Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Maintaining Solid Vinyl - Class III Printed Film Flooring

December 11, 2008
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One of the biggest challenges for floor maintenance technicians is identifying the floor coverings they will be working on. In the modern world of flooring, ceramic and porcelain can be manufactured to resemble stone flooring, laminates take on the appearance of wood, and resilient flooring may resemble wood, stone, diamond plate and numerous other products. Is it any wonder that the technicians are getting confused?

The resilient category of flooring consists of linoleum, cork, rubber, non-vinyl polymeric poured seamless floors and vinyl products. Innovations over the years have led to the development of an interesting classification of flooring often referred to as luxury vinyl tile. Truth be known, there is no such classification as luxury vinyl tile; it is just an easy name to describe solid vinyl, class III, printed film products, as well as other products that are not solid vinyl at all.

Vinyl floor coverings are products that contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Most floor maintenance technicians can tell you that the vinyl classifications consist of two styles – sheet flooring or tile flooring – but they may not know what constitutes the difference.

The American Society for Testing and Materials designates two specifications and standards for sheet vinyl flooring: ASTM F 1303 sheet vinyl floor covering with backing and ASTM F 1913 sheet vinyl floor covering without a backing, and two specifications and standards for vinyl tile: ASTM F 1066 - Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) and ASTM F 1700 – Solid Vinyl Tile (SVT). The basic difference between them is the amount of PVC used in the product.

VCT has significantly less PVC and more filler than SVT, which makes it less flexible and more porous. It is also the reason you will never see VCT in sheets; there is not enough PVC in the product to make it flexible enough to roll up. It will just break. Therefore, VCT is easily identified by its 12-by-12-inch tiles.

SVT contains PVC and other ingredients that constitute 34 percent or more of the tile by weight. SVT is manufactured in tile and planks of varying dimensions. There are three classes of SVT: monolithic SVT has color throughout the body of the tile and no backing; surface-decorated SVT is a tile where the pattern or design is either printed on the surface or has colored chips inlaid and layered onto the backing with a wear layer on the surface; and printed film, in which the pattern or design is printed on a film and layered between the backing and a clear heavy-duty wear layer. All of these products may have a smooth surface or an embossed surface.

Solid vinyl class III printed film tiles or planks are very popular and are found in many different environments. The construction consists of a backing, the printed design, a clear film protective layer and a heavy duty wear layer and many may also have textured surfaces. Because of the heavy-duty wear layer of the SVT printed film products, there is the perception that these floors are invincible. Granted they are indeed durable, but everything succumbs to the effects of erosion, no exceptions. Most manufacturers recommend using minimal cleaning solution and do not recommend using anything more abrasive than a medium scrubbing brush or pad. Stripping and some heavy scrubbing brushes or pads are too abrasive and may cause damage to the surface. Most manufacturers of these products are open to the use of floor finish programs if desired, but adhesion can be difficult on some of these surfaces. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance methods for best results.

Initial maintenance for these floors consists of dry soil removal and a thorough mopping. Generally this will suffice, but in some situations a light or medium scrub may be necessary to dislodge more aggressive soils. Most manufacturers recommend limited use of cleaning solution for the first few days to allow the flooring adhesive to cure; never drench or over saturate the floor. Once the floor is clean, applications of floor finish may be applied if desired.

Maintenance should include matting programs that position walk-off mats at each entrance and be of sufficient length to capture soil as it enters the building. Daily/routine maintenance is the removal of soils by dust mopping, cloth systems or vacuuming followed by damp or wet mopping. Sometimes a buffing program may help to keep a better appearance.

Periodic maintenance will usually consist of a light or medium scrub with neutral or all-purpose cleaner, depending on if the floor system incorporates floor finish. This may be accomplished using a spray-buff method in which the technician will mist an area with cleaning solution and machine scrub it with a low-speed rotary floor machine affixed with a light-to-medium scrubbing brush or pad. The area will then be rinsed and damp mopped to remove excess water. Buffing the floor with a soft pad afterwards when floor finish is not used may be necessary.

Of course, the technician may also perform the light to medium scrub in the traditional sense when floor finish is used, as long as he minimizes the cleaning solution. Lightly apply cleaning solution to a manageable area and scrub with a low-speed rotary floor machine with light to medium scrubbing pads or brushes. Rinse the floor thoroughly, allow it to dry and reapply floor finish.

Restorative maintenance is required when floor finish systems are used, and consists of the stripping and refinishing service procedure. The difference here is the controlled use of cleaning solution and abrasive pads or brushes. Mix the stripping solution only as strong as needed to remove the finish; in some situations all-purpose cleaner at a lower dilution ratio will suffice. Machine-strip the old finish off with a slow speed rotary floor machine with medium scrubbing pads only; do not use stripping pads or brushes. Detail edges, corners and baseboards and rinse the floor thoroughly with fresh water. Once the floor has dried, reapply floor finish to the desired gloss level.

Solid vinyl printed film flooring need not be something to be afraid of. It is actually not that difficult to maintain. The technician just needs to remember that these floors are constructed a little different than other floors and require more attention when working on them. Limit the cleaning solutions and the abrasiveness of the pad or brush, and everything should work out just fine.

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