Functional Flooring

When considering flooring in a design scheme, it’s not only important to think about the design and how it will affect employees. From a FMs point of view, it’s also important to think about the upkeep and maintenance once it has been installed. FM Middle East looks at a variety of flooring solutions and demonstrates how easy they are to maintain.

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By  Becca Wilson Published  December 11, 2006

|~|FMDecemberp34200.gif|~|“Practical and versatile, carpet tiles offer a strong argument against traditional broadloom carpet. Not only do they look great but they are easy to replace should any become damaged”|~|When considering flooring in a design scheme, it’s not only important to think about the design and how it will affect employees. From a FMs point of view, it’s also important to think about the upkeep and maintenance once it has been installed. FM Middle East looks at a variety of flooring solutions and demonstrates how easy they are to maintain.

Choosing a flooring concept purely because it fits with the overall design scheme is often pointless if the product does not retain its appearance and manage the wear and tear.

But advancements in flooring solutions and maintenance products have given the FM a wider range of flooring types to choose from, enabling them to be more flexible and versatile with the design.

Before deciding on a specific type of flooring, it’s important to think about wear and tear, for example, how many people will be walking on the floor, what type of shoes are they likely to be wearing and whether or not a practical floor is needed? Other questions you should ask are, does it fit with the overall design scheme, how easy is it to maintain, is it easy to install?

MARBLE MAINTENANCE
Marble is an organic substance and has been providing people and companies with flooring solutions for centuries. “Stone has long been considered the ultimate architectural adornment – synonymous with quality and endurance. It is no surprise five star hotels worldwide, whose clientele demand luxury as standard and any environment aspiring to those same ideals chose marble as the predominant floor (and increasingly wall) covering,” explains Andrew McDonnell, managing partner of MarbleLife Gulf.

However, the natural stone is susceptible to wear and tear, moisture, weather and chemicals from cleaning products. With Marble being positioned at 4 on Moh’s scale of rock harness (diamond is 10, granite 7 and chalk 2), it proves it’s not as durable as people imagine, losing its natural luster and strength quite easily.

McDonnell says people might notice a difference in marble depending on where they are, for example, marble in a 5 star hotel may look different from that in a villa or an apartment block entrance. “In reality the marble quality may well be the same in all three. What is more likely to vary between the locations is the care and attention that the marble receives,” he says.

Marble suffers from the fiercely competitive nature of today’s market where cheapest often gets the contract. In a raw and unprotected condition newly installed stone is vulnerable to traffic, water, staining and harsh cleaning chemicals that will quickly break down the stone. Within two to three years the marble may well require extensive repair or even replacement. So how should marble be maintained?

“Busy facilities can have the same marble in perfect condition year after year because they engage the services of a professional stone care expert and increasingly totally outsource their stone maintenance whether it be marble, granite or sandstone in the interior or exterior environment,” explains McDonnell.

“Using advanced and specialised techniques and products for cleaning, protecting and restoring natural and dimensional stone surfaces in every setting is vital. All natural stone should be sealed with a quality penetrating sealer to protect it from spilt liquids.”

Standard household cleaning products are not formulated to clean marble. Products designed specifically for stone cleaning should be used to help with the renewal and upkeep of it.

PARQUET PRESERVATION
When parquet flooring was first introduced as an alternative to marble, the market claimed it was easier to maintain. However, with technological advancements in marble maintenance, they are now both competing for market share. So how easy is it to maintain parquet?

Shahriar Khodjasteh, group marketing director of Al Aqili Furnishings, says: “The wooded parquet blocks are sealed to maintain the special qualities and optics that are achieved through the structure of wood. The maintenance varies depending on how the parquet is sealed. For sealed wooded floors it is quite simple but this will of course depend on how much wear it is subjected to.”

In order to keep the wooden flooring looking its best, Khodjasteh recommends the following guidelines:
* Check that office chairs have wheels that are suitable for parquet floors. For chairs, tables and other furniture suitable felts attached to the points where contact with the floor will prevent scratching etc;
* Narrow heels and shoes have a high wear out and so an intensive maintenance or better protection is necessary;
* The edges of steps have a high wear out and so an intensive maintenance or better protection is necessary;
* Dirt and sand are abrasive and should be cleaned away immediately.
Spillages on this type of flooring can be wiped up easily without staining the floor, if they are cleaned up immediately. A broom, mop or vacuum cleaner can be used to clean the floor and when needed a slightly damp cloth can be used.

“The floor must never be flooded with water and all liquids on the floor must be cleaned up immediately, as this can lead to warping of the wood and discolouration,” explains Khodjasteh.

