Church Design Topics Part III: Fellowship Area Flooring

Continuing our series of design topics that come up on nearly every church project, I wanted to share some experiences with fellowship area flooring. It’s another one of those topics that always generates discussion, often with folks clearly entrenched on one side of the topic or the other. Specifically, when it comes to carpet vs. everything else, people have strong opinions, no doubt based in personal experience. For those of you that are convinced a room that serves meals or beverages of any sort should never have a carpeted floor, please consider the following:

  1. Commercial grade carpets are used in the hospitality industry for hotel lobbies, meeting rooms, ballrooms, and dining rooms. Carpet is used because it brings a sense of welcome and warmth that harder materials struggle to provide. And of course there are a multitude of color and pattern options that bring a visual richness and variety that is truly limitless.
  2. Among many carpet options, commercial grade synthetic material carpets can be solution-dyed, such that the yarn is extruded and the filaments are impregnated with pigment. It has “outstanding color fastness.”  Solution-dyed carpets resist fading, and even more importantly in food service areas, resist otherwise extremely harsh cleaning fluids and methods without losing their vibrancy.
  3. Carpets muffle sound in rooms that might otherwise become burdensomely loud. The clatter of dining and food service, in addition to the lively fellowship atmosphere that characterizes many church family gatherings, can be made much more tolerable for all generations of attendees in a more acoustically dampened environment. Carpet does this better than any other floor material.
  4. Consider the use of modular carpet squares, which can be more easily removed and replaced when irreparably damaged than broadloom (large roll) carpet goods. Carpet squares have risen greatly in popularity in recent years, and are available in many, many color and pattern options from every major commercial carpet supplier.
  5. Here’s something to consider. Having to replace carpet every 10 or 15 years is a good thing: it brings an opportunity for new color and new life to aging interiors as part of routine generational maintenance.  Your fellowship space isn’t stuck with the same tile floor pattern—that looked so good on the day it was installed—for generations to come. Of course the trick is that you do indeed replace that aging carpet in 10 or 15 or 20 years….

Many of our church clients do still choose to use non-carpet materials, like resilient tiles, laminate, linoleum, or even timeless hardwoods. In such cases, some pattern may still be achieved through use of multiple colors of tile or woods, bringing visual interest and scale to large spaces with borders or inlaid designs. Increased acoustical concerns should be addressed with acoustical wall panels and ceilings.

Often, we provide fellowship spaces with both carpeted and resilient flooring. We might use resilient flooring at the highest traffic areas, and carpet to define the seating area for dining or conversation. A large lobby-gathering space, for example, might have resilient flooring in the primary entrance areas, and carpet in the areas where people relax and converse in a more intimate setting.

So there are a variety of flooring materials available for churches to use in fellowship areas these days, each with advantages and disadvantages. Appropriate maintenance remains important with any material, including carpet and resilient tile. At LeMay Erickson Willcox Architects, we work with our church clients to understand all of the variables, selecting flooring products that bring the right combination of durability, economy, aesthetics, and acoustics.