How to Sustainably Refinish Floors

Jan. 20, 2015

Minimize human health and environmental impacts.

<p>Do your wood, vinyl, or stone floors need to be refinished? Before you reach for harsh chemicals, there are a number of ways to make the processes of revitalizing floors more environmentally friendly.</p><p><strong>Know Your Refurbishment Needs</strong><br> How many different types of floors are in your building? Ones that can be refinished are vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT), terrazzo, and hardwood. Those that can be refurbished are stones like marble, limestone, travertine, and granite.</p><p>All refinishing or refurbishing timelines are affected by traffic and usage variables and the type of finishes used. Harder finishes, for example, usually do not have the same gloss capabilities but hold shine longer between service procedures like buffing or burnishing. VCT, LVT, and terrazzo can be refinished multiple times per year, but proactive maintenance practices will prolong the time between.</p><p>Hardwood floors are normally finished with a catalyzed finish like polyurethane, which gives it more durability under traffic conditions. Excluding gymnasium floors, they are sometimes limited in size or placement in less heavily traveled areas. The hardness of the finish requires a sanding process to remove. Most hardwood owners try to place as much time between refinishing operations as possible because of the cost and business disruption, not to mention the dusty mess it can create.</p><p>Stone flooring also has limitations when refurbishing. Harder stone like granite takes professional service by a stone expert. Softer stone options like marble, limestone, and travertine can be serviced by non-professionals and are much more forgiving during the refinishing process.</p><p>Stripping solutions can be difficult to work with and can cause irritation if they come in contact with bare skin. Stripper slurry should be disposed of in a drain that receives sewer treatment.</p><p>The dust and any polyurethane removed from hardwood during sanding operations can be an inhalation hazard if it escapes the vacuum system on the sanding equipment. Dust collection bags can also spontaneously combust and must be monitored for such danger.</p><p>Stone refurbishing can loosen a lot of stone slurry and disposal can create clogs if not followed by large amounts of water to flush drainage pipes. Working on marble or other calcium stones while dry can also cause an inhalation hazard.</p><p><strong>Maintenance Is the Key to Longevity </strong><br> Floor maintenance is crucial for keeping refinishing operations limited. Many facilities and contractors responsible for these types of flooring services have begun to offer interim services. These options are a type of deep cleaning process but not considered restorative.</p><p>For example, contractors are using a deep scrub and recoat process in place of full stripping and refinishing. An abrasive pad, though not as harsh as a stripping pad, is used to remove the soiled top layers of floor finish. The floor is then recoated without the use of stripping solution. This process can be completed multiple times between stripping and refinishing, which eliminates the use of a floor stripper and having to dump stripper slurry.</p><p>Oscillating machines, common for hardwood sanding operations, are being repurposed for use with water-only stripping. This operation is similar to the deep scrub and recoat. These machines can also be used for dry stripping, which doesn’t require water or a stripping agent.</p><p>Facility managers should never wait until soiling becomes visible or traffic patterns become deeply imbedded into the flooring materials. Maintenance staff should understand the value of tightly orchestrated routine cleaning to remove daily soils almost as soon as they are carried onto the flooring.</p><p>The less grime there is on your floors, the more time you can wait between deep cleaning. In the long run, you reduce operating costs, decrease exposure for workers, use fewer cleaning materials, and minimize chemical disposal.</p><p>Dane Gregory is a Bridgepoint Systems instructor with LGM and Associates, a floor consulting firm. He can be reached at <a href="mailto:Daneg@bridgewatercorp.net">daneg@bridgewatercorp.net</a>.</p>

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