As many housekeeping executives have learned over the years, what surfaces architects place in a facility can drastically change cleaning requirements. That’s why hard-floor-care planning should go beyond determining what it takes to clean what you have, to remaining current on what might appear next in a facility. Housekeeping decision-makers should remember that organizations experiencing new construction aren’t the only ones that should look ahead to new trends. Some housekeeping directors may want to suggest new surfaces as a cheaper and more effective alternative to tough-to-clean areas than continuously performing current tasks. Others could see a change during remodeling and need to adjust cleaning accordingly. Set in stone One shift in the commercial and institutional markets during the last decade has been a reduction of soft surfaces and an increase in the use of stone or ceramic flooring, says Kenneth Newson, DABFE, DABFET the leading board-certified floor covering forensic examiner and engineer in the U.S. Almost 50 percent of today’s facilities have stone or ceramic tile, compared to only 10 percent to 15 percent in the past. Depending on the type of stone, this switch mainly is due to the longevity of these surfaces, which help facility managers reduce lifecycle costs, says Newson. While stone and ceramic cost more initially than traditional carpet or other resilient floors, current low interest rates mean that initial construction costs can better absorb this added investment, often making them a better buy, he adds. Of the surfaces in this category, fired ceramic tile is more popular than clay paver style, which used to be more prevalent. This is due to the longer lasting surface the firing process yields and the added top-coating which typically is enamel. Since these more durable tiles are easy to clean, the only floor-care problems housekeeping directors can expect to find lie in the grouting. If given the option, facilities always should choose darker grout so as not to show dirt. This can help with customer perception of how clean the floors are. When cleaning grouted floors, staff should be careful of acid levels in their solutions. Many operations excessively use muriadic acid for dirty floors which will erode grout. If a facility has the less common clay-paver tiles, cleaning staff should be aware that the factory finish some models have wears off very quickly. To slow this process, cleaners can apply the same installation sealers used on vinyl composite tile or any in-lay sheet vinyl, says Newson. Looking out for linoleum True linoleum has increased its market share of commercial and institutional floor space of late. This trend stems from a larger marketing push by some of the largest manufacturers, but the product makes good on promises of durability with a long wear life, says Newson. Housekeeping staff should maintain a consistent program of sealing and finishing these surfaces, which can help the surface last as long as 75 years even in high-traffic areas. Cork: Not just for bottles An often misunderstood surface, cork can be found in many commercial or institutional settings, though not in the sterile healthcare environment, says Newson. Because it must have a finish on it, some cork floors can look just like a resilient tile, but they need different care. This surface needs to have finish put on immediately after installation or it can stain easily or warp. The rule of thumb with cork is to treat it just as one would treat wood flooring, says Newson. It is very susceptible to moisture and too caustic of a cleaning agent can damage the floor. Rubber won’t always bounce back A popular surface in health- care facilities is rubber tile, which can come in a variety of patterns and styles. This type of surface can be quite expensive, but its durability often can offset the initial investment. Like other porous surfaces, rubber is susceptible to absorbing stains so post-installation sealing can make or break a floor’s long-term appearance. Ways to use walk-off mats When in a region where there is excessive snow, rain or sand, walk-off matting can be a housekeeping department’s best friend in maintaining floors. The most successful use of matting is to embed mats into entryway hard floors, says Newson. Strips of carpet-covered metal can scrape the most amount of soil from shoes, dropping it into recesses where it is trapped and can’t continue into a building. If embedded mats aren’t an option, then there are many rubber and plastic interlocking mats that can mimic this action, but still allow soil to settle on the actual floor, where it still needs attention. When it comes to the frequency of cleaning entryways, each facility will be different and the best way to determine adequate coverage is to gauge traffic patterns and allot more time to the task during inclement weather, say many cleaning product distributors. Not so resilient restroom flooring The most abused hard floors are those in areas where water is present, such as restrooms and janitor closets. The most common problem in these areas is degraded caulking that is not replaced as often as necessary. When that happens, water seeps under the resilient flooring and lifts the tiles. Typical caulks have a lifespan of about three years and need to be replaced in areas where water use is common, says Newson. But water isn’t the only culprit in this case. Many cleaning chemicals are water-soluble and excessive amounts, especially those left standing for too long can cause as much of a problem, says Newson. The same can be said for misuse of any hard floor chemicals;. Proper use can eliminate a lot of the irreversible mistakes that result in floor replacement, as well as chemical waste. Closer attention to usage easily can lengthen surface life and cut back on supply costs. Kenneth Newson can be reached for more information.