By Robert Kravitz and Michael Schaffer
Hard-surface floors in all types of facilities, including park and recreation centers, make a big statement. Very often they not only are the initial impression visitors have of a facility, but leave a lasting impression as well.
In years past, when budgets were ample and labor costs were lower, park administrators could spend money to keep the floors glossy and in tip-top condition. However, those days are but a memory now, as some centers struggle just to keep their doors open, let alone a shine on the floor.
For a facility, floors are definitely an investment, often a large one, and the better maintained they are, the longer they will last--allowing for cost savings in the long run. Fortunately, through advances in floor-care equipment technologies, more thorough training and proper workloading and scheduling, floors can be kept looking their best and have a longer lifespan--and it can all be done without costing “an arm and a leg.”
Two Sides Of Floor Care
To understand how this can be done, we must realize there are two sides to floor care. The first involves the type of flooring installed and the conditions it’s subjected to. The second is the program developed to clean and maintain the floors.
There are literally hundreds of different hard-surface floor types and flooring products available for installation in a residential or commercial facility. However, they generally fall into six key categories:
1. Concrete--Polished, coated, stained, dyed and dry shake-floors. It has become more popular in recent years because it is viewed as environmentally responsible and also relatively inexpensive.
2. Resilient--Vinyl composition tile (VCT) and sheet vinyl. Probably the most common hard-surface material.
Stone--Terrazzo (common in park and recreation facilities) as well as marble, granite, travertine and limestone.
3. Wood--Solid, laminated and engineered wood materials.
4. Clay and masonry--Ceramic, porcelain, brick and quarry-type floors.
5. Specialty--Bamboo and cork floors. Usually refers to a new breed of flooring that is especially environmentally responsible.
In addition to the type of hard-surface floor installed, the conditions the floor is subjected to must also be considered, including:
1. Traffic--The number of people who walk across the floor on a daily/monthly basis and the equipment or materials regularly rolled or dragged across the floor.
2. Climate and environment--Local weather trends and conditions affect what can potentially get tracked into a facility (snow, rain, ice melt, etc.). This is an even greater consideration for park and recreation centers that may be surrounded by playground areas, as well as landscaped and open-area grounds.
3. Size--The square footage of the area to be maintained.
4. Congestion--Facilities frequently have physical obstacles, often referred to as congestion, that hinder proper maintenance. A recent survey of cleaning technicians by a floor-care equipment manufacturer found that facility congestion is a technician’s biggest challenge.
Often, there is little managers can do about the floors installed in their facilities. The floors were likely installed for aesthetic reasons without any consideration or understanding of “real-world” maintenance issues or requirements.
Additionally, the use of the floor the amount of traffic, environmental issues, and other factors are often beyond the control of managers. Making matters worse, these conditions can change. Certain floor areas of a facility may receive more use and traffic over time than what was originally planned for when budgeting for maintenance costs.
Facing Maintenance Challenges
With all this information in hand, a manager can begin developing and implementing a comprehensive, cost-effective floor-care program, which is the second part of floor care. However, success depends on the manager’s knowledge of floor-care equipment and products.
For instance, many popular hard-surface floors installed today have uneven surfaces. The problem this causes is that soiling can develop in crevices and lower areas of the floor, which can be labor-intensive and costly to clean with a typical rotary machine. An astute manager will know that cylindrical brush technology--floor machines that use brushes instead of pads to clean, strip, and scrub floors--can reach deep into these areas and remove soiling with little or no added time, effort or labor costs.
Trends In Floor Care
Also, because congestion is often an issue in facilities, many managers are selecting battery-powered glazers or burnishers. These cordless machines do not require wall outlets to operate--making them more maneuverable--and can deliver about two hours of run time, cleaning about 15,000 square feet before they need to be recharged. Since they do not have to be continually plugged in and unplugged from wall outlets, these machines can increase worker productivity considerably. Also, some of these systems now use “greener” maintenance-free gel batteries that require little or no maintenance, and are safer for the user and the environment.
Another recent trend in floor care is multitasking equipment that can be used to clean hard-surface floors as well as carpets. Hard-surface floors are cleaned using the cylindrical technology discussed above, and an encapsulation method is used to clean carpets. With this method, a chemical powder is sprinkled on the carpets; as it dries it crystallizes along with the soils, stains, spills and other impurities in the carpet. The carpets are then vacuumed, removing the crystals and the soils. Selecting one machine that can clean two surfaces can result in significant cost savings.
The size of the area to be maintained will determine what size floor-care equipment to select. In general, in areas smaller than 1,500 square feet, a standard floor machine, rotary or cylindrical, should be selected. In areas larger than 1,500 square feet, managers should consider equipment such as automatic scrubbers, walk-behinds, and, if very large, ride-on equipment.
Make It Easy
Traffic conditions, as well as climate, can impact floor appearance and floor-care needs. Therefore, cleaning professionals should target heavy traffic areas and key entry points that are commonly affected by weather conditions. One of the best ways to help minimize the amount of time and labor is through the installation of high-performance matting systems. Experts suggest at least 15 feet of scraper, wiper/scraper and wiper matting, both outside and inside a facility, to help capture and trap as much as 80 percent of the soil and moisture on shoe bottoms.
Finally, it is amazing how many cleaning technicians still use conventional string mops instead of microfiber mops, which can be used for mopping as well as finish applications. String mops become quickly soiled, and in time can actually spread as much soil as they collect. Further, they use a great deal of water, and can require large amounts of chemicals, which can be costly and have a negative impact on the environment.
On the other hand, microfiber mops use considerably less water, which helps floors dry faster and use fewer chemicals. Further, these mops are lighter, often easier to use, and are more absorbent than conventional mops. These key reasons are why microfiber is typically included in a green cleaning program.
A well-planned maintenance program that takes into consideration the type of floor and the conditions it’s subjected to will provide more effective cleaning, improved worker productivity and, in the long run, cost savings for the facility. Having an effective program in place also significantly decreases the amount of time an area needs to be closed to the public, while cleaning and maintenance are performed. This accessibility factor, along with better-cared-for floors, helps improve public perception of the facility.
Robert Kravitz is a writer for the professional cleaning industry. Michael Schaffer is president of Tornado Industries, manufacturers of floorcare equipment.