Building materials and finishes


Gates Hafen Cochrane Architects of Boulder, Colo., supplied this brief listing of common finish materials used in veterinary care facilities, along with some "helpful hints." For more information, contact Gates Hafen Cochrane Architects at (800) 332-4413.

Gates Hafen Cochrane Architects of Boulder, Colo., supplied this brief listing of common finish materials used in veterinary care facilities, along with some "helpful hints." For more information, contact Gates Hafen Cochrane Architects at (800) 332-4413.

Effective flooring materials

The perfect flooring would have these characteristics:

Pleasing visual impact.


Easily cleaned.



Nonabsorbant to liquids and odors.

Resistant to microbial growth.

No single flooring material is appropriate for use in all areas of an animal hospital, and no flooring material is a top performer in all of these categories, so choosing the "best" floor is a matter of balancing the requirements of specific areas with the cost and performance of available flooring materials.

1. Floor tile

Good material for front of clinic.

Durable and "dressy."

Can also be used in working portions of clinic, but is tiring to stand on all day.

Preferred floor material because it requires minimum upkeep, such as damp mopping.

4'' x 8'', 8'' x 8'', and 12'' x 12''. Glazed and unglazed tile, brick plate, and paver tile. Check for slip resistance.

There are three main groupings of floor tile: porcelain tile, glazed tile, and quarry tile.

a. Porcelain tile is made of fine porcelain clay, much like dinner plates. It is not a glazed product, but instead depends on the density of the clay to form an impermeable product. By varying the mix and color of the clay, a range of attractive colors can be provided, but bright or primary colors are not available. Porcelain tile is also available in a range of textures to provide slip resistance.

Suppliers: Marazzi, Crossville, Graniti Fiandre.

b. Glazed floor tile is usually a less expensive product than porcelain tile. The clay in glazed tile is of a lesser quality than the porcelain, but the glazing provides an impermeable surface. Glazed tile comes in a full range of colors and textures, some of which are slip resistant. There are also glazed tiles that mimic the texture and color of porcelain tile.

Suppliers: Dal Tile, American Olean, Buchtail, Graniti Fiandre, Florida Tile.

c. Quarry tile is typically an unglazed tile product made of the same clay as the glazed floor tile. Like porcelain tile, the color and texture come from the actual clay itself, not the glazing. Therefore, the range of colors is relatively limited. Quarry tiles are typically more permeable than either porcelain or glazed tile. Quarry tile is often seen in fast-food restaurants and commercial kitchens.

Supplier: American Olean.

2. Ceramic tile

Typically used in baths and runs.

Unglazed 1'' x 1'' mosaic. Check tile for slip resistance and durability.

Suppliers: Dal Tile, American Olean, Buchtail, Graniti Fiandre, Florida Tile.


When installing any type of tile, it is very important that the subfloor does not flex. Be very careful applying quarry tile over wood frame floors.

Use epoxy stain-resistant grout, such as Laticrete Latapoxy SP-100 Epoxy Grout and Laticrete Adhesive #4237. Epoxy grout can be very difficult to install, so make certain that the tile installer has experience working with it.

See the handbook published by the Tile Council of America, Princeton, N.J., for application method over different substrates.

3. Vinyl composition tile

Good all-around, inexpensive material for the front and working portions of clinic.

Frequently used in human health care facilities.

9'' x 9'' and 12'' x 12''. Probably the most inexpensive and durable flooring material. Can be prone to breakage and curling at edges of tile, but can be replaced easily. Cannot flash cove base. Joints are not chemically bonded or heat welded. Frequent waxing is required to keep the joints sealed. The new generation of tiles are asbestos free. Available in designer colors at cost premiums.

Suppliers: Armstrong, Azrock, Tarkett.


Rubber tile is also available, but does not wear or keep as nicely. It is also more expensive.

4. Sheet vinyl

Very good material to use in the working portions of the clinic.

Very durable and clean, but until recently, not usually very visually appealing.

Prefer commercial grade .080'' thick homogeneous PVC sheet vinyl flooring. Has no specific wear layer, but has pattern and material consistent through the product. Also available in stain-resistant grades and with non-metallic, slip-resistant grit. Seams typically every 6 feet.

In the past few years, there has been a change in the type of adhesives used to glue this product. Unfortunately, the new adhesives are much more sensitive to the presence of water coming up through the slab. Because of this, it is imperative that you do a moisture test on your slab before applying the sheet goods. You will also find that felt-backed products, like Possibilities by Armstrong, are less sensitive to moisture in the slab than products without the felt backing, such as Medintech or the Forbo products.

