We’ll begin by stating the genesis for this blog was an excellent article by Daniel Lewellen that appeared the December 2018 issue of Building Operating Management magazine.
Lewellen lays out the case that safety drives design, and calls out that patients are getting older and heavier. He adds the cleanliness and hygiene in the space are a top priority, adding that, “… it’s essential to be aware of what surfaces will be installed and how they are joined.”
On this point we would add a hearty, “We agree!” And also state that use of solid surface products offers a tremendous advantage.
Here are five key factors for specifying solid surface in healthcare bathrooms and showers,
1) Non-porous and easy to clean
Solid surface panels are an excellent choice as a shower enclosure material. Since solid surface is non-nutritive, it does not promote the growth of mold and mildew, and resists bacterial growth. The inclusion of “active” antimicrobials within the solid surface itself can reduce odor-causing bacteria.
2) No grout
The main problem is that bathrooms often are poorly ventilated and humidity levels are very high, especially in the shower area. Another contributor is the presence of older tile and grout, which can harbor mold, especially in the grout, which oftentimes is not sealed. Additionally, studies have found that if shower curtains are present, the odds of mold or mildew developing are tripled.
3) Lots of colors and patterns
There are numerous color and pattern options, and the ¼” or ½” sheets can be installed right over existing tile. S-curve (wavy) edges provide a good seal and their fit maintains a flat, flush seam where the wall may fluctuate. Recessed soap dishes or soap shelves can be easily incorporated into the shower surround.
4) Decorative options
How about adding the look of tile, but with the benefit of less maintenance?
Listellos are decorative bands that can be hard or soft seamed to wall panels. The designs are routed into the solid surface, which adds the decorative pattern, but doesn’t compromise the material’s integrity. Designers have an aesthetic alternative to smooth panels by choosing decorative designs like diamonds, subway tile, basic squares and beadboard.
Receptors or Pans made from solid surface incorporate an integral non-skid surface and water channels that help reduce the risk of slips and falls, and ADA edges and ramps can ease the transition from floor to receptor. Drain locations can be set to match existing plumbing, and trench drains are also an option.
The beauty of solid surface is that shower can be poured and fabricated into an almost unlimited array of custom shapes – L shapes, T shapes, Neo Angles, etc.
In certain applications, having a weight-rated receptor may be necessary. Specifiers should look for documentation of an ANSI Z124.1.2-2005 test of fixtures for weight bearing. Minimum load is 300 pounds, but some fixtures have withstood load tests in excess of 2,000 pounds.
The other key thing to remember is that receptors can be custom fabricated to fit field conditions, especially moving the drain placement to fit existing plumbing.