Understanding flooring terminology

29 September 2021
By Goran

When it comes to buildings, there is a well-accepted concept: the building is only as good as the foundations. If the foundations are poor, then chances are you will have issues with another aspect of the building. By extension, your floors – which are part of your foundations really – are of critical importance too.

Here’s the thing, flooring surfaces have more impact than just visual aesthetics. Flooring choices can affect maintenance budgets, impact the efficiency and productivity of your employees, affect safety and the ease of maintenance. Suffice to say, flooring is possibly one of the most important components in any building given it influences countless elements and ultimately affects the success, failure or safety of the space.

We have been in the industry for many years, and know flooring terms can be confusing, and that what many people think is appropriate for a certain area, is actually less than ideal. Thus we have developed a glossary for common terms to help you out with common flooring terminology.


Non-slip floors 

The term non-slip is correlated to slip resistance which refers to the roughness of a floor. The mechanism is quite simple: the surface should create positive traction leading to a reduction in the possibility of slipping and falling.

Think of it like sandpaper. Where you get a fine grit paper, the smoother finish you will get, whereas the coarser the paper, the more abrasive it will be and the more grip it will afford. Non-slip Flooring works under the same principle.

Unlike sandpaper which uses a sand count, to gauge slip resistance, metrics are to determine the coefficient of erosion (COF), which is defined as the force that is necessary to hold two materials together (for instance, the foot and the floor) and the maximum force necessary to resist sliding.


The presence of any contaminant: dust, water, mud, oil, grease, powders, blood or offal, granules or solvents can increase the likelihood of slipping risks. When surfaces such as concrete, vinyl, gloss tiles and timber are polished, traction is greatly reduced. Though surfaces you may think are less slip-resistant – let’s say concrete – may start out that way, over time, constant traffic or due to the presence of oils etc as described, will make them smoother, and thus, more slippery.


What is an R-rating 

Most floors these days are assigned an anti-slip rating in the form of an ‘R’ value. The letter ‘R’ represents ‘ramp test’ and values range from R9, with a small degree of slip resistance, all the way to R13, which is the highest slip resistance. The ‘R’ value rating shows the level of slip resistance the surface has.


Wet public areas such as showers in changing rooms and pool surrounds are recommended to have a resistance of R13 whereas, R9 and R10 values are frequently recommended for domestic situations such as bathrooms and kitchens.



Flooring made from aggregate is sometimes referred to as epoxy-stone flooring or chip flooring. It is an epoxy-based floor covered in small stones or chips. These stones give it a textured finish, that when covered with a hard epoxy glaze makes it durable and long-wearing. This type of floor is quite versatile, making it suitable for a number of situations – whether the consideration is to slip factor, or to aesthetics.


Falls to drains

Ever been cleaning your floor and found that there are areas where the water naturally accumulates? If you have a warehouse, a commercial kitchen or a similar area where there is a lot of water, this situation is one you will know. The water (annoyingly) pools where it shouldn’t (making it a slip hazard, not to mention a breeding ground for bacteria) instead of flowing to the drain.

What you need is water to “Fall to the drain”. In other words, the flooring slopes adequately for water to naturally make its way to the nearest drain.



Coving typically is flooring material you can find at the base of walls, ceiling nooks and areas like equipment toe-kicks incorporating bases of counters, cupboards, salad bars and any other floor-mounted equipment. They are ideally designed to be effortlessly cleaned and leave no place for residue and germs to hide.


Ideally, the coving is a continuation of the flooring surface – tiles, vinyl or epoxy. It can be a radius in the corner of a wall or a 45-degree slant to forestall the easy development of dirt and debris in the corners. In industrial spaces, cove bases can keep water and chemicals from going under walls and will make wall cleaning procedures easier as you can use a hose or similar to wash the area without worrying about the water getting under the surface and affecting the slab underneath.

Government regulations often require certain environments to have a cove base, such as food processing or pharmaceutical industries.



Because of its great mechanical and chemical resistance properties, epoxy is probably the most broadly recognised resin floor technology. Part of the appeal of epoxy flooring lies in the fact you can easily customise epoxy flooring colours, effects, R ratings and so on.


Epoxy flooring is a synthetically engineered resin floor system that protects and decorates concrete substrates when laid over the top. The systems generally incorporate several layers of coated, trowelled or poured thermosetting resin applied onto a concrete substrate. When fully cured the floor system forms a solid permanent bond that acts as an aesthetic and impenetrable barrier that protects the substrate.

It is highly resistant to heavy and constant traffic (such as forklifts), hard-wearing against chemicals (from blood to harsh cleaning agents) and easy to maintain.


Methyl methacrylate floors (MMA)

MMA is a resin flooring system that has achieved great acceptance as a versatile, hardwearing and rapid application flooring solution. The chemical properties of MMA (a chemical process called polymerization) makes this product easy to apply, and cure faster – meaning you can get back on the surface sooner. The sooner you are back on, the less downtime your business has.

The system comprises a primer that goes over the substrate, a body coat and a topcoat that seals the finished floor. MMA Acrylic resin-based flooring systems have been applied to concrete, asphalt, wood and metal.

