Supplement Feature - September 2013
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Hardcore Floors

Environment, Maintenance Vital to Flooring Lifespan

By Deborah L. Vence

Likewise, McKenna said environmental conditions affect hardwood because wood will swell and shrink.

"We have to look at the conditions … not just in the installation, but in terms of the selection process, in picking the best surface for your facility. What is that air quality and what is the intended day-to-day operational model, and how will that impact a surface?" she said.

Voorhees suggested that as managers consider the environmental conditions of their facilities, they should have a pre-construction meeting before the flooring goes in.

"It's a matter of understanding the conditions, what time of year the floor goes in. The moisture content of the wood can expand," he said.

Often when clients run into problems in the installation, for instance, the moisture of the slab has not been addressed, McKenna noted.

"With a concrete slab … once that slab has been installed, if there are issues in controlling moisture that will migrate up the slab into the surface, if that isn't addressed, you can run into some problems," she said. "And that moisture, if it does get trapped in there, the hardwood can swell or impact the glues or the performance and characteristics of the floor."

Problems can arise when a project is behind schedule, too.

"If the owner is anxious to get it completed, and [needs to] hurry up and install the hardwood floor, that's where you can run into some problems," she said.

"In most cases, you have to look at what the materials are. You have to look at the environment, where is the project being built," McKenna said.

Also, facility managers must have a maintenance plan in place and should address certain questions, such as: How are you going to clean your floor? Do you clean it once a week? And, maintenance requirements should be put into your budget and into your plan. If maintenance isn't accounted for in this way, the floor will likely wear quicker. And, consider the different finishes that are available. Don't go with just the first package. Find out what your options are, Swartz advised.

"You have to make sure things don't get on your floor," either. There are simple things that people can do. Entrance mats can cut 80 percent of particulate matter that gets on the floor," he said.

"Wood is pretty and lasts a long time, and there is a maintenance commitment that you must be arduous about. There is no shortcut. If you ignore it, it will be a problem. If the floor is too sticky or too slippery, you have to address those issues," he added.

Other questions you have to ask include: Is the recreation facility going to have dance classes, sports, line dancing with leather shoes? You have to sit down and discuss the possible uses. Are we going to have parties in there?

Moreover, during maintenance and upkeep, Swartz suggested that facilities should stay away from bleach and acetone for hardwood floors. Instead, opt for a mid-pH cleaner to cleanse wood floors.

If that's not enough, "We always recommend to call other clients who have these products and test them out, and talk to somebody who's had these floors, how they address the maintenance to the floor, architects, relative to specifications, and warranties, and maintenance, how to properly clean the floor," McKenna said.

"Going to see that firsthand is one of the best things owners can do when they are trying to evaluate," she said. "Usually manufacturers are happy to show them installations close by. How is it performing? Is it easier to repair? How often do you have to resurface? We often encourage owners to do that as well.

"We are constantly looking at new surfaces, staying on top of the latest," she added. But, "Nothing beats going on a floor and walking on it to see whether or not that would be a floor they would like."