Steve Starcher

XL North Tactical Group member Steve Starcher has been working in the commercial flooring maintenance industry for 30 years and is currently the President of Timco, a flooring maintenance company, operating in the Chicagoland area. He has been there since 2003. Steve is also an IICRC RFMT TAC member and course instructor.

floor finishLVTmaintenance

In my experience, most Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) floors can reach their expected life cycle with very good maintenance practices set in place immediately after the installation. The 1st step in establishing best practices is to become familiar with the manufacturer’s’ maintenance specifications. However, some of them do not include an option for a periodic spray buffing process after the first few years of installation which in my opinion can be a helpful step in keeping any LVT flooring looking good. Recommended dry buffing procedures usually do not produce the desired results.

Even though most LVT products are sold with a no finish (no wax) recommendation, poor maintenance practices often result in the need to apply some type of finish at some point to reach the expected life cycle of the product. Abused or very high traffic LVT installations almost certainly will need one or multiple finish applications at some point to reach a desired life expectancy. No matter the situation, location or type of LVT product that is installed, the question of whether to apply or not apply a floor finish to an LVT product can often be tricky to answer.

Here are a few problems that I have encountered while working with LVT products and end users, especially when discussing a finish application option.

Problem #1: Confusion

The manufacturer’s info states “no wax”, “finish not required”, or other similar claims. This is often confusing for the customer and leads them to believe that an additional finish will never be needed. The cost savings marketing of never entering the strip/wax cycle also leads many customers to believe that a finish will never need to be applied. Most customers tell me that they bought the LVT product to avoid the stripping cycles for the life of the product. Some manufacturer reps also tell customers that “wax will not stick” to this flooring.

Unfortunately, the customer rarely reads the full maintenance specifications and does not know that finish applications are usually listed as options in most cases despite the marketing language or selling approach. Product reps and sales people often do not point this out either meaning that when a maintenance company rep suggests a finish application for a restoration procedure to an end user their recommendation is often challenged.

Additionally, some end users have installed an LVT product in a location that cannot be shut down for a finish application or stripping service. This can be a chief reason that the product was chosen and offering a finish application for restoration can produce some initial frustration.

I completely understand the points of view on all sides of this problem. However, because of this level of confusion, I spend the most time walking customers through the maintenance specifications of LVT products when compared to all other products combined.

Problem #2: Overselling the Durability of the Product

This is usually done unintentionally, but when the hardness and durability of a polyurethane protective layer is described and promoted in combination with the lack of need for finish or “wax”, the customer’s perception is often that the product’s need for any maintenance, other than mopping, is minimal. Therefore, this product often does not get the necessary periodic scrubbing as outlined in the manufacturer’s specifications, and it is likely that even the mopping program is less frequent than other flooring types.

I often meet with customers who are currently unhappy with the product’s appearance and do not feel that it is easy to clean but have not yet done anything other than mop the floor because of their misconceptions with the needed maintenance.

Problem #3: The Products’ Textural Characteristic Problem is not Fixed with a Proper Acrylic Finish Application

Many customer maintenance problems with any LVT product are based simply on the use of standard string mops and white or red pads that are not effectively cleaning the floor due to the textured surface of the product. Using a soft brush and microfiber technology usually fixes maintenance problems that are simply rooted in poor removal of dirt or soil. Likewise, the lack of any vacuuming activity to remove dry soils or dirt from the “low areas” of the product can be problematic. To combat the textured surface cleaning challenges, too many customers or janitorial services choose to apply a finish to fix these problems thinking that the cured finish will fill low spots in the wear layer and negate the textural challenge to maintaining the product. While a finish application might accomplish this on a microscopic level, it will not alleviate textural cleaning challenges.

It should be mentioned here that while textured surfaces provide certain cleaning challenges, using ill-advised cleaning product choices on a nonabsorbent flooring material that need to be rinsed off in order to not leave a dirt attractive residue definitely exacerbate cleaning challenges. It is my belief that our entire industry needs to be more diligent in educating our customers on this cleaning product choice problem.

Problem #4: Spray Buff or Finish Application is often the only way to Restore the Appearance of an LVT Product

With problems 1-3 in consideration, many LVT installations reach a point where only an aggressive spray buffing or finish application will restore the floor to a “like new” or desired appearance. Customers can be angry, disappointed or confused when this opinion is offered. It is at this point that the finish options listed in the manufacturer’s maintenance specifications are presented to the customer by our company, and most are surprised to see that these options exist.

Many are reluctant to consider this option due to the marketing info or statements made by a rep, designer, or architect. One customer told me that she did not want to present the finish application proposal to her boss because she had described the floor as a no wax product when they bought it.

Problem #5: Matte vs. Gloss Finish Option is not Presented

When a finish application is discussed, many customers are not given a matte finish option and are unhappy with the gloss look afterwards. Customers see an installed matte product become shiny, and if they are not in a shiny is clean environment, it’s not a desirable look. One customer said that their product “looked like wood” and now “it looked plastic” after a gloss finish application. Matte or low gloss finishes usually maintain the “out of the box look” of LVT products.

Problem #6: Micron, Urethane, Polyurethane and UV Coating Options can be very Expensive When Compared to a “No Wax” Marketing Strategy

While they can offer immediate and long-term solutions for improving the appearance or protective layer of most LVT floors, when a customer has the mindset that a post installation wax or finish application will not be needed, offering an expensive finish or coating alternate can produce a frustrated customer and limit the selling of these finish products in many cases. Even though these products can produce a similar long-term cost savings story like the installation of the LVT product itself, the initial cost proposal of these products is often negatively received by end users when a “no wax” flooring has been installed.

In closing, it’s important to discuss all manufacturer maintenance specifications for LVT products with end users as soon as possible, and if they’re considering LVT for a new installation, explain that despite what they may have been told a maintenance program will be required on these “no maintenance” floors.

About the XL North Tactical Group

Comprised of trusted industry experts, the XL North Tactical Group provides technical support, troubleshoots issues, and supplies their high level of knowledge and expertise to the XLN team for the benefit of our partners and customers.

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