Cost varies from reasonable ($2.50/square foot) to astronomical ($6/square foot).

Suppliers: Armstrong--Possibilities (non-homogenous PVC, but can be heat welded), Corlon (vinyl chips in clear vinyl with backing), and Crosswalk (laminated sheet vinyl with raised, textured disks).

Tarkett--Acoustiflor (homogenous PVC with foam backing), Multiflor (homogenous PVC), Primo-Tek (homogenous PVC reinforced with polyurethane), Futur 2002 (homogenous PVC reinforced with polyurethane), and Safety (homogenous PVC with grit-impregnated surface).

Forbo--Smaagard (homogenous PVC ) and Krommerie Marmoleum (linoleum).

Altro--Safety Flooring.


Seams can be chemically or heat bonded, but the chemical seams have a tendency to "creep" apart.

Some materials cannot be installed over particle board without nullifying the warranty.

Call for "flashed cove base" in order to cove material up wall in a seamless base.

5. Carpet

Can be a very good material for front of clinic.

Needs regular professional cleaning. Often used in the office and behind the reception desk.

Nylon or new generation soil-resistant, nylon-like Antron III, Zefstron, Ultron, or Duotron is probably best choice for combined wear and soil resistance. If possible, choose a continuous filament and synthetic backing. Olefin and Polyester are also good choices for soil resistance. Tufted and/or textured loop preferred over cut pile. 1/8'' gauge, min. 8.5 stitches per inch, 22 oz. per square yard minimum pile weight. "Heavy or Extra Heavy" traffic rating. Many manufacturers' "Hospitality" line of carpets will offer better stain and wear resistance for the money. Otherwise, the carpets should be "commercial" quality, not "residential."

Supplier: See local distributors.


Carpet should be glued down without a pad.

2-foot square carpet tiles are also a viable alternative. Stained sections can be replaced easily, but replaced tiles have a different wear appearance.

6. Liquid applied epoxy

Can be used in procedure and run areas.

Easily cleaned; no sealers or wax needed.

Two- or three-step trowel-applied epoxy resin flooring is seamless and can be formed up the wall as a base or wainscot. Obtaining an even slip-resistant finish that is easy to keep clean can be difficult. It is worth noting that the off gassing of the epoxy during the curing/drying process can be potentially dangerous if you or your patients are exposed to it for any length of time.

Suppliers: Dex-O-Tex, Cheminert, Neotex, Omnitech.


Surface preparation is critical! The floor should be bead blasted.

Very good material if successfully applied, but improper installation and underslab water penetration can cause serious adhesion and blistering problems.

Quality control (color, non-slip grit, and thickness) can be difficult.

7. MMA flooring (liquid applied acrylic resin flooring)

Can be used in procedure and run areas.

Easily cleaned; no sealers or wax needed.

Cures quickly; solvent free.

Chemically bonds to concrete. More expensive than liquid applied epoxy flooring, but because it is acrylic based, it has no noxious off gassing problems. Also, unlike the epoxy flooring, the acrylic forms a monolythic, chemical bond between layers. Fresh resin dissolves the surface of the cured material and cures with the fresh material. Even after years, new or additional coatings can be installed, with integrated surfaces added in the future. The grit or slip resistance is obtained through the use of acrylic color chips versus the sand that is used in the epoxy flooring.

Like the sheet vinyl products, epoxy and acrylic resin floors are very sensitive to moisture in the concrete floor to which it is bonded. For this reason, it is imperative that a moisture test is done before using this material.

Supplier: Silikal North America.

8. Stained and sealed concrete

Can be used in the waiting area and throughout the facility.

Can be a relatively low-cost alternative to a tiled floor.

Can create an "antica roma" type of mottled or aged-looking floor often seen in commercial and retail establishments.

Requires resealing every few years, depending on traffic.

In this process, once the concrete has set, it is stained with a penetrating chemical stain. It is then sealed with a glossy sealer that is compatible with the stain. This glossy sealer is the wear layer and needs to be reapplied periodically. A dry-shake hardener can also be used to harden the concrete before sealing, but this increases the cost dramatically.

Because this is only a stain and sealer, any imperfections, discolorations, or cracks in the slab will read through to the finished floor.

Supplier: Bowmanite Corporation, Madera, Calif.--Patene Artectura.

9. Concrete sealers, colors, and hardeners

For use in the run, ward, and utility areas.

A very good alternative to painting the concrete because these materials actually bond with the substrate.

Penetrating sealers allow water vapor to escape. This is the only foolproof solution if moisture or hydrostatic pressure is present under the slab. Moisture trapped under most floor coatings will cause blistering and peeling.

All of these concrete sealers and hardeners are only as good as the slab. If the slab cracks, which it is prone to do, the surface becomes permeable. Where possible, set a structural slab and finish with a non-structural topping slab, set to a cleavage membrane.

a. Sealers

Liquid-applied (sprayed-on) clear sealer.

The least inexpensive floor sealer.

Easily applied; needs to be reapplied every few years.

Suppliers: Sonneborn--Kure-N-Seal.

Master Builders--Masterseal.

The Burke Company--Spartan-Cote, Cure-Seal-Hardener.


Sonneborn has a Gray Kure-N-Seal that will hide blemishes and increase the reflectivity of the floor, making for a brighter room. This material should be used only on naturally colored concrete floors.

Should be reapplied at the end of the job--before turning the project over to the owner.

b. Chemical hardeners

A colorless, aqueous hardening solution containing magnesium and zinc fluosilicate. Used to make the concrete slab less prone to chipping and spalding and to make a more impervious surface. In most cases, should be used in conjunction with a sealer.

Suppliers: Sonneborn--Lapidolith.

The Burke Company--Burke-O-Lith.

c. Colored concrete

Used to integrally color concrete, using alkali-resistant and fade-resistant pigments.

Supplier: Davis Colors--True Tone Cement Colors.

10. Paint

Because we have often seen painted concrete floors fail in existing facilities, we would strongly recommend against using any kind of paint on floors, even chlorinated rubber, alkyd enamel, or epoxy.

11. Terrazzo

Usable in all portions of clinic.

Can be both highly durable and very visually appealing.

Can be very expensive.

Can be tiresome to stand on all day.

Is slippery when wet.

Because of the cost, it is unusual to find terrazzo floor finishes being used in contemporary clinics.

A terrazzo finish is made up of marble chips in a cementitous carrier, ground to a smooth and flush finish. Because any movement or cracks in the substrate will have a tendency to telegraph through the terrazzo, eliminating movement in the substrate is critical. Location of divider strips is also critical.

Interior wall finishes

1. Paint

a. Flat latex

Usable in office, reception, and waiting areas where cleaning the wall is not critical and a flat, warmer wall finish is desired.

Use primer and one coat.

b. Washable latex semi-gloss enamel

Usable throughout front and working portions of clinic. Should not be used in ward and run areas.

Washable, but not scrubable. Should not be hosed down.

Semi-gloss or gloss paints will show more imperfections in the wall than flat paint will.

c. Alkyd (oil base) enamel

Use where higher durability than latex enamel is required.

Can be used in ward and run areas.

Can be used for painting metal with careful priming and degreasing beforehand.

Use flat latex base primer coat and two coats odorless interior semi-gloss alkyd enamel.

Alkyd enamel paint has been the workhorse of the industry for many years, especially for painting metal surfaces. However, we have found that the new generation of aliphatic acrylic coatings are readily available, more durable, and cost the same or less than the better grades of alkyd enamel. For these reasons, we have switched to the aliphatic acrylic coatings on all of our recent projects.

d. Aliphatic acrylic and a high-performance urethane coating

Can be used on any exposed metal where subjected to harsh conditions.

Available in a "direct-to-metal" and a "direct-to-rust" formulation. The "direct-to-rust" is the more high-performance material.

Supplier: Pittsburgh Paints.

e. Epoxy resin flooring--on walls

Epoxy resin flooring can also be used on wall surfaces if it is applied over a strong and stable sub-material like concrete block or plywood. Like the flooring, it is very durable and impervious to liquids. When it is used on a wall and in conjunction with an adjacent floor, the epoxy resin flooring has the added benefit of creating a seamless joint where the wall and floor meet.

Suppliers: Dex-O-Tex, Cheminert, Neotex, Omnitech.

f. Epoxy paint

Can be used in ward and run areas.

Very durable.

There are a multitude of one- or two-part and solvent- or water-based epoxy paints on the market. For most of our purposes, we have found the acrylic-epoxy water-based paint to be very workable. While this product is also available as a polyester-epoxy solvent-based paint, we have found the water-based product performs as well as the solvent-based. We regularly use it over concrete block in ward areas and runs.

