For many years vinyl composition tile (VCT) floors have been the standard in commercial facilities. Recently, however, other types of resilient flooring such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), sheet vinyl,  and marmoleums are increasing in popularity, as is polished concrete. Distributors say facilities that are moving towards these flooring surfaces are recognizing considerable savings on maintenance versus traditional VCT flooring.

VCT has historically been the most inexpensive floor to install, but when factoring in the ongoing maintenance, including refinishing of the floor, it is one of the most expensive choices of floors for its life cycle.

“The most costly of all floor surfaces there is to maintain is Vinyl Composition Tile, without a doubt,” says David Thompson, director of the Academy of Cleaning Excellence.

For example, the traditional 12-by-12-inch square VCT requires three to five coats of floor finish, as well as a decent amount of care to maintain the “wet look” consumers associate with clean. Regular sweeping, dust mopping and wet mopping are customary with any hard surface, but VCT requires regular stripping and refinishing to maintain the shine on a floor. The typical lifespan of the finish on a VCT floor only lasts six months to a year. This means facilities are forced to strip and reapply the finish one to two times every year.

“Stripping and refinishing is one of the most labor intensive things we do in the cleaning industry,” says McGarvey. “The more often you do that, obviously, that just drives up labor costs and the labor is the most expensive part of that equation.”

Newer on the scene in healthcare and educational facilities is no-wax vinyl, a flooring that a manufacturer has applied a coating to and which does not require buffing or waxing. Facilities prefer this flooring type because they don’t have to strip and refinish the flooring, and spills are easily cleaned. For everyday cleaning for this flooring type, a neutral cleaner is all that is needed.

Recognizing the importance of aesthetics, flooring manufacturers are creating products that meet both aesthetic and budget demands. There are designer options that mimic hardwood or stone at a fraction of the cost. There is also an emphasis on materials that reduce maintenance expenses, such as no-wax floors that have no coatings or floors with high-performance coatings that reduce or completely eliminate time-consuming stripping and refinishing work.

Distributors say facilities want the best of both worlds — something inexpensive to install and at the same time inexpensive to maintain.

Another no-wax option is a sheet floor with foam cushioning that helps reduce fatigue, impact-injury and features sound-dampening for busy healthcare settings. These floors are growing in popularity because they have several applications and are easily cleaned and sanitized to hospital-grade specifications.

Rubber flooring, with its long lifecycle and low-maintenance requirements is also gaining momentum. The flooring is naturally slip-resistant, has shock absorbing qualities, absorbs sound and is popular in eco-friendly facilities.

Another flooring type that has been replacing VCT floors in many new and existing commercial facilities is polished concrete. Durability, aesthetics, the high degree of light reflectivity, reduced construction costs, minimal environmental impact, and the ease of maintenance are just a few reasons why this flooring system is quickly becoming the preferred choice of many retailers, architects and engineers.

Polished concrete, unlike VCT, is relatively low-maintenance flooring, since it does not require finishes or sealers, says Dennis Flaherty, vice president of sales at Tahoe Supply, Las Vegas. Polished concrete does, however, require specific preservation methods in order to keep its glossy appearance.

When it comes to stone floor care, distributors say there are upfront costs building owners should take into consideration. Stone floor care requires an initial investment of a floor machine, diamond pads and stone-specific chemicals. These costs are recouped relatively quickly, however, when considering there is less often a need for floor chemicals, strippers and finishes that traditional flooring requires.

Eliminating the stripping and the refinishing and burnishing cycle, distributors estimate a facility reducing its cost from 50 to 65 percent over a strip and burnish floor covering.

All of these alternative flooring options are often referred to as low or no-maintenance flooring. However, these floors still require upkeep.

“There still is a lot of maintenance that needs to be done,” says Jim Smith, executive vice president of HP Products, Indianapolis. “There’s no way around that. They do have to have a maintenance program that has constant dust mopping, and wet clean the floors because you will have situations where they will get embedded dirt and grit in the floor.”


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