Surface Care in Aging Facilities

By Lindsay Bartlett-Cupples

Flooring and architectural finishes in an aging facility might look like they need to be replaced but may only need repair and restoration to bring the surfaces back to life.  From stone to terrazzo and concrete, avoiding replacement is good for the environment and your bottom line.
Stone will never go out of style, and if properly maintained, this surface will last the life of the facility.  Marble, granite, travertine and limestone have been used for centuries on vertical and horizontal surfaces due to both attractive appearance and durability. 
Stone surfaces require different care based on material, traffic patterns and usage.  Over the years, wear and performance issues may be visible if stone requiring different maintenance needs were installed side-by-side.  For example, it is not a good idea to pair marble and granite or marble and terrazzo together for several reasons, including variations of density and hardness and care requirements.
Choosing stone from the same family or stone with similar maintenance needs, such as marble and limestone, combined with a tailored routine surface care plan, will help ensure your stone floors last for centuries.  In an aging facility, property and facility managers don’t always have the luxury of a redesign, so paying special attention to the maintenance needs of each type of stone is critical for aesthetics and the stone’s life cycle.
Terrazzo originates from Italian craftsmen who learned to mix marble scraps, discarded material and mortar to make new floors.  This surface has come in and out of popularity over the years, but one thing is certain: no one considers terrazzo to be a short-term commitment.
Terrazzo installed decades ago often yellows and is harder to maintain than today’s modern epoxy terrazzo.  Coatings have been a popular choice to help maintain terrazzo, but as layers of coatings are applied, the floor can start to look dirty and is harder to keep clean.  If an aging facility has layers of coatings, they can be removed and replaced with a maintenance plan that includes mechanical polishing.
When caring for any type of terrazzo, there are many factors to take into consideration—environment, traffic patterns, usage and proper tools to name a few.  For mechanical polishing, there is a fine line between grinding, honing and polishing.  While they may sound like the same process, there are important differences.  It is common to see terrazzo cut through to the subfloor in high traffic areas due to poor “over” maintenance using improper tools and methods.  The result is usually patching or replacing the damaged area.  Patching and replacing terrazzo is never a good look because the color and finish rarely match and are highly visible.
Although most maintenance equipment and supplies are available to the public, a specialized craftsman understands the physics of the job and how to combine the right tools, frequency and methods for the best possible result.  Do your due diligence when hiring a consultant or maintenance provider.  Interview, check references and have them perform a test area to demonstrate their capabilities and expertise.
For decades, asset management has been sold the myth that concrete is maintenance-free, resulting in dissatisfaction over appearance, performance and maintenance issues that inherently arise post-installation.  There is no such thing as a maintenance-free surface.  If floors are walked on, rolled on or simply in existence, they will need to be maintained to ensure a long life.
Concrete requires regular maintenance and care just as your stone, carpet or wood surfaces.  Highly polished concrete will experience appearance loss over time.  Janitorial staff often do not have the best tools to care for the aggregation of wear and tear in high traffic areas, and the frequent restoration model of care results in high costs and facility disruption.  Instead, to maintain polished concrete, invest in a proactive maintenance plan performed by a skilled specialist.
Concrete is a popular choice in aging facilities because it can be poured over floors that formerly had tile and grout carpet and other surfaces.  Before taking up existing flooring and replacing with concrete, be aware of common challenges such as uniformity of color, transition heights and unknown conditions under structures like planters and fountains.  Carpet tile and ceramic tile areas may look different when honed and colored.  For areas with tile and grout, testing by an experienced concrete specialist may be needed.  Tests may include a mud bed pull test, density test and material absorption testing to determine the appropriate installation and maintenance plan.
Thankfully, there is a solution to all surface care challenges.  A qualified consultant can provide a field assessment and offer recommendations for existing floors that may involve restoration as needed and an ongoing cleaning and maintenance plan.  If or when the flooring needs to be replaced, the same expert can provide a long-term maintenance strategy, cost analysis and surface recommendations before a flooring investment is made.
Depending on the flooring type, there may be environmentally friendly disposal options and recycling programs to consider.  While recycling programs are a wonderful option, the truly environmentally conscious option is to keep flooring on the floor if possible and out of the landfill.  Your budget and the earth will thank you.
Lindsay Bartlett-Cupples is a Solutionist at DriKlean SOLIDCARE.  SOLID Surface Care, Inc. is a unified team of surface care experts who provide the highest level of care for all hard and soft surfaces while simultaneously providing a world-class client experience.  The company is diligent about going beyond the surface to grasp the brand and culture of each client and develop a customized Consolidated Care Plan, all with an advanced data management platform that assures immediate information and transparency.  Lindsay may be reached at [email protected].
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