News Flash: Hard, Shiny Floors are Slippery When Wet!

Shiny Floor

Yes, this is what a hard shiny floor looks like!

Yes, that’s right. Hard flooring surfaces with a glossy finish are slippery when wet. It’s 2014, and there are still no exceptions to that fact. Yet as I toured one of the more upscale locations of a large restaurant company that I was working with, the restroom floors were done up exquisitely in highly polished natural stone. The look was very refined, the gloss was practically blinding. And the floor was not well suited to the conditions it would face regularly. We are not talking a hallway like the hotel image featured above, we are talking inside a restroom!

Here’s a series of truths that shouldn’t be so hard to understand:

  • Different flooring materials have different slip resistance
  • Some flooring materials have good or even great traction performance when wet
  • Other flooring materials have mediocre or downright poor performance when wet
  • Floors with some level of texture and roughness often perform pretty well in wet or contaminated conditions, but you can’t always tell by looking at it how a given floor will perform
  • Glossy, hard floors are always slippery when wet

    So where does that leave us?

    First, you need to select floor materials and finishes for performance under expected conditions. Restrooms have to be expected to face some residual water, and you must plan accordingly.
    If you really want to put a hard, shiny floor in a restroom, consider how much that will create a risk that needs to be managed through the likes of extra monitoring (and outside of Las Vegas, who still staffs restrooms with attendants?).
    Treatments, coatings, and finishes can only do so much. I have personally tested dozens of floor treatments advertised for non-slip improvements, and for polished stone, the ones that offer any improvement at all also alter the appearance of the surface.

    So here’s a novel idea: Barring an as-yet-unknown technological breakthrough, hard shiny floors are not recommended for wet areas such as restrooms. There are plenty of refined looking flooring choices that do not create a slip hazard when they are wet; how about choosing one of those?

P.S. I can anticipate a question related to the above, namely “What constitutes shiny?” At first, I might tend toward the reply favored by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, but that is not necessary. There are actually classifications of gloss level that give that term some objective basis, at least for certain materials. Those intricacies are best discussed at another time, but suffice it to say that “shiny” or “glossy” actually means something, and you are able to envision just what that might mean.

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