ICS Magazine

Summer Floor Repair

March 15, 2006


It's Spring Break, the one-week block when the custodial departments of educational facilities typically begin planning for the traditional summertime task of stripping and refinishing their floors. The quiet week also provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate the facility's current finished floor care program. If the program falls short of being able to stand up to the high volume of traffic in a school facility, it may be time to adopt a different program to help maximize the life of the floor finish, saving time and money through minimal interim maintenance.

Throughout the course of the school year, the facility's finished floors can take quite a beating. As a result of sneaker-clad feet, desks being slid across the room, and indoor gym classes as examples, the finished floors in most schools are often extensively and uniformly abraded and dull it can actually give the impression that there is no finish left on the floor - even though the finish may still be in tact. That's why it is important to use the most durable floor finish, a powerful supportive daily cleaning program and the right process to keep floors looking their best throughout the entire school year.

To extend the life and maximize the appearance of finished floors, it's important to select a finished floor care program designed to maximize cleaning efficiency and minimize maintenance and re-work. This can help increase productivity through powerful products that get the job done right the first time, saving time and money - an important factor in today's budget-conscience educational facilities.

A productive floor finish program should include a floor finish with outstanding performance, designed to resist soiling and wear, including rubber heel marks. This will help lengthen the life of the finish gloss during the school year and minimize the need for expensive interim work including buffing, burnishing, recoating and refinishing. It should also include a powerful daily cleaning program designed to maintain these finished floors. One key to an effective program is a daily floor cleaner designed to remove the tracked-in particulate soil that can abrade and darken finish to help extend the life of the finish. Using the same brand of daily cleaners, strippers and finishes can help streamline the process through synergies in the product formulations to maximize the life of the shine and minimize the need for interim maintenance.

Summertime Stripping and Refinishing

To effectively strip and refinish floors means an investment in staffing hours. When looking at the stripping process, there are several steps necessary including thoroughly cleaning the floors and applying the stripper, to wet vacuuming and applying a clean rinse.

Prior to stripping, maintenance workers should be diligent in removing debris from floors. When using a stripper, it's important to ensure all of the old, yellowed, damaged finish is removed.

Although it is imperative that all steps in the stripping and refinishing process be executed, there are ways to save time. Using a no-rinse stripper that does not require an additional "neutralizer" product is one approach. Be careful, however, not to leave any residue behind that can keep the new floor finish from properly adhering to the floor. Residue will not only harm the appearance but also affect the durability of the floor finish.

When refinishing, it's important to remember that floor finish dries from the top down. Even though the top film may make the floor appear dry, not allowing enough time for the entire layer of finish to dry can make the floor appear murky. It can also make the finish less durable, meaning it won't wear as long and the staff will need to repeat the process sooner than normally needed.

Rule of thumb states that a proper floor finish requires three to four coats to ensure durability throughout the year. Because of the effects of summer humidity and low airflow on the refinishing process, it is extremely critical to apply thin, even coats and make sure each of these coats is completely dry before applying the next. Applying these coats in thin, even layers will enable each layer to dry more thoroughly and cure into a stronger, more durable film with a higher gloss and clarity. The finish will last longer - ultimately saving time and money.

While saving time during the refinishing process and fast drying formulas may sound enticing, be sure to understand the consequences of such claims. Some applicator systems - especially those that include mop-lay finish - may claim to save time in the finish application process, but lay the finish in heavy coats, causing longer drying and curing times. On the other hand, fast drying finishes often don't allow the finish to level properly leaving unsightly mop marks that hurt floor appearance and can adversely affect the durability of the finish.

Beyond Finishes: Daily Care

Daily care is critical to maintaining the floor finish throughout the school year. Matting is the first step in a sound floor care program because soil prevention is much less expensive than soil removal.

An area of floor that accumulates one pound of dirt in the summer can collect 12 to 15 pounds of dirt when the weather is cold and wet. According to the ISSA, it is estimated that each building occupant can track as much as seven pounds of soil into a facility per year. The cost of removing this soil can be as high as $500 per pound or $3,500 per year, per building occupant. By placing mats at all entrances, it's possible to prevent some of the damaging soils from being tracked onto the floor finish.

Dust mopping helps remove as much of the loose dirt and soil as possible. Particulate soil is the largest cause of floor wear, so removing the various types of grit and grime that students and teachers track in each day can make a huge difference in extending the life of a floor finish.

One effective way to get rid of remaining soils after dust mopping is to use a floor cleaner that is both effective at removing this particulate soil and has a "neutral impact" on floor finishes. This is critical to extending the gloss life of the finish. With any cleaner, auto-scrubbing (with vacuum pick-up) is much more effective at soil removal than damp mop cleaning.

With schools typically being strapped for the cash to meet their educational program wants and needs, saving money in the maintenance program can be a win for all. Taking time over Spring Break to evaluate a school's floor care program, selecting the right products with the proper techniques and implementing this program can extend the life of the floor finish saving valuable time and money.