Do You Understand Floor Finish?
Floor finish is one of the most important parts of protecting vinyl composite tile (VCT).
Over the years finishes have gotten easier to apply, go down more even, last longer and are repairable. The original purpose of putting a finish or wax on floors was to protect them and make it easier to clean. As these became more advanced, they also made the floor shine.
Here are a few points to be made on floor finishes and protecting VCT.
1 – VCT is very porous. These pores can trap and hold microscopic dirt. The polymer molecules in floor finish settle into these and even out the surface, leaving fewer places for dirt.
2 – Light reflecting from its source, to your eye is what makes any smooth surface shine. If there is no shine, then the surface is not completely smooth. When floor finish is applied to a bare floor, the first few coats are usually dull. This is because the finish is settling into the pores of the floor and has not built up enough polymer (plastic) to fill the pores. Light is still being refracted and not reflected. Once enough finish has been built up, the finish will level on top of the tile and be smooth. Smooth = Shine.
3 – After regular use over a period of time, floor finish will become dull. This is due to the finish being scratched. These scratches are mostly microscopic but still interrupt the reflection of light to your eye. As dirt settles into these microscopic scratches, it grinds away at the plastic finish and makes the scratches bigger. This is why it so important to keep floors as clean as possible. The more dirt you can keep off of the floor, the longer your finish will last.
4 – Repairing the finish is done by buffing or a more modern process and term called burnishing. Buffing is typically done at lower speeds (less than 1000 rpm.) Burnishing is usually done at higher speeds (greater than 1000 rpm.) With the technology of equipment, finishes and chemicals, burnishing allows floors to be repaired much faster. A typical burnisher will spin a floor pad against the floor and do 2 things. The first is it abrades the rough edges of the scratches and “sand” them away. The second is, with enough speed and friction, (the correct pad) burnishing will melt the finish back to smooth. This makes the floor shine and removes areas for dirt to be trapped, making it easier to clean. Note: if the floor has not been cleaned well prior to burnishing, dirt will get melted into the finish. Once this happens, the only way to remove it is to scrub the finish to remove the top layers of finish that have the dirt trapped in them.
With all of the advancements in floor care, keeping finished VCT looking good is much easier than ever. With a little knowledge of what is going on, you can get years of use out of your finish.
Check back next week for more a more in-depth look at how floor finish works.
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