ICS Magazine

New Year's is the Time for Floor Care Program Resolutions

January 11, 2005

New Year's Eve is the traditional time to make resolutions. From losing weight and exercising more to vowing to stop smoking and swearing off other bad habits, January is the ceremonial month to start anew.

As a contractor in the commercial floor care industry, the New Year can also be the right time to take a step back and evaluate the finished floor maintenance programs you are currently implementing for your clients. You won't see the complete results in trimming the amount of money you spend on labor, chemicals and supplies right away, of course, but you do have the opportunity to steadily and positively impact your maintenance program throughout the year.

Changing your floor care programs can be easy if you set realistic goals. This is particularly true after you analyze where you are spending the bulk of your money, and make changes that can benefit you through 2005 and beyond.

Evaluate Your Maintenance Costs

While an evaluation may seem like a daunting task, it really comes down to this: examining the whole program and looking for the largest possible savings. You will want to look at your total investment in products, tools, supplies and, most importantly, labor. With your suppliers' help, you should use your findings to map out a new, year-long floor-care maintenance program.

A floor-care program is a lot like using building blocks. A good foundation is laid when the floor-finish selection is based on both the client's goals and your supporting maintenance measures. For example, if the client desires a showroom-level high-gloss appearance, then an ultra-high-speed (UHS) finish should be chosen. Maintenance measures - such as burnishing five or more times a week - to support this finish should be employed. You must determine if the floor finishes you are currently using for various clients are compatible with the frequency of burnishing or buffing you are able to perform.

Supporting maintenance measures will greatly impact the overall success of the program. Choosing the right products and equipment and implementing steps to minimize the most costly areas of floor care - buffing and recoating - and delay the most intrusive - stripping and refinishing - can result in significant savings over the course of the year. By New Year's Eve 2005, you have the potential to see real results, possibly up to $15,000 per 100,000 square feet of flooring in the first year, and up to $18,000 in the second. Now that's a resolution worth making!

While looking at the breakdown of your floor-care program, ask yourself a key question: How many times are you scrubbing, recoating, stripping and refinishing in a given year? If you find yourself stripping and refinishing more than once a year, it's likely that your floor care program needs to be adjusted.

Selecting the Finish

Start by asking yourself the following questions: Do the floor and the buffing/burnishing schedule match up? Does the entire maintenance program match the floor's traffic and routine repair needs? For example, do you have the budget and equipment to properly maintain UHS finish? Does the floor finish enhance the appearance of the facility? Does the floor finish protect the floor's surface? Does the floor finish have enough durability built in to help extend the life of the floor?

The finish you choose will greatly impact your maintenance program. For instance, regular or high-maintenance programs should use a more repairable finish to provide a better burnish response. Low-maintenance programs should use a harder, more durable finish. Choosing the right finish for your high-frequency or low-frequency maintenance program is essential, and the New Year is the perfect opportunity to evaluate whether or not your finish is yielding the desired look, and if it is being properly maintained.

Daily Maintenance Cleaning

Daily maintenance measures are employed first and foremost to keep the surface clean. It doesn't matter if your program is for a high-traffic or low-traffic setting, removing the soils on your finished floors is vital to minimizing damage to the finish. In the end, daily maintenance cleaning should be about 20 percent of your total floor-care program.

Remember that every floor-care system starts at the door. Proper matting is the first step to keeping grit and moisture off the floor. For this reason, your daily maintenance steps should include vacuuming walk-off mats.

Next, dust-mopping is important for controlling grit, and it should be performed as often as necessary to keep grit off the floor. Daily damp mopping or auto-scrubbing with an appropriate cleaner is important to efficiently remove particulate soil - the biggest cause of wear, discoloration and damage to your finish.

"It doesn't matter if you are maintaining a low-traffic or high-traffic floor, daily maintenance is the most important step in a floor-care program," says Ken McEwan, director of retail floor care for Coverall Cleaning Concepts. "If you cut corners during this process, you will be faced with the more expensive maintenance measures sooner than you think."

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance will help keep your finish in shape by removing surface imperfections that cannot be repaired with daily maintenance. This is typically needed when daily maintenance does not leave the floor at its desired appearance. Burnishing is a significant preventative measure you can use. Overall, this procedure should comprise about 30 percent of your finished-floor care program if you burnish the floor almost daily. While burnishing frequency will vary based upon the client's appearance goals and maintenance plans, don't underestimate the importance of this step.

Interim Maintenance

Interim maintenance measures, which include deep scrubbing and recoating, are employed to restore shine and even out the floor's appearance by removing the top layers of finish and recoating to build on the base finish. Like the daily and preventative measures you choose, interim maintenance measures will depend on your customer's appearance requirements. A deep scrub may be needed as frequently as once a month, but the period between deep scrubbing can be extended by choosing a premium finish that is more resistant to wear and caring for it with properly executed daily and preventive maintenance programs.

Scrubbing and recoating should be done when the floors show traffic-lane wear, dullness, scratches or yellowing that is not repaired with cleaning and burnishing or buffing. The bottom line is that scrubbing and recoating can be expensive. The daily and preventative measures you employ will help reduce the frequency, and can lower your total floor care cost. Generally, recoating should consist of 30 percent of your finished-floor care program.

Restorative Maintenance

Stripping and refinishing the floors is the most intrusive and costly part of your floor care program because it means you need to start over. If you implement a sound daily, preventative and interim maintenance program that successfully cuts down on heavy soiling, traffic-lane wear and build-up along the floor's edges, you will be extending the time between stripping and refinishing.

Map out a Year-Long Floor Care Maintenance Plan

Your maintenance program should be designed with two goals in mind: keeping the floors to the client's desired appearance level while delaying the cost of refinishing. While maintenance programs will vary from client to client, choosing a solid program with high-performing products should lengthen the frequency between the most expensive maintenance steps.

Give clients the results they want and improve your company's productivity at the same time. And increased productivity means increased profitability. Then maybe next year you can take some of the extra time and money you saved on floor-care maintenance costs this year and focus on your personal New Year's resolutions for 2006.