ICS Magazine

Finding Value in Floor Care: Seven Rules for Choosing a Floor Finish

December 13, 2000
In today’s world of tight budgets and high standards in floor care, building service contractors want floor coatings that deliver quality, and at the right price. Here are seven rules to follow to find genuine value.

Rule #1

Determine the cost per square foot of coverage, rather than price per gallon. Price per gallon is an obsolete yardstick for determining a floor coating’s “cost.” Buying floor finish based on lowest price per gallon is similar to buying the least expensive automobile you can find without regard to where you’re hoping to go with it, and what it costs to maintain it.

Cost per square foot of coverage more truly reflects what your floor finish budget will be. This reflects part of the actual “mileage” you’ll derive from the product. For example, a finish that costs $5 per gallon, but covers only 1,800 sq. ft. per gallon and requires six coats to produce an acceptable shine will cost $16.70 to effectively coat 1,000 square feet. A product that costs $9 per gallon but produces a good appearance with only three coats and covers 3,000 sq. ft. per gallon will cost only $9 per 1,000 square feet, a savings of nearly 50 percent.

Rule #2

Assess annual labor and chemical costs based on your choice of floorcare products, then determine which system provides the best total value. Seek to assess the long-term labor and chemical expense of an existing floorcare program. This can be done using manual arithmetic, or you may wish to take advantage of user-friendly computer software which enables contractors to determine what total floorcare costs will be based on a selected floor finish, its rate of coverage, cost per gallon, type and frequency of maintenance procedures (e.g., spray buffing versus high speed burnishing), and so on.

By producing comparison print outs of two different floor finish programs, you can quickly see whether the initially less expensive product is costing you more overall.

Rule #3

For cost-effectiveness, choose a compatible floorcare system, including a finish designed for the application and burnishing speed. There is a hand-and-glove relationship between the speed of your floor machine and proper selection of finish. A floor finish which costs less per unit, but which is not highly responsive to burnishing, may require three passes with a burnisher to produce an acceptable shine, therefore tripling labor expense for that procedure, and nullifying any up-front savings. Also, since low-speed compatible coatings—typically less expensive per gallon—are often more brittle than UHS coatings. Burnishing with UHS propane or electric equipment causes finish powdering, and extra labor to remove dust residue from floor and furnishings.

Rule #4

Try before you buy. Apply test zones to monitor real-world performance. Talk to other end users. Find distributors willing to apply test zones of their floorcare products for your evaluation. Pick equally high traffic areas, and do side-by-side testing of products under your consideration. Maintain both areas normally, and observe the results. Look for durability, buffing response, reparability, resistance to soil and yellowing. Get a list of customers who use the products, and get their evaluation.

Rule #5

Count the cost of labor, which may be required to maintain gloss. Is the finish a thermoplastic product, which responds properly to modern floor burnishers? Tests conducted in a supermarket using a gloss meter—which measures light reflection from the floor—demonstrate the potential difference between a thermoplastic (designed to respond to UHS burnishers) finish and a non-buffable, low unit-cost “dry bright” (a product which dries to a moderate shine without buffing).

Before exposure to traffic, the dry bright finish registered 80 on the gloss meter. After a full day of foot traffic, the reading was 60. Under the same conditions, the thermoplastic finish began at 90, and ended the day at 85. The more durable shine produced by the thermoplastic product reduced the need for restoration work, and lowered the supermarket’s overall maintenance budget.

Rule #6

Count the cost of stripping. How difficult is the finish to remove? Stripping is one of the most labor-intensive floorcare procedures. Many poorly formulated floor finish products are hard to strip, driving up labor costs, and require prolonged exposure to potent strippers. By contrast, newer metal-free floor coating products don’t require conventional strippers, only the application of a specially formulated remover which dissolves the damaged or soiled top layer of finish, leaving the sealer intact, lowering labor expense.

Rule #7

Be sure the product is certified slip resistant. A finish that isn’t slip-certified and fully backed by the manufacturer can cost you more than you ever imagined, should you or your customer experience a slip/fall lawsuit. Inexpensive products can be very expensive indeed if they are slippery on the floor.

In short, buying the right floor finish, like buying the right automobile, means doing your homework: evaluating performance and maintenance costs, and considerable “test driving” Choosing value over cost is the key to finding a coating that goes the distance, and delivers satisfied customers.

SIDEBAR

Catalytic Top Coatings Improve Floor Care, Lower Costs

By Allen Rathey

Catalytic top coatings promise to make finished floors shine longer while lowering maintenance. “Workers apply a thin, translucent coating which penetrates and chemically bonds or ‘fuses’ up to 6 coats of floor finish,” according to Doug Hauff, CEO of U.S. Products. “This makes the surface more durable and resistant to soil than before while maintaining gloss and slip resistance.” Catalytic top-coat products work on all floors, including marble, terrazzo, vinyl, linoleum, concrete, quarry tile, glazed tile, etc. Newer products exceed UL standards for slip resistance and are zinc and metal-free.

Bill Griffin of Cleaning Consultant Services in Seattle, Wash., evaluated a catalytic product and reported: “We tested [catalytic coatings] in a healthcare environment, and they improved durability over regular floor finishes, extending the intervals needed for burnishing, scrubbing, and stripping.”

In other tests, a floor finish coated with a catalytic film followed by high speed buffing lasted 400% longer than the conventional finish alone, delaying the need for stripping, while eliminating rejuvenators and restorers. The coating also reduced upkeep expense by 65%.

SIDEBAR

Tips for Choosing a Floor Machine

By Richard Carr

Automatic scrubbers and burnishers maximize cost effectiveness. In selecting the best specific equipment for your needs, there are several important factors to consider, including; size of floor area, number and type of obstructions, type of facility, traffic conditions, time of day maintenance will be performed, time allotted for maintenance, and available power source. Also, the level of desired maintenance, budget restraints, safety, and access to repair services must be considered.

Automatic Scrubbers

The key to buying the right autoscrubber is to match the equipment to the job. Some questions to ask:

1) If the machine is to be used for stripping, does it have sufficient pad pressure to strip effectively?

2) Are the solution and recovery tanks matched to floor size?

3) How easy is the machine to service, and what is the quality and availability of repair services?

Burnishers

There are three types of burnishers; propane, battery, and cord electric. The features and benefits of each are discussed next.

Propane: With the best combination of pad pressure and pad speed, propane-powered burnishers increase productivity while delivering excellent wet-look appearance levels. Cordless, and lighter than battery models, these machines are highly mobile, and can operate up to ten hours before refueling. With more power than other kinds of burnishers, propane buffers can drive larger pads and cover expanses of flooring quickly.

Battery: These machines are mobile, quiet, require minimal maintenance, and are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, and other noise-sensitive environments. With greater potential pad pressure than cord electric machines, battery burnishers can easily produce wet-look appearance levels. Operating time averages two to four hours per charge.

Electric: Cord electric floor machines are simple to operate, quiet, require little maintenance, have a low initial cost and a long operational life. They are lighter and more compact than propane or battery models, so may be easily stored and transported.

Newer models produce wet look appearance levels.