However, because of the chemical nature of the product, they are not great for use in occupied spaces – unless there is very good ventilation, as they emit a strong odour. But when it comes to the restoration and rehabilitation of old and damaged floors, if you can clear the area for a short time, the advantages of MMA cannot be denied.

Since MMA resins cure so quickly, a facility can receive full trafficking within 6 hours. They can also be installed in conditions that have temperatures that are below zero. This flooring system does not degrade when exposed to UV light and is resistant to organic acids, and lye has no impact.


Corrosion resistance

Corrosion resistance is the ability to prevent environmental deterioration by chemical or electrochemical reactions. Attack by chemicals can rapidly degrade a floor. Corrosion-resistant flooring, wall, and lining systems have properties protecting these areas from spills and splashes. In commercial workplaces, this may include blood, fats, acids, alkalis, solvents and other corrosive elements.

A good flooring system will have desirable corrosion-resistant qualities including high resistance to these overall reactions within specific environments. Vinyl for example does not.


Benefits of chemical-resistant floors, walls and linings

Once a floor starts to degrade it is a slippery slope (Yes pun intended) often resulting in loss of trade, workplace accidents or unhygienic surfaces. Selecting the right floor which resists the effects of business as usual is key. A chemical resistant floor has multiple benefits, including:

  • Protecting the appearance of floors, walls and linings against chemical stains.
  • Achieving environmental and safety standards for tanks and containment areas.
  • Extending the life of your floors, walls and linings, ultimately saving time and money in maintenance.


Drawbacks of some Commercial flooring options

Commercial flooring should be heavy-duty and ready for use in industrial and commercial settings. Ideally, these floor toppings should doffer durability, cost-efficiency, practical maintainability, and aesthetics. Often, businesses and builders make cost sacrifices and choose commercial flooring options that are not necessarily fit for purpose, including laminates and vinyl, man-made stone-like ceramic tiling, concrete, rubber, and even carpet.

Given how many floors we have seen fail due to the fact they were not suitable for the environment they were put into, here’s a quick snapshot of a few non-epoxy or MMA floors and their drawbacks.


Vinyl composition tile (VCT) and linoleum

Some of the most well-known types of commercial floors are laminate and vinyl such as vinyl composition tile (VCT) and linoleum because they are durable, stain-resistant, and require very low maintenance. They are very popular in retail because of their cost-effectiveness and aesthetics and come in extensive colours, shades and patterns with some designed to mimic tiles or hardwood affordably.

However, vinyl wears relatively poorly, is slippery underfoot and does not offer a seamless covering, making it unideal for food preparation areas.

Man-made stone flooring

Man-made stone flooring is a rather stylish alternative for commercial flooring and has a remarkable lifespan. The initial cost is much more costly than other alternatives but is much more cost-effective in the long term. For practical purposes, food service areas prolifically use glazed ceramic, also known as called quarry tile as it is one of the easiest types of flooring to maintain clean. Other common choices are unglazed ceramic tile, terrazzo, and Mexican Saltillo tiles.

The issue with stone flooring is it is often porous, meaning bacteria, chemicals and other liquids can penetrate it, either rendering it unhygienic, slippery or otherwise dangerous underfoot.



Concrete has been the mainstay of construction for decades given how versatile, strong durable and affordable it is. Although the modern industrial look of bare concrete has been gaining popularity in retail stores and other spaces, it is frequently covered with other materials such as vinyl or carpet.

Polished concrete can also look very good, however, like the prior options covered, when it gets wet, it is dangerous underfoot due to the low R rating it generally has.


Some facilities generally chose to use rubber flooring; exercise and sporting facilities industrial as well as schools and hospitals. It is a naturally hygienic material; easy to clean, waterproof, and resistant to stains. Additionally, it provides cushioning and insulation with its versatility qualifying for heavy impact and high traffic areas.


Commercial kitchen flooring

Commercial kitchen flooring endures harsh treatment every day through high temperatures, steady streams of water, constant oil spills and heavy industrial cooking equipment. What’s more, the severe demands go even further. When hunting for a suitable commercial kitchen flooring, you need a surface that can handle whatever it thrown at it really including:

  • Safety — a surface that is slip-resistant and improves traction to limit the risk of falls
  • Sanitation — an easy-to-clean floor able to manage the daily bombardment of harsh cleaning agents
  • Infection control — a pre-treated material that can limit the growth of microbes, contamination and infection
  • Comfort — one that kitchen staff can comfortably stand on for a long time
  • Aesthetics — one that conforms with your interior design scheme and, if applicable, creates the right ambience and supports your branding

Meeting these needs – especially when considering the budget – can be tough. But fortunately, there are options. Our core tip would be to make sure you think long term and not just short term. Consider whether the option that is cheaper now, will actually save you money, or if the fact it does not meet the R-rating you need, or will fall apart too easily means it will need to be replaced sooner than later makes it less attractive as an option.

If you need help with selecting the right surface, or with understanding terminology or anything else flooring related let’s have a chat! Alternatively, check out some of our case studies: