What Flooring Should I Use for My Locker Rooms and Pool Decks?

As designers of community recreation centers, we get asked this question all the time—and we have yet to find the perfect blanket solution for every situation and set of conditions. There are myriad product options on the market and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, we can help you determine the best solution for your specific project.

As architects and advisers, we must balance our clients’ requirements for safety, economy, durability, ease of maintenance, water tolerance and attractiveness. These are just a handful of the considerations we assess to guide you in the right direction.

Slip-and-fall accidents can be a common occurrence—and a huge liability—for owners of community centers with swimming facilities and locker rooms if the right product isn’t specified. It is imperative that the floor material selection not only be safe, but also defensible in a court of law. Testing standards are now being used by the ceramic tile industry to determine the “Dynamic Coefficient of Friction.” This new test has been developed by ANSI (American National Standard Institute) and adopted by the TCNA (Tile Council of North America). It is called “ANSI standard A137.1-2012 DCOF AcuTest” and replaces the old “Static Coefficient of Friction” test, which has been determined to be somewhat inconsistent and inaccurate. For level floors that are susceptible to wetting, a test score of at least 0.42 is recommended.

Recommended Locker Room Floor Finishes

Porcelain Mosaic Tile – Its small size allows it to be molded to the sloping floors of a locker room without the need to cut tile. The tiles typically come in either 2”x2” or 1”x1” sizes. Because of their high density of grout joints, they provide a relatively nonslip finish. Our biggest complaint with this floor finish is the difficulty in keeping it looking clean and new. Tile joints may become discolored, particularly if the grout chosen is light in tone. We usually recommend a medium- to dark-colored grout so that soiling is not as easily apparent. Color selection and patterning are among the great characteristics of tile floors. They can work into almost any color palette and allow for a high level of creativity, as seen in the above examples from Sammamish Community Aquatic Center activity pool and the Marq Champions Club locker room.

Nonslip Porcelain Tile Paver – These materials come in larger sizes than the mosaics (typically 6”x6” and larger); however, some manufacturers offer a 3”x3” version. These tiles are characterized by a textured surface that produces varying non-slip qualities. Some pavers feature a diamond pattern while others have raised-dot or stone textures. Our two main challenges with these pavers are their size (they need to be cut to conform to sloping floor conditions) and their limited color options. Maintenance levels are generally low, but keep in mind that the greater the amount of texture, the more difficult the tile will be to keep clean. Products we recommend in this category include the Cross Tread and Cross Dot tiles from Crossville Ceramic, and the GlobalGrip tile from Royal Mosa.

Textured Sheet Vinyl Flooring – Although we’ve rarely specified this material in our projects, it does have the potential to be a good solution. Most of these products are imported from Europe, where they are used extensively. There are several products on the market that are rated for use in locker rooms and on pool decks. These products come in sheets and can be heat-welded at the seams for a seamless installation. Color selection seems to be pretty limited, unfortunately. Some of the options boast excellent slip-resistance qualities and include an anti-bacterial treatment. One recommended product is Marine 20 from Altro Flooring.

Sheet Rubber Flooring – One of our clients recently requested this type of floor in their locker room. The material is typically used in weights and fitness areas, but is suitable for limited use in a locker room. Rubber flooring slip-resistance testing is limited to dry conditions and rates very high on the slip resistance scale. That being said, when the surface is wet, it may not rate nearly as high. We can find no testing of this material in wet conditions, so we would be cautious about its use in high-traffic wet areas.

Poured Quartz Epoxy Flooring – We have used these materials in the past with varying levels of success. Although economical, the product is highly dependent on the craftsmanship of the installer. It is seamless and can be installed with good slip resistance; however, the slip-resistant texture tends to be variable across the room. Some areas may be quite safe while others are too smooth. Repairing the seamless floor is also problematic in that patches are very obvious.

Recommended Pool Deck Floor Finishes

Sand Finish Concrete – This is an economical concrete material that can be finished as rough or smooth as desired. We generally take a conservative approach and specify a fairly rough surface since it will wear down over time. Be sure to request a mockup of the finish with different levels of roughness. Test out each sample with bare feet and water to determine the best combination of texture and slip resistance. We like this surface because it is available in custom colors and has a sophisticated look. Below is an example from the Kroc Phoenix activity pool.

Broom-Finished Colored Concrete with Swirl Pattern – This is another highly economical concrete finish that can be as rough or smooth as desired. Much like the acid-etched finish above, slip resistance is of utmost importance. Ask for a mockup of several different textures to show a range of roughness and test them before making your selection. We like this surface because it comes in custom colors, but like all concrete, it is susceptible to hairline cracking. Below is an example of the finish at Windsor Recreation Center in Windsor, Colorado

“Cool Deck” Coating on Concrete – This is a traditional exterior deck coating that has been used for years, particularly in the desert Southwest, where Fahrenheit temperatures regularly reach into the 100’s. It is usually installed in a very reflective white color or an earth-toned pastel. The color reflects the heat and thus stays a little cooler than regular broom-finished concrete. Since it is a coating, it won’t last forever and will require some maintenance or recoating over the duration of its life. This is best used in warm climates for outdoor pools that do not experience freeze-thaw cycling in the winter.

Other Pool Deck Finishes – Most all of the locker room materials discussed earlier can be used on the pool deck as well; however, our typical community center clients opt for one of the more economical concrete finishes discussed above.

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