Floor care and maintenance are critical to ensuring the longevity of floors. Many times, however, flooring failures occur because the floor type that was selected isn’t suitable for the application, says Arthur Bath from National Contract Cleaners Association.
“The selection of inappropriate coverings is still a big problem in the industry. As designers and architects, it’s crucial to ensure the right floors are selected. A government building, for example, will have different performance requirements and cleaning needs than a restaurant. Carpets have both residential and commercial gradings. Laying a carpet with a Medium Residential grading in an application where a Heavy Commercial grading would be more appropriate will have potentially disastrous consequences,” says Arthur.
Damaged terrazzo at Gautrain stations
According to Arthur, the Gautrain stations in Gauteng are a good example of flooring failures that can occur when the incorrect floor is selected. “Terrazzo, which is susceptible to chemical damage, was chosen for the Gautrain station floors whereas porcelain would have been a more appropriate option. The Gautrain station’s floors were damaged during the initial cleaning phase, which has had a permanently negative impact on the aesthetics. The cost and disruption involved with removing and replacing a floor is huge, which is why it’s so important to make sure the right flooring is installed from the start,” says Arthur.
While some flooring manufacturers provide expert guidance on the cleaning and maintenance of their flooring products, many don’t.
“As a designer, it’s your job to obtain as much information about the project and products so that you can enable the client to make the best decision based on their ability to clean and maintain the floors,” says Arthur.
Draft a cleaning specification for clients
Sean Harms, Divisional Manager at Industroclean, says a worrying trend in the industry is companies cutting back on floor care and maintenance.
“A challenge in the cleaning industry is the trend to cut back on cleaning, which could lead to the asset owner having a facility that is not looked after correctly. However, this could also be an opportunity to focus on effective equipment and cleaning methodologies,” says Sean.
When asked what architects should be aware of when advising clients about cleaning and maintenance, he says that a cleaning specification can go a long way in avoiding problems further down the road.
“A problem that affects property owners and architects is that often cleaning is not addressed until it becomes an issue – and by then the client’s asset could be damaged. It is vitally important to put a cleaning specification in place that makes sure the floor is kept in showroom condition and ensures that the client receives the longevity from the flooring product they have selected,” says Sean.
How to hold contract cleaners responsible
One way to hold contract cleaners responsible for the services they deliver is to specify the output instead of the input. Instead of listing the cleaning equipment, staff and chemicals that need to be used, for example, rather specify the output that must be delivered so that the cleaning company can use their flooring knowledge and expertise to prescribe the required cleaning routine and be accountable for the solutions delivered.
For example: The cost of maintaining a hardwood floor can be determined on a monthly basis, but a better approach is to look at lifecycle costing so that the focus is on maintaining the floor’s appearance level over the expected lifecycle of 10 to 15 years. If the aesthetic appearance of the floor declines in such a way that an early replacement becomes necessary, then the flooring replacement cost will far exceed what would have been spent on proper cleaning and maintenance.
A hard floor generally looks its best upon installation, but it if isn’t maintained and cleaned properly, its appearance will deteriorate. While restoration is an option, it can also be very expensive. Restoration and replacement of a floor before the end of its lifecycle is always a more costly alternative than investing in appropriate floor care and maintenance.
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