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Polishing to perfection

07 March 2013

From glossy stone floors to safety surfaces Gordon McVean considers how rapidly the range of floors that need polishing is growing and offers some advice on how to tackle them

From glossy stone floors to safety surfaces Gordon McVean considers how rapidly the range of floors that need polishing is growing and offers some advice on how to tackle them

Flooring materials and flooring technologies in commercial buildings have been changing fast.The environmental pressure to stop using hardwoods from endangered forest habitats has grown rapidly and any proposals to install new hardwood floors are likely to cause negative publicity. Fashion has decreed more, larger and ever-glossier stone floors in office building atria. Polished concrete and polished tile are growing in popularity.

Each kind of surface needs different treatment, different materials and different polishing techniques to preserve and improve the floor and protect the owner's investment.

Keeping ahead of the game in floor polishing technology is not easy, if only because the challenges vary as quickly as solutions are found. So here is an update on the techniques and technologies necessary to be ahead of the game in 2011.

For a start, understand how many different jobs can be tackled with a good quality rotary burnisher or polisher.You can use a rotary for scrubbing any water-resistant hard floor, such as concrete, tile, stone or slate.You can use it to strip existing polish off a surface, for spray cleaning and buffing, or for producing a quick shine with polish. Or, if your machine delivers sufficient speed, you can use a rotary for imparting a high gloss to any smooth surface that should be glossy, be it marble, terrazzo or oak parquet.

The snag is that, unless your rotary machine has a range of speed options, you are not going to be able to tackle all those jobs with the same machine, or with the same pads.

Selecting pads All the different tasks that a rotary burnisher can in theory be used for should be carried out with the correct colour-coded pad for the task, and at the correct rotational speed.Use the wrong combination of pad and speed and you will not get the results your customer wants, and in some instances you could actually damage the surface, not likely to please the customer.

To get it right in the UK, you need to use the colour-coded pads at the specified speeds (see table).However, some other countries have different pad colour codes, so buying a cheap batch of pads on the internet may not always be a good idea.

Floor maintenance tasks The frequency with which the tasks listed are carried out depends on the type of floor, the traffic across the floor, and how much dirt is trodden in.

Scrubbing The various kinds of safety floors often used in schools and supermarkets, require regular scrubbing with a mild detergent or polishstripping agent.

Detergents rarely damage an emulsion floor polish on the surface, but do remove the dirt.Using a polish stripper will remove the dirt and the residue of old polish, so that the floor is very clean, but needs re-polishing.The floor will need neutralising with an acid rinse before new polish is applied.

Spray stripping A useful quick means of restoring a floor's shine when there is not time for a full strip and re-polish.Using a blue pad and diluted speed stripper (check the manufacturer's instructions) spray the floor lightly, then buff it over.This removes the top layer of polish, leaving the rest in place.

Keying, sealing and polishing wood floors Emulsion polish prevents wear to the sealant applied when the floor was laid.When the polish has been stripped, check the sealant. If the surface is not chipped or worn through, simply apply more polish. Re-sealing when it is unnecessary is bad practice.

If the sealant does have to be stripped, key the timber with a 100 grit wire mesh pad on the rotary to give the new sealant a key to adhere to. Between coats, use a red pad on the dried sealant before the next coat. Remember that using wire mesh pads to key a floor is not a substitute for sanding.

Gordon McVean works for Truvox International .