Best Flooring for Wheelchairs: ADA Compliant Floor Options
| Fact Checked By: Lamont Robbins
Published: November 3, 2020 | Updated: September 23, 2022
When using a wheelchair, having wheelchair-accessible flooring is virtually a must-have. Not sure where to start? We’re here to help you find the best flooring for wheelchairs.
With this guide, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of different flooring options, the importance of flooring transitions, and more. You can start by learning what the flooring requirements are for the ADA. Let’s talk about that!
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a piece of legislation enacted in the ‘90s that guarantees equal opportunity accommodations for people with disabilities.
“Among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures access to the built environment for people with disabilities. The ADA Standards establish design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities subject to the law.” – United States Access Board
These standards also apply to flooring. Specifically, the ADA states that “floor and ground surfaces shall be stable, firm, and slip-resistant” in order to comply with requirements (source).
This gives you a good idea of what to look for in flooring for wheelchairs.
- Slip resistance: There should be adequate traction so the wheels can get a firm grip on the floor without slipping or skidding. A textured or otherwise slip-resistant surface is necessary and is especially helpful if the floor might ever encounter moisture, such as in a bathroom.
- Firmness: The floor shouldn’t dent or compress under the weight of a wheelchair. This will also play a big part in the durability of the floor.
- Stability: The floor should be bonded to the subfloor, without the risk of sliding, detaching, or folding over on itself as a wheelchair moves over it.
- Smoothness: While the floor does need some texture on the surface to provide traction, it can’t be too uneven or bumpy, since this will make it difficult to navigate over. For example, a cobblestone surface would not be wheelchair accessible. (source)
So now that you have an idea of what to look for, and what is actually legally required in the United States, here are the best flooring options for wheelchairs.
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What is the Best Flooring for Wheelchairs?
The best flooring for wheelchair users will be stable, level, and durable. It won’t easily come apart or dent under the turning and rolling of the wheels. Here are some sturdy, reliable, no-slip flooring options for you to consider.
Ceramic or porcelain tile is considered some of the best wheelchair flooring out there, for a number of reasons. First, tile floors are durable, so they’re not going to dent under a wheelchair. They also come with a huge variety of size and texture options, so you can optimize them for better traction.
The ideal tile will have a textured surface such as wood grain or stone textures. This provides more slip resistance than a completely smooth tile. Additionally, smaller tiles are preferable, because they require more grout lines, and grout offers a better grip for wheels.
Keep in mind that older tile floors with wide, deep grout lines may present a challenge, since the floor may be too bumpy to navigate in that situation. To address this, you would need to fill in the grout lines for a more even, smooth surface.
- Durable tile won’t dent or scuff
- Lots of stylish patterns, colors, and shapes
- Low-maintenance and easy to clean
- Installation is difficult
- The hard surface provides no impact absorption
Our Top Recommended Tile Flooring for Wheelchairs:
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Vinyl flooring, specifically SPC, WPC, and sheet vinyl, provide a sturdy, level surface ideal for wheelchairs. It’s also low-maintenance, so it’s easier to take care of. Commercial-grade vinyl is recommended since it is designed to last longer.
Make sure to choose a commercial option with a thick enough wear layer to handle the wear and tear of a wheelchair. A thinner, residential-grade wear layer may get damaged over time, so the floor will have to be replaced eventually. Even if the vinyl is eventually worn down over time, it’s an affordable flooring option, so it will be easier to replace.
- Optimal surface traction
- Available in a variety of colors and patterns from wood to tile
- Commercial options can handle the wear and tear
- Residential-grade may not be suitable
Our Top Recommended Vinyl Flooring for Wheelchairs:
- COREtec Pro Plus Rigid Core Vinyl Planks
- Adura Max Apex 16″ Waterproof Plank
- Cornerstone 12″ Luxury Vinyl Planks
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Since it provides a hard, stable surface, laminate is a great candidate for use with wheelchairs. It features a highly realistic wood-look image layer and a wood grain texture for a more convincing appearance. It’s also incredibly affordable, so you won’t break the bank when you upgrade your floor.
Laminate is also very durable and is rated with an Abrasion Class (AC) to determine how much wear and tear it can handle. You should choose a laminate with at least a rating of AC3, which means it’s rated for heavy residential use or commercial settings with moderate traffic. It will resist scuffing and scratching, as well as wear and tear.
- Realistic wood looks
- Wood grain textured surface
- High AC rating handles the traffic
- Residential-grade options not suitable
Our Top Recommended Laminate Flooring for Wheelchairs:
- Hillside Hickory Waterproof Laminate
- Mohawk Crest Haven Waterproof Laminate
- Bel-Air Windwood Laminate Flooring
|Related Content >> Laminate Flooring Buying Guide|
Engineered wood features a real hardwood veneer, so you know it’s solid enough to handle the wear of a wheelchair. The wood grain texture also provides some traction and slip-resistance.
When choosing a wood species, look for something with a higher Janka rating. This rating refers to the hardness of the wood species, and a harder wood such as oak, hickory, or maple will be more durable. Softer woods like pine and fir aren’t recommended because they can scuff and dent more easily (source).
