ICS Magazine

Surface Texture and Stone Floor Maintenance

May 18, 2006


Identification of the individual classifications of stone and the properties and characteristics they possess will dictate the maintenance program required. The texture of the surface can impact the hard-floor maintenance program significantly. Understanding surface texture and how it relates to floor maintenance is helpful in overcoming potential maintenance issues.

Texture, as it applies to flooring, is the consistency of the floor's surface. In the category of stone flooring, the surface texture can be polished, honed, flamed, split-faced, saw-cut, or sandblasted. Each will have different characteristics that will impact their maintenance.

Rough Surfaces

Rough surfaces are coarse and uneven, and may present the cleaning technician with difficulty. The bumpy and irregular surface will have low areas that are perfect for trapping soil, making it hard to remove. Sand- or shot-blasted floors have consistencies that vary depending on the size of the grains or shot used, and saw-cut flooring will have visible irregularities caused by the saw blade. Though these floors are rare, they are available.

A more common rough-surface stone flooring is flamed, which is generally seen on granite but can sometimes be in limestone. It is produced when stone is heated with an open flame, causing the surface crystals to expand; it is then cooled rapidly with liquid that causes the crystals to pop out, leaving a very rough and course surface.

Split-faced surfaces are common to slate and quartzite. These stones cleave along flat planes and are split into sheets. They are easily identifiable by their "cleft," irregular surface and sheet-like appearance. Like their rough-cut counterparts, there are low areas that attract and hold soil.

Maintenance for rough surface floors can be challenging because of the irregularity of the surface. Sweeping with brooms or vacuuming is the best way to remove the dry particulates from the surface. Dust mopping and cloth systems will often travel over the surface and allow the soils to be released in the low areas. Dry service procedures should be performed on a daily/routine basis to reduce the amount of soil left on the floor.

Mopping rough surfaces can present a problem, because liquid is introduced to the equation. Liquid, either water or cleaning solution, will seek the path of least resistance and travel to the lowest point on the surface, carrying with it any soil picked up along the way. If the solution is not removed efficiently it will dry, and the soil will remain adhered at the lowest point and begin to accumulate. After time this area could become excessively soiled and unsightly.

Periodic and restorative maintenance on rough surfaces will incorporate the use of cleaning chemicals (neutral or all-purpose cleaner) in conjunction with a rotary or cylindrical floor machine affixed with medium-scrubbing brushes. The solution will be applied liberally on the floor and allowed to dwell for several minutes to loosen the soil. Agitate the cleaning solution using the floor machine and brushes. Remove the contaminated soil using a wet vacuum and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. The final rinse should be performed with a very damp mop to remove as much of the excessive moisture as possible, which will reduce the likelihood of depositing soil in the low spots.

Smooth Surfaces

Smooth surfaces are considered flat, even, consistent surfaces that can have a matte or high-polish appearance. Honed surfaces are stones that have been diamond-abraded flat, but possess little reflectivity. The stone technician will usually finish with 400 to 600 grit diamond abrasive, which leaves the floor smooth but not reflective. Polished stone floors are those that have a sharp, mirror-like surface that is highly reflective, cleaning being accomplished by using progressively finer grit diamond abrasives or polishing compounds.

Smooth surfaces are generally easier to clean, but they do show wear and traffic lanes much more readily than rough surface counter parts. Matting systems are a must for these floors, trapping soil at the door before it has a chance to damage the floor. Like rough surfaces, smooth surfaces require daily/routine dry services to remove harmful soil that can scratch the surface. The more frequently this service can be performed the better. Wet mopping procedures are incorporated to remove soil that was missed in the dry service procedure. Always use a clean mop and fresh cleaning solution when mopping smooth surfaces, especially on high-polished floors. They have a tendency to streak if the cleaning solution gets too soiled. Streaks can often be taken out with a freshwater damp-mop rinse, or buffing with a soft white polishing pad and a low-speed rotary floor machine.

Periodic and restorative maintenance for honed floors can be accomplished using the same technique as rough surfaces; however, scrubbing pads may be substituted for brushes. Again, rinsing the floor is critical for the success of periodic maintenance for these floors.

Diamond abrasives or powder polishes are used to perform periodic and restorative maintenance on polished surfaces. These service procedures maintain the highly reflective surface and remove visible traffic patterns. Training in the use of diamond abrasives and powder polish before attempting to perform these services is very important. There are techniques required that take some practice; highly polished surfaces have a tendency to show everything.

The surface texture of any floor can contribute to its soiling condition. Understanding how surface texture can impact maintenance is critical to the technician who is charged with the maintenance of stone flooring. The elegance of the natural stone floor can be enhanced when proper maintenance is performed either on rough or smooth surface stone flooring. With a little practice, the technician can become proficient at performing these stone floor maintenance service procedures.