benefit.

Choosing carpet over hard surface flooring offers a 3x reduction in structure-borne sound, such as footsteps and scraping chairs. Additionally, the type of carpet you choose can offer further improvement: cushion-backed carpet tiles absorb 50% more noise than hard-backed carpet tiles.

2) Flooring that Improves Comfort

The optimal temperature for learning is between 68° and 74° (Earthman, 2004). Classrooms that are too warm or too cold will be uncomfortable for students, and provide another unwanted distraction.

Your choice of flooring can help to improve classroom insulation, and reduce seasonal or daily temperature fluctuation. Using carpet instead of hard surface flooring will improve thermal comfort: in warm climates, carpet won’t heat up in the sun as dramatically as hard floor, and in cold climates it will act as an insulator between the ground and the classroom, keeping the heat in.

3) Flooring that Helps Tackle Allergies

Allergens are a prominent concern in classrooms, and allergy season can herald an increase in student absenteeism due to health concerns. Seasonal allergens such as pollen and plant spores can be brought into the classroom on people's clothes and shoes, and with large numbers of students and teachers using your classrooms throughout the day, allergens can reach high levels.

In rooms with hard flooring, these allergens are kicked up when people walk around, and float around in the breathing zone. Even with daily cleaning, sweeping and mopping does little to alleviate the problem, instead spreading the allergens further around the room.

In contrast, carpet traps the allergens in the fibers and keeps them out of the breathing zone until they can be removed by vacuuming. In fact, studies show that the breathing zone over a hard floor can contain as much as 9x more breathable particulates than over a carpeted floor, so choosing carpet can help to lessen the impact of allergens on student health.

4) Flooring that's Easy to Clean and Maintain

Effective cleaning and maintenance is essential, for ensuring both the longevity of your classroom flooring, and for the health and wellbeing of the students and teachers using the space.

Unfortunately, some types of flooring are much more difficult to clean and maintain than others:

  • Hard surface flooring requires regular sweeping and mopping to clean dirt and dust off the surface. This is very labor intensive, which can lead to increased labor costs for cleaning and maintenance.
  • In contrast, carpet is easier to clean: vacuuming is quicker and less labor intensive. In fact, over and 8-hour shift, you can clean a carpeted space that's 21% larger than a comparable hard surface.

Additionally, vacuuming removes allergen and dirt particles that are trapped in the carpet fibers, helping to minimize classroom allergen levels.

5) Flooring that Creates an Inspiring Space

Research shows that school design has a significant impact on student outcomes. Your classroom design can help to inspire and motivate students, by creating a positive learning environment.

If it's been a few years since your last redesign, your classroom can start to look tired and neglected. As your flooring covers the whole space, it can deliver a surprising lift to the overall visual impact of the classroom.

Your choice of flooring can be a great way to subtly bring your school colors into the classroom. Carpet tiles offer flexible patterning and color options, and you can even recolor existing designs to specifically match your school colors using Milliken’s innovative color and patterning technology.

The A-Z of Health & Wellness in Interior Design

Mike Patrick

Written by Mike Patrick