Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Maintaining Engineered Wood Flooring

September 8, 2005
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Wood flooring has been making a dynamic surge in the floor covering market for the past 10 years. A sub-class, engineered wood, is cropping up in many different environments: residential, commercial, retail and more. As a result, the floor maintenance technician can expect to be required to clean and maintain these floors.

Engineered Wood Flooring Engineered (laminated) products are an assembly of multiple layers of hardwood veneer or dimensioned stock. The layers are kiln dried, assembled with opposing grain direction (cross-hatched), and bonded together to form a single unit. The unit is milled on all edges and surfaced.

Available in strip, plank and parquets styles, a cross-directional lamination process is used to bond three to five layers of varying thickness, the top layer comprised of a premium hardwood caliber. These floors can be finished or unfinished, and are available in a variety of species. Pre-finished flooring has had a finish applied in the factory. The extremely durable factory finishes are a primary reason for the success of these floors. This does not mean that these floors are indestructible; it is important to create a maintenance program that meets the requirements of the facility that the flooring is in.

Initial Maintenance
After the floor has been installed there will be minimal initial maintenance requirements. Remove all adhesives with an appropriate adhesive remover if the flooring was glued down. Clean the floor with the manufacturers recommended cleaner. I cannot stress enough the importance of following the manufacturer's recommended maintenance methods; the systems are developed specifically for the individual products. Sometimes buffing the floor with a soft pad is required to bring the floor to its fullest potential.

Walk-off mats are of tremendous importance to the program. Fine particles of dirt, grit and sand are very detrimental to wood floors and can be ground in easily. Capturing these in a walk off mat before they carried to the floor can save wear and tear to the flooring.

Daily/Routine Maintenance
Sweep, dust mop (dust mop or cloth system) or vacuum the floor as frequently as possible. Do not vacuum the floor with an upright vacuum that has a beater bar; this may cause damage. A wet/dry tank vacuum or backpack vacuum with a wand and brush/felt head would be preferable. Cloth micro-fiber dusting systems are great for eliminating fine particulates.

Wipe up spills immediately with a damp cloth and dry the area directly after with a dry towel. Wet soil such as mud that should get tracked in is very damaging and should be removed as quickly as possible. The minute particles that are brought in are extremely damaging to wood flooring. Note: If the floor has a urethane coating, do not apply wax treatments or paste wax; this could result in an unsafe floor.

Although damp mopping is an acceptable method of maintenance for wood floors that have been sealed or finished, care and consideration should be used when maintaining them. Keep in mind that all wood flooring, sealed or finished, are water sensitive. Never pour water on them or allow it to accumulate on the floor. It will seek the path of least resistance and seep between the boards or penetrate into superficial scratches or cracks. This will be detrimental to the finish or to the wood itself.

Occasionally damp mop the floor with manufacturer's recommended cleaning solution with a moistened damp mop or applicator. Do not wet mop the floor with excessive water, and be sure not to leave solution standing. It is also important that you do not use harsh cleaning chemicals such as detergents, all-purpose cleaners, degreasers, ammonia, bleach, oil-based soap or acidic cleaners. They may damage the floor.

Periodic Maintenance
Most pre-finished engineered flooring will have a spray-buff system for periodic maintenance. That is why it is important to know who the manufacturer is and have access to maintenance instructions. These systems usually incorporate a cleaner and enhancer together to bring the luster of the floor back.

Spray buffing is a restorative procedure that is performed after the cleaning service to improve the appearance of the floor. The process works by filling in superficial scratches with a liquid solution that is misted on the floor with a spray bottle or aerosol spray and buffed with an appropriate pad until it is dry.

First, vacuum and remove walk off mats; remove objects from the floor surface. Next, thoroughly remove all dirt, dust and debris using broom, dust mop, micro-fiber cloth system or vacuum. Use putty and razor knives to remove gum, labels, tags or other items that may be stuck to the floor, being cautious to not damage the floor surface.

Mix the manufacturer's recommended spray-buff concentrate to recommended dilution ratios. Affix spray-buffing pads to your 175-RPM rotary scrubbing machine. In some situations a high-speed machine may be used, if approved by manufacturer.

Start the machine and spray the area with solution (approximately 5 feet by 5 feet). Buff the area immediately until it is dry. Repeat the process in the same area until desired gloss level is achieved. Move to the next area and continue the procedure. Remove dirt, dust and debris caused by the procedure by sweeping, dust mopping with dust mop or micro-fiber cloth system or vacuuming after burnishing.
Note: Spray buffing fills the pad relatively quickly; you should turn the pad over when this happens. Have extra pads on hand when working on large areas.

Restorative Maintenance
Ultimately, the floor will not respond to daily/routine or periodic maintenance. Areas such as traffic lanes will appear or worn areas may expose bare wood. When this occurs, machine sanding and refinish will be required. Surface screening or light sanding with proper sanding screen or sanding paper followed by application of manufacturers recommended products can bring the floor back to life again.

It is important to remember that when performing these services on pre-finished engineered floors, you must follow the manufacturer's instruction precisely. If you are unsure of the procedure, it may be best to hire a professional hard-floor maintenance specialist to complete the task.

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