Floor Care: Covering the Basics
Floor care has long been considered an essential service for nearly every building service contractor. Most film and television depictions of cleaning employees, after all, show a janitor with a mop and bucket.

Of course, the mop-and-bucket method won’t work for every flooring surface. There is no one-size-fits-all procedure or chemical.

The key to maintaining a variety of floor surfaces is to keep abreast of the trends, know what covering and what finishes you’re dealing with and make sure you have the right procedure for the right material.

Here’s a rundown of what cleaning contractors need to know about the most common flooring types.

Chances are, the stereotypical janitor seen on television is mopping a resilient, or vinyl composite tile (VCT), floor. These floors have been popular for years, and for good reason, says Donna Ward, marketing communications manager for flooring manufacturer Mannington Commercial, Salem, N.J. Vinyl has a proven track record when it comes to stain resistance, affordability and ease of maintenance.

Even with that ease, problems do occur with resilient floors. Most of the problems with vinyl floor maintenance occur in the installation, Ward says.

“Once the floor is put down, you have to allow ample time for the adhesives to bond to the floor surface,” she says. “With VCT, don’t wash or scrub it for at least four or five days after installation. Keep walking traffic to a minimum and don’t move any furniture or heavy equipment across the floor for at least 48 hours.”

After that waiting period, cleaners can damp mop the floor, and they may want to apply a coat or two of finish as a protection.

“Follow the manufacturer’s directions, especially the dilution ratios in the products,” Ward adds. “Make sure you have walk off mats that are large enough and cleaned frequently. Prevention goes a long way to keep a floor looking good.”

Newer types of resilient flooring such as cork and bamboo also are catching the eye of architects and designers. These materials often are laminated with a hard finish, so maintenance is similar to other resilient floors; however, Walnut, Calif.-based vendor Bamboo Flooring International recommends staying away from wax-based finishes, and instead using an acrylic finish if desired.

Ward says vinyl flooring manufacturers also are challenged to offer more value in terms of products and performance, especially in slip resistance.

While VCT has been common for many years, terrazzo is an increasingly popular floor-covering choice.

“It’s the most decorative floor we have,” says Gary French, vice president for terrazzo at General Polymers, Cincinnati.

Terrazzo is the combination of a binder material, such as cement or an epoxy, with an aggregate, such as marble, granite, plastic or glass. The floor can have a rich, low-luster finish or a high-gloss shine, depending on the customer’s preference.

Terrazzo floors are easy to maintain, according to the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association. In a list of recommended cleaning procedures, the NTMA suggests minimum care standards should include daily sweeping and weekly damp mopping with a neutral cleaner. Use clean rinse water, mops and pails.

Wood floors also are common in commercial settings, most often with acrylic impregnated finishes, says Neil Moss, director of technical services for Triangle Pacific, a division of Armstrong, Lancaster, Pa. With this type of finish, liquid plastics are combined with dyes and forced through the wood. Types of floors are generally maintained with a spray-buff system.

Wood floors also can be finished with wax or top-coat-only products. Wax products are made by using a combination of sealers and stains, which penetrate into the wood. Several coats of wax protect them. Top-coat products consist of a thin layer of finish over the top to protect the wood.

Moss says common sense goes a long way when caring for wood floors.

“Keep it clean and remember that wood and water are deathly enemies. Never put a water-based product on your floor unless recommended by your manufacturer.”

Marble & Granite
Natural stone flooring is gaining in popularity because of the range of colors and a perception of affluence in facilities that use these types of flooring, says Danny Boyd, regional sales manager of Georgia Marble Co.,Tate, Ga.

Granite is the oldest and hardest stone. Colored flecks contrast with the smooth veins of color found in marble. Marble has varying degrees of density and stone integrity.

Granite and marble care are essentially the same — very high maintenance. To keep them looking good, Boyd recommends dust mopping at least two or three times a day in high traffic areas. Also, spot mop with a rayon mop head.

“It’s a little known secret,” Boyd says. “Cotton mops hold way too much water. Rayon holds less and won’t streak.”

Boyd also suggests applying a sacrificial coat of finish. Once a night, auto-scrub with a white pad and a neutral cleaner.

“ In a bathroom, use a water-base sealer,” he adds. Petroleum-based sealers can seal dirt and odor into the stone.

If years of abuse or improper maintenance have dulled the stone, marble floors can be restored to their original beauty. Boyd recommends calling a marble contractor to handle the job. Sanding and refinishing will run about $3.50 per foot.

Granite floors are too expensive to restore.

“The problem with granite is once it gets worn down the cheapest thing to do it take it out. It’s so dense it requires special equipment to restore,” Boyd says. “The normal restoration price can be as much as $18 per square foot.”

Jennifer Jones is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits. She is a business writer based in Layton, Utah.