As flooring constitutes a large investment, ensuring efficient and effective maintenance should be a high priority. HARTLEY HENDERSON looks into what facility managers need to know to ensure their flooring is receiving the best care.
Flooring is a valuable asset that can play a significant role in establishing a positive public image for a business. It is one of the first things that customers will notice when entering a building and it constitutes a large investment. Therefore, it is important that the maintenance of flooring is given the priority it deserves, and that contractors are properly trained and equipped to deal with specific types of floors, from vinyl and carpet to timber, granite and terrazzo.
KNOW YOUR FLOOR
John Laws from the Australian Cleaning Contractors’ Alliance says that the conduct of on-site surveys by contractors and the preparation of floor care plans for different types of floors will ensure that flooring maintenance is both efficient and effective.
“The Australian standard for the maintenance of carpets and warranties can only be enforced if the cleaning regime is compliant with that standard. Therefore, it is imperative that floor care plans are set to ensure that such a large investment is treated with the care and respect it deserves,” Laws says. “In relation to hard floor surfaces, there are many and varied types and each one requires a particular approach to treatment.”
“Being able to identify the flooring material that has been used in various areas of a building is crucial to establishing a floor maintenance plan. For instance, chemicals and detergents should never be used in maintaining stone, while they can be used on vinyl or ceramic tiles,” adds Alp Duramanoglu, general manager of Majestic Commercial, which offers specialised maintenance services for a variety of floors types, including timber, terrazzo, marble and granite.
Murray McDonald, director of Duplex Cleaning Machines, which distributes cleaning machine products in Australia and New Zealand, concurs. He states that to ensure efficient and effective floor maintenance, facility managers need to seek out education on the type of flooring that exists in their facility and have knowledge of the correct floor preparation methods and cleaning processes. “Are the floors wool or nylon, for instance? Or, are they terracotta or ceramic tiles? Different surfaces will have different coatings and, therefore, different cleaning methods, maintenance processes and machines will be required,” he says.
According to McDonald, most facility managers have a general knowledge of hard floor and carpeted floor cleaning and maintenance approaches, but lack specialist knowledge, as this also requires specific product knowledge – floors, equipment, chemicals and maintenance processes. “It is important for facility managers to know what flooring they have and the correct procedures on how to clean it, and this includes product knowledge,” he stresses.
KNOW YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER
Duramanoglu believes that there is a need to clearly separate the role of a commercial cleaner from that of a floor care specialist. “Floor care specialists understand the complexities of maintaining floors such as natural stone. They also understand that a lack of this crucial experience and skill may result in these surfaces being unwittingly treated with chemicals that can actually damage the stone over time,” he notes.
“Most commercial cleaning contractors will quote on a cleaning contract based on the square metres involved and whether the floor surfaces are to be mopped or vacuumed. More often than not, little account is taken of what type of hard floor material is involved, and certainly no account is taken of the different methodologies that might be needed to maintain these different surfaces.”
He stresses that most stones, except granite, are relatively soft and can be easily scratched. “The only way to restore the surface shine completely is to have the stone reground flat – a straightforward but time-consuming process. By following a good care and maintenance program, however, this situation can be delayed or avoided.”
McDonald feels that it all comes down to the education of the cleaner. In his opinion, if they are educated well enough on the correct floor maintenance methods and cleaning products, and understand all types of flooring, then they have gained the credibility and experience to be regarded as a floor care specialist. “Being a floor specialist is about knowing all types of floorings and their maintenance processes, even if it isn’t a floor they come into regular contact with,” he says.
His advice to facility managers wanting to ensure that their commercial cleaner or floor care specialist is doing a proper job is that they need to gain the proper knowledge of the floors in their facility through talking to the flooring manufacturers about the correct maintenance methods and the frequency of cleaning required, and discussing this information with their cleaners. In addition, he believes that undertaking a coordinated training program or seeking outside training on the correct cleaning methods is also something that facility managers should implement to ensure their cleaners are doing a proper job.
KNOW THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
The phrase ‘back to basics’ is used by Duramanoglu to describe the trend in hard floor maintenance being adopted more and more in buildings across Australia. He says driving this trend is environmental necessity, where a philosophy of reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals has become the maintenance objective.
Laws points out that with the rise in environmental awareness there is less emphasis on a shiny floor and more on a clean floor that has been washed with hot water only. “Sticking with the old methods of stripping old floor polish from hard floors and reapplying fresh product, brings about a number of environmental concerns. The first is that waste from the stripping process is placed into the water stream and can cause significant pollution of the waterways,” he notes.
“Secondly, taking away old polish and replacing it with new product is wasteful of resources, and the fresh polish gives off VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can harm the atmosphere and create health problems,” he adds.
Laws explains that the main developments in environmentally friendly floor maintenance centre on the introduction of diamond imbedded and ceramic imbedded floor-polishing pads. These new products allow the contractor to provide a good floor appearance without the need to use harsh chemicals and polishes.
McDonald notes that he has witnessed a reduction of chemical and water type cleaning for carpets. “People are becoming more water and chemical conscious. Customers are requiring low chemicals, not only for the environment’s sake, but also to improve indoor air quality,” he states.
He adds that flooring manufacturers are also producing more flooring with lower maintenance requirements, such as vinyl floors that don’t need to be stripped and sealed, thus reducing the need for chemicals.
“Previously, many cleaning processes had low mechanical cleaning agitation. Today’s modern and innovative machinery provides high mechanical cleaning agitation, which dramatically reduces water and chemical usage and minimises the physical human effort,” he concludes.
Hartley Henderson is a Victorian freelance journalist specialising in Australia’s commercial property sector.