Designing for Aging in Place: Choosing the Right Flooring

by Jason Brubaker

In the next few decades, the United States is expected to experience a significant boom in its older population: by 2030 the population of adults aged 65 and above “will nearly double from 37 million to 71.5 million people.”

It’s been projected that the number of remodels and new homes built for this aging population will increase over the next few decades. The majority of these adults—87 percent of adults age 65 and above—report that they want to stay in their current home and community as they age, according to AARP.


According to the National Association of Home Builders, the past five years have seen an increase in the number of remodelers engaged in aging-in-place home projects, and in homeowner awareness of these types of projects.

Choosing Flooring for the Long Term

The AARP recommends that homeowners and remodelers consider their home design carefully when building or remodeling a home for aging in place—a key aspect of this is the flooring chosen in the home.

When it comes to selecting flooring for the long-term, you’ll want to find an option that holds up for as long as possible, with the least amount of maintenance needed.

There are a lot of great options available, but hardwood flooring has long been a popular choice because of its longevity. Selecting hardwood, however, comes with a few additional considerations.

First Consider Durability

Since your clients are looking for something that will stand up to wear and tear, it’s crucial to consider the flooring’s durability. Dents, scratches and other damage can shorten the lifespan of the floor or require some hefty maintenance (or replacement) if not properly cared for.

Always note the wood’s Janka rating. If the floor has a lower Janka rating, it will require more refinishing and renovating over the years. With a high Janka rating, it won’t have to be maintained or repaired as often to hide dents and scratches.

Engineered Hardwood Options

Engineered hardwood not only gives the home an updated appearance, it’s more resilient to damage. Whether it’s traffic, moisture or heat, engineered wood is considered by many industry professionals to be superior to solid hardwood.

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Engineered wood floors are still real wood, but with the added benefit of layering multiple wood veneers so that each layer’s grain runs in different directions. This adds to the flooring’s stability and gives it unbeatable strength and protection. Engineered wood also expands and contracts less than solid wood (when humidity and temperature fluctuate), reducing the chances of warping or cracking.

Pay Attention to the Finish and Grip

Falls are a huge risk for older homeowners: they’re the number one cause of injury and injury-related deaths among adults aged 65 and over.

That’s why it’s crucial to pick the right kind of finish for the flooring, as well. Not only will the finish determine the level of maintenance needed, but it also has an effect on the floor’s grip by affecting how slippery it will be. A slick oil finish, for instance, can increase the risk of slipping and falling.

In order to increase friction and reduce the potential for slipping and sliding, an abrasion finish works well. Nydree uses a 4,000+ Taber abrasion finish in order to prevent slipping and falls.

Lighter Colors Mean Less Maintenance

Remember that light-colored hardwood hides dirt better than darker options. But if a client’s taste dictates a darker finish, try suggesting the lightest shade in the available spectrum—lighter tones will likely mean less time devoted to cleanup and maintenance. Dark hardwood also tends to show more scratches than light hardwoods.

For older homeowners who are remodeling or building their ideal home, longevity and comfort need to play a large role in the design. Researching what options are available will help find the best flooring for aging-in-place clients that can stand the test of time and keep homeowners safe.