More and more businesses are replacing carpeting with hard floors for their natural beauty, durability and easy maintenance. But, like carpeting, floors require regular cleaning and upkeep to preserve their appearance.

With so many flooring types to choose from, it’s no wonder businesses are often stumped when it comes to choosing the right chemicals, equipment and procedures. Fortunately, building service contractors can educate customers and help them to separate fact from fiction.

Turning to Tiles
Ceramic tiles are a popular choice in restrooms where excess water and spillage are common problems. The advantage of tiles is that they are relatively maintenance-free and do not require floor finish.

“We mop [tile] daily using neutral cleaners in a lot of restrooms,” says Michael Hadden, district manager, OneSource, Atlanta.

The wavy texture of tiles can contribute to water and soil being pushed into recessed areas during mopping, says Hadden.

To alleviate this problem, Hadden reccomends using microfiber mops rather than cotton ones and to remove water more frequently with a wet/dry vac.

Grout can also fall victim to discoloration from dirty water and soil, especially if the person who installed the floor did not apply a sealer.

Any new floor should get a coat of sealer.

“You can pour it on and use a squeegee to run it across the floor,” says Hadden.

And if BSCs decide to apply sealer after cleaning the grout, make sure that the grout properly dries first.

Another commonly used tile is VCT, or vinyl composition tile. Customers are attracted by VCT’s durability, versatility and price. Kevin Boyd, owner and vice president, Boyd’s Cleaning Service, Gainesville, Ga., sees VCT in medical facilities, schools, and manufacturing and production facilities.

“The first thing you want to do is protect the floor,” he says. “That begins with stripping and finishing it.” For heavy traffic areas, Boyd advises using a higher solid content finish that will hold up to scratching and resistance.

“Stripping and waxing is very time-consuming and expensive,” Boyd says. “Anything you can do to extend the life of the floor so you don’t have to strip and wax so often is going to be beneficial.”

For regular maintenance, Boyd suggests a neutral pH cleaner that won’t harm the finish.

Beyond Tile

Some businesses choose stone flooring, and many of them underestimate the level of maintenance required, Hadden says.
“A lot of people think you can put down a stone floor and leave it,” he says. “That’s not true.”

Marble, for instance, should have a finish in high traffic areas to avoid scratching and dulling of the surface.

“First, you should apply a sealer, which allows a surface that a floor finish will adhere to,” Hadden says. Marble floors will need to be scrubbed and top-coated periodically and stripped and refinished annually, advises Hadden. Strippers with a high pH can discoloring the marble, he warns.

Not all stone floors require floor finish, but many need a sealer to stop the migration of fluids from the bottom up and from the top down, says Ian Greig, CEO, Daniels Associates, Phoenix. Stone remains susceptible to staining if not sealed.

Customers also have misconceptions about sealing concrete floors, says Greig. Concrete, like stone, is porous and will stain unless properly sealed.

Some educational and institutional facilities now use rubber flooring for areas such as gymnasiums. Rubber does not need a finish, though customers often prefer a shine, says Hadden. Finish doesn’t adhere well to rubber flooring, Hadden says, and he recommends using a two-step sealer and finish designed for linoleum and rubber floors.

One of the common mistakes customers make is not cleaning the floor properly prior to laying finish down.

An old floor can look like new again when completely stripped — though that step can be time-consuming — and finished, he adds.

Coming Clean
In general, BSCs recommend adhering to common practices applicable to any floor type — from taking the time to do the job correctly and paying attention to detail to using the right equipment and tools, such as microfiber.

The desired gloss level will also dictate the type of floor finish used and how much maintenance is required.

“The harder the finish, the lower the gloss level,” says Greig. “The softer the finish, the higher the gloss level. If you want a wet look, you need a softer finish that requires more buffing and replenishing by spray buffing or scrubbing and recoating.”

The right equipment is also important, Greig says.

“Microfiber mops are a better application tool for floor finish,” he says.Microfiber mops are lightweight and ergonomic, so they can apply a thin coat of smooth finish.

With proper protection and regular maintenance, customers can enjoy the beauty of floors for years to come.

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.