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Hard facts about hard surface floor care

September 19, 2010
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To begin with, it helps to have a grasp of the four main things it takes to restore and maintain hard surface floors.

For the care of natural stone floors, you need to understand:

  1. Machinery
  2. Diamond abrasives
  3. Chemicals
  4. Knowledge.

Machinery
Many times, a floor service contractor will attempt to take a typical slow-speed rotary floor machine (rpm below 200) and add weights to “convert” the floor machine into a marble machine. This conversion has limited success.

Although adding weight to these types of slow-speed floor machines will indeed assist the machinery in grinding marble floors, one must keep in mind that the motor on these floor machines was not designed to handle the added weight.

This may prematurely wear the motor out.

An additional drawback to these types of machines is that the contractor must remove the weights in the maintenance process of natural stone.

Keeping track of the weights is enough of a problem in itself, not to mention ensuring that no one is using a machine in a way that it was not intended to be used.

By researching the industry and shopping around, you can find machinery that will not require the addition and removal of weights.

In other words, a distributor should provide a true marble machine in their product line.

The floor service contractor or in-house technician will be far better served if provided with this type of machine, which is made from the ground up to handle the rigorous daily routine of stone restoration.

In the long run, this will save the customer or your facility owner time and money.

Diamond abrasives
Diamond abrasives are an extremely important part of the restoration process of natural stone.

There are many products in the market such as powders and creams that claim to be restoration products for stone.

However, if the floor is worn to the point that the reflection is dull, these powders and creams are limited, at best, in their results.

To date, the best way to restore most natural stone floors, including terrazzo, is through the honing process using different grits of diamond abrasives.

This process can take anywhere from four to 10 steps depending on the level of wear on the floor.

Until technology produces an improved stone restoration process, there is no substitute for the result you get from diamond abrasives.

Chemicals
When dealing with stone maintenance, chemicals play an important role.

The maintenance program should always include a good stone cleaner and conditioner.

The application is very simple. If the floor is large, add a small amount of product to the solution tank of a walk-behind or ride-on scrubber.

If the floor is small, simply add the product to mop water.

Using a product like this can do wonders for marble, granite and terrazzo floors. The benefits far outweigh that of a neutral soap.

Products made specifically to clean and condition stone floors generally keep the surface looking very clean while enhancing the natural polish of the floor.

This in turn reduces the amount of powder polishing or crystallization that will be needed, which reduces chemical and labor costs.

The two best ways to polish marble and terrazzo floors are by using powder/paste products or crystallization products.

The powder and paste compounds typically contain oxalic acid among other ingredients. These types of products are generally used with a marble machine and a natural hogs-hair pad.

Oxalic acid-based products are an excellent way to maintain the polish on marble floors; however, there are some drawbacks.

Many times, the customer does not like to use them because they can be messy. If this is the case, you must overcome this by working with the customer, through training, so that the customer can develop confidence in the process.

There are some marbles that these types of products will not work on, and you always want to keep this in mind.

Good examples would be many of the green and maroon colored stones. Attempting to polish these marbles with an oxalic acid compound often produces less than desirable results.

Crystallization is another excellent way to maintain the polish in a stone care program.

These types of products are generally used with a marble machine and steel wool. It is a simple process once training is complete, and unlike oxalic acid compounds, crystallization is a clean process.

A quality crystallizer usually produces expected results; however, like oxalic acid compounds, although it works on most marbles, there are times that it may not be the best choice for a maintenance program.

If you have the daunting task of maintaining the polish on a large stone or terrazzo floor, and the floor is one that accepts crystallization, then there is really no better way to maintain the polish.

That is why you will see many large casinos and prominent downtown office buildings using this process.

Knowledge
The most important weapon you can have in your arsenal is knowledge. You will need to get involved and be informed.

Make sure that your supplier of stone-care products can handle your needs, including training, if needed, on the process and the knowledge of the stone care industry.

It is also important that your supplier has the ability to provide you with a complete line of stone care products. This will enable you to be a well-rounded problem solver.

Once you are armed with the knowledge and a quality stone care line, there is nothing stopping you.


Paul Lundberg is director of operations for VMC (Verona Marble Company) Technical Assistance Corp. The Dallas, TX-based company has been providing training, technical support and products to the natural stone restoration and maintenance industry throughout United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Central and South America since 1986. Lundberg can be reached at paul@vmctac.com.
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