Selecting and Maintaining a Floor Finish is Key to a Commercial Floor Care Program

April 15, 2004
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It's one of those great days in the history of your company, as you have just been awarded the cleaning contract of a 750,000-square-foot facility.

Perhaps it's your largest contract to date, or maybe it joins a roster of many other commercial properties you provide cleaning services for. Nonetheless, it's now up to your company to live up to the promises you've made to the new client: to maintain a clean, safe facility, with high-gloss "showcase" floors.

As you finalize the maintenance program based on the client's appearance goals for the facility's flooring, it is wise to simultaneously take a step back and take a look at how your recommended plan will impact your bottom line. Specifically, take a moment to ask yourself how something as fundamental as selecting the floor finish will affect the entire program you are about to implement.

It is a fact that the proper selection of floor finishes to match your floor maintenance schedule is a building block of a successful program. And with sound daily care and preventative maintenance programs, you will extend the time between costly restorative maintenance. The result is an improvement in your efficiency and a reduction in the overall cost of maintenance.

Before examining the finish selection and maintenance process in greater detail, consider what can happen if you choose not to factor in floor finish selection and a matching maintenance program. Here are some of the biggest mistakes made in a commercial floor maintenance program.

Using low-efficacy floor cleaning products. Particulate soil is the primary culprit in floor-finish wear and yellowing. If you don't remove the soil, especially particulate soil, you'll pay for it in the long run with additional floor finish and labor to scrub and recoat, or even strip and refinish, floors.

Using a low-performing finish. If you use a low-performing finish that costs less, you will incur higher labor costs because the finish will not last as long and will require more maintenance. And, the quality of the floor finish is not just determined by "high solids," but by the quality and blend of the ingredients to match the right maintenance frequency and appearance objectives.

Infrequent floor cleaning. Daily cleaning is the single most important element in any maintenance program. Choosing not to clean on the right frequency could result in soil build-up, which will wear on the floor finish.

The floor finish isn't compatible with the maintenance program. Do not, for example, place an ultra-high-speed finish on a floor that does not get frequent maintenance. It will never give you a higher gloss than the correct versatile all-around finish with moderate buffing or burnishing, or a durable finish with infrequent buffing.

The floor maintenance program doesn't match the client's objectives. How many times have you heard a facility manager say, "I want my floor to look like the supermarket's floor"? This is a problem when the client is not willing to pay for the maintenance frequency, labor and equipment that is needed to achieve the desired "burnished daily wet-look gloss."

Inadequate training. Your employees are only as good at floor care as they are trained to be. The knowledge and capability they get from their training will allow them to do a better job finishing and maintaining the facility's floors. In your choice of a floor care product line, you may want to see what types of training materials and aids they have available for you and your employees.

A mismatched floor-maintenance program. Some floors are designed to be finished, and some floors are meant to be unfinished to show their natural beauty. The floor maintenance program should factor in the various flooring types and adopt the finish and cleaning program to match.

Inadequate stripping. If you are going to the extent of stripping and refinishing a floor, be sure to spend the extra time and endure the extra cost of a good stripper, to ensure that the old finish is removed. This will guarantee that the floor looks great from the start.

Too fast, too many, too heavy...too bad. Don't cut corners by applying thick coats of finish, or by applying coats of finish without the proper dry time. Additionally, if you apply more than three coats of finish during the night shift, you increase the risk of clouding or uneven leveling. Investing extra time upfront will save you time in the long run.

The building does not have a mat program. A sound, three-step mat system can significantly reduce soiling and floor damage caused by outside elements, improving the effectiveness of soil removal on your finished floor.

These are some of the top reasons why commercial floor care programs fail. So whether you just secured a coveted contract - or you are simply reviewing the current programs you have in place - the key is to develop a solid plan for the building's commercial floor care needs starting with proper floor finish selection.

Choosing the Finish
The foundation of your plan, and of improved floor maintenance, is the selection of the proper floor finish. It is critical to remember that the right finish depends on how often maintenance is performed on the office floor. Frequency of maintenance is usually dictated by the client's needs regarding floor appearance, traffic on the floor, the type of floor, and the amount of money the client is willing to invest in equipment and labor. Fail on this point, and all else is lost.

Here are some quick guidelines to selecting the best finish for your floor:
Floors that receive infrequent to no burnishing require a more durable damage-resistant finish. This finish will provide a high level of gloss when initially laid down on the floor and it will hold that gloss level longer - with very infrequent buffing beyond routine cleaning - even in high-traffic areas.

For moderate maintenance programs in-between, where burnishing and buffing is done on an infrequent-to-moderate basis, look for a more versatile finish. Overall, this finish should provide a robust balance of durability, burnish response and repairability.

Finally, for high-frequency maintenance (floors that are burnished or buffed daily), your best bet is an ultra-high-speed burnishable finish. This type of finish is designed to provide a "wet look" gloss after burnishing. It will generally provide the highest level of gloss, but only when maintained regularly with ultra-high-speed burnishing.

Implement a Four-Step Maintenance Program
Once you have selected the proper finish, it is essential to create and implement sound maintenance programs that maintain and extend the life of the floor finish. There should be four stages to this process: daily, preventative, interim, and restorative maintenance.

Daily cleaning is the single most important element in any maintenance program. For finished floors, choose a floor cleaner based on its soil removal capability. Overall, look for products that offer exceptional particulate soil removal capability and are "neutral impact" on floor finishes. Better soil removal should extend the life of the floor finish while reducing the frequency of costly scrub and recoats and even more costly stripping-and-refinishing restorations.

Next, repairing the finish and low-cost rejuvenation are the objectives of any preventative maintenance process in order to prevent or delay more expensive maintenance. For ultra-high-speed burnishable finishes, frequent burnishing is the key process. Burnish response and finish repair can be enhanced with a periodic application of a mop-on restorer prior to burnishing. For versatile floor finishes, periodic buffing and burnishing - combined with mop-on restorers or application of spray-buff - can be implemented to rejuvenate the finish and renew the protective top layer. For durable finishes, a spray-buff or mop-on restorer can be applied to repair the finish and help prevent further damage.

Then, if the daily and preventative floor care programs are done properly and with the right frequency, the time between more intensive and expensive "interim" maintenance, usually a scrub-and-recoat, can be extended. Any reduction in the frequency of scrub-and-recoat procedures will make the cleaning group more productive and lower your total floor program cost.

Restorative maintenance is the most costly part of any floor maintenance program, because it essentially means "starting over" on the floor. Extending the time between costly strip-and-refinish restoration is typically the biggest lever for reducing floor care program costs.

A successful commercial floor care program results in beautiful, high-gloss finished floors, which keeps clients happy. By selecting the right quality finishes, using effective floor cleaners, and following a sound maintenance program, you can give your clients the results they want and greatly improve productivity. Imagine getting more done in less time while reducing the total labor costs for maintaining hard surface floors at the same time.

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