In many facilities beautiful — but older — flooring is being traded for new styles that may not be as attractive, but require less maintenance.

Building service contractors need to be conscious of the new flooring trends in the facilities they clean. In many buildings, the new flooring requires different products and in some cases, requires cleaning more often. One wrong move, and building owners and facility managers will be replacing the floor again, but this time out of error rather than ease.

Commercial offices
In commercial facilities, carpet remains the most popular flooring type for its acoustical qualities. Carpet has the ability to deaden sound so building occupants aren’t disturbed by loud footfalls. In many facilities, carpet is installed in squares to allow for easier replacement if an area gets stained.

Carpet, however, is seeing some of changes of its own. For example, new styles and textures are being introduced as well as more colors. Also, many new buildings are installing carpet made from recycled materials.

While flooring is not changing in office common areas, there are new styles being introduced in lobbies and entryways. Once popular high-gloss stone, marble and terrazzo floors are being replaced by porcelain tiles that can be manufactured to look like other types of flooring. These tiles are cheaper than natural stone and display an authentic, realistic appearance with less maintenance required.

Caring for porcelain is similar to caring for natural stone in that the best process is one of prevention. Implementing matting systems and applying frequent cleaning will help keep tracked-in dirt to a minimum. Without these steps, heavy traffic will cause a floor surface to lose its shine, color and vibrancy and soil will start to abrade the surface.

There is one exception that porcelain floors have compared to natural floors — grout lines. The uneven surface will accumulate soil and need to be cleaned more frequently. In addition, if cleaning crews use autoscrubbers to clean, they will need to use a brush rather than a pad to clean the tile and grout.

Educational facilities
In K-12 schools, vinyl composition tile (VCT) is the standard flooring found in both common areas and classrooms. However, maintaining this type of flooring is time consuming.

Kids are tough on floors and many school districts are doing everything they can to make flooring last longer. One popular alternative to VCT currently being implemented is carpet. Carpeting is able to hold its original appearance longer and also gives the facility a homelike appearance, creating a relaxed learning environment. In addition, as in office buildings, carpet deadens noise, allowing students to concentrate in a quieter atmosphere.

However, there are some who disagree that carpet is the answer. Maintenance of soft floors can be just as time-consuming as that of hard flooring. Kids track in a lot of dirt and if carpeting isn’t vacuumed daily, it will lead to premature degradation.

Proponents of carpeting say that it hides dust and dirt better than hard floors, giving the school a cleaner appearance. However, those who push for a cleaning for health program say that hiding dirt is the last thing cleaning crews want to do, especially in facilities with children. When carpet traps germs, allergens and dust, it can lead to poor indoor air quality, trigger asthma attacks and impact a student’s learning ability.

Healthcare facilities
In hospitals, VCT is traditionally used in common areas. Another popular choice, especially in patient rooms, is sheet vinyl. However, as hospitals are being remodeled, many of these floorings are being replaced with linoleum for its sustainable qualities and its natural resistance to microorganism growth.

If BSCs now find themselves cleaning linoleum rather than vinyl flooring, they will need to switch their floor chemicals. Traditional floor strippers meant to strip finish from vinyl surfaces can easily damage linoleum. Stripping linoleum floors should be done only on a “when necessary” basis. It’s best if linoleum does not come in contact with chemicals with a pH in excess of 10.

Besides common areas, hospitals and healthcare facilities are also remodeling lobbies and entryways. In these places natural stone or porcelain tile surfaces are being installed. As in commercial lobby areas, the best maintenance program for stone flooring is a preventative one. Proper matting can help reduce the amount of tracked-in dirt, helping flooring to retain its original appearance longer. Also, if porcelain tile is used, BSCs will need to pay extra attention to grout lines.

Retail market
Floors made of VCT are still the most prevalent types in retail stores, but concrete is starting to gain popularity thanks in part to large retail chains driving the trend. Concrete floors can be stained different colors and also be made to look like other types of flooring.

The allure of concrete is that it requires less maintenance than VCT. With concrete, cleaning crews don’t need to spend hours stripping, refinishing and buffing floors. However, even though concrete doesn’t require interim maintenance, there still needs to be daily cleaning. Over time tracked-in soil will dull the floor and unlike VCT, there are aren’t options to rejuvenate it. BSCs need to make sure concrete flooring stays clean every day to prolong its life.

If BSCs are in charge of cleaning concrete flooring, it’s important that they consult with their customer to find out if the surface has been sealed. If not, liquid spills from everything from chemicals to soda will penetrate the surface and permanently stain the floor.

Trends come and go and over time building service contractors will find themselves cleaning a variety of flooring types. BSCs will need to be educated and prepared in order to keep up with the market changes.

Contributing Manufacturers

The following companies contributed to this article: