Maximizing Hard Floor Maintenance

As facility managers, we know that the most used item in our buildings is our flooring. In the past few years, facilities have installed more and more carpeting as the primary flooring material. Therefore, the majority of the information we receive through our training sources covers carpeting care and maintenance and leaves little room for other types of flooring. However, we must also remain informed about the care and maintenance of hard surface floors also found in our buildings. Here are several hard surface flooring options and their general care and maintenance.

Types of Hard Surface Floors

In today’s marketplace there are many flooring options. Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is found in nearly every facility and, in some, it is applied in great expanse. Sheet vinyls in waxable and nonwaxable surfaces look great and wear well. Many upscale buildings, or facilities wishing to make a positive first impression, have entry areas using polished stones such as marble, granite or terrazzo. Although terrazzo does not seem as prevalent in recent years, it is beautiful and lasts forever if properly cared for. Ceramic glazed tile and quarry tile also offer a high-quality look, typically at reasonable costs.


Develop a System

It is common for a systems approach to be taken when looking at floor care and maintenance. This is essentially a plan organized and formulated specifically for your facility. It combines cleaning techniques, labor schedules, chemicals and equipment to provide a functional system for facility cleaning and maintaining. The system that will work best for your facility may not be the one for another facility, so use care when deciding on the system. Do not be afraid to try something and, if it does not work, alter it to fit your production needs.

Work with your local vendors to put together a system tailored for you. Your vendors will be able to provide chemicals from the same manufacturer that work well together and offer many benefits, such as portion control, chemical compatibility, in-service training and, often, bulk discounts in purchasing. Your vendors will also be able to provide additional benefits with regard to helping solve certain floorcare problems and servicing the equipment they sell.

Know Your Traffic

Accounting for the daily traffic flows and patterns in your buildings is critical. To be able to maintain the flooring properly, we need to know how many people will walk on it and, most importantly, what they will be tracking in on their shoes. Once these traffic levels and patterns are established and understood, we need to outline how that area will be maintained to ensure your facility always looks its best.

Stop It at the Door

Standard maintenance techniques will prevail regardless of what material your floor is. An entry matting system is integral to the custodial success of any facility. Capture the dust, dirt and water before it enters the building at every opportunity. Pay careful attention to the maintenance of the matting systems. Daily maintenance of the mats should consist primarily of vacuuming and spot cleaning any stains. Bi-weekly maintenance of the mats requires they be removed from the building and flipped over and the dirt that has accumulated in spite of the daily maintenance poured out. Use a standard carpet extractor on the mats once per month to keep them looking good and serving their intended function.

Follow Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on your flooring material. Many manufacturers are now outlining care and maintenance guidelines for their products. This may also include the use of proprietary chemicals. If guidelines or chemicals are recommended, keep track of the maintenance routine performed on these particular floors. That information may be helpful and useful in the event of a claim against the warranty in the future.

Use Proper Chemicals

Use your local suppliers as resources to find the proper chemicals. Most vendors will provide enough chemicals to demonstrate their efficiency over a short time period. It is believed, though, that a true demonstration period lasts between three and six months.

Use the Right Equipment

Using the proper equipment is essential. As all facility managers know, the bulk of our budgets is labor. If we have the right equipment in use by our employees, we will be saving labor hours while increasing productivity. There are many multipurpose machines in today’s market. Dual-speed buffers, auto scrubbers, carpet extractors, HEPA filtered vacuums, wet/dry vacuums and backpack vacuums are commonplace. Ride-on equipment such as scrubbers and vacuums are now found in many large facilities. Additionally, robotic scrubbers and wide area vacuums appear to be making great headway in large facilities. Finally, do not discount the value of high-quality hand tools. Good mop buckets and wringers, high-quality mop heads and handles are essential. Keep these pieces of equipment in top working order, along with the more expensive electric equipment.

Maintenance Strategies

Daily: There will be multiple levels of maintenance activity on your floors depending on the traffic levels and the type of flooring in your facility. Any good system will provide for aggressive daily maintenance. The more cleaning that can be done on a daily basis leaves less to be done as an interim or long-term schedule, and it keeps the floors looking better longer. A good, old-fashioned sweep, vacuum or dust mop and a wet mop each day will go a long way in keeping the floors looking good. If your floors are grouted tiles, it is recommended that a push broom or a backpack-type vacuum be used to remove all the debris from the grouted spaces.

Monthly or Quarterly: Quarry and ceramic tiles require a deep cleaning with a buffer or auto scrubber to keep them looking good and to keep the grout lines from becoming dirty. There are now machines available that offer a horizontal rotary brush system that aggressively cleans the grout lines. Again, depending on your traffic levels, the time intervals may be different between these maintenance periods.

Long-Term: Hard surface floors may require a full removal of any sealers of finishes and new finish coats every six months to a year. Grouted tiles require a deep cleaning using an aggressive tile and grout cleaner. There are truck-mounted cleaning units that use pressurized steam as their primary means of cleaning, similar to truck-mounted carpet extraction units that work well on grouted tiles.

As noted, with all the flooring options available and different levels and types of traffic, each maintenance system or program will be slightly different. Work with your local vendors to select the right chemical and equipment combination to complement your facilities’ individual needs. Aggressive daily maintenance on top of a good annual or long-term maintenance plan keeps your floors projecting a positive image.

Michael Steger is plant services director with NMRC at Palm Beach Atlantic College in West Palm Beach, Fla.