From Contractor to Custodian: 9 Common Mistakes That Can Shorten the Life of Commercial Flooring
Many factors affect the lifespan of your flooring. Some critical decisions may have been made without your involvement and are beyond your control. Other’s may be so simple that they are easy to overlook. Regardless, the flooring is a vital component of your facility and should be treated with as much planning, care, and oversight as other critical systems (such as your electrical, HVAC, or digital infrastructure).
The following are common mistakes that shorten the life of your flooring and reduce ROI.
1. Choosing the flooring based only on budget
We get it; price is an important consideration for any investment. Budgets are not unlimited. The question, however, is whether cost savings today will lead to increased costs tomorrow.
Will your flooring choice require extensive maintenance? Will it be durable enough to withstand your expected traffic for its expected lifespan? Could lower quality materials or installation lead to potential safety issues and subsequent litigation?
Not least among the considerations are comfort and aesthetics. Not only is life too short to spend the majority of your waking hours working on unsightly, uncomfortable floors, but the aesthetics can reduce the overall value of your investment, limit the pool of prospective tenants, and require replacement sooner than expected.
Comfort and attractiveness may be worth the sacrifice.
2. Not considering your true needs There is no “one-size-fits-all” type of flooring for all applications. Different needs require different floors, just as different projects require different tools.
For example, conference rooms will typically experience less traffic than hallways, but the moving of tables and chairs may accelerate wear. Warehouse floors may need to accommodate soft wheeled vehicles and bicycles, as well as hard-wheeled scooters and foot traffic. Kitchens and restrooms will need to withstand frequent cleaning, chemicals, and water exposure.
For a flooring material to achieve the life it is rated for, facility managers and contractors must consider how the area’s usage will affect it.
3. Cutting corners during installation Cutting corners during installation may provide cost savings initially but reduce durability or make regular maintenance difficult. Simply not removing the dust layer may prevent primers and adhesives from properly bonding, or failing to install floor drains may make cleaning more time-consuming.
Money saved on the front end can lead to hidden upkeep costs in the future.
4. Poor training or tools Different surfaces require different maintenance schedules and techniques, but all too often harsh chemicals and rough equipment are over-used, leading to premature failure of the flooring material. It’s not the fault of the maintenance crew if you have not invested the time to train them properly, or have not invested in the proper equipment.
Once the flooring is installed, the maintenance staff will need to be trained not only on the specific needs of each area but also on the proper use of the correct equipment.
Do the least experienced crew members know the difference between the burnisher and the buffer? Worse, is the burnisher being used as a dual-purpose machine to save cost? A single cost-cutting measure such as this is guaranteed to destroy your VCT and shorten its lifespan.
5. Skimping on maintenance Maintenance is usually the first area impacted when facility managers look to reduce operating costs. However, the short-term savings typically have detrimental long-term impacts.
Reducing the frequency of cleaning is the most common maintenance reduction for floors. However, this could lead to contaminants and dirt grinding into the flooring surface, increasing wear and abrasion.
This detrimental cycle will eventually create a permanently marred appearance and could increase the likelihood of damage that will require premature repair or replacement.
6. Assuming concrete is maintenance free Concrete is durable, but contrary to how it may look, it is not impermeable, indestructible, or sterile. Professional sealing of concrete floors will prevent damage, and cracks and fissures should be professionally caulked if hairline settling or fractures have occurred.
Additionally, huge amounts of particulate matter and harmful residues are left behind on your concrete surfaces every day which can pose considerable health risks. At the very least, concrete floors should be dust mopped frequently.
Common floor cleaning products are not recommended for your concrete, as harsh chemicals can permanently etch your concrete and reduce its cleanability. pH neutral cleaners should be used to prevent damage to your seal coat.
7. Using too many chemicals If chemicals are needed, proper dilution ratios will save money and reduce the impact on the floor. Overuse of chemicals will give floors a dull and unclean appearance and may require additional stripping, sealing and waxing.
Chemicals can be a great time saver, but when used as a crutch, they will eventually lead to a larger investment of time to address the damage.
8. Cleaning the floor with dirty equipment Quite simply, you can’t clean a floor if the mops or equipment are dirty. Dirty mops push contaminated water from one area to the next and make for unsanitary environments.
If necessary, use the two-mop system to prevent cross-contamination of areas, but always clean and maintain your equipment after each use. Use small amounts of bleach to clean mop buckets and mops, and wring thoroughly. Doing so will also extend the life of your equipment.
9. Missing walk-off mats. Perhaps the simplest method of extending the life of your floor is to provide walk-off mats. A floor mat large enough to accommodate three to five steps can eliminate up to 90 percent of dirt, snow, ice, and sand that will wind up on your floor.
Mats should be an integral part of your floor design, and you should place them at all facility entrances. Entrance mats will lessen cleaning time, reduce surface damage, extend the life of the floor, and limit the chance of slip and fall litigation.
By avoiding the common mistakes and incorporating a regularly scheduled professional maintenance plan, your flooring will maintain its beauty and durability and increase the value of your investment.