Minimizing floor maintenance costs by maximizing time between stripping


Every custodial executive knows that removing old floor coating by stripping can get very expensive. It also poses risks for the personnel performing the procedure.

But how can we minimize both the expense and the risk? The answer is to not only use the best products and procedures but, more importantly, prolong the time between stripping. This can be accomplished through goal setting, planning, product selection, procedures and training.

For example, after realizing the expense of stripping, one public school district set a goal to change their strip and refinish cycle from yearly to every four to five years. They were successful because of their goal setting, careful planning, product investigation and testing, and procedure development. The training program was then upgraded to complete the program.

After careful consideration, the stripping goal was set for every four years — deep stripping and refinishing one fourth of the facilities every year. Ultimately, the program was successful and the school district has enjoyed huge savings over the past twenty years. Thanks to new and improved products and equipment, some of the schools in this district are now extending the time between stripping even further than four years.

Improving Floor Programs

Stretching the time between stripping starts with the design and implementation of an improved floor care program.

Quality floor finishes are designed to protect the floor. After the finish coating has been applied, the goal is to maintain and protect the finish itself. If we allow the finish to wear through, the floor will be exposed to foot traffic, damaging the floor, which is also true for subsequent stripping. So as long as we take care of the floor finish, it will protect the floor from the wear and tear of foot traffic.

That protection starts with the use of quality products. If there is an existing relationship with a local distributor who carries national branded products, ask them to join in the effort and offer their experience and support. Product selection should be one of the first tasks, since time for testing and evaluation may be required.

The products selected will include matting, dust control, daily cleaning products and floor finishes that meet the appearance goals set by management. The appearance goal is an important factor to consider. If the goal is a wet look, the floor will require more frequent burnishing than if the goal is a clean, clear, bright look.

After the appearance goal has been established, it is time to select the finish to meet that goal. One factor to consider is “buffability.” The more plasticizers in the finish, the quicker it can be buffed. But that also means it can be easily scuffed.

Buffing is for appearance only and is not a cleaning procedure. Therefore, it might be best to select a finish that dries bright with nice gloss. And no matter which finish is selected, allow a minimum of forty-eight hours before burnishing the floor.

Floor finish selection is one of many areas whereby an experienced distributor or chemical representative can be invaluable. They’ll help identify the type of finish and maintenance program to insure the appearance goals are met.

For example, if the floor maintenance personnel are fairly skilled, choose a quality, 25 percent non-volatile solids finish. Don’t fall prey to the myth that higher solids equal higher quality. That is not true. High solids simply equate to more product, which will dry on the floor. Some 25 percent finishes are formulated with price in mind, at the expense of durability, as well as long life. If the floor care personnel are not experienced, consider a lower solids finish.

Remember, too, that if the floor is comprised of 12-inch vinyl composite tile, it will already have a coating applied by the manufacturer, which must be removed. This coating is often called factory finish and is designed to keep the tiles from sticking together in the boxes during storage and shipping. Removing the factory finish is typically a fairly simple procedure of scrubbing with a weak solution of stripper, followed by through rinsing. Once removed, standard finish can be applied.

And when applying, a general rule of thumb is to apply no more than 100 percent solids at one time — four coats of 25 percent non-volatile solids in one day. More than four coats and the final coat may cure softer than designed, resulting in black marking and increased soil impaction, which cause discoloration. This occurs when soils that are not removed by dust or damp mopping press into the coating and later cannot be removed by regular cleaning.