Dirt and debris that is left on floors will grind into finishes, causing them to break down prematurely and increase the need for stripping and refinishing — a laborious and costly task for departments. Dry and wet mopping floors will extend the life of finishes, but additional work is required to maintain the glossy shine most managers seek.

"Mangers must understand that floor care can be the most expensive part of their budget, but it can give them the best return based on perception," says Larry Johnson, product manager for S. Freedman & Sons Inc., Landover Md. "If floors look good, you are creating a positive impression of the facility."

Experts agree that high-speed burnishing is the preferred method to maintaining the desired look of floors between stripping and refinishing. Frequency of this task will depend on the type of floor finish used and the traffic of the facility. There are hard and soft floor finishes available and managers are encouraged to evaluate the application and foot traffic prior to selecting the best option.

"With most of the finishes on the market today, daily burnishing is not necessary," says William Suter, LEED-AP and director of facilities management at American University in Washington, D.C. "Even in high traffic areas, burnishing once or twice a week will allow for a deep shine, durability of the finish and removal/prevention of scratches. In lesser traffic areas, once a month might be sufficient."

John Deverey, regional sales manager at Tartan Supply, Brookfield, Wis., comments that most managers want the "wet look" that is commonly found in retail chain stores, but achieving this result requires a softer finish and a great amount of work from custodial crews.

"Softer finishes need more intensive maintenance and burnishing, but will produce that wet look managers desire," he says. "Harder finishes can resist dirt penetration better and don't require frequent burnishing, but will not produce the same shine as a softer option."

Distributors agree that before making a decision on floor finishes, purchasers should test products in their facilities. Evaluate the look of the finish, not after one or two days, but after four or five weeks. A product that will last and can hold up to the needs of the facility with a properly executed maintenance program will minimize the frequency of stripping and refinishing.

"Floor maintenance should extend the useful life of the flooring, provide a clean work environment, improve flooring appearance and provide a safe surface to walk on," says Stan Hulin, industry consultant and president and CEO of Future Floor Technology Inc., in Gladstone, Ore.

Achieving this is clear: maintain proper walk-off matting systems, develop a daily cleaning schedule and burnish when necessary. When done consistently, these three steps can save departments time in the long run by reducing the frequency of stripping and refinishing.

"People say they don't have time to do the work they need to do," says Johnson. "I say, if you don't have time to do it right, when do you have time to do it again? If you do it right the first time, you don't have to do it over."