The Characteristics of Hard Floors – Part III Non-Resilient Floor Cleaning

For a professional cleaner understanding the characteristics of Hard Floors is essential, this is the final one of this three part series of Blogs in which we look at the main categories of floor types.

In Floor Care

For a professional cleaner understanding the characteristics of Hard Floors is essential, this is the final one of this three part series of Blogs in which we look at the main categories of floor types.

Non-Resilient Flooring


TerrazzoTerrazzo typically consists of a combination of marble or stone chips set in Portland cement matrix. The irregularly shaped pieces of marble give the floor its beauty. The cement is usually white, but it can be coloured red, blue, green, or any other colour that may be desired as a background.

In the matter of maintenance, there are two types of surfaces to be considered. The marble chips are practically non-absorbent, while the porosity of the cement matrix is higher.

The cement, and especially the marble chips (calcium carbonate), may be attacked by strong acids. This usually results in the surface becoming pitted. If there is a marble floor, in a washroom for example, try to limit the use of strong acids in the area. Any spill of a hydrochloric acid based bowl cleaner will produce an etch mark in these floors very quickly.

Sealing the floor with a water-based seal will help to protect the terrazzo against chemical attack. The use of a sealer will also help to seal the pores of the cement to allow top coating with a floor finish.


Sandstone floor before sealingSandstone is a sedimentary material that consists of sand crystals cemented together with natural clays. Floors are constructed from sandstone slabs or large tiles, cut to shape and laid in a similar way to paving stones. Natural sandstone is very porous and prone to scratching and general wear and as such should be sealed with a penetrating waterbased polyurthane seal.

Polished sandstone tiles are also produced which resemble terrazzo tiles except they have a distinct red colour. They have a glazed surface which is achieved by polishing during its manufacture. Maintenance procedures are similar to terrazzo.


QuartziteQuartzite is a rare flooring material but is gaining in popularity. It is classified as sandstone. For this reason it exhibits all the properties of sandstone.

Quarry/Ceramic Tile

Quarry TileThis type of tile is made of clay mixed with water and burned or "fired" in kilns. Clay is aluminium silicate with various other products. The surface is either unglazed or glazed. Glazed tile has an impervious glossy layer on the surface that is different from the tile body. The tiles are set in cement with grout.

Attempt to seal or finish porous floors only. Water based sealers or finishes will flake off non-porous floors in traffic lanes. Trying to seal or finish nonporous floors is a common maintenance mistake with ceramic or quarry tiles.

For porous floors, use a water-based seal. As part of or in addition to routine maintenance, all floors in this category should be periodically scrubbed using brushes and wet vac to pick up the cleaning solution. This is the only way to ensure proper soil removal from low lying grout areas.

The periodic use of an acid based floor cleaner helps to clean the floor. Once the floor has been properly cleaned, the grouting may be sealed in order to keep soil out. This may be accomplished by pouring a water based sealer onto the floor and using a window type squeegee to remove it from the tile surface. The sealer will settle in the low lying grout. Alternatively, a penetrating waterbased seal may be applied directly to the grout.


MarbleMarble is another natural stone flooring, composed of calcium carbonate or limestone. Marble is relatively soft and is very prone to scratching. The majority of new marble installations are glossy, highly polished marble tiles. Water based coatings will not properly adhere to this type of flooring. Vitrification/crystalization or polishing with diamond grit abrasives are alternative maintenance techniques.

"Honed" or dull marble, or marble which has been worn, can sometimes be successfully maintained with a floor finish system. For such a situation, specially formulated coatings for stone floors should be used. A patch test for adhesion is recommended.

The use of acid products should be avoided as they will attack marble. The one exception is during a vitrification or crystalalization process, which utilizes an acid based product in conjunction with a steel wool pad.


GraniteGranite is a very hard rock, primarily composed of feldspar, quartz and some dark minerals. Granite is harder, more stand resistant and more scratch resistant than marble.

Granite is typically maintained by good cleaning (dust and damp) techniques only. Similar to marble, however, granite has been successfully maintained with a stone floor finish system. Again, the flooring and coating combination should be pre-tested for adhesion.


SlateSlate is a natural fine-grained, bluish-grey rock that splits easily into thin layers. Slate floors usually have irregularly textured surfaces and are most commonly laid in tile form. Slate is usually porous enough to allow for seals to adhere to it. A stone floor sealer and finish combined is recommended. These types of floor should be periodically cleaned using a single disc machine with a soft brush and a neutral cleaner. The solution should be removed from the surface as soon as possible using a wet pick-up machine.

Slate floors can be maintained by buffing or burnishing systems. However, if burnishing is to be used, a soft flexible burnish brush is recommended so that the finish is not removed from the higher sections of the floor. Burnishing at high speed will achieve a higher standard of finish.

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