To postpone the stripping process, many facilities scrub and recoat VCT floors with an autoscrubber and neutral cleaner, removing several coats of finish and embedded dirt before applying fresh finish. 

At Mt. San Antonio College, the largest community college in the state of California, the custodial services department performs a light scrub and recoat of VCT in place of stripping and recoating in low-traffic areas. Custodians use a scrub pad and water, thereby eliminating the costs and hazards associated with chemical strippers.

The college has also tested a new floor coating that purports to have greater durability without sacrificing shine, and requires two to three coats versus five or six coats needed for stripping and refinishing. Although the cost of these newer products can run several hundred dollars per gallon, the end result is less time spent performing labor-intensive work.

“We invested in a better floor finish because we don’t have the labor needed for a floor care program,” notes Ken McAlpin, custodial services manager. “We want to make sure all our hard work pays off by using a finish that’s going to hold up to more abuse with minimal maintenance.”

Despite the benefits of more resilient products, stripping VCT is inevitable. During the summer, the custodial staff at Mt. San Antonio College stripped and recoated VCT floors in the 60,000-square-foot Math and Science Building; a process that took a three-person crew 10 weeks to complete.

The crew also had to factor in time to remove furniture from the classrooms and return it at the end of the shift once the floors were dry — a time-consuming process that took up to an hour a day. Furthermore, if the floors weren’t dry by the end of the night, the task of returning furniture fell on the day crew.

In addition to man hours, VCT requires a plethora of tools and equipment — from relatively inexpensive mops and buckets to automatic floor machines costing thousands of dollars. McGarvey admits that the capital outlay is high; however, equipment — and cleaning in general — should be viewed as an investment, not an expense.

“People get sticker shock when they look at the price tag of the equipment,” he says. “But they have to consider what that piece of equipment enables them to do.”

Facilities also need to consider the intangible costs associated with maintaining shiny floors, including potential worker injuries related to respiratory problems and slip-and-fall incidents. McAlpin ensures that workers wear protective foot covers when stripping a floor to prevent slip-and-fall incidents. Fortunately, his crew did not report any injuries as a result of stripping floors during the summer.

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