The most durable commercial flooring options for high-traffic areas

While durability is always a consideration when selecting a flooring material, it’s an absolute must for high-traffic applications such as airport terminals, schools, hospitals and restaurants. Here, we’ll give you a complete rundown of six of the most durable commercial flooring materials based on cost, application and other major considerations.

Here are some of the best commercial-rated flooring materials for use in high-traffic areas:

Terrazzo

When it comes to durability in flooring, terrazzo is an obvious leader. And because terrazzo is one of the most aesthetically versatile products on the market, it’s perfect for incorporating custom logos and designs into your flooring. Terrazzo is used in situations where you want to impress: opry houses, showrooms, entranceways and high-end office spaces.

Although it’s incredibly durable and carries a low lifetime cost, its high upfront material and installation costs are prohibitive in lower budget applications. Generally speaking, terrazzo is not worth the cost in small rooms or sections of a building — the cost-per-square foot increases as the space decreases. Terrazzo is best-suited for large, high-traffic areas such as airports or showrooms where the designer is aiming for a chic look. For upscale applications, this LEED-friendly flooring is about as durable as it gets.

Quarry tile

The industry standard for commercial kitchens, quarry tile is proven to withstand spills, foot traffic and grease buildup. While porcelain tile works in terms of function for heavy-duty applications, quarry tile —a product made from hard-fired clay— is much cheaper and offers the same functionality and durability benefits. Quarry tile will last as long as you need, provided its installed properly to begin with and maintained properly throughout the lifetime of the flooring system.

It’s important to use the right materials —epoxy grout and thin-set adhesives— during installation. Although there are cheaper alternatives to epoxy grout, they’re not designed for high-traffic, hot water spills or grease buildup and will break down prematurely. To extend the usable life of your quarry tile system, ongoing maintenance and cleaning are key. Clean the floor daily and replace sections of flooring as they wear out.

Although it’s cost-effective, durable and easy to maintain, quarry tile doesn’t offer much design versatility. It’s typically laid in straight lines and comes in a limited range of colors. In the receiving and commercial areas where quarry tile is commonly found, however, function trumps form.

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT)

In the past decade or so, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) has taken the flooring industry by storm. LVT has proven to be durable enough for high-traffic hospital common areas and attractive enough for upscale restaurants. With a variety of products in every price point and design, LVT is one of the most versatile commercial flooring products on the market today.

While LVT probably isn’t suited for high-impact industrial or commercial kitchen environment, it’s plenty durable to withstand the foot traffic, abrasions and spills of any office, hospital or school application. Especially in comparison with other resilient flooring products, LVT is more flexible and aesthetically appealing for commercial applications.

With LVT, the design possibilities are endless. It’s available in a wide range of sizes, colors and patterns to mimic almost any material from ceramic tiles to hardwood to terrazzo, and everything in between.

LVT has proven over time to be able to withstand heavy traffic loads common to commercial applications. In our experience, restaurants, offices and daycares only replace their LVT because they want to change the design — not because it wore out. And because LVT is much quicker to install and cheaper than many of the materials it imitates, it’s a good way to cut flooring costs in a commercial construction project.

Epoxy flooring systems

Epoxy flooring systems are created by applying a thermosetting resin directly onto a moisture-treated concrete slab. The epoxy coating prevents wear and tear due to abrasions, foot traffic and chemical spills.

Epoxy flooring is a cost-effective solution for a variety of applications from commercial to industrial. Versatile and durable, epoxy is strong enough to serve as the flooring in manufacturing facilities and hangars, aesthetically appealing enough to find its way into retail spaces and sanitary enough for use in labs.

While epoxy flooring is designed for durability, it must be installed correctly to reap those benefits. The concrete needs to be cleaned and cracks patched with urethane prior to application of the epoxy coating. If applied before prepping, the epoxy is likely to peel or chip prematurely. As for maintenance, daily sweeping and infrequent deep cleans should be sufficient to keep your epoxy flooring looking like new.

Rubber flooring

Rubber flooring is durable, slip-resistant and sound absorbent, making it perfect for application in high-traffic applications like hospitals and gyms.

Not only is rubber flooring resistant to wear-and-tear of heavy traffic loads — its cushioned design also prevents fatigue of employees and customers as they walk. It also reduces the volume of noise such as dumbbells dropping or carts rolling, and prevents impact damage to the subfloor below.

While it’s easy to install and maintain, its “rubbery” smell will linger long after installation. And its lack of design and finishing options makes this more of a utilitarian product than an aesthetic one. Despite its drawbacks, rubber flooring is a great product for use in gyms, labs and hospitals due to its strength, durability and acoustic qualities.

Carpet tiles

Carpet tiles are taking over the soft-surface flooring market due to their functionality advantages over broadloom carpets. While carpet tiles are more expensive than broadloom, carpet tile systems are easier to replace. For high-traffic areas especially, carpet tiles are your best soft-surface option — it’s much more cost-effective to replace a ruined carpet tile than it is to re-seam, re-stretch and replace an entire roll of broadloom.

With the rise of industrial strength carpet tiles waterproof carpet tiles, concerns about spills and moisture have become less of a concern. With consistent vacuuming and cleaning, most carpet tile floors will maintain their appearance pretty well, even under high traffic demands. And as sections wear out, the tiles are easily replaced.

While important, durability shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing flooring for your building. For a complete breakdown of popular materials based on cost, application, design and maintenance, download our Beginner’s Guide to Flooring Products.

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