There are two basic types of stone floors – natural and man-made. Natural stone floors include marble, granite, slate, limestone and sandstone. Porcelain, ceramic, poured concrete and terrazzo are examples of man-made stones.
Perhaps, the most popular natural stone for flooring is granite. It is the hardest and the most durable. Limestone is also growing in popularity for commercial applications. Stone floorings as such should not be placed where they are likely to get scratched or damaged, like in offices where there is frequent movement of furniture. At the same time, less-attractive concrete might not be the best choice for a highly visible lobby of the property. Stone floors are ideally suited for institutions, hotels, banks, office buildings and homes. They are not suitable for high-traffic areas such as schools, warehouses and department stores. Selection of the right stone for flooring is vital. For example, a prestigious hotel may select polished granite and marble because they impart an excellent visual appeal and luxurious look. A highway hotel/restaurant may select quarry tile because it requires low maintenance, is durable and easier to clean.
Stone floors are costly, sometimes substantially more than conventional flooring. A premium is paid upfront but floor-care experts say the costs are offset by lower maintenance costs.
Housekeepers and contractors polish marble floors using a process called crystallisation. This consists of applying an acidic chemical to the floor and then buffing with steel wool/special pads. As the pads heat up, a chemical reaction occurs producing a new texture on the marble, polishing and sealing the floor. Stone professionals oppose crystallisation because it prevents the stone from “breathing,” traps moisture and could cause the floor to rot and lead to cracks.
Stripping and coating of polish
In this process, the polished floor is stripped and dried. Stripping solutions are applied and floor is machine stripped of all polish build-up. Rinsing of floor and drying remove all signs of stripping solution and polish residue.
The floor is then sealed using appropriate polymer sealant. On the soil-free floor, polish is applied. After the polish has stabilised, repetition of polish application and polishing is continued to meet requirements.
Diamonds are cheaper and eco-friendly
Diamond honing is a popular restorative method for correcting stone floor issues and maintaining the shine. Using a floor machine equipped with a diamond abrasive pad and diamond honing, grinds away imperfections on the floor’s surface. Starting with coarse-grit diamond pads, end users work their way through a succession of increasingly finer-grit pads. If done well, stone floor will regain its luster and shine without the need for stripping and recoating.
Diamond pad cleaning can be an effective maintenance method for terrazzo floors, marble, epoxy and vinyl floors too, but users need education on ways to do it correctly. Many housekeepers in India have been following the strip-and-coat or the crystallisation processes. The main challenge is to educate them on the advantages of diamond cleaning. Other methods can supplement or replace diamond cleaning. Polishing and scrubbing with acid-based floor chemicals are common to gently remove fine scratches and bring the polish back. Stone conditioners can be used to keep stone from drying out and eventually from cracking.
Be careful with stones
Using any of the cleaning processes improperly could produce unexpected or adverse results. Although most big mess-ups are correctable with proper equipment and care, end users who aren’t aware of that fact might get horrified when they realise the chemical they just used etched its way through the stone’s surface. On top of that, there is the added cost of correcting the problem. One thing about stone floor is that a professional can really fix the mistakes without having to replace the floor.
We should also know that stone is sensitive; many chemicals intended for cleaning other surfaces can react with the calcium in the stone, causing pitting. Inadvertently splashing chemicals – like cleaning porcelain in hotel restrooms – can damage stone surfaces as well. Cleaners often ignore stone floor, either because they think stones do not require regular maintenance or they are worried theywill do something incorrectly. When the floors are maintained correctly, customers see a big difference in their appearance. That allows them to take ownership and pride in their work.V Balathandayutham Manager-Product Support, Roots Multiclean Ltd
Do’s & Don’ts in Stone Floors
Sand, dirt and grit damage natural stone surfaces the most due to their abrasiveness. Floors should be dust mopped frequently using a clean mop.
- Be preventative. Walk-off mats or area rugs on either side of exterior entrances will help collect loose dirt before it reaches your stone floor. These mats need to be kept clean as well. So shake, shake, shake!
- Damp mopping your natural stone floor will help keep it looking beautiful for life.
- Always blot spills immediately. A neutral pH detergent, pure soap and warm water can be used for spills or periodic complete cleaning.
- Be sure to rinse the floor thoroughly and dry the surface with a soft, clean cloth. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. Change your rinse water frequently. Do not use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids.
- Avoid using products that contain abrasive cleaners, any ammonia-based cleaners, grout cleaners, scouring powders or bathroom tub and tile cleaners on any stone. These products will dull its luster.
- It is best to take care when moving heavy objects across your stone floor to avoid scratching or chipping. Use people or suitable tools to move furnitures.