Caring for Newly Installed Floors was prepared for client Crown Matting
The last tile has been installed. The newly installed floors have been swept clean. And all the packaging materials and debris have been hauled out to the dumpster. Looks like, for this floor installer, the job’s all done. However, in this day and age when building owners and managers are expecting a lot more from their outside vendors, installing the floor may be the biggest hurdle but not the end of the job. Now caring for that newly installed floor is what the customer wants to know more about and will very likely turn to you to find out.
Maintaining newly installed floors in a retail facility can vary, depending on the type of store in which it is installed. But as an example, let’s use a heavily trafficked grocery store, because in many ways, the steps taken to protect floors in this type of facility can apply to hard surface floors in just about any retail setting.
On a daily basis, a newly installed floor in a grocery store floor will likely encounter the following:
- Moisture, salt, dust, debris, and grit walked in on it from the bottoms of shoes
- Broken eggs, spilled milk, and dropped cans
- Shopping carts and child strollers with bad or soiled wheels that leave trail marks wherever they go
- Heavy pallets moving cartons of food from one area of the store to another
All of these issues are made worse by the fact that many grocery stores, and other retailers, are now open extended hours—many up to 24 hours daily. But no matter if the store is open 24 hours or what types of abuse its floors may suffer, in most cases retailers want their floors to have a “wet look” appearance, looking clean and cared for at all times. For some mega-retailers, this high-gloss shine on their floors has become a trademark of their stores and certainly a key part of their image, branding, and marketing.
Assuming this is a traditional VCT (vinyl composite tile) floor and not an LVT (luxury vinyl tile) floor, our newly installed retail store floor will require a floor maintenance program.* And the steps for maintaining this type of floor is information the retailer will want to learn from you.
Key Components of a Floor Maintenance Program for Newly Installed Floors
Before any finish is applied to the floor, the new floor may need to be machine stripped. This is because the manufacturer may have put a film on the floor during the manufacturing process to protect the floor. But once installed, this film must be removed before any floor finish can be applied.
With this step addressed, it is very important to advise your client to use an ultra-high-speed (UHS) floor finish, applying 3 or more thin coats. Using this type of finish is the only way to get that coveted “wet look” shine many retailers want. Not only does a high-gloss shine make the floor look better, it adds a considerable amount of light to the store as well. This helps accent products, showcases, and displays.
However, this type of finish requires the use of a high-speed burnisher. The floor will likely need to be burnished nightly depending on foot traffic. And before burnishing, it will need to be cleaned. In some cases, cleaning the floor will require a traditional automatic scrubber, but many retailers are now using what are called “auto vacs,” according to Paul South, president and general manager of Valley Janitor Supply in Hamilton, Ohio.
Just as with an auto scrubber, these machines apply cleaning solution to the floor, a pad agitates the floor as the machine is rolled over the floor, and then moisture and soils are vacuumed up. “The reason auto vac systems have become popular in retail floor cleaning comes down to two key things,” says South, “price and effectiveness.”
These machines cost a fraction of what a traditional automatic scrubber costs, says South, and according to independent tests “have proven to actually be slightly more effective at removing contaminants from the floor. A side benefit is they are gentler with the floor, helping to stretch refinishing cycles.”
Mats Make the Difference
A key part of a floor maintenance program for newly installed floors, which is often undervalued, is the installation of floor mats at all entrances to the retail facility as well as inside the facility. Using our grocery store example once again, here are approximately 37,000 grocery stores in the United States, visited by 32 million people every day, or about 900 visitors per store per day. According to studies by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, if 1,500 people walk into a facility in which no mats are installed, 42 percent of the floor finish will be worn off due to foot traffic.
Assuming these numbers are correct, even with the best of care, the finish on a grocery store floor will essentially be removed in about four days, especially in areas near entries. And in all areas of the store, the finish will likely be removed within a week or more.
This indicates why mats are so important. However, not any mat will do. According to Adam Strizzi, marketing manager for Crown Matting Technologies, one of the country’s oldest and largest mat manufacturers, the key thing floor installers should tell their customers when it comes to selecting floor mats include the following:
- Make sure the mats are high-performance mats; a high-performance mat is typically purchased and designed to last longer and perform more effectively than a rental mat.
- Twenty feet of matting is recommended at each entrance area, which includes five to ten feet of scraper mats placed outside the retail facility entrance; five to ten feet of wiper/scraper matting placed directly inside the entrance; and five to ten feet of wiper mats placed inside the store. Together, the three types of mats work like a system, capturing soil and moisture and preventing them from being walked onto the floor.
- Several feet of interior matting should also be installed in aisles in the store. “When there are spills, moisture and oil may get picked up on shoppers’ shoe bottoms and then tracked throughout the store,” says Strizzi. “Installing mats in key aisles helps capture these soils.”
- Install matting between the back of the store and the front of the store. “This is often overlooked,” explains Strizzi, “but floors in the storage area of the store can get very soiled during the course of the day. If mats are not installed in these ‘transition’ areas, that soil will be walked into the front of the store.”
All of these steps should help keep your customers’ floors clean and neat and maintain that high-gloss shine. Taking these steps should also do something else that your customers will certainly appreciate: keep their newly installed floors cleaning and care costs down.
Stripping and refinishing a store floor can be very expensive and is certainly not considered an environmentally friendly cleaning procedure. In some areas of the country, the slurry that develops when stripping a floor must now be treated as hazardous waste, which only adds to the costs of refinishing a floor. Helping your customers enjoy their new floors in the most economical and effective ways possible will be an education they will long appreciate.
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning industry.
*An LVT floor is a “faux” floor; it often looks like wood, stone, or marble but is actually a type of vinyl. While the cleaning procedures discussed here also apply to an LVT floor, in most cases an LVT floor does not need to be finished or burnished, as is necessary with a VCT floor.