Flooring: Focusing on Post-Installation Issues
With the range of flooring options continuing to expand, maintenance managers can become overwhelmed easily when specifying flooring for their institutional and commercial facilities. But by involving their staffs in the process, the task of ensuring proper selection, installation and care for flooring systems stands a greater chance of delivering a range of benefits.
"The maintenance team needs to be part of the planning of the overall project at the initial phases," says Brian Saker of Armstrong World Industries, adding that designers and architects "cannot select the flooring and then hand it over to facilities management to take care of it. There has to be a clear understanding of what the facility's objectives are during the planning process and before the installation."
To prevent post-installation problems, managers and their staffs need to consider a project's life-cycle costs and establish a comprehensive maintenance plan long before installation.
Taking The Long View
During the specification process, too many managers specify flooring products based on lowest cost without looking at the big picture. Taking that approach can result in higher costs down the road.
"We have tried to convince managers to look at the life-cycle costs for many years," says Melissa Quick of Flexco Floors. "While they can put a less expensive product on the floor during the initial installation, they need to consider the cost to maintain the floor over the years and then possibly consider a more durable and slightly more expensive product on the front end that will cost less money to maintain. The slightly higher costing product will probably last longer than the cheaper product."
Among the other issues managers should consider when evaluating a project's life-cycle costs include:
Installation areas. "The biggest issue in looking at life-cycle costs when evaluating a flooring system is they're not looked at on a space-by-space basis," Saker says. "The life-cycle costs really have three components — initial cost, ongoing maintenance and replacement costs. When specifiers take a look at this and don't focus on a space-by-space basis, they get to a number that might not be the real life-cycle cost for the facility. Maintenance procedures used in a corridor are different from the
procedures used in a classroom or an operating room."
Cost. "A life-cycle-cost analysis is a tool to determine the most cost-effective options among competing alternatives," says David Daughtrey of J+J Flooring Group. "This applies to any type of flooring, (providing) alternatives to purchase, own, operate and maintain and possibly disposing of the previous product."
Performance. "Many architects and designers might be specifying products for spaces based on color and design and might not take into consideration the performance of the product and the benefits one product might have over the other," says Jeremy Salomon of Johnsonite Commercial Flooring. "The facility management team is not always involved in the process, so the management group may be familiar with a vinyl composition tile (VCT)-type product, where they require up to five coats of finish on the product, and you go in with a sheet vinyl product that they're not familiar with, and they maintain the product with five coats of finish. That's unnecessary."
Walk-throughs. "Life-cycle costs can actually be minimized post-install by walking the finished job and asking simple questions" of the customer, says Sean McPherson of Empire Today. "When we're done with a job, it's important we meet the customer's expectations."