For a professional cleaner understanding the characteristics of Hard Floors is essential, in this series of Blogs we look at the three main categories these floors fall in to
Vinyl and Vinyl Composite
Vinyl and vinyl composite flooring are the most common types of resilient flooring today. Vinyl floors are pure or homogenous; vinyl composite is made mainly of vinyl with limestone (calcium carbonate) filler. This filler makes the vinyl composite floor more brittle, more susceptible to high-heel indentation marks, and more porous than homogenous vinyl. As a result of these basic differences, pure vinyl floors are generally easier to build gloss (since the finish stays on the surface), but tend to scuff and black heel mark more readily. Vinyl and vinyl composite floors are easily maintained using the appropriate techniques.
New tile, as received from the factory, is typically coated with a factory finish. This coating prevents the tiles from sticking together in storage or transport.
The factory finish must be removed prior to the application of a sealer or finish. This may be accomplished by stripping or deep scrubbing. Loss of finish adhesion and polish levelling problems may result if the factory finish is not removed.
Rubber flooring is made of natural rubber which is coloured by mineral pigments. Oil, solvents, strong soaps and alkalis may damage rubber tile. The rubber floor should be protected against indentation and against deterioration from sunlight. It may become discoloured and lose its elasticity. Abrasive cleaners should be avoided because they may scratch the tile. Rubber tile has a non-porous, smooth surface and is resistant to stains, acids and mild alkalis. It provides a very durable surface.
Rubber flooring responds well to buffing techniques. Soft brushes are recommended instead of pads. Brushes bring out the natural lustre of the rubber floor and also clean around raised "buttons" contained in many rubber floors as an anti-slip feature.
Asphalt tile is made up of asbestos fibres, lime rock, inert fillers and coloured pigments, with an asphalt or resin binder. The tile is either bonded directly to the floor with mastic or bonded over a layer of felt. A sub-flooring of plywood may have been used to provide a smooth surface.
Solvents should be avoided as they may attack the tile. When stripping asphalt tile floors, the colour often bleeds into the stripping solution. Full stripping should be minimized; scrub and recoat operations are recommended.
Linoleum was one of the first resilient floorings and is often confused with vinyl. However, whereas vinyl is completely synthetic, linoleum is composed of natural linseed oil with resin, cork or wood fillers.
Battleship linoleum is one type of flooring that was used quite widely. The name "battleship" was given to this linoleum because it was used on the decks of battleships. It is very durable to weathering, and it is very water resistant.
The natural oils in linoleum are attacked by high pH products, especially strippers. Damage to the surface layer, discolouration and increased porosity are the result of over-stripping a linoleum floor. Stripping should be kept to a minimum; scrub and recoat instead of adopting full strip procedures.
If high pH products have caused discolouration of the linoleum, scrubbing with a floor neutralizer and soft pad, may rescue it. In either case, maintaining a proper seal layer is recommended for protection against such chemicals.
Thermoplastic is produced in tile form and consists of a mineral filler bound with asphalt or synthetic resin laid on a concrete sub-floor. They soften when subjected to heat when they are newly laid, however, when they harden following installation, they become very brittle and will crack and break at the edges if subjected to impact. As a result, the edges are prone to water ingress during cleaning procedures causing problems with adhesion to the sub-floor.
They can be sealed using a water-based acrylic seal, and protective water-based polishes can be applied to maintain the appearance of old, deteriorating floors.
Vinyl Asbestos Tile
Vinyl asbestos tile was an older version of vinyl composite tile, in which asbestos was used as a filler. Bare tiles (i.e. with no finish) should never be burnished or buffed. This process could result in airborne asbestos. With a proper wear layer, these floors may be maintained in a similar fashion to vinyl or vinyl composite flooring.
Conductive flooring is utilized wherever a problem may result from electrostatic discharges. In its earlier days, conductive floors were commonly found in hospital operating theatres, where a spark may have caused an explosion. More recently, this type of flooring is mainly used to prevent damage to expensive computer components in their manufacture and use. Conductive material contained in this type of floor "grounds" the people and objects on the floor, providing an earth for any static electricity build-ups.
Conductive floor should always be maintained according to the flooring manufacturer's recommendations. The floor should be properly cleaned to prevent loss of conductivity. If a floor finish is to be applied, it must have a "conductive" rating. Since the conductivity of "conductive" floor finishes generally diminishes with repetitive cleaning procedures. Maintenance recommendations from the manufacturer of the floor must be followed so as not to affect the conductive material.
These types of floor require a different maintenance program than those used on other floors. However, before undertaking work of any kind on a synthetic floor, it is important to obtain written permission to perform the work from the floor owner. The manufacturers of synthetic flooring are very particular about the care of their floors. It is possible that the warranty of an installed floor may be invalidated by applying materials or using maintenance procedures and methods other than those recommended and approved by the manufacturer.
Laminate floors are usually provided in plank form, although they are occasionally manufactured in tiles. Although they look like they are constructed from wood, they are actually constructed from a range of materials in layers, compressed to form each plank. (There are wood laminates available, but these are dealt with in the Wood Floor section of this module).
The wood appearance is achieved with the use of a printed film which is protected by a wearlayer of melamine, an extremely strong resin that offers wear and stain protection.
The “core” of each plank is constructed from highly compressed fibre-board. It is on this core that the upper layers of the laminate are fused and the backing is applied. The core itself is usually soaked in resin to increase its hardness. The edges of the board are cut in a tongue and groove design to enable the planks to be joined together.
Laminate floors are relatively maintenance free and do not require sealing or polishing. However, their appearance can be adversely affected by scratches caused by grit and other sharp objects that can be walked into the building on people’s feet. They can also be damaged when moving furniture and other objects across the surface of the floor.
Look out for part 3 of this series of blogs which deals Non-Resilient Flooring and Floorcare Training
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