Selecting Equipment for Small-Scale Jobs
"Hello, this is Stan. May I help you?"
I receive calls all the time from carpet-cleaning professionals thinking about expanding into hard-floor maintenance. Most never really thought about getting involved with hard surfaces until their customers began talking about consolidating their floor maintenance requirements into one contract. Understandably, these carpet technicians don't want to lose the business, so they start investigating what it takes to get involved in hard-surface cleaning.
Standard Equipment Package
The standard equipment package is what most small- to mid-size companies need to get started, though I have seen companies start out with much less. A word of caution though: starting with an inadequate equipment package often results in "creative cleaning" to get the job done. This can lead to your being unable to achieve the customer's objective, be it the appropriate time frame or the level of cleaning desired, or else you may lose profit because the job takes much longer than its fair market value. It is always best to have the appropriate chemicals, equipment, tools and accessories to perform the services you sell.
Rotary Floor Machine
The rotary floor machine is used on all surfaces and in many capacities, from heavy-duty grinding to fine, detailed polishing. All hard-floor maintenance professionals should have this equipment regardless of the size of business.
The diameter of the machines varies (13 to 23 inches) and there is a wide weight range (approximately 50 to 100-plus pounds). There may be variations in revolutions per minute (rpm) for slow-speed machines, but the most common is the 175-rpm rotary floor machine. It is used in conjunction with various drive blocks, pads or brushes to accomplish many of the hard-floor maintenance tasks that are encountered.
Wet Vacuum with Floor Squeegee Attachment
The floor maintenance wet vacuum is a tank vacuum on wheels with a short hose and broad squeegee head attached to it. The squeegee apparatus may be stationary, or else raised and lowered using a kick plate on the back of the machine. This allows the technician to push the apparatus from behind and evacuate large quantities of solution quickly.
The wet vacuum is much quicker at removing contaminated solution than a mop. Wet vacuums provide better results because they remove the slurry or cleaning solution from the floor and the dirt trapped in it. A wet vacuum with a wand attachment will accomplish the same objective; it is just a bit slower and more cumbersome.
High-Speed Buffing/Burnishing Machines
High-speed buffing/burnishing machines are used in conjunction with high-speed and ultra-high-speed chemical systems. These chemical systems are designed to reduce labor by allowing the technician to maintain the coating by buffing, spray-buffing or burnishing, and without having to apply additional coats.
In today's market, high-speed buffers/burnishers are rotary machines that produce very fast revolutions, generally 600 to 2,000 revolutions per minute. Most professionals generally look at high-speed systems as being electric, while ultra-high-speed systems are usually assumed to be battery and propane powered.
Technically, ultra-high-speed machines are considered to be any buffing/burnishing machine that produces in excess of 1,500 revolutions per minute. Electric ultra-high-speed machines can produce the rpms, but they tend to take more time to get the same results as battery- or propane-powered buffers.
High-speed and ultra-high-speed machines work by combining specially designed synthetic pads with very high revolutions to achieve their objective. The combination of heat and friction allows the floor surface to respond by producing a very high gloss. The standard equipment package should contain an electric high-speed machine for reducing labor.
Tools and Materials
There are many tools and materials required in the standard equipment package. They help accomplish the various floor maintenance service procedures being performed. It helps to understand these tools by arranging them in the order that they will be used.
Dry service. The objective of the dry service is to remove superficial dry soils that have entered the building. Although vacuums can remove this dry soil, for the most part the use of brooms, dust mops or dusting cloth systems are industry-accepted to accomplish this objective.
Wet service. The wet-service function requires tools and materials that help in the removal of light- and moderate-type soils, soils that are slightly adhered to the surface or combined with binders that make them more difficult to remove. Generally, this will incorporate wet mops in conjunction with mop buckets and wringers.
Abrasive pads. Abrasive pads are used with the 175-rpm rotary floor machine. The choice of pad depends on the service procedure. The abrasive pad chart shows the primary functions for each pad.
Detailing. The work is not complete without detailing. It is important that you have the appropriate materials to perform this service function. Putty knives, razor scrapers, edging tools and hand pads are essential. Also, a window squeegee on a handle will help to clear solution from edges, corners and under hard-to-reach areas.
Coating application. The application of coatings (seals and/or finishes) can be accomplished with the wet-service equipment. However, never interchange mops for applying these coatings; always have a dedicated finish mop that is used for nothing else.
Coating maintenance. Coating maintenance combines the high-speed or ultra-high-speed equipment with pads specifically designed for the particular system being used. The accompanying list of pads generic; it is always a good idea to test individual pads to find which work best for your system.
Safety. Protecting the individuals within the facility is a huge responsibility. Always be sure to have an ample supply of wet floor signs, cones and placards, as well as 3-inch "Danger" and "Caution" tape. Setting a safety perimeter is a critical part of performing services.
While we are on the topic of safety, it is also important that you have the appropriate personal protective equipment to protect yourself and your employees. These items are absolutely essential for every job.
Floor fans. The use of air movers or floor fans is necessary in some situations. Box fans can be purchased at any retail or wholesale store. They are relatively inexpensive and can generally be purchased for less than $50. Floor fans, or air movers, are specifically designed for floor and carpet maintenance. They are designed so maximum airflow will be generated as a low profile across the floor surface.
Chemical inventory. Finally, you will need to have an arsenal of chemistry to work in conjuction with the equipment. Although the accompanying list is general, it applies to most situations that you will find. Chemistry is critical to the success of any operation; therefore, always have enough for the job at hand. There is nothing worse than running out of chemicals in the middle of a job.
There is one other thing that should be given serious, serious consideration after you purchase your equipment, tools and materials: training. Search out certification training or any other kind of training you can find, be it from the equipment manufacturer, your supplier or distributor, or your local trade association. You may purchase the best and most expensive supplies on the market, but it will not make money for you if you do not know how to use it.