Hardwood is the floor covering of choice for warmth, upscale image and an enhanced environment in commercial settings. In addition to the wide choice of colors, grain patterns and widths of available wood species, hardwood flooring is one of the most environmentally responsible and cost-efficient flooring choices you can make.
The key to long-lasting, beautiful hardwood floors is following the correct process for installation, sanding and finishing, scheduled recoats and, most importantly, daily and long-term maintenance.
Maintaining commercial hardwood floors combines the challenge of extreme traffic and wear, with limited time access to care for the floors. Previously, the right products for maintaining hardwood floors were not readily available. Some facility managers were forced to resort to generic methods intended for other floor coverings, which caused unsightly hardwood floors and significant costs to repair damage.
Effectively protecting the investment and extending the life of hardwood floors in your facility—whether a new installation, an existing floor in good condition or an existing floor in poor condition—depends on using the correct products and procedures. The following are recommended steps to maintain commercial hardwood floors:
Initial Sand and Finish/Refinishing
When unfinished hardwood floors are installed, the process involves sanding to flatten the floor and properly preparing it for staining (if desired) and application of a protective polyurethane finish.
During the refinishing process, worn or damaged floors are sanded and then finished to restore luster and shine. In order to minimize downtime, it is important to specify use of a dust-containment sanding system to prevent infiltration of dust throughout the jobsite. Equally important is the use of a quality waterborne finishing system that doesn’t require vacating the jobsite because of harmful fumes. High-performance, low-VOC waterborne finishes offer greater durability and beauty than solvent-based finishes because of their advanced technology manufacturing process and non-yellowing characteristics. Also, the faster drying and cure times of a quality waterborne system are essential requirements for commercial environments.
Daily Cleaning and Periodic Deep Cleaning
Improper methods and products for daily and periodic deep cleaning are the main causes of damage to commercial hardwood floors. Avoid water, all-purpose cleaners, harsh chemicals, dust-mop treatments, oil soaps, silicone and acrylics.
Vacuum or sweep to remove dirt, sand or grit that can scratch and damage the floor. Clean with a floor cleaner specifically designed for polyurethane-finished hardwood floors. For small areas, use a microfiber or terry cloth mop. For larger areas, a commercial mop, buffer or autoscrubber can be used.
Depending on the amount of pedestrian traffic and level of maintenance, hardwood floors may need to be recoated. This process involves deep cleaning and abrading the old finish to remove dirt and surface scratches, and the application of one or two coats of a waterborne polyurethane finish. The new coat of finish should adhere properly, if the floor has had proper maintenance with a residue-free cleaner. This will save the time and cost of having to completely sand off the existing finish.
A Typical Example
FlatIron Crossing, a busy indoor shopping mall in Broomfield, CO, illustrates the simplicity and cost effectiveness of the right way to care for hardwood floors.
The mall exhibited a major problem frequently seen in which the janitorial staff used an acrylic-based maintenance coating designed for VC T flooring. Such coatings do not wear well and act as a contaminant for hardwood floors. They also hold in dirt and must be chemically stripped to be cleaned, adding too much moisture to the wood and resulting in damaged boards that have to be replaced. In the case of FlatIron Crossing, they had to replace the wood in two pedestrian bridges, and the rest of their hardwood floors had severe cupping. Total cost for repairing the damage was $34,000.
The solution was to sand and finish the floors with a durable, waterborne polyurethane finish and maintain them with a waterborne cleaner designed specifically for polyurethane finished hardwood floors. Maintenance includes daily dusting with an untreated mop and a weekly spray buff with hardwood floor cleaner that does not leave any residue. The mall now schedules recoats every 12 to 18 months.
Randy Berman, assistant property manager at FlatIron Crossing, was thrilled with the results. “We have about 12 million people a year come through here and the floors take a beating,” he says, “Not only did the acrylic maintenance system not work and cost us money to repair the damage, but the floors never looked good. With the right hardwood floor care system, we’ve cut our labor costs for maintenance by 75 percent (a $60,000 per year savings) and the floors look great.
Using Green Products and Systems
More facilities are demanding green methods for all maintenance processes in commercial settings. There are plenty of green alternatives to traditional products that also offer better performance and cost efficiency. Demand green products that have been certified by independent organizations such as GREENGUARD, Green Seal, Scientific Certification Systems or others.
By following these simple, cost-saving methods and using the correct products, you will find that hardwood floors are an ideal sustainable flooring choice for an enhanced, successful and beautiful commercial environment.
Mark Pacacha is director of commercial sales for BonaKemi USA , Inc., the world’s leading hardwood floor finishing systems manufacturer. Pacacha received his bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and an M.B.A. from Houston Baptist University. He has been associated with the floor covering industry for more than 23 years.