ICS Magazine

Maintaining VCT

December 1, 2006


Resilient flooring is a huge market. It constituted roughly 40 percent of new hard-surface flooring sales in 2005.

Vinyl composition tile, more commonly referred to as VCT, is the largest classification within the resilient flooring category. It can be found in every type of facility and many different environments. Hard-floor maintenance for VCT flooring is the most common maintenance performed by the professional.

There are some flooring classifications within the resilient category that do not require floor finish; VCT is not one of them. Floor seal or finish must be applied to VCT to seal the pores and protect the tile. There are many chemical-coating programs available for VCT; selecting an appropriate coating for the environment should be considered before application.

Once the chemical system is selected, the floor maintenance program can be designed. The assessment criteria are a critical part of determining service procedures and frequencies, which in turn allow for easier scheduling and implementation of the program.

Designing the floor maintenance system should take into account the expectations of the customer; the environment the floor is exposed to; traffic conditions; congestion; time constraints and budget. All of these will help to contribute to choosing the right polish for the location. Regardless of the system selected, the coatings or polishes will require attention in each maintenance period.

Initial Maintenance

As with all hard-floor coverings, VCT maintenance begins directly after installation. The degree of initial maintenance will be dependent on the level of cleanliness in which the installed floor covering was left. Some installations are much better than others and can make the initial maintenance much easier to accomplish.

Most manufacturers of VCT products recommend a waiting period of approximately 3 to 5 days after the floor covering is installed before wet maintenance can be performed. This will allow ample time for the adhesive under the floor covering to completely cure. If wet service procedures are performed prior to the adhesive curing, it can cause problems for the newly installed product. VCT products have many seams for the solution to get under. This can cause serious damage when service is performed too soon. In some cases the adhesive may soften and ooze out of all the seams making it very difficult to clean and dry the floor. Many times individual or groups of floor tiles will release from the sub floor. In severe cases the tiles can curl, warp or buckle.

The medium scrubbing service procedure should be performed for initial maintenance on VCT. This will generally be all that is required to remove the installation soiling. After the floor covering has been scrubbed, seals and/or finishes can be applied. The number of coats will be specified by the general contractor. Burnishing the floor finish after application is contingent on the chemical system.

In situations where performance coatings, semi-permanents and ultraviolet cured coatings are applied, it is highly recommended to get training before attempting to use them. These are very specialized and can be difficult to work with.

Daily/Routine Maintenance

The most important aspect of any hard floor maintenance program is eliminating or reducing soil throughout the facility. Sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming service procedures are the primary methods of controlling dry particulate soil in most facilities.

A wet mopping service procedure will be incorporated in the daily/routine maintenance schedule. Spot mopping may be carried out during open hours to eliminate spills that occur. Wet mopping may be performed after hours to remove more aggressive soils. The degree or level of the service will be predicated by the facility.

Light scrubbing with an automatic scrubbing machine can be substituted for mopping procedures in areas large enough to warrant it. In the grocery and retail environments this is an acceptable means of maintenance.

The conditioning or restoring and burnishing service procedure is often used as a daily/routine maintenance service in some environments. Again, retail and grocery are the most likely candidates.

Periodic Maintenance

The term periodic generally refers to service procedures that are beyond the dry service and wet mopping procedures. They can incorporate buffing, spray buffing, condition/restoring and burnishing, or the scrubbing procedure. Occasionally, in heavily soiled environments, the stripping procedure, although a restorative procedure, is performed on a periodic schedule.

The periodic coating maintenance service procedures address the gloss of the floor finish. There are several methods for accomplishing this objective. The method for any facility will be determined when selecting the chemical system for the floor covering. Spray buffing has been used for many years for maintaining VCT. It is important to point out that the spray-buffing procedure is a maintenance method for restoring gloss to the floor finish. It is not a cleaning procedure, although many individuals try to use it as one.

Scrubbing and Re-coating

Scrubbing and re-coating is a general term that encompasses all of the scrubbing service procedures. There are different classifications of scrubbing that require slightly different variables: light, medium and heavy. The primary difference centers on the amount of soil or finish to be removed. The procedures are effectively altered by selecting different cleaning chemicals and dilution ratios; adjusting the temperature of the water used in the solution or regulating the amount of time the solution is left on the surface.

The aggressiveness of the scrubbing procedure will be dictated by the environment and traffic conditions. Soil ground into the floor surface will become embedded. Also, during the life cycle of hard-floor maintenance programs that utilize chemical coating systems, soil will ultimately become encapsulated in floor finish. Encapsulated soil lowers the appearance factor and causes the floor to look dirty all the time. The primary reasons to scrub and re-coat VCT is to remove that embedded soil or to remove surface coats of floor finish that may have soil encapsulated in it and replenish the protective film.

Restorative Maintenance

Restorative maintenance for VCT involves stripping and refinishing. Stripping is the most important function of the VCT floor maintenance program. It is the beginning and the end. Everything in-between rests on the foundation that is provided by this service. The function of stripping (removing all existing coatings) is necessary at the end of the floor maintenance life cycle. The function of reapplying coatings is the beginning of the new cycle. It is impossible to have one without the other when properly performing the service procedure.

Stripping is the least performed of the hard-floor maintenance services. It requires the largest investment of time, labor and money. Careful consideration should be used when planning for this service because of these factors. The primary objective of any hard-floor maintenance professional should be to put as much time as possible between performing the stripping and refinishing service procedures. This is accomplished by laying a good foundation during the process of performing the service.

VCT is everywhere. As a floor maintenance technician it is unavoidable. Following these basic guidelines should help you to understanding VCT and give you a distinct advantage over your competition.