The summer break is the perfect time of the year for custodians in educational facilities to strip, clean, and refinish floors.
When you think about it, floors in educational facilities, especially in common areas such as hallways and cafeterias, take an amazing amount of abuse. Students’ rubber-bottomed sneakers, movement of desks and chairs from one area to another, and tracked-in weather – rain, snow, and ice – can all punish floors and their finish as well. An educational facility’s floor finish must hold up to all these types of use and abuse, remain durable, protect the floor beneath, and even manage to retain its shine under tough conditions. It is important to have an effective floor refinishing program in place.
An effective floor refinishing program takes the right tools, equipment, chemicals, and training. The most important component of this program is selecting a floor finish with outstanding durability and performance designed to resist all the wear and tear we can expect in an educational facility.
Floor care work is both labor and time intensive. A high-quality finish can minimize not only floor refinishing cycles but also interim work such as burnishing, buffing, recoating, scrubbing, and recoating/refinishing. Some of these tasks will be necessary during the school year no matter what type of finish has been applied. But reducing their frequency by using a superior floor finish allows custodial workers to pay more attention to other vital cleaning tasks needed in the facility.
The Time Issue
According to ISSA, the worldwide cleaning trade association, it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 80 minutes to strip 1,000 square feet of floor space. The floor refinishing times vary based on the size of the rotary machine used to strip the floor. A school custodial worker will typically use either a 17-inch or a 20-inch machine. The rotations per minute (RPMs) of the floor machine can further impact time and labor. A machine with 350 RPMs, compared to one with 175 RPMs, can help reduce the time it takes to strip a floor.
All this means that an area of 5,000 square feet with all desks and obstructions removed from the floor could take from 3.5 hours to 7 hours to strip. Wet pickup, which involves removing the floor stripping chemicals and moisture from the floor, can add more time. Most schools are far larger than 5,000 square feet, but this shows just how much time stripping a floor requires.
Another step in the finishing process is curing which is the amount of time for one coat of finish to thoroughly dry. Curing time can vary from a couple of hours to several hours depending on a variety of conditions. It is important to remember that the finish dries from the top down. This means that while the top surface of a freshly refinished floor may feel dry to the touch, the finish below the surface may not be dry. Not allowing enough time for the finish to thoroughly dry before applying another coat can make the floor less durable – so it will not wear as well. This increases labor and time in the long run, which is obviously counter to the goals of an effective floor finishing program.
One way to speed curing times is to install air movers at strategic areas over the floor. Also, air conditioning systems should be running to help remove humidity from the air. However, one of the most effective steps school administrators and custodians can take is to investigate new floor finish technologies with fast-drying formulas. With some more advanced floor finishes the curing time can be reduced to as short as 10 to 15 minutes. This means that four coats of finish, the minimum number of coats in a floor refinishing program, should take only about one hour, significantly reducing the amount of time to refinish the floor.
School administrators should never underestimate the importance of clean, high-gloss floors. Floors are invariably the first thing students, teachers, and parents see upon entering the school. Clean, well-maintained floors tell everyone they are in a healthy, well-cared-for place to learn and work. And putting an effective floor refinishing plan in place reduces the amount of labor and time it takes to accomplish this goal.
For more information on floor finishes and help with your floor care challenges, contact a Betco representative at 1-888-Go-BETCO.
Rob Dodson with Betco Corporation