Hard floors - repairing the damage

2nd of January 2018
Hard floors - repairing the damage
Hard floors - repairing the damage

How resilient are today’s hard floors against daily wear and tear and more serious mishaps? ECJ considers how to protect hard floors - and how to repair them once the damage has been done.

Floors receive a great deal of abuse. We walk on them, wheel cases over them and spill drinks on them. We also drop heavy equipment on them – and even occasionally flood them.

Yet we expect our floors to continue to bear our weight and cope with the heaviest of footfalls while retaining an attractive appearance. However if this is to be achievable, we need to look after them.

Floor damage can generally be divided into three main categories according to IPC’s business development manager Adriano Mariano. “The first relates to acute damage caused by a one-off incident,” he said. “This may involve the fall of a heavy object – during a relocation, for example. Accidentally dropping an item of furniture such as a wardrobe on a floor could write it off forever, however resilient that floor might be.

“The second category involves ongoing stress from foot traffic, heels, wheelchairs and trolley castors. The damage here might not be visible in the short term but will become evident after a month or so, particularly if maintenance has been neglected.

“And the final category relates to damage caused by cleaning errors. For instance, chemical detergents used on delicate wooden floors or tiles may remove the dirt but might also cause corrosion if they are too aggressive.”

He says damage to floors can take the form of marks, scratches, small holes, cracks or deep grooves. “In addition, the black marks caused by rubber may not constitute real damage but will make the floor look dirty,” he said. “Even the weather can be a problem since rain, wind and high or low temperatures may cause bulges, scraping and cracking to the floor. And if any surface alteration results, the damage may not be repairable.”

According to Mariano, high-traffic floors in schools, airports and shopping centres tend to be the most susceptible to damage. “Hospital and factory floors are also at risk because aggressive chemicals may be used in these types of environment in a bid to destroy the more resistant dirt,” he said.

“Cleaning with the right tools along with a daily or weekly maintenance regime can reduce damage and avoid the need for aggressive and potentially damaging treatments. And regular cleaning and maintenance will make the surface last longer and retain its shine.”

Head of floorcare product management at Kärcher Marco Cardinale says mechanical load causes the most damage to hard floors. “Particular issues include heavy footfall, grit and sand in the winter,” he said. “Damage may also be caused by a lack of doormats or by wheeled traffic with small rollers and high point loading.”

He says high-traffic floors that are directly accessible from outside tend to be the most susceptible to damage. “In shops for example dirt and water will be trodden in by customers,” he said.  “And in thoroughfares between workshops and customer areas there may be a problem with dirt and oil being walked on to the shop floor.”

Other factors that can cause floor damage include standing water, strong sunlight and the incorrect use of cleaning agents, he says. However, he claims that any damage can usually be fixed depending on the challenge involved.

“Fine scratches or discolouration due to road salt can be repaired using diamond pads,” said Cardinale. “Salt deposits on surfaces can be removed either with acidic cleaning agents or mechanically. And deep scratches need to be sanded down – but these might be irreparable.”

He adds that floors can often be protected against damage before use. “For example, polishing with diamond pads seals the surface and makes it more hard-wearing,” said Cardinale. “The crystallisation of calcareous floor coverings offers some protection against damage since it means any liquid spills will penetrate the surface more slowly. And surfaces may also be protected by impregnating or coating them with stains or floor coverings.”

Damage can also be prevented by means of well-maintained “cleanwalk zones” combined with a cleaning regime that befits the volume of footfall, he said. ”These measures will minimise the levels of sharp-edged dirt particles being brought in from outside,” said Cardinale. “Roller technology offers a particular advantage here because cleaning will be simultaneously assisted by sweeping.”

Kärcher offers roller technology, diamond pads, melamine pads, crystallising agents and coating materials to help prevent damage to hard floors and repair it afterwards.

The likely type of floor damage will vary according to the building concerned according to Diversey’s European floor care portfolio manager Christoph Scheiwiller.

“In a warehouse it is wheeled traffic that is likely to cause most harm while in retail environments, foot traffic may cause the most wear,” he said. “And in a carpeted office the most damage to the floor pile may be caused by swivel chairs.”

But it is the dirt itself that will cause the most problems to the substrate, according to Scheiwiller.
“Outdoor dirt such as sand, dust, asphalt and other abrasive materials may cause visible or micro-scratches to the surface,” he said. “This will act like sandpaper, dulling the gloss and making the floor more difficult to clean. Other damage could be caused by scuff marks or black heel marks from foot traffic while in a healthcare environment, heavy hospital beds may make dents in the floor - particularly if these beds have small wheels and the floor has a soft substrate.”

Embedded dirt may eventually lead to discolouration, according to Scheiwiller. “Discolouration may also result from sunlight on a floor that is not resistant to UV light,” he said.

But he believes most scuff marks, black heel marks and micro scratches can be repaired using today’s modern methods. “However, more serious issues such as UV light discolouration, chemical damage or cracked stone will require the services of a floor restoration company,” he said.

Prone to damage

Floors in the retail sector are among those most susceptible to damage, according to Scheiwiller. “High visitor frequency, the use of shopping trolleys and the restacking of shelves cause a range of impacts on the substrate,” he said. “Visitors bring dirt in from the road via their shoes while shopping trolleys will often have dirt embedded in their wheels. And forklifts, pallets and other heavy equipment may damage the substrate during restocking.”

Troubleshooting is a never-ending topic in the floorcare industry, says Scheiwiller. “Often there will be much discussion as to how best to repair a floor, but my recommendation would be to focus on the root cause and fix it permanently,” he said.

For example, he says floor matting would be a good solution in an outdoor car park where salt has been allowed to build up. “A matting system will remove salt from shoes and from wheeled traffic,” he said. “It would also help to have staff on hand with mops or wet vacuums to prevent salt from building up around the entrances.

“Another common cause of floor damage is when alcohol-based hand sanitisers are allowed to drip on to conventional floor finishes. Here the solution is to strip away those areas that are particularly prone to hand sanitiser damage and recoat them with a more durable floor finish. The sanitiser could also be replaced with a more gelatinous product, or a drip tray might be installed.”

He believes daily cleaning to be the most important maintenance procedure. “If you keep a floor clean you should be able to keep it in good condition with only the occasional interim maintenance procedure such as spray buffing or burnishing,” he said. “This will greatly increase the time between deep cleaning procedures.

“A floor finish or sealant will protect the floor from dirt while reducing the risk of slip and fall accidents and helping to maintain a high quality image for the facility. And repairing these types of layers is easy using an interim maintenance procedure such as a spray buffing or burnishing.”

Diversey offers Taski IntelliPad diamond-impregnated floor pads which are said to improve the gloss and clarity of both coated and non-coated floors. One IntelliPad can be used for both burnishing and daily cleaning, according to Scheiwiller.

Foot and wheeled traffic constantly wear away the protective seal from the surface of a hard floor according to Truvox international sales and marketing director Gordon McVean.

“If this protective seal is allowed to become too degraded the underlying material will become exposed to wear, abrasion, discolouration from stains and sunlight plus attack from chemicals,” he said. “At this point it must be removed and replaced. This will significantly reduce the risk of damage and premature wear while also maximising the lifetime value of a hard floor.”

Truvox offers a range of floorcare equipment including rotary polishers, burnishers, scrubber dryers and vacuums. These include the Multiwash scrubber dryer which can wash, mop, scrub and dry hard floors as well as short-pile carpets and escalators, and the Orbis range of high- and low-speed rotaries that can be used for buffing, burnishing, maintenance tasks and finishing.

An annual cleaning and maintenance plan is fundamental to avoiding damage and minimising it when it occurs, says McVean.

Appropriate matting

“This should cover all aspects of floorcare from entrance matting to specifications for cleaning products and equipment to be used,” he said.

“Appropriate entrance mats that are themselves cleaned regularly will limit the amount of grit and soil that is tracked through a building and across the floor, limiting wear and staining. And the flooring manufacturer’s instructions should be borne in mind when drawing up the plan along with type and level of traffic. This will also determine the routine cleaning schedule plus the intervals between stripping and re-sealing.”

McVean concedes that it is tempting for some facilities to cut back on maintenance work due to tight budgets or because the floors are in constant use. “However it is essential to maintain the condition of the floor in the medium term,” he says.  “It is also important to remember that the act of cleaning itself wears away the protective seal on hard floors, so reconditioning is unavoidable if the appearance and quality of the floor are to be sustained.”


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