As the seal on the wood wears naturally, it is important to observe the floor for areas that are subjected to the most use (wear and tear). Suitable parquet maintenance liquids are available from manufacturers or at specialist flooring shops.

NATURAL WOOD WATCH
Keeping a wood floor in good condition is very straight forward as long as the basic cleaning guidelines are adhered to. The daily cleaning process is very quick and as long as heavily worn areas are attended to properly the floor can last for many years.

The procedures for maintaining an oiled wooden floor vary from that of the sealed floor. The same basic guidelines as given in the parquet section should be observed, but for full cleaning the following basic equipment is necessary:
* A home sweep mop;
* Five litres of wood floor soap, natural or white depending on the colour of the oil that the wood has been treated with;
* One litre of intensive cleaner;
* Stain remover.

Khodjasteh explains that if the floor has individual stains they can be cleaned with a cloth using wood floor soap (proportions 1:40) and smaller stains can be cleaned using an intensive cleaner.

Bigger floor areas should be cleaned weekly with a home sweep mop using wood floor soap and warm water (same ratio as above). Very dirty floors can be wiped first with intensive cleaner (proportions 1:20).

“In very hard worn areas it is recommended (in addition to the soap maintenance) to apply a thin layer of oil two to four times a year if the floor begins to look grey and dull. The floor has to be cleaned thoroughly before the oil layer is applied,” says Khodjasteh.

For oiled and waxed floors, the same basic steps apply. But a maintenance wax like Tana WX20 should be used, along with a polish machine to buff the waxed floor and keep the shine.

CARPET CONSERVATION
Away from the cold flooring options, InterfaceFLOR’s Mike Leney explains why “people should square up to the practical benefits of carpet tiles.”

He thinks that for ease of maintenance as well as a contemporary, high quality look, the answer is in modular flooring. “Practical and versatile, carpet tiles offer a strong argument against traditional broadloom carpet. Not only do they look great but they are easy to replace should any become damaged,” he explains.

John Blackbond, a site services adviser at InterfaceFLOR says, “with a regular maintenance program in place, it is simple to keep modular flooring looking good.”

Manufacturers help with preventative maintenance by using stain-resistant materials and fibres. A tile can simply be lifted up and using a mild detergent, rinsed under a tap and then replaced – without compromising the floor design or incurring any extra cost.

“A number of myths surround carpet cleaning, but the first essential point is to identify your specific maintenance needs,” says Blackbond. “The concern that once you start cleaning carpet tiles a downward spiral of deterioration begins is unfounded. Man-made fibres don’t wear out quickly. A lot of people perhaps don’t appreciate the benefits of maintenance or understand how easy it is to implement a cost-effective regime to prolong the product’s life.”

“Optimising the flooring’s visual performance, however, starts with the original choice of colour and design. For example, darker colours and irregular patterning are less likely to show dirt than light, plain designs and this should be considered at the time of purchase,” adds Leney.

Khodjasteh also manufacturers carpet tiles and explains that: “Depending on the environment that the carpet will be in, multiple options can be given that will prolong the life of the carpet.

“The protective layer beneath the carpet can be selected; in high-traffic areas this could be thicker so that less damage is done to the actual surface layer.”

A FOUR-POINT MAINTENANCE PLAN FOR CARPET TILES
1. The inclusion of barrier mats in areas where footfall is highest – for example, reception areas, lobbies and hallways. Barrier matting is usually available in a choice of colours and can even incorporate logos so they won’t detract from the overall aesthetics of the floor space.

2. Ensure you use the right type of vacuum cleaner on the carpet tiles. A twin-motor upright cleaner is far more effective than a suction-only vacuum. Carpet tiles have an impervious backing material and a suction-only cleaner cannot create airflow through the carpet to draw out dirt. A twin-motor cleaner will first agitate the carpet fibres with a rotary action to loosen dirt and then suck it up. “Using a suction cleaner will have only a limited effect,” Blackbond says.

3. An effective maintenance program to ensure cleaning staff check carpeted areas for spots and stains every time they clean. “A new stain is easier to treat and remove before it sets or hardens,” explains Blackbond. “By using a spotter on the stain as soon as it is noticed, it can be dealt with immediately. Initially stains may not be noticeable but, if allowed to build up over weeks and months they become hard to ignore.”

4. Implement a maintenance program where professional carpet cleaners are used. This should be carried out according to usage of the carpeted area. For heavy volumes of traffic, it should be at least every three months; medium usage, every six months and light usage once a year. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines, the cleaners will use the appropriate cleaning methods and products.
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