Church Flooring Concerns and Solutions

May 28


Ma. Theresa Galan

Ma. Theresa Galan

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Floors are often taken for granted as one of the more humble and less visible parts of the church building. However, their decoration and good condition can add immeasurably to the appearance and atmosphere of a church.

Many church floors contain monuments,Church Flooring Concerns and Solutions Articles brasses or historic material including rare medieval tiles which are of historical significance and which require special care.

As floors and their coverings, including carpets, often cover large areas and replacements can be costly it is wise to take good care of the existing floor and coverings and consider carefully any repair, substitution or aggressive intervention. Finding appropriate long-term solutions is a vital part of caring for your church.This article includes advice on the suitability of carpets in churches.

Causes of damage

Church floors can be constructed from wood, stone, brick, tiles or more recent materials such as linoleum, laid on a solid or suspended floor. They may be covered with rugs, matting or carpet.

All types of flooring and floor covering suffer under the cumulative effect of wear. Abrasion caused by dirt and grit from shoes accelerates damage due to wear. Shoes can also leave watermarks or stains from mud or asphalt. Floor coverings which are no longer adequately supported or which rest on uneven ground can split or crack under pressure or movement. The moving or dragging of furniture and equipment can cause indentation and deep scratches.

A high relative humidity, water leaks and rising damp are highly damaging to most historic floors. Condensation affects stone, particularly marble surfaces which deteriorate in damp conditions. Moisture may become trapped under impervious backings or sealants. Wooden floors are vulnerable to wood-boring insects, mould and rot, especially in damp conditions. To prevent this, timber floors need to be adequately ventilated.

Low relative humidity resulting from heating or direct sunlight can result in the splitting and cracking of wooden floorboards. Extreme fluctuations of relative humidity can cause the distortion of wooden floor and damage to surface finishes.

 Direct sunlight and aggressive cleaning materials irreversibly affect the colour of stone floors. Inappropriate cleaning materials also deposit damaging salts. Sanders or grinders can cause considerable damage and reduce the thickness of the flooring material.


In order to prevent abrasion and stains, the floor and its coverings need to be kept clean. A doormat can effectively remove most dirt from visitors' shoes. Fresh stains should be removed as soon as possible. Don't use aggressive cleaning products or sanders.

Don't drag heavy items over the surface of clay brick and tile floors as these can easily break. During special events and building work, floors may need special protection.

Polished wooden floors need to be dusted and dry polished occasionally by following the advice in the Cleaning Guidelines.

As movement or loss of one part of a floor can put stress on the neighbouring area, loose stones or tiles should be rebedded and missing ones replaced with a matching material, following the advice of your inspecting architect or surveyor. Cracked stones which are still tightly bedded can be left alone. The pointing or joints between stone slabs and tiles should be kept tight and sound and should be renewed using a traditional lime-based bedding, not hard cement.

Worn stone, plain clay tiles and brick floors develop a fine patina which should not be removed.

Stone, marble, terrazzo and tile floors should be mopped very occasionally with a damp mop rinsed in clear water and dried off with a dry mop.

Any spillages should immediately be mopped up.

Many floors in historic churches are laid directly on the ground and are susceptible to damp. However, the introduction of a damp-proof course will not prevent damp penetrating other areas and may increase rising damp in walls.

Specialist conservators will be able to advise you on the material, value and age of your floor, the required care and maintenance and options for repairs.

Any proposal to alter or disturb flooring must involve the Diocesan Archaeological Adviser as church floors can contain considerable archaeological information.

 Carpets in Churches

Before introducing carpets into a church, the advantages and disadvantages should be carefully considered. While they may reduce noise and seem to make a church more welcoming, carpets are not suitable for every church. Most historic churches have damp and uneven floors or important monuments in the floor which will suffer from being covered. Carpeting may also considerably dampen the acoustics in the church and make expensive amplification necessary. In a place of worship, fully-fitted carpets fail to distinguish between the different liturgical spaces and actions.

 The aesthetic impact and the long-term benefits should be given due regard. Strong colours draw attention to the floor and away from the more significant elements in the building. Carpets will need replacement at least every 25 years and can look shabby even earlier because of wear and tear or spillages.

 For more information of this topic, check the links below:

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