As one of the easiest flooring materials today, wood floors have evolved tremendously over the past 25 years. Technical advances have created protective coatings designed to keep them looking their best with simple maintenance steps. Knowing which steps to follow is absolutely essential — each finishing system has a unique processes and chemical cleaners.
Almost all wood flooring in high-traffic locations will either be finished with urethane, or will be an acrylic impregnated wood floor. Occasionally, particularly a wood floor with a rustic appearance, a penetrating type oil finish may be used. Whichever product type is used, the number one rule is to follow the manufacturer’s directions for maintenance.
With prefinished flooring, the recommendation of the flooring manufacturer should be followed. Unfinished flooring that is sanded and finished after installation should be maintained according to the directions of the finish manufacturer. With all hardwood floors, there are basic steps that should be taken to maintain the beauty and the warranty.
Long-Term Maintenance. Urethane finishes eventually show wear patterns. When high-traffic areas (entrance, cash wrap, etc.) begin to look dull, then it’s time to recoat or restore the finish. Refer to the urethane finish manufacturer for recommendations on testing for adhesion, surface preparation, coverage and dry time. Many of the new water-based urethane finishes will dry in a couple of hours, allowing for complete renovation overnight.
Notes on Recoating. Recoating, like sanding a floor, used to be a messy, time-consuming disruptive process, often requiring a facility’s area to be closed for days. Technical advances in UV-cured urethanes applied to prefinished floors, while creating excellent resistance to scratching, have made them problematic to recoat using traditional sanding and screening.
Additionally, water-based urethanes are low odor and can be applied without circulating objectionable smell through common HVAC systems. Finally, it’s important to remember that the simple process of recoating and restoring a urethane finish to like new condition is not possible if improper cleaners, polishes or waxes have ever been used on the floor.
Routine Cleaning. The manufacturer’s cleaning system and products should always be used. Maintenance involves spray buffing to remove dirt and restore luster. It’s imperative that grit be removed first by sweeping or vacuuming before buffing. Spills may be wiped up with a lightly water-dampened cloth and then thoroughly dried. Sticky spots or stubborn stains should be spot cleaned by lightly rubbing with a cloth and the spray cleaner, prior to buffing. Water is this floor’s greatest enemy and any cleaning process that regularly uses water will quickly dull or gray the floor and may damage it beyond repair.
Long-Term Maintenance. When the floor begins to look worn, has lost its color, or is showing scratches, it’s time to recondition. Each manufacturer will have very specific products and steps to follow. The steps required may include buffing with an aggressive pad to remove ground in dirt, or screening with successively finer grits, the application of a color toner or conditioner, and final applications with spray buffing to restore luster.
Refinishing. Although acrylic impregnated floors properly maintained according to the manufacturers directions should never need to be resanded, the reality is that improper cleaning processes will severely damage the floor. Sometimes sanding may be the only way to restore these floors. In this event, the flooring manufacturer must be contacted to define the options.
Long-Term Maintenance. Periodic buffing with fine steel wool, solvent renovators and/or additional applications of the penetrating oil seal will restore the floor’s color and life. Once again the finish manufacturer will have specific recommendations to follow.
Effective maintenance programs involve careful planning and cooperation between the facility’s design, its manager, and its maintenance program. Hardwood flooring is a major investment and an integral part of the character of any operation. Knowledge of and compliance with expected maintenance routines will reflect beautifully on the bottom line.