Supplier: Pittsburgh Paints--Pitt-Glaze 16 Line.

g. Epoxy coatings

The next step above epoxy paint is a high-build semi-gloss polyamide-epoxy coating, often called "tile clad" or "high build" for short. This product is virtually indestructible. It is often used in food processing plants, laboratories, hospitals, and other places where a durable, highly stain- and chemical-resistant coating is required. This product is the best paint or coating that can be used in the run areas.

Supplier: Pittsburgh Paints--Aquapon 2.8VOC 97-31 or 97-39.

2. Concrete block filler

Any time you paint concrete masonry units, be sure to fill surface of block first.

3. Glazed concrete block and structural glazed tile

Very durable, maintenance-free material.

Good material for ward and run areas.

While often lumped together and referred to generically as "glazed block," there are actually two glazed block type products that we have used in building runs. The first is a concrete masonry unit with a baked-on acrylic coating and is usually referred to as "glazed block." The other is a kiln-fired ceramic finish on a structural clay tile and is usually referred to as "structural glazed tile." While these two products are virtually indistinguishable to the untrained eye, and for all practical purposes perform equally well in most situations, the structural glazed tile unit is slightly more durable because of the kiln firing. It also has more trim pieces and shapes available for forming terminations and wall caps, but is usually more expensive.

Both products can be set in typical masonry mortar, but the finished joints should be dressed with epoxy grout to form a truly impervious total wall system.

Suppliers: Glazed Block: Spectra Group--Spectra-Glaze II; Trenwyth--Astra-Glaze-SW.; Structural Glazed Tile: Elgin Butler Brick Company.

4. Glass block

We have used glass block on several projects to build walls in the runs. Because the blocks are actually a heavy glass, they are durable, impervious to staining, and don't need to be painted! Like glazed block or glazed structural tile, they need to be grouted with epoxy grout to form joints as impervious to staining as the glass block units themselves. The only two drawbacks to glass block are the lack of glass block trim pieces to cap the ends or tops of the walls and the difficulty of mounting fencing or gates to the glass block walls. For that reason, we have mixed concrete masonry units or glazed block with the glass block for transition and termination of the walls.

Supplier: Pittsburgh Corning Glass Block.

5. Ceramic tile

Predominately used for backsplashes at counters, wainscoting, and shower enclosures in baths.

Can also be used in wards and runs.

4'' x 4'' and 4'' x 8'' glazed wall tile. Tile should always be applied over water-resistant gypsum board or "Tile Backer Board" in damp areas. Coordinate setting and grouting method with substrate. See the handbook published by the Tile Council of America, Princeton, N.J.

Suppliers: Dal Tile, American Olean, Buchtail, Graniti Fiandre, Florida Tile.

6. Vinyl wall covering

Use in front and working portions of clinic.

Use instead painting or wainscoting in medium traffic areas.

Minimum weight "Medium Duty," Type II, 13 oz. per square yard. Vinyl coating not less than 7 oz. per square yard. Backing should be treated with mildew and germicidal additives. In areas that are subject to staining, use "Stain Resistant Type II" with "delustered clear polyvinyl fluoride film."

Suppliers: General Tire and Rubber--Genon Stardust Type II.

B.F. Goodrich--Koroseal.

7. Protective vinyl wall covering

In contrast to generic vinyl wall covering, protective vinyl wall covering is a heavy-duty semi-rigid vinyl wall covering that is available in thickness ranging from .028'' to .250''. Commonly referred to as "Kydex," this material is resistant to hand carts and even forklifts when the heaviest material is specified. We often use Kydex as a wainscot, and in the thicknesses ranging from .060'' to .080'', it has proven to be resistant to dog scratching and gurneys or other portable equipment that is being moved. Kydex is usually applied directly over drywall, but in the more heavy duty applications it can be applied over plywood or particle board. Because it is flexible, it can also be formed around curves, and because it is textured, it does not show scratches. As an added benefit, Kydex, unlike glassboard, is available in a wide range of colors, trim pieces, corner guards, and rails that are compatible with most contemporary interior color schemes.

Supplier: Kleerdex Company--Kydex.

