The Hard Floor Maintenance Program

October 20, 2003
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Given the definition of a floor as being "the inside bottom surface of any room," it is safe to say that every building in the world will have at least one floor in it. And not only will they have more than one floor, they will probably have a multitude of floor coverings as well, everything from synthetic textiles to natural stone.

Building owners, property and facilities managers work in conjunction with architects and floor covering distributors to select floor coverings that will deliver the expected results in their facility. Commercial, industrial, educational, health/medical, government, hospitality, high-tech, retail, grocery and residential environments will have different soiling and traffic conditions. The type of floor covering selected will vary, but one thing is for sure; it will have to be maintained.

The Hard Floor Maintenance Program
The floor maintenance manager faces the task of developing and implementing a hard floor maintenance program. Each facility has its own idiosyncrasies to consider, and the floor maintenance manager will have to evaluate the service procedures required for initial, daily/routine, periodic and salvage/restorative maintenance periods for each floor covering. Some managers may have the technical expertise within the staff to handle all of this; some may have to subcontract the services. This is something that should be seriously considered before starting, especially if specialty floor coverings are concerned.

Hard Floor Coverings
The hard floor maintenance program begins by identifying the floor covering that will be maintained. In most cases the environment will predicate the floor coverings that will be used in the facilities. Industrial environments are more likely to have concrete coverings, while hospitality and commercial class "A" facilities will most likely have some stone. Most manufacturers of floor covering products have maintenance instructions for them. It is always best to begin with these recommendations when building the hard floor maintenance program.

There are primarily six (6) categories of hard floor coverings with various classifications within them:

  • Concrete (industrial, pigmented, stained, designer)
  • Natural Stone (granite, quartzite, serpentine, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, sandstone, terrazzo and agglomerate)
  • Clay/Masonry (porcelain, ceramic, quarry, brick, terra cotta)
  • Resilient (linoleum, cork, rubber, sheet vinyl (inlaid, heterogeneous and homogeneous), solid vinyl luxury tile, vinyl composition tile (VCT), vinyl enhanced tile (VET) vinyl asbestos tile (VAT), asphalt tile and non-chlorine luxury tile)
  • Wood (solid, engineered, laminated)
  • Specialty (ESD, poured/epoxy, recycled materials and laminates)

    By identifying the category and classification of floor covering, the chemical system (cleaning and coating chemicals) can be determined. The chemical system in turn helps to identify the equipment requirements and the service procedures that will be performed to support the program. The combination of the service procedures, the budgeted time for each one and the frequency in which they are performed is known as the hard floor maintenance program.

    Developing the Program
    The chemical system answers the question of what is safe to use on the individual floor covering, but it does not answer the questions of how much or how often to use them. The environment tells us what kind of soil is being introduced into the facility, this equates into how strong our cleaning chemical must be to remove it. The traffic conditions tell us how that soil is being moved throughout the facility, stationary soil is not damaging, but soil that is being moved about by foot and cart traffic can be very erosive to the floor covering.

    Understanding the traffic conditions helps to determine the frequency that the service procedures will need to be performed to reduce the erosive damage. In heavy-traffic environments, performing the simple service procedures more frequently can often extend the time between periodic and salvage/restorative service procedures.

    The congestion of the service area has a significant impact on productivity. Congestion falls into three categories; physical, area and personnel, each presents a definitive impact on productivity.

    Physical congestion are objects that have the potential of obstructing or impeding services and can consume a lot of time in preparation for the service and post preparation after the service.

    Area congestion defines how the overall areas are divided and impacts the efficiency of the services.

    Personnel congestion presents the potential liability increase when people are present during the time services are being performed.

    Time factors can also impede services. These factors can help determine the best time to perform the services or potential problems that may occur on the job. The hard floor maintenance manager should take into consideration all aspects of time such as traveling from one side of the building to the other. Although this may seem insignificant, this is time that will eat up the budget.

    Implementing the Program
    Evaluate the floor covering conditions to ensure that what is expected can be done. Damaged floor coverings cannot be fixed with maintenance. Sometimes, the lack of floor maintenance allows the floor covering to deteriorate to a point that the only real fix is replacement. However, many floors that look like they are in need of replacement can be rescued and renovated to a very improved condition.

    Initial maintenance takes place directly after installation of a new floor covering. The hard floor maintenance manager takes over the maintenance schedule from that point forward. Some floor coverings categories, such as resilient, will need an initial maintenance service procedure performed after installation. The in-house staff may perform these procedures, provided they are trained to perform them. Stone, wood, and clay and masonry floor coverings are generally turned over to the hard floor maintenance manager in like-new condition; all that is required is to schedule the daily/routine maintenance. Generally, this service is performed one time only and begins the maintenance life cycle.

    Daily/routine maintenance is for the most part not an issue for the hard floor manager; the in-house staff can certainly perform the basic dry soil removal and wet mopping, as long as they remember to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance methods and used approved chemistry. This service is performed on a daily basis, or at any other consistent time that allows the service to be performed routinely.

    Periodic maintenance takes the service procedures one step further. The effects of erosion on any floor surface will develop traffic patterns where people walk, which will become unsightly and very noticeable. Restoring the gloss to the floor or removing the traffic pattern is generally accomplished in the periodic maintenance period.

    The hard floor maintenance manager or a member of the staff may be able to perform some of the basic floor covering periodic maintenance, most managers know how to perform periodic maintenance on the resilient, and clay/masonry floor coverings. Unfortunately they may not possess the skills to perform periodic services for stone and wood. In these situations it may be best to subcontract the work to specialists who perform those services all the time. The periodic maintenance frequency will be contingent on soiling conditions and traffic conditions. Although they will be performed on a consistent basis, the time between services will vary from facility to facility.

    The salvage/restorative maintenance period requires the most knowledge and skill to perform. For specialty, stone, and wood floors, it is best to hire skilled craftsmen to perform the services. This goes for any other floor covering that the manager or staff is not comfortable in performing. There may be some areas where the manager or staff's skill level is acceptable to perform the salvage/restorative procedure, mostly in the resilient category; even so, some classifications in the resilient categories have service procedures that are difficult to perform by persons without experience. These services should be performed only when necessary. They could be scheduled for one year or many, depending on the floor covering system that is in place.

    Quality Assurance
    It is important to identify the floor coverings that are in the facility. Find out who the manufacturer is and get their recommended maintenance methods. Understand the facilities environment and the soiling that it is exposed to. Identify traffic conditions and how the soil moves throughout the facility. Determine time factors that can impact performance. Study and comprehend the required service procedures for the individual floor coverings, determine the best frequency and implement the program.

    After you have initiated the hard floor maintenance program, it is important to maintain good records. Recording the times and dates of the service procedures will give a history of the account. When something changes, it is easy to determine what happened, how to fix it and how it will impact the entire program. A well-designed program will reduce the amount of time required for troubleshooting problems and save a considerable amount of time.

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