No such thing as a no-maintenance floor

Richard expounds the importance of new CFA Guidance Note on Cleaning and Maintenance, which is now available exclusively as a benefit to CFA members.

I’M sure regular readers of my column (both of you ) will remember that in a former life I worked for a floorcovering manufacturer, laterally in a technical role supporting our commercial business. One of the more common calls we used to receive, through various channels, was in relation to maintenance or cleaning. This could be from the flooring contractor who fitted the floor, the maintenance manager at the site, an architect or designer, or even the sales team. I’m sure this happens to all manufacturers; in fact, I know it does.

 Almost without fail the call would be worded something like ‘my (insert brand) looks dreadful and cannot be cleaned’. And so, a site visit would take place and invariably it would transpire that the floor simply wasn’t being cleaned properly. It was usually quite easy to demonstrate this and often the end-user (or their cleaning contractor) would be embarrassed at how little they’d taken notice of the guidance that had been provided.

 There’s nothing positive that can be taken from an initial ‘complaint’, which is actually about the inability to clean a floor. There’s usually an unhappy client whose default position (rightly or wrongly) is to judge the floor itself is at fault or even defective. Rarely did we get a call saying, ‘I’m not cleaning my floor correctly can you help me?’.

This situation can cause a strain on relationships and often involves flooring contractors in an issue that is nothing to do with fitting the floor, albeit they may have a contract to supply and fit so cannot ignore.

The answer is simple; actually, no it’s not. If it were then the issue would occur much less frequently or not at all. You might argue that the contractor (if also the specifier) and manufacturer in a supporting role (particularly if involved in the specification), needs to provide good information about how a floor should be cleaned and maintained. And of course, that’s true. But most manufacturers do have excellent information that’s easy to find on their websites and I’d like to think that most contractors offer operation and maintenance (O&M) guidance of some sort. Mmm, maybe not always or on every job.

However, despite some excellent information and advice that is available, as an industry we need further help in dealing with cleaning and maintenance queries as quickly and effectively as possible.

The CFA council and I are very conscious of things that add to the administrative burden of the supply chain and are constantly seeking ways in which we can offer additional support to assist with these issues. This is where the new CFA Guidance Note on Cleaning and Maintenance comes in, which is now available exclusively as a benefit to CFA members.

The Guidance Note covers many of those difficult and sometimes hidden matters relating to cleaning and maintenance that can be hard to identify and discuss. If delivered as independent ‘industry best practice’ this information can reduce conflict, as well as help solve the issue.

 The document applies to all floors and it doesn’t matter who manufactured or fitted them. It defers to manufacturers’ recommendations but covers subjects that aren’t always featured in maintenance advice. The following is part of the introduction that hopefully explains a little more about some of the insights the Guidance Note offers:
 
Keeping a floor clean is vitally important not just because of hygiene, which is of course essential, but also a well cleaned floor will last longer, retain its appearance and optimise safety aspects. Conversely a poorly maintained floorcovering can lose its visual aesthetic, become less safe in relation to slip resistance and wear prematurely, thereby reducing the return on the investment. While maintenance isn’t the only factor that influences the performance of a floor in use (floorcoverings can become slippery owing to contamination), both cleaning (regular removal of soiling) and maintenance (less frequent planned activity) are vitally important in ensuring a floorcovering remains safe and retains optimum aesthetics and performance. It’s sometimes argued that poorly maintained floorcoverings are no longer fit-for-purpose in use. This is why it’s so important there is a common understanding of correct and recommended floor cleaning and maintenance across all the parties that are involved in the flooring design, specification, installation and care in use.

 In the CFA, our members are regularly asked to comment on poorly or incorrectly maintained floors where there’s nothing wrong with the product or installation, yet the client believes it to be defective. This is costly in time to manage the query or complaint and potentially damaging to long-term relationships and repeat orders.
 Unrealistic customer expectation or understanding in relation to maintenance can be an issue. All floorcoverings need cleaning and maintaining yet it’s not uncommon for a client to express surprise if a floor becomes soiled even if it’s never cleaned. Various practical assessments have shown more than 75% of soiling within a building comes from the outside and yet buildings often have inadequate entrance flooring systems (barrier matting) or maintenance regimes for them specifically in place.

 While superficially appearing similar owing to frequent use and heavy foot traffic, offices and hospitals will differ greatly in terms of cleaning. The cleaning and maintenance of a building should therefore be part of the initial considerations in design. Cleaning cupboards and access to water need to be part of the design process and fully considered. Other factors, such as the nature and use (eg 24/7 access) of a building, all need to be factored into choices made around flooring and how floor finishes are cleaned.

This guidance note exposes some hidden facts, supports well researched good practice and helps untangle aspects of poor practice and unhelpful guidance that is all too common surrounding the cleaning and maintenance of floorcoverings.

 As with all flooring, the appearance, performance and durability of the installed floorcovering will be determined to a large extent by the quality of the prepared subfloor and the conditions in which it is laid.
 
Jumping forward, the Guidance Note discusses some issues that are all too commonly seen onsite and if pointed out early in the life of a complaint, might avoid escalation such as inspecting a cleaning cupboard to ensure that manufacturer’s instructions are available. Are the correct cleaning solutions onsite and is there evidence they are being used? Check that cleaners know the correct dilution rates and ensure all equipment is clean and stored safely.

 Too many times, technical representatives visit sites to find dirty mops stored in stagnant water. If mopping larger areas, a double bucket mopping system should really be used. The CFA Guidance Note includes these and other gems of wisdom that might help resolve a problem and be useful in future specifications.

Written by a subcommittee of the CFA manufacturers committee, peer reviewed by the manufacturer members who attend, and with input from a cleaning consultant, this will be a very useful document for CFA members. You can find it in the members area of the CFA website now.
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