- Real wood veneer
- Textured surface provides good wheel grip
- Durable wood species can withstand the weight and pressure
- Shouldn’t use softer woods
Our Top Recommended Engineered Wood Flooring for Wheelchairs:
- Italia Engineered Wood
- Johnson Hardwood Toscana Hickory Engineered Wood
- Rio Grande Waterproof Oak Engineered Wood
|Related Content >> Engineered Hardwood Buying Guide|
Rubber is a popular non-slip flooring because it’s slip-resistant even when wet. On top of that, rubber floors are durable, and they provide some impact absorption, making them safer if someone were to fall.
|💡 Pro Tip: Rubber flooring is a great flooring option for wheelchairs both indoors and outdoors. Because it’s so slip-resistant, people often cover outdoor wheelchair ramps with rubber roll flooring to provide more traction when it’s wet.|
This flooring option comes in a few forms: tiles, rolls, and mats. Rubber tiles and rolls provide full flooring coverage and are pretty easy to install, so you can save some money that you might have spent hiring a professional. As long as the flooring is installed properly, it won’t move around under the chair.
One initial drawback to rubber flooring is the smell. While rubber is safe, some products will have a distinct rubber odor. You can address it by mopping the flooring a few times with a mild soap and water solution, and ensuring the room is well-ventilated.
- Slip-resistant even when wet
- Provides impact absorption
- Durable and easy to clean
- Odor from off-gassing
Our Top Recommended Rubber Flooring for Wheelchairs:
|Related Content >> Rubber Roll Buying Guide|
Sometimes carpet is fine to use with a wheelchair, but you need to be careful about the type of carpet you choose. If you pick the wrong type, it can cause you problems.
The good thing is that carpet is slip-resistant, so you’ll get decent traction. However, thick carpets are too plush, and the high-pile fibers can actually be damaged by the twisting and turning wheels.
Avoid carpets thicker than 1/2” and look for something with shorter, compact fibers instead. Commercial-grade carpet will be your best bet. Avoid a thick carpet pad as well, because the wheels of a wheelchair can crush and deform the shape of the padding.
If you do insist on having carpet, make sure it is glued or tacked to the floor so it doesn’t bunch up under the wheelchair. You should not use peel and stick carpet tiles, because the hold may not be strong enough.
- Soft and comfortable
- Trendy patterns and colors available
- Slip-resistant surface
- Low-pile carpets only with minimal padding
- You should glue or tack it down
Our Top Recommended Carpet for Wheelchairs:
- Shaw Intellect Carpet Tile
- Mannington Outline Carpet Tile
- Pentz Fast Break Carpet Tiles
- Pentz Scenic Route Carpet
- Shaw Refine Carpet
- Shaw Function Carpet
|Related Content >> Carpet Buying Guide|
Wheelchair-Friendly Floor Transitions
Floor transitions are just as important as the flooring itself, so keep these ADA requirements in mind as you consider the height differences between flooring options.
- Vertical height difference: Changes in level of 1/4” high maximum can be vertical.
- Beveled height difference: Any difference in level between 1/4” – 1/2” high maximum shall be beveled with a slope not steeper than 1:2.
- Ramp height difference: A change in level greater than 1/2” high should be ramped.
Depending on the thickness of the flooring, you may need to ensure it has beveled edges before purchasing. You may even need to invest in a small transition ramp to allow for better accessibility for a wheelchair.
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What Flooring Shouldn’t Be Used for Wheelchairs?
There are some floors that just don’t work with wheelchairs, and you need to be aware of them. These are options you should avoid because they could become damaged or impede the mobility of a wheelchair.
Loose rugs are prone to sliding and bunching up underneath wheelchairs. Like with carpet, the issues may decrease with a lower pile rug. For the best results and optimal stability, it needs to be secured to the subfloor, and this isn’t usually what people want to do with a throw rug.
Peel and Stick Flooring
Peel and stick flooring isn’t suitable for wheelchairs because the adhesive may not be strong enough for a wheelchair to roll over it. While peel and stick vinyl or carpet tiles may be fine for walking traffic, the flooring can be damaged or loosened from the floor with a wheelchair. This could additionally cause an obstruction for the wheelchair.
If you’ve found a peel and stick floor that you absolutely love, you may be able to address this issue by supplementing the pre-applied adhesive with a stronger commercial glue that will create a better bond between the floor and subfloor.
Just like how carpet padding is prone to getting compressed and damaged by the narrow wheels of a wheelchair, foam tile flooring is also too delicate. While foam is soft and comfortable, it is easily crushed. On top of that, the interlocking tiles may come apart if someone makes sharp twists or turns, causing blockage for the wheelchair.
Finding the best flooring for wheelchairs is pretty simple once you realize the ADA has laid out the basic requirements for a functional floor. You have plenty of options to choose from to get a floor that is durable, stable, and stylish, too! Now you’re well on your way to transforming your space with wheelchair-friendly flooring.
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