Flooring Forensics: The right flooring choices are crucial in hospitality - Nov 2021

By Lew Migliore

One of the hardest-hit segments of the flooring market amid the pandemic has been hospitality. I travel a lot and stay in hotels frequently, and my company has several woven carpet manufacturers that we provide services for on a technical and consulting basis, as well as hospitality clients we consult with and service.

It’s common knowledge-or should be in the industry-that hard surface flooring is being used more often in hospitality, and the product most used is luxury vinyl tile and plank. Depending on the category of the property-whether two- or three-star properties such as Motel 6, Super 8 or Red Roof Inn; five-star properties such as a Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt or Four Seasons; or one of the myriad boutique hotels-the flooring products installed are commensurate with the category.

So, what does this have to do with the flooring, and what kinds of issues are there likely to be in the expanse of these hotels? One way to look at this is the cheaper the room rates, the cheaper the flooring is going to be. Everyone who buys flooring is concerned about price, but that’s a relative term for each category. There may be direct-gluedown 2mm LVP in a lower category and porcelain or marble hard surface flooring in a four- or five-star hotel.

We also have to consider soft goods, which include broadloom, tufted or woven, and carpet tile. And again, depending on the category, the quality of the carpet will be commensurate with the hotel. There is no question that hard surface flooring (again, luxury vinyl plank) is the product of choice for many hospitality applications, whether it be an entire guest room or just the entry and bathroom areas. Carpet, then, is relegated to the bedroom area because carpet is soft, quiet, comfortable and warm. No matter how much the claim is made for hard surface flooring being the same, it is unequivocally not.

One of the issues with luxury vinyl tile is that it’s cold, hard and, other than in installations on grade, noisy. In addition, a lot of it is plagued with shrinking on the ends from dimensional instability. This is a layered product, and if any one of the layers is not in balance, the product will be unstable. It can also lift at the ends and edges, cup, curl, dome and otherwise distort. If direct-glued 2mm product, it can indent from the weight of furniture on it. If the product has a cushion back attached, the cushion can delaminate, as can the surface layer, particularly if the edges or ends lift. If the product is installed with a tongue and groove floating system, the tongue can break if the product flexes, and the ends can break as well from flexing. If rolling loads are placed on this type of product, regardless of what the core is, the engagement system can break. Another concern is that if the product should lift at all, it can present a trip and fall hazard, or even a stubbed toe, neither of which will make a guest happy.

As for carpet, I’ve been in hotels that have carpet tile with edges that are lifting or broadloom carpet that just doesn’t look that great. One designer commented that hotels are moving away from carpet because people are so germ-conscious that no one wants to walk on a carpet that someone else has walked on when it hasn’t been cleaned, which brings us to the real reason for these drawbacks: carpet is not being maintained the way it should be. This is not the carpet’s fault; the problem lies with maintenance issues. The largest area of concern the carpet industry has had is carpet uglying out from not being cleaned or not being cleaned properly.

So, if all of these products are problematic, what should be done, and what should be used?

First, if making the investment in carpet-my number one favorite flooring product-the right product and construction should be chosen, and at the same time, a proper maintenance program should be locked in place. This should be done regardless of where the carpet is used commercially.

If a vinyl tile or plank product is to be used, the history of the product should be researched and products that may have had failures should be avoided. This is easier said than done, with so much of the product on the market being offered by providers that don’t make it themselves.

My second-favorite product would be porcelain, which can be made to look like anything and lasts almost forever, with the primary downside being the grout discoloring or soiling.

I just stayed in a Homewood Suites in Florida that illustrated wise selections. The guest room entry and kitchen area, as well as the bathroom, had wood-look porcelain. The bedroom area had tufted, patterned broadloom carpet. The room and the property were beautiful, and the choice of flooring materials and how they were used in the rooms was a perfect example of how to mix flooring to optimize performance, longevity and comfort. You feel good walking into a guest room like this because it’s homey.

In hospitality, what the brand has to sell is the space where the guest stays. If the flooring, which is the foundation for all the other furnishings, does not perform or look good, it reflects on the hotel’s reputation and its marketability.

The hospitality industry is coming back; business travelers are cautiously heading back on the road again, and families are tired of being cooped up. The race will be on to spruce up and renovate hotel rooms to compete for business, and this means the flooring will be replaced. Common sense should dictate the choice and selection of the product because there are a lot of pitfalls that can be avoided by using the correct flooring, as is always the case in any segment of the market. Flooring issues and problems can always be avoided with foresight and common sense.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus