ICS Magazine

Maintaining High-traffic Areas

March 13, 2006


Floor maintenance is about controlling soil. Dirt, clay and sand can contain sharp edges that will scratch the surface of any floor. Regardless of what the flooring is made of, the effect is the same: erosion.

Some floor surfaces are harder and resist erosion better, but all ultimately succumb to the effects, and the floor takes on a dull appearance. Although polishes (coatings, sealers, and finishes) help to protect the surface, they too are subjected to the same abrasive materials and, like the floor covering, will ultimately dull out.

Soil by itself is no threat. It is only when soil is combined with traffic - mechanical or pedestrian - that erosion occurs. Introduce moisture and the erosive effect is accelerated. Erosion as it applies to floor maintenance is the gradual wearing away of the floor surface due to the combination of abrasive soil and traffic conditions. The type of soil determines the abrasives material that scratches the floor, while the traffic identifies the amount of action over the surface.

High-traffic areas can be found in any facility or building. The floor maintenance programs selected for these areas should take into consideration the floor covering and texture of the floor surface. This information helps in the selection of chemistry, equipment and service procedures required to maintain the area.

Although erosion in high-traffic areas is the primary floor-maintenance concern, there are other things that equally contribute to the difficulty in maintaining them. An industrial plant might produce soils of a petroleum nature, while a restaurant will contribute cooking fats and oils as well as organic materials. A large portion of maintaining high-traffic areas has to do with knowing how to remove these soils from the floor.

Preventive Maintenance

The entrances of most facilities are considered high-traffic areas because everyone entering a facility will have to use an entrance. To reduce the amount of soil that makes it to the entrance, parking lots and sidewalks adjacent to the facility should be serviced on a regular basis. These services include sweeping, blowing or vacuuming those exterior areas. In some cases this may be a responsibility of the floor maintenance technician, but more often than not it is sub contracted out by the facility manager to a building service provider that specializes in that type of service.

Although a good exterior maintenance program can help reduce the amount of soil that makes it to the entrance, it will not stop it all. The next line of defense is a good matting program. Matting placed at all the entrances will help to capture some more of the exterior soil as well as moisture before it has a chance to be deposited on the floor surface. There are many matting manufacturers that can help in selection of the appropriate matting program for the facility. The mats will have to vacuumed and laundered on a regular basis to ensure they are performing correctly, otherwise they will hold soil and contribute to the problem.

Soils produced inside the environment can also be reduced using the same methodology as maintaining external soil. First, identify where the soil is being produced and remove the soil being generated on a regular basis. This will reduce the amount of soil introduced into the rest of the building. Then, institute a matting program just as you would at an entrance to the facility. This will capture residual soil that might get by the removal process.

Initial Maintenance

The initial maintenance performed on a floor before it is exposed to high-traffic conditions can improve the floors performance considerably. Check the manufacturer's recommended maintenance methods to ensure the program being used is appropriate for the floor covering installed. If applications of polish are required, additional coats at pivot points or hot spots can improve their ability to resist traffic patterns. The key to a good program is to set it up correctly.

Daily/Routine Maintenance

Regular removal of soil is critical to the high-traffic area maintenance program. Dry soil can be removed using dry service methods such as sweeping, dusting and vacuuming. The more frequently the soil is removed, the less likely it is to contribute to erosion. The dry service procedures should be performed multiple times per day in high-traffic areas to reduce the damaging effects of erosion.

Slip and fall potential is increased when liquids are present, liquid should be removed from the floor as soon as detected. This can be accomplished using spot, damp or wet mopping service procedures. High-traffic areas have high volumes of people, so safety is very important. When introducing any mopping procedures, be sure to cordon off the area that is impacted, using wet floor signs, placards, and safety tape to prevent people from coming in contact with the wet floor. Once the floor has been mopped, stay in the area until the floor is completely dry, and then remove the safety barriers.

Periodic Maintenance

High-traffic conditions will erode the surface of the floor. From time to time, periodic maintenance will be required to restore the gloss and/or replenish the protective polish that has been worn off. These service procedures will vary depending on the floor covering in the area, but in most cases will involve more intensive service procedures.

Enhancing the appearance of the floor may include diamond abrasives or polishing procedures for stone, spray buffing for wood, machine scrubbing with a fresh water rinse for clay and concrete or scrubbing with or without applications of floor finish for resilient flooring. In high-traffic areas, periodic service procedures will be performed more frequently than in light- or moderate-traffic conditions.

Restorative Maintenance

Regardless of how developed the floor maintenance plan is, there will be the time when restorative maintenance will need to be performed. Restorative maintenance should be performed when the floor no longer responds to periodic maintenance or it can be a scheduled service procedure built into the program. Either way it is the most intensive of the floor maintenance service procedures and requires more chemicals, equipment, labor and time to complete. Restorative maintenance may incorporate scraping, grinding, shot or sand blasting, sanding, diamond honing/polishing or stripping and refinishing procedures depending on the category and classification of the floor covering. Some of these services are very specialized and may require technical training or certification.

The restorative procedure may be required more frequently in a high-traffic area simply because of the volume of traffic the floor is exposed to. Additionally, it may take longer to perform because the window of opportunity in high-traffic areas is usually smaller. In some situations where the high-traffic condition exists in a facility that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the restorative maintenance is performed in segments as an on going operation, continually cycling through the floor plan. Restorative maintenance procedures in high-traffic areas require better planning and implementation to ensure success.

The floor maintenance program for high-traffic areas need not be overwhelming. The chemicals, equipment and service procedures will be determined by the floor covering category and classification. These procedures will be the same regardless of the traffic condition. What will change is the frequency in which you perform them.