Understanding What’s Required

by Stan Hulin, President, The League of Hard Flooring Professionals

Did you know that the most significant period in the floor care cycle is daily/routine maintenance? In this article, first in a series that explores the desired expectations versus actual results of floor care maintenance, Stan Hulin discusses each service provider’s responsibility to maintaining a floor. He also breakdowns each period during an annual resilient floor care program implementation and examines the need for flooring maintenance to become a team effort.

The professional floor maintenance technician can be generally characterized as an unpretentious individual that takes pride in their work. They have spent their entire career honing a skill that for the most part goes unnoticed and when it does get noticed, it is usually in the form of the question “Are you done yet?” Still they soldier on and provide meaningful services to their customers when they call or on a consistent periodic schedule. When they are done providing those services, the floors look wonderful and everyone is happy. The challenge is that the floor maintenance service provider does not have complete control of the floor maintenance program.

Floor maintenance is the act of maintaining the integrity, cleanliness, appearance and safety of the flooring material.

It is accomplished by using various cleaning, refinishing and restorative procedures that are carried out at specific intervals; initial, daily/routine, periodic and restorative. When the service procedures and time periods are linked together, it becomes the floor maintenance program.

The floor maintenance service provider is responsible for setting up the program and is often involved in the initial or restorative maintenance, which allows them to establish the baseline. Once the acceptable standard is set, they generally secure the periodic maintenance and return systematically to reestablish the baseline. The dilemma is that the daily or routine maintenance is almost always taken care of by a separate building service contractor, in house staff or sometimes by the company that occupies the space. This predicament presents the floor maintenance provider with an almost insurmountable challenge because they are tasked with administering the floor maintenance program, but have no control over the most significant period in the floor maintenance cycle – the daily/routine maintenance.

Daily/routine maintenance is the act of removing dry particulate and moderate soiling that may be adhered to the floor surface. It does not matter what type of flooring it is, all categories textile and hard surface are subjected to the same conditions. Dry soil in the form of grit, sand, silt and clay contain minute minerals with sharp edges that damage the fibers of carpet and the polish or surface of hard surface flooring. The more frequent these damaging soils are removed the less damage they can cause, which is why this maintenance period is so important. Although the textile and hard surface removal methods differ, they accomplish the same objective, the removal of soil that accumulates daily on a regular basis.

The perception of daily or routine maintenance is that it is only sweeping and mopping or just vacuuming and spotting, and that anyone can do it.

The truth of the matter is that it is absolutely true that anyone can do it, but most untrained people do it wrong.

To most people not engaged in the floor maintenance industry, daily/routine maintenance is something that they have to do, but they could not care less about the science or purpose of what they are doing.
The untrained may hurry through the dry removal process to get it done as quickly as possible. They often walk back and forth with a dust mop thinking they are removing all the soil as they leave a trail of minute particles behind the overloaded dust mop. Then they may mop the floor with cleaning solution that has been sitting in the closet for days with an over saturated dirty mop allowing the soil to settle right back down on the floor surface to build up over time.

The daily/routine maintenance period is the most abused of all the maintenance periods and because of it, the floor maintenance program suffers dramatically.

When you consider the math behind the floor maintenance program you can easily see why the simplest of service procedures can complicate the entire program. The program consists of the initial or restorative time period in which the baseline is set (performed 1 time), then the daily/routine maintenance is done frequently (usually 1, 3, 5 days per week), followed by periodic services which are performed (monthly, quarterly, etc.).

If you look at a standard annual program consisting of restorative maintenance 1 time a year, periodic maintenance quarterly (3 times a year) and daily/routine maintenance 3 times a week, the percentages tell the story. The restorative process occurs .27%, the periodic services are performed .82% and the daily/routine maintenance happens 42.75% of the time. 56.16% of the time there is no maintenance at all. What this tells us is that the floor maintenance professional is actually performing services less than 1% of the entire program.

Even if you change the annual program to consist of restorative maintenance 1 time a year, periodic maintenance monthly (11 times a year) and daily/routine maintenance 5 times a week, the percentages reveal the facts. The restorative process is still .27%, the periodic services increase to 3.01% and the daily/routine maintenance increases to 71.23% of the time leaving 25.49% of the time without maintenance. You can adjust the frequencies all you want, but the equation will always result in a higher percentage of time spent on the daily/routine maintenance than any of the other service procedures.

Understanding this problem may be all that you can do about it. Most times trying to get custodial staff, in house staffs and occupants to perform the proper services is an exercise in futility and ends up in frustration. Sometimes you can work with them and offer up free training to teach their technicians how to properly dust mop and wet mop, which often contributes to better results and relations. Unfortunately this would make one business a training entity that should already be covered in the scope of the company charged with the service. If you can get those that perform the daily/ routine maintenance services to understand that they are part of a bigger team and that what they do does matter, you may get them to do their job better.

Floor maintenance responsibility also lies with those that sell the flooring.

As you can see identifying an already apparent problem somewhat absolves the humble technician and floor maintenance service provider, however the responsibility does not fall fully on the custodial staff, in house staffs and occupants alone.

There are many floor coverings on the market today, some work well in some environments, while others may struggle in that same environment. The process of selecting the right product for the right conditions can only be resolved through an analytical process that encompasses all of the factors that the flooring material will be exposed to. The same can be said about the chemical coating systems selected to protect them.

It is critical to understand that the performance perceptions of the flooring material or chemical systems are directly related to the sales persons selling them. The purchaser of the flooring material and chemical systems relies on the expertise of the company that sells them the products to ensure what they are buying really meets their needs. The harsh cold reality of a flooring material or finish failure is often blamed on the people who take care of the floor even when the conditions that the floor is exposed to are beyond the capability of the flooring material and chemical systems.

Although understanding the importance of daily/routine maintenance within the floor maintenance program is essential, it is equally important to realize what the proper daily/routine floor maintenance service procedures are. Additionally, just knowing what they are does not constitute knowing how to perform them, the only way to get that is through education and training.

When the right flooring material is installed and the right floor maintenance program is incorporated, the only thing left is executing the program, which, as you can see, is a team effort.


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Author:
Stanley Hulin

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