8. Plastic laminate wall covering

The countertop material generically referred to as Formica is called plastic laminate in the construction industry. We often use it over a plywood substrate to form a durable and visually pleasing wainscot in a room. Plastic laminate is available from myriad manufacturers in a seemingly limitless range of colors, textures, and patterns. It is also available in abrasion-resistant grades. We have found that the best way to mask scratching is to use a plastic laminate that is a medium shade or patterned, rather than a very dark or very light color. Plastic laminate should be mounted to plywood, not drywall, because it can delaminate from drywall over time.

Suppliers: Formica, Nevamar, Wilsonart.

9. Solid surface material

While the solid surface material that most people are familiar with is the original Corian, by Dupont, there are now a range of solid surface materials that look like marble and granite. We have used a solid surface material at the reception counter to create a dressier, more upscale finish and have also used it to create nice, stone-like benches in waiting areas. Because it is the same material throughout its thickness, any scratches that may occur can be buffed out.

Suppliers: Wilsonart International--Avonite.; Dupont--Corian.; Nevamar--Fountainhead.

10. Glassboard

Virtually indestructible fiberglass-reinforced plastic panel that can be used for wainscoting.

Used extensively in commercial kitchens and food processing plants.

Available in 4' x 8' panels, mar-resistant embossed surface. Limited number of pastel colors available.

Suppliers: Dyrotech Industries, Joliet, Ill.--Glassbord by Crane.

Kemlite, Joliet, Ill.--Glasbord.

11. Corner guards

n With experience, we have learned the desirability of corner guards on walls to guard against carts and dog leashes.

Available in myriad and colors, including clear lexan. Surface-mounted vinyl/acrylic extrusions, 2'' wide.

Suppliers: Construction Specialties, Inc.--Acrovyn.

Tepromark International, Woodmere, N.Y.-- Tepromark.

Ceiling finishes

1. Painted drywall

Can be used throughout clinic.

Does not allow flexibility or immediate access to space above ceiling.

Lack of acoustical absorption can be a problem.

More visually attractive than suspended acoustic tile.

See Interior Wall Finishes, Paint.

2. Suspended acoustic tile

In the public areas, use a designer series of tiles, either 2' x 2' "regressed or shadow line" or a patterned, molded, or high-profile tile.

In the working areas of the clinic, use a high-profile tile that has higher sound absorbing abilities. (Noise reduction coefficient of .75 to .80 is possible.)

Economical tile ceilings that can be used in high-moisture areas, such as runs and grooming include White Vinyl Faced "Mylar Face (Perforated) US Gypsum Ceiling Panels." Other options include "foil wrapped" or "ceramic bonded" tiles.

For the most part, water-felted panels are more durable and sag resistant than fiberglass panels. In high-humidity areas, the size of the tile should be minimized to resist sagging.

Tiles with sealed edges and special back coatings are also available for clean-room ceilings, such as surgery areas.

Suppliers: US Gypsum Company, Owens Corning, Celotex, Armstrong.

Sound absorbing materials

1. Spray-on acoustic sound absorbing material

Spray-on acoustic sound absorbing material is available in two types: cellulose and cementitious. The cellulose material offers a noise reduction coefficient of 1.0, but unfortunately is not very durable. Except for rare occasions, we would not recommend its use in areas where people can jump up and touch it or where it might accidentally get hosed. It is also very porous, so it will absorb airborne moisture, organisms, or dirt. In contrast, the cementitious spray-on material offers an NRC of only .55 to .65, but it will stand up to abuse, including hosing. In either case, spray-on material can be applied over almost any kind of ceiling surface to at least partially offset noise problems.

Supplier: Pyrok Inc.--Pyrok Acoustement 40.

2. Sound absorbing wall panels

Cloth- or vinyl-wrapped sound-absorbing units (noise reduction coefficient of .85).

Available in a number of colors and materials.

Can be used in any area requiring additional sound absorbing abilities. Should not be installed below 4'-0'' in ward and run areas.

Suppliers: Armstrong--Soundsoak.

Acoustiflex Corporation, Plainfield, Ill.--Softscape, Capaul.

US Gypsum Company--Acoustone Space Units, Silent Auratone Panels.

3. Free-hanging sound baffles

We have used free-hanging, nylon-faced or viny-faced sound baffles to mitigate sound in both the public and run areas of a facility. While the vinyl-faced baffles are available only in white, the nylon-faced are available in a range of colors. These 1'' thick, 2' x 4' baffles can be hung from the ceiling or around the walls in a variety of configurations to provide sound control and visual interest.

Supplier: Netwell Inc.--Gym Baffles.

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