The purchaser of hard-surface flooring has a number of critical issues to evaluate, focusing on how well the flooring material fits the environment, as well as quality, design and color, installation, and maintenance considerations.
Needless to say you must choose the right flooring material so you won't have problems later. For schools, you need high performance and durability and materials that won't show wear. As noted earlier, be conscious of the feet on the chairs, desks, and furnishings to ensure they won't leave indentations or marks; flat and smooth is what you should be looking at and ease of maintenance. For hospitals, in patient rooms with heavy beds and occupants, you should have a floor that will not indent. Indentations have created hundreds of complaints and lead to dissatisfaction, argument, and costly replacements.
Regardless of which hard-surface or resilient flooring material and solution you select, it should always be of the highest quality possible. Materials imported from outside the United States may be less expensive, but there may be quality issues that create stability problems. If you have a problem with these types of products, there are very often no technical people you can go to for solutions or answers. This has happened recently with several luxury vinyl plank products and sheet goods, where the products shrunk on the floor and had to be replaced.
The flooring must fit the function, not only with performance characteristics that work but with a design and color appropriate for the space. You can actually create art on the floor by being creative with the layout and design of hard surface flooring.
Installation is another critical issue. Flooring material must be installed properly by flooring contractors who are experienced, well financed, and knowledgeable about working with the flooring material and flooring systems you select. This is not a place to skimp; doing so will only create problems that will result in very costly errors. Trying to fix a failed installation after the fact because you tried to save some money on the front end could cost you up to 10 times the original installation cost, especially when you figure in disruption and business interruption — not the kind of problem you want to have.
Lastly — after picking the correct flooring material and having it installed properly and according to the manufacturer's and industry guidelines over a properly prepared and treated substrate — is putting the flooring into service and caring for it. This should include a maintenance plan and schedule. Again, you must follow the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines so you don't destroy the flooring and along with it, your investment.
Every flooring material has a specific procedure for maintenance from sweeping to wet cleaning and applying a finish, if necessary. These guidelines for cleaning and maintenance are typically tied to the warranties, so you have to follow the plan the manufacturer prescribes to ensure that the flooring you selected and installed complies with the warranty relative to maintenance. Not doing so and subsequently damaging the floor will be your problem. This often happens with flooring materials that may be sensitive to a cleaning process employed with previous flooring. For example, if linoleum floors are cleaned with slop mops and lots of water and strong chemicals, they will curl up on the floor and be destroyed. It's no excuse to say that the new linoleum was cleaned this way because this is how the old tile flooring was cleaned. The result of improper cleaning methods is not a product or installation problem but a cleaning procedure issue that the perpetrator of the cleaning will be responsible for.
To recap on how to get the most from resilient and hard surface flooring and how to protect your investment, you have to find the flooring that fits the function and delivers the performance and life expectancy desired. Select designs that complement the space and create the look that's most desirous. Have the flooring installed by professionals who know what they're doing and have the credentials, experience and financial wherewithal to get the job done correctly. Maintain the new flooring so that it will deliver the performance expected for as long as possible. Hard surface flooring will deliver excellent service for many years but it will also fail quickly if you don't follow that straightforward advice.
Lewis Migliore is president of LGM and Associates, which offers technical flooring services. Contact him at email@example.com.
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