ADA: What is the Best Flooring for Wheelchairs/Walkers?

Home modifications by occupational therapist (OT) based on principles of universal design and accessibility.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
Flooring that will be utilized in a home for wheelchairs and walkers needs to be smooth flooring or low pile carpet.  Plush carpet and textured carpet can be difficult for wheelchair or walker propulsion.

Goals for Choosing Flooring
  • Low-maintenance, durable.
  • Slip-resistant.
  • Resilient to allow for minimum injury or breakage from drops or falls.  The flooring should be a fairly smooth or regular surface for ease of use by persons with mobility or balance issues.
  • Matte finish, highly polished surfaces create glare and are usually slippery.
 Low Maintenance/Durabilty

No one has time or the inclination to install a floor that requires excessive upkeep and maintenance to look good.  The most popular thought when thinking of installing flooring in a home with a wheelchair or walker is hardwood flooring.  Hardwood flooring looks beautiful when first installed but with the wear and tear of a wheelchair or just daily living hardwood begins to show signs of wear.

If you do decide to install hardwood flooring, the harder the wood the better it will wear.  The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood to half the ball's diameter. This method leaves an indentation. It is a good measurement technique to determine the ability of a type of wood withstand denting and wear.

The hardest woods on the Janka hardness test have ratings of 100 for Balsa wood and 3692 for Brazilian Ebony.  The following are the Janka hardness ratings for woods common for flooring in the USA.  Click here for more information for Janka hardness ratings.

Janka Hardness Ratings

Bolivian Cherry                  3650
Hickory                              1820
Hard Maple                        1450
Natural Bamboo                 1380
White Ash                          1320
Teak                                    1155
Pine                                     870

The following flooring tends to wear well, but whatever style flooring you choose, commercial grade flooring is always the most durable.  Most all of the flooring comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
  • Residential inlaid sheet vinyl (NOT standard roto-vinyl, but inlaid)
  • Commercial inlaid sheet vinyl
  • Vinyl composition tile
  • Luxury vinyl tile and planks
  • Ceramic tile
  • Stone
  • High end, commercial grade laminate wood
  • High end commercial carpet tile
There is a company called FLOR that has interesting, fun, durable carpet tiles that can create a multitude of looks.
                                      FLOR tiles from the FLOR company.

Laminate Flooring

The core of product is typically made of High Density Fiber (HDF). The top layer is a photographic layer that should appear identical to the product it replicates, be it wood, vinyl, tile, etc. The product is generally 3/8” thick and is a floating install with tongue and groove glue less locking system which allows you to install and uninstall the floor several times if desired. Laminate flooring is less expensive than wood flooring, more stain resistant and durable. 

When people think of laminate flooring they normally think of wood laminate but laminate can be made to look like tile as well.

Laminate Flooring
Slip Resistant

Slip-resistance in the kitchen and bathroom is vitally important.  A floor that is somewhat slippery and not safe for anyone.  Flooring manufacturers us a slip-resistance rating called the coefficient of friction, with higher numbers indicating greater slip resistance.  Click here for more information on the coefficient of friction and how to identify friction ratings on flooring products.

Small tiles are usually less slippery than larger tiles.  Tiles no larger than 2"x 2" should be used for shower floors and preferably bathroom floors.


Carpet is not a good choice for bathrooms and kitchens due to water and mess factors.  Carpet however is not a bad choice for rooms that are for enjoying and relaxing such as bedrooms and living rooms.  Smooth flooring is often cold and uninviting so rugs are used to soften up the room and to add warmth.  If someone has wheelchair, balance issues, visual issues or utilizes a wheelchair, rugs become a tripping hazard and can be very difficult to propel a wheelchair over and on.
Low Pile Carpet

Recommendations for wheelchair/walker friendly carpet:
  • Low pile (1/4" pile is the best), even loop carpet.  Plush carpet is difficult for wheelchair propulsion and walker legs tend to get catch on plush carpet, not a good choice.  Textured carpet is not recommended either for the same reasons.  
  • No carpet pad.  Eliminating the carpet pad eliminates the resistance of the carpet.
  • Commercial grade.  Commercial grade is more durable and stain resistant than standard carpet, it's always best to use high quality products that wear well and won't fall apart.
Click here for reviews of specific flooring quality and types.

What experiences have you had with flooring and wheelchairs/walkers?  Anything you would recommend or not recommend?  Any tips?  Please share.


Unknown said...

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Richard B. said...

You have here a very valuable information. It's inspiring of you to consider the safety of handicapped individuals.

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Brian said...

Laminate flooring with a AC6 rating or higher is perfect for wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. We use ALLOC flooring in our home and business because they have the lowest prices and using my wheelchair will not void the warranty like other laminates. We got a great deal from

Karen Koch said...

Thanks for the information on the ALLOC flooring. I always appreciate knowing what works and what people like and don't like. Our company, Functional Homes, is a construction company for accessibility we want the best for our clients. Anything else you'd highly recommend, we're interested.

Thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

awesome information. Thanks for sharing.
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Atlas Handling said...

Rubber floors are good for wheelchairs as there is a natural friction between the rubber of the tire on the chair and the rubber on the floor itself. This connection helps the wheelchair be responsive to the user so not as much energy is required to move it.

stone supplier said...

Thanks for the valuable info shared. In my opinion slip resistant floors like rubber floors will be very helpful for people who are suffering from these problems.

Karen Koch said...

I agree there are some excellent rubber flooring that is durable and slip resistant. Maybe that will be the topic of the next post.

Thank you for commenting.

Unknown said...

Every people want how the home design or outlook and how home color such as floor color wall color etc.Thanks! Look for additional posts on this topic soon. Thanks for sharing this info.
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Unknown said...

Very interesting post, really informative of all the blogs.

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Anonymous said...

Where can I find out more information on rubber flooring? That sounds good. I suffer from MS. My balance is, well gone. I'm stubborn so I wall surf around the house falls are daily. I've hit my head on the linoleum more times then I'd care to admit. Looking for some type of rummer flooring. I do use a power chair for longer trips so the chair would need to be able to drive on it.
Appreciate any help. Thanks for reading.

Karen Koch said...


I like the Altro Aquarius flooring. It is skid resistant and is 1/4" thick so it makes for somewhat of a cushion for falls. Be careful, I wish you luck.

Unknown said...

Once my grandpa decided he wanted a wheelchair, we switched the floors in his house to vinyl flooring. He says that it works a lot better for his mobility. I thought about that as I was reading this article. It kind of mentions the same thing.

Unknown said...

My mother has recently been forced to be in a wheel chair for the a long while. We want to make her home as easy as possible to get around in her wheelchair. After reading your article I think we will end up going with a vinyl flooring for the kitchen. That is were she spends most of her time, so we will start in there.

Karen Koch said...

Dave, Vinyl is a good choice, be sure to get commercial grade.

Unknown said...

It is skid resistant and is 1/4" thick so it makes for somewhat of a cushion for falls. Be careful, I - See more at:
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Karen Koch said...

Thanks for your post Ksit.

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Manish Batra said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Portable Wheelchairs

Keep Posting:)

Unknown said...

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John said...

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Fl!p Breskin said...

I would LOVE to find non-slip thick rubber flooring that was waterproof enough to use in a shower, and for a full wet room. Thank you for this article. It's nice to know that the Brazilian Cherry we already chose was the hardest available.

Unknown said...

No one has time or the inclination to install a floor that requires excessive upkeep and maintenance to look good. The most popular thought when thinking of installing flooring in a home with a wheelchair or walker is hardwood flooring.

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Kingston Diaz said...

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Unknown said...

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Hill said...

Hi I hope you are still accepting comments. I think that these designs are great but you never get the full impact of the tile unless you physically touch it and see it live. Tiles truly can dynamically change a room and working with a local supplier is your best option.


Goblinf said...

in my last house I had domestic grade laminate style click floating floor that was domestic grade. Very nice for falling on/crawling/lying on. (yeah I know, not issues I'd ever think I'd need to consider lol).

this house I shall ahve a power chair and am considering the same stuff again but commercial grade.

it's a layer of cork on the bottom, then hdf, then cork, then a glaze. it gives a small amount of energy return without being too resistant for wheels, is warm and cuts down noise.

far more popular in the us and australia than here in the UK.

I'm also going to investigate rubber.

If i didn't have 2 elderley cats that are unwell and throw up a lot, I'd definitely be going for the commercial carpet floor tiles though. but I can't face cleaning carpet tiles even with a small pile.

Karen Koch said...

Hello Goblin,

Commercial grade laminate is definitely preferred over residential grade especially with a power wheelchair. We have been installing vinyl plank flooring or vinyl sheet flooring for power wheelchairs, just because power wheelchairs are so very heavy and tend to destroy floors. I worry that a power wheelchair on snap together laminate would be an issue, although for commercial grade it should be rated for all kinds of weight and abuse.

Please let me know what you chose and your thoughts.

Annie59oakley said...

I own a heavy duty pride mobility chair and it is a serious mistake to use ANY carpet with these chairs. I lived in a place for 2 years with no padding and the chair ate it up in that time frame. This place I lived in for 5 years now and it has very high padding, better quality carpet but it is now toast. The landlord is going to replace it with something else. But i want something that is durable and easy to clean. I want tile. Not the peel and stick type but something that won't move around. Tile that you glue to the sub floor? Thats why I came to this site to see what the ADA recommended. Thanks.

Queenie said...

I would recommend LVT/LVP luxury vinyl tile/planking or a high quality laminate, it ends up with far fewer scratches and requires less maintenance than hardwood. If carpet is an option consider a commercial cut pile (as opposed to any looped products)that comes in a carpet tile. Buy additional stock, since the adhesive is releasable in heavy wear areas just replace those carpet tiles. They usually come in 24" x 24" tiles.

Flooring specialist with wheelchair bound Dad. : )