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What are hard floors? What is the criterion for the maintenance of these floors and how to select right method for hard floor maintenance? These are some of the questions Deepak Baluja, Managing Director, Final Technologies Pvt Ltd, company that offers maintenance solutions for floors, answers.

As the types of flooring installed in facilities multiply, the challenge is to keep them maintained properly for a long time. What works well for one type of flooring might end up damaging another. Knowing the various types of flooring in a facility, whether vinyl, linoleum, marble or slate, is important in developing a programme to maintain them properly. Each flooring type is maintained differently and maintaining all of them the same way is likely to cause damage to some.

Along with the variety of floor coverings and flooring, there are also available a variety of maintenance options and products to use on the floors. Polishes, sealers and finishes are designed for specific flooring types. Matching flooring types to products and processes can be a challenge. Success will depend a great deal on the type of floor, the desired look, available equipment and the skill of the housekeeping staff. A product or piece of equipment that is good for cleaning resilient floors might not work well on hard flooring and a product that works on polished stone might not work for natural stone.

With all the different flooring types and products to maintain properly, it is up to finding the right system for a building’s floors. This responsibility will involve research as to floor composition. What type of stone is it? How hard or soft is the stone? Does it scratch easily? Is it natural stone or man-made? Once these questions have been answered, the most desirable look can be determined such as natural, high-gloss or matte.

Even hard-floor experts have differing opinions on the products and processes needed for natural floors. Some terrazzo floors continue to hold their appearance using the polishing method, while others look good using a finish designed for terrazzo. Whatever system is decided on, maintaining natural hard flooring can still be challenging. Incorrect decisions can lead to improper maintenance practices or inadequate routine maintenance. This results in either an enhanced appearance for a floor or irreparable and costly damage. And a damaged stone floor might not be repairable. Hard floors cannot be just stripped and refinished like vinyl flooring to make it look new again. Damage to a hard or stone floor might require an expert to repair it or in extreme cases a replacement.

The reason for floor maintenance is to maintain an optimum traction and to prevent injuries due to tripping or slipping. Also effective maintenance is required to beautify the floor and remove grit and sand which scratche and wear down the surface. For public and office buildings about 80 to 90% of the dirt is tracked in from outside. Installing a total of 15 feet of matting consisting of both indoor and outdoor sections will remove about 80% of this. Thus about two-thirds of the dirt can be removed at the entrance. BS 7953, Entrance flooring systems. Selection, installation and maintenance’ has standards relating to barrier matting.

Methods

The treatment needed for different types of floors is very different. A wide variety of floor cleaning machines are available today such as floor buffers, automatic floor scrubbers and sweepers that can deep clean almost any type of hard floor in much less time than it would take using a traditional cleaning method. Dark colored floors enhance powder, scuffs, dust and scratch marks and need to be protected with a highly black mark resistant floor finish product.

Floors that have been regularly maintained for several years with buffable waxes are difficult to strip, occasionally impossible. Essentially, the wax turns into part of the floor. Instead a buffable finish is recommended. Also, buffables provide better protection than non buffables against abrasive foot traffic. Because Ultra High Speed finishes are pliable, they generally can be recovered by buffing.

Stones: Most stone floors are hydbroxides, or natural alkalis and using an acid cleaner on these surfaces will damage them. Using an alkaline cleaner stronger than the stone’s pH also damages them. A stone floor’s texture also will help in determine its care and maintenance needs. Textured stone floors absorb more moisture and liquids than other types and they stain more easily so any spills on these floors require immediate attention. Polished stone requires more dust mopping to protect it from sand and grit, which can scratch it easily. Even water can discolor polished stone. Dust mopping or vacuuming of these floors should be done several times a day with an untreated dust mop because using a treated mop might leave a residue that the stone will soak up.

Acidic products should never be used on natural marble, as marble is composed of limestone which gets spoiled. It is very important to note the characteristic of the stone and to understand the process undertaken during its installation and polishing process and if protections have been put in place. The maintenance process can only start after this has been understood.

Most hard-floor experts agree that stone floors need a sealer, generally a silicone-based impregnator due to their porosity. Some experts recommend using water-based sealers because silicone can attract dirt. An impregnator protects the floor from stains and allows it to breathe. It does not produce a gloss but instead is applied for protection and it leaves the floor looking almost natural.

Concrete: Concrete seems to generate a lot of fine dust. The best way to maintain this kind of a floor is to transform the floor into Super Concrete, which is smoother and easily maintainable. The Super Concrete system offers different procedures to achieve different finishes like Super Concrete Premium – a highly glossy decorative system, Super Concrete FAST – a system to quickly transform difficult to maintain Concrete into easily maintainable floor and Super Concrete TERRAZZO effect – a long lasting floor with ease of maintenance and durability.

Polished concrete is considered an ultimate and sustainable design flooring option. Most modern buildings are built on concrete slabs; polishing the exposed concrete eliminates the energy and material consumed by applying a floor covering. It is something to consider when building or modernizing towards a more green solution. Terrazo & Mosaic fllors are composed of marble and cement and can be treated as one would treat a marble floor.

Tiles: While both quarry and ceramic tiles are virtually impervious to most elements, the grout surrounding them may not be. When using an acid product, be sure that complete and thorough rinsing is done. Acidic products may eat away at some grout as it would a lime deposit. Vitrified tile which is considered to be the best, is the most difficult to maintain. The gloss loses its sheen on any mismatch of chemical, gets scratched and discolors. Some tiles amongst them are repolishable. Terrazzo tiles are a much better option as they give you the ease of maintenance and the restoration technique like a marble. The only care that needs to be taken is to maintain them regularly.

Wooden Floors: There are many types of wood and just as many types of coatings for them. It is best to use a neutral or mild alkaline solution for cleaning. Perhaps most important is to keep the amount of cleaning solution and rinse water to a minimum to avoid the wood fibers from absorbing water and becoming damaged. However, some floors allow you to re-sand the floor and to renew afresh. It is necessary to understand the type of wooden floor you are given to maintain i.e. laminated, planked, hard board or resin based. Wood flooring should be treated completely differently depending on whether it is waxed, oiled, or has a polyurethane coating. For instance, it is difficult to clear wood floor wax from a polyurethane floor.

Linoleum & Vinyl: Linoleum is back in style, and many facilities are installing more of it. While linoleum might look like a vinyl floor, it is made mostly of wood resin, so it requires a different maintenance system than vinyl. Using the same products and maintenance as vinyl can damage the linoleum. Asphalt Tile / linoleum products with a pH above 10 will emulsify protective coatings leading to a rapid deterioration of the tile. Solvent-type cleaners tend to soften, or even dissolve asphalt linoleum tile. Stripping solutions should fall in a pH range of 10-12. Stronger solutions can cause running or bleeding of the color pigments in the tile.

For maintenance of all vinyl flooring, methods and materials are the same, as the vinyl flooring is virtually immune to solvents and is highly resistant to acids and alkalis.Although some manufacturers claim a protective coating or wax is not necessary, there is no floor covering that is impervious to abrasive friction and wear.

Conductive Floors: Found in health care and hospital units such as surgery, intensive care or where oxygen is used. Conductive Flooring allows static electricity to be conducted to the ground without the spark you sometimes encounter. This property of the floor helps to avoid explosions in an oxygen rich atmosphere, so it is very important that only an approved product be used and very thoroughly rinsing be carried out.

Paper presented at Clean India Pulire2013

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