ICS Magazine

Hard-Floor Maintenance in the Residential Environment

April 11, 2005


The floor covering industry has traditionally been dominated by carpet. Today, design trends are shifting and, where there once was little, there now is a lot. Hard-surface finish flooring is experiencing a growth spurt evident throughout the industry.

In 2003 approximately 8.27 billion square feet of new hard-surface finish flooring was sold. Of that, vinyl products represent about 43 percent, ceramic almost 35 percent, laminates are about 11 percent and hardwood is a touch over 10 percent, with rubber flooring making up the rest.

The Residential Environment
Of that 8.27 billion square feet, a good portion ends up in the residential environment. Roughly $15 billion was spent on hard-surface flooring in factory-built housing, new construction, and replacement and repair. With numbers like these, cleaners that operate primarily in the residential arena have opportunity knocking on the door. They traditionally haul equipment and hoses over the hard-surface areas to clean carpet instead of taking advantage of the financial windfall literally at their feet.

Often, it is fear of the unknown that keeps the technician from approaching the customer. This fear comes from the misconception that hard-floor maintenance is only needed when restoration services are required. And yes, stripping and refinishing, honing and polishing, and sanding and refinishing are all restorative processes that require training and skilled craftsmanship to accomplish the objective.

Daily/routine and periodic maintenance, however, will help to extend the time between these costly restorative procedures. True, often times people will put off hard-floor maintenance until it is to the point that restorative service procedures are in order, but for the most part, residential customers should have hard-floor maintenance performed more frequently on their floors.

Hard-Floor Diversity
We are seeing more and more diversity in hard-surface finish flooring in the residential environment. Stone, ceramic and porcelain, wood, and laminates have made serious inroads in the private residence, and in some situations you may find combinations of these categories and classifications intermingled.

Developing a Program
In any environment, the success of the floor covering is contingent on the hard-floor maintenance program that is in place. The hard-floor maintenance program consists of the initial, daily/routine, periodic, and restorative maintenance periods. Most people will have the initial maintenance performed directly after the installation, but fall away from the daily/routine and periodic maintenance periods until all that can be done is a restorative procedure. This is particularly true in the residential environment, because the amount of foot traffic and soiling is minimal.

This is where residential cleaners have so much to gain by offering hard-floor maintenance in addition to their usual carpet-cleaning services. They are already in the home, and may just have the equipment to perform the task on the truck. Additionally, great advances have been made in creating tools and equipment that perform multiple tasks on both hard and soft surfaces.

When cleaning multiple hard-surfaces, the technician will most likely be performing daily/routine or periodic maintenance. These are relatively easy tasks that require nominal training. However, restorative service procedures will require much more extensive training and should be only be performed by a well-trained professional. If you possess those skills, then by all means capture that market as well.

Sweeping/Dust Mopping/Vacuuming
In the residential arena, just as in commercial facilities, soil is the primary enemy. The homeowner may sweep or dust mop their home every day, but will not always do the edges, corners or under furniture. The cleaner may offer a thorough sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming of an area for a small fee. And all floor coverings require one of these service procedures before any other service is performed.

Wet Mopping
Wet mopping is another service that the cleaner can offer that is relatively easy, and applicable to most floor coverings. It is important to understand the different types of wet mopping that can be performed. Many floor coverings are water sensitive, such as wood, laminates and bamboo. For these types of floors, damp mopping with minimal liquid is in order. Resilient, stone and clay floor coverings are not as water sensitive, and wet mopping is a required procedure in their maintenance. Always refer to the manufacturers recommended maintenance procedures before performing mopping procedures; there are often specific cleaning chemicals that are required.

Periodic Service
Periodic services may entail buffing or polishing. These are coating-maintenance procedures that restore the gloss of the floor to a higher level. The procedure will be dictated by the floor covering category and classification. Stone floors may require crystallization or powder polishing from time to time. Wood floors may need a spray buffing service, while resilient floors could be spray buffed or burnished.

Sometimes more aggressive services are in order, in which a machine scrubbing service procedure might be incorporated. These services will generally be performed on the more robust floor coverings, e.g. concrete in the garage might be machine scrubbed using a degreasing chemical. Resilient floor coverings will require scrubbing and recoating from time to time just like in any other environment. Ceramic and porcelain are clay products that are surrounded by grout; scrubbing these with a scrubbing brush can help to liven up these areas.

Restorative Services
Once again, let me caution the residential technician to restrain him or herself from performing restorative services unless equipped with the skills to perform the task. I have seen a number of individuals get in over their head because they were thinking that the job would be simple, only to find out otherwise. Restorative service procedures are for skilled craftsmen, and should not be performed by a novice. Some of these services include diamond polishing on stone; sanding and refinishing wood; re-grouting ceramic or porcelain; shot or sand blasting concrete; and stripping and refinishing resilient.

Of the utmost importance is following the manufacturers recommended maintenance procedures. These are developed for the specific floor covering you are dealing with, and should be adhered to completely. As a floor-maintenance technician you will be, and should be, held accountable for your work.

The residential environment has changed, and as a residential maintenance technician you may find hidden opportunities to reap financial rewards. By learning the skills necessary to perform some of these basic hard-floor maintenance skills, you can now make money from the floors that you have been walking over.