How Flooring Selection Impacts Maintenance Protocols
Flooring is a major investment in any facility – and with it comes the costs associated with maintaining it. From cleaning products and maintenance equipment to personnel salaries, flooring upkeep can quickly become a substantial operational outlay. In addition, downtime from extensive maintenance regimens can lower employee productivity resulting in lost revenue. Because of this, flooring selection can impact maintenance in a number of ways.
Laying the Foundation
Whether it’s a renovation or new construction, flooring directly affects a building’s aesthetic appeal. However, specification should be a purpose-driven choice – meaning the use of the building and how the flooring will impact its use should be taken into consideration. If the space sees a great deal of foot traffic or is subject to heavy rolling loads, then flooring material that is easily scuffed or scratched will contribute to losing its “like new” appearance. However, resilient flooring types are less likely to suffer damage from overuse, making them an ideal choice for high-traffic spaces.
Determining the overall objective of the space will help narrow selection. For example, healthcare facilities have strict standards for using aseptic and hypo-allergenic material, while educational spaces often require flooring that improves concentration with enhanced acoustic properties. The activities of the building’s occupants should be considered as well. Workers who are on their feet for significant periods of time each day – such as teachers and nurses – will require flooring with greater ergonomic properties.
Cleaning and maintenance regimens can vary greatly depending on the space. Some flooring manufacturers offer training programs to help facility managers customize their maintenance protocols for specific applications. However, cleaning practices can compromise spaces that require maximum uptime. Flooring that can be cleaned both quickly and quietly – without the use of chemicals that release harmful emissions – can help reduce downtime while improving indoor air quality (IAQ). In addition, non-coated flooring that doesn’t need stripping or recoating can provide additional cost savings and lower operational downtime even further.
Reducing Installation Time
Limited budgets and tight construction schedules often force building owners to find creative ways to take shortcuts. While flooring installation is not an area where they should be cutting corners, there are materials that can greatly reduce labor and material costs. Flooring products that have a pre-applied, solvent-free adhesive layer eliminates the need for a messy, time-consuming, wet adhesive system.
Without the need for subfloor prep, floors can be cleaned or walked on immediately after installation. This helps minimize inconveniences to those working in occupied buildings – especially in busy facilities that operate 24/7. With self-adhesive flooring, facilities can be operational as soon as installation is complete.
Both the composition of flooring as well as its maintenance protocols can have a direct impact on the environment. Harsh cleaning chemicals can compromise the health of maintenance staff as well as building occupants. Maintenance protocols vary among resilient flooring materials, but products such as premium rubber can be easily cleaned using only water and a mop. Flooring that can be maintained naturally results in cleaner air, while lowering operational costs.
Total Cost of Ownership
Flooring is no longer seen as simply a first cost product. While in the past, facility managers were largely focused on aesthetics and/or the initial cost of flooring, they are now taking a more holistic view and considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the expected lifespan of the product.
Because maintenance comprises up to 80 percent of the cost of flooring over its usable life, selecting a flooring system with a low-maintenance protocol can result in significant saving for building owners. Using Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) – which takes into consideration first cost as well as costs associated with installation, maintenance and even disposal – can help facility managers determine which product will provide the lowest TCO.
Keeping up Appearances
Flooring maintenance can also enhance a company’s brand equity. While it is important to specify a flooring system that aligns with a company point of view, it’s equally important to select a material that can maintain its original luster for years to come. When flooring requires a more robust maintenance regime, has a shorter life span and/or fails to meet specific performance requirements, it can result in replacement or other costly modifications to a space.
Significance of Sustainability
While flooring materials may be easy to care for, they often fail to pass the sustainability test. Sustainable flooring starts at the source – including how and where the product is manufactured as well as its material composition. However, sustainability can also relate to the durability and resiliency of flooring, which can enhance the product’s longevity and TCO. There are two things to look for in resilient flooring that will improve its life span. Flooring that is dimensionally stable won’t shrink or expand and eliminates the need for welding. In addition, flooring that doesn’t require waxing, stripping or finishing typically has a longer life cycle.
The Long View of Maintenance
It’s important to find the right balance between flooring that meets the needs of the building and its occupants, while being mindful of maintenance protocols that can greatly affect TCO. In addition to healthcare and education, mass transportation has benefited greatly from specifying resilient flooring materials using LCCA and an evidence-based design (EBD) strategy, which relies on credible research to determine product selection. In the case of mass transportation – where ridership continues to rise – the need for durable, sustainable flooring with low-maintenance protocols has become compulsory.
Other market segments, including retail, office buildings, museums and other public spaces, are embracing LCCA and EBD as a way to ensure materials specified for the build environment contribute to an aesthetically appealing environment, while offering a sustainable solution that’s durable, resilient and easy to maintain.
Maintenance plays a vital role in a floor’s TCO with expenses such as labor, supplies and equipment which are essential for long-term upkeep. Selecting flooring that is easy to maintain, requires minimal cleaning products and never needs to be stripped or recoated can greatly reduce TCO and operational outlay over the lifespan of the product.
Tasha Hughes is a Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at nora® systems, Inc.