by Meredith Brown, Regional Architect and Design Manager, Professional Flooring Supply
Proper care and maintenance of any product extends its functional life expectancy and ensures the product will perform as desired. Flooring is no exception to this rule. Each type of flooring has its own maintenance guidelines that may become even more specific among each manufacturer. Understanding how the required maintenance protocol will affect the end user is as integral a component of a successful specification as is the understanding of how a specific wear layer or yarn type will impact them.
Life Cycle Cost Analysis
Among the first questions asked should be; is the client educated about the benefits of installing a low maintenance floor with a lower life cycle cost as opposed to choosing a high maintenance flooring option with a lower initial installation cost? Do they actually understand how to compare life cycle costs between finish selections? Life cycle cost analysis goes way beyond warranty and, as the name suggests, looks at the overall costs associated with the life of the product; from installation, to maintenance, to tear out, and replacement. It may even include how much electricity and water are being consumed to maintain the product and costs to dispose of the product at the end of its use.
The shift in industry focus toward evaluating long term budgetary implications by analyzing and comparing these costs is allowing designers and end users to make more educated choices in flooring selection. Potentially the most impactful category in this analysis are the costs of maintenance, both chemical and physical. Skilled labor forces are shrinking and turn over can be very high for many custodial teams which will mean higher costs associated with continued training and in many cases lack of man power to properly care for flooring. More and more end users are choosing more durable materials that reduce the number of hours required to maintain the floor and create more affordable and sustainable long-term maintenance solutions.
Just like any other thing in this world, there are accessories! The goal of utilizing a low maintenance floor is to minimize complicated and time-consuming maintenance practices and the industry has jumped to assist by coming up with a host of machines designed to further expedite the process and reduce ergonomic stress for the operator. Because of this, it is not enough just to understand the maintenance protocols of a specified flooring type, you must also understand the equipment the end user is planning to clean it with.
Resilient surfaces of both the high and low maintenance variety are disinfected the same way. The cleaning agent must be allowed to dwell before being agitated and removed. If the end user is using an auto scrubber that picks up the cleaning product as soon as it touches the surface, you might be saving labor hours, but you still have a dirty floor and they will not be very happy. If the flooring has a heavier texture, the end user might benefit more from the use of a counter rotating brush machine to clean the low points, provided the brush is not too aggressive. Watch out for certain manufacturers that require the end user to purchases specific buffing pads or cleaning products which can escalate cost or force them to buy outside of their normal channels.
A Valuable Resource
A good architectural rep can be an incredible resource in assisting with finish selection and navigating the maintenance maze. They should not only be well versed in the features and benefits of the flooring itself, but in all aspects of the product from installation to maintenance. This ensures that the best flooring choice for each application is being made based on a holistic and realistic view of the product and its impact on the end user.