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Making the right flooring choice

Cover all the bases before coming to a decision
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
By Robert Kravitz

Recently, owners of a 23-storey condominium complex remodelled the building’s common areas. One of their biggest decisions was what type of flooring to install in the various areas.

Many on the condo’s board of directors didn’t want carpeting installed in the building – even the hallways – because the existing 10-year-old carpet was heavily spotted and soiled, and most of the spots returned after cleaning.

The hard-surface floors were another issue. Over the years, ceramic tile in the lobby had loosened and lifted. As a result, some tiles were raised higher than others. Many of these areas had to be covered with mats to help prevent slips, trips or falls. Additionally, the tile was white – not necessarily the best colour for a heavily trafficked area.

Making the right flooring choice and then installing and maintaining it properly can result in years of durable service and significant cost-savings. Here are some tips to do just that.

Proper carpet selection
When selecting new carpet, one of the first things building managers focus on is the colour and design or the “face” of the carpet. However, this should be the last consideration. In most cases, the back of the carpet is of paramount importance.

Broadloom carpet is installed in both residential and commercial applications. Although it is attractive, broadloom has a porous backing. Spilled materials, food and moisture can seep through the backing, causing it to become a reservoir for bacteria, mould, fungi and mildew to develop. Usually, the only indication a problem might be brewing is odours emanating from the floor. By the time this happens, the carpet may have to be removed and the underfloor cleaned, which can be costly and disruptive.

A more practical option is structured-back carpeting such as carpet tile. With this type of carpeting, spills and debris stay on the surface of the carpet, do not seep through the backing and can typically be removed with proper vacuuming or carpet extraction.

Another consideration is the carpet pile, which is the thickness and length of the fibres used to make the carpet. While a high pile carpet is attractive, a low pile carpet is less likely to shrink, stretch or ripple. Further, it is easier to walk on, which might be a consideration if residents are older or maneuvering carts over the carpet.

As for the carpet face, spills and stains will be more evident on a light-coloured carpet. Further, light-coloured carpets lend themselves to rapid resoiling. This can be caused, for instance, if some chemical residue is left in the carpet after cleaning. The chemical acts as a magnet, pulling soils and stains off shoe bottoms and onto the carpet face.

Proper hard-surface floor selection
Ceramic tile, stone and cement floors can have a shorter life span if not properly installed. They are also often hard to clean and maintain, do not wear well and may prove to be dangerous.

Floor failure typically occurs when soap and detergent residue, soils and moisture seep through the grout or pores of the tile to the subfloor below. Often, this happens if there are large grout lines between the tiles or the tile was not properly grouted when installed. It can also happen over time with age. As contaminants build underneath the tile, they loosen it, causing the tile to shift, lift and buckle.

Auto scrubbers are usually used to clean hard-surface flooring. They effectively wash and rinse floors, and remove soils and moisture in one pass. However, most systems are far too large and costly for a condominium lobby. Because of this, most hard-surface floors are mopped, which can be a slow process. As well, it typically just moves soils from one area to another without really removing the soil from the floor’s surface.

Auto vacuum cleaning systems are another option. With these systems, a trolley bucket dispenses fresh cleaning solution to floors. As it does, the solution is spread evenly over the floor, and a squeegee and vacuum system collects the moisture along with the soils and contaminants.

Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor. He is now a writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. Robert can be reached at 773.525.3021.

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