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Add Beauty to Your Facility With Natural Stone Floors

Caring for marble and granite flooring requires a light touch

Add Beauty to Your Facility With Natural Stone Floors

Natural stone flooring brings a classic, timeless look to facilities. However, many facility managers may avoid stone flooring because they believe it is too hard to care for. Or they may not put the necessary work into the stone floors they already have, because they aren’t sure how to maintain them.

Contrary to what many people believe, stone floors, such as marble and granite, can be a low maintenance and durable option, depending on where you install them, according to Marty
Jollette, vice president of training and operations for Renue Systems, a leading provider of deep-cleaning services to the hospitality sector.

“Stone is rated on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness from one to 10, from talc all the way to diamond,” Jollette said. “Marble can be rated from three to four depending on its scratch resistance, and granite could be rated five to six. You wouldn’t want to put a softer stone, such as limestone, in a national football team’s locker room. But as long as you pick the right stone for the right environment, stone flooring can be low maintenance and durable.”

Stone flooring is found in various facilities, such as office buildings, churches, hotels, retail stores, banks, banquet halls, and theaters. “You will find it anywhere building owners want upscale
flooring,” Jollette said, adding the flooring’s aesthetics is probably its biggest draw. “Stone flooring is durable, sustainable, and unique,” he said. “You can use it indoors or outdoors. In warm
climates, most of these natural floors stay cool.”

Of course, in a cold climate, a cold floor is not a positive attribute. Other cons of stone flooring are its cost (“It’s very expensive compared to other types of flooring,” Jollette said) and its lack
of traction. “It can be very slippery,” Jollette said. “You wouldn’t want to put a polished marble floor in areas that could be wet, such as outside a shower or on a pool deck.”

As natural stone is porous, it can easily retain stains. Furthermore, its restoration process can be expensive. However, you can extend your
flooring’s lifespan and increase the time between restorative care by using the proper cleaning products and equipment.

When it comes to cleaning, easy does it

Choose cleaning chemicals that are alkaline or that have a neutral pH. Acidic cleaners can etch stone flooring, especially marble. “If you’re cleaning a restroom with a marble floor and spill
toilet bowl cleaner it will leave a mark,” Jollette said. “People love the look of marble with its veining and use it on kitchen countertops. But if you spill orange juice or wine and don’t wipe it up
immediately, the acid will etch the marble.”

Dust buildup can also damage stone flooring, so be sure to incorporate dust mopping and wet mopping into your daily stone floor care routine. “Microfiber is the go-to for dry dusting, and for regular wet mopping you can use a cotton mop,” Jollette said. “Be sure to dry mop after wet mopping, so you don’t leave water on the floor. It will streak and someone could trip. The pattern is
dust mop, wet mop, dry mop.”

For interim cleaning, Jollette recommends a light, nonaggressive buffing with a rotary machine using a polishing compound. “Using a swing or buffer machine on stone floors is fine as
long as you use the correct pad and procedure,” Jollette said.

Even stone floors that receive the best daily and interim care will eventually need restorative work. “These stones are soft; a lot of foot traffic and general wear and tear will wear off the coating and eliminate their sheen,” Jollette said. He recommends a honing process using diamond abrasive pads with different levels of grit to grind down and polish the surface of the stone.

First, use a higher grit (less coarse) diamond honing pad to see if that removes the scratch marks and etches. If not, you will want to switch to a pad with higher coarseness (lower grit number)
to remove those deeper scratches out of the floor. In the final step, use a polishing compound or crystallizer to add more shine.

Avoid floor care mistakes and myths

Before you can formulate a floor care plan you need to know the type of floor you have. Jollette said a common floor care mistake he sees is facility managers using the wrong type of cleaning products and tools due to incorrect stone identification.

“You need to know the type of stone you have, whether it’s limestone, marble, granite, or another type,” he said. “This is critical to know before you pick your cleaning and restoration process. You
also want to know if there was ever a sealer put on the floor.”

Jollette explained that sometimes maintenance workers will seal a stone floor with a topical coating not recommended by the original floor manufacturer, either because they want to change
the look of the floor or didn’t realize it was the wrong product to use. Or maybe they used an improper sealant, such as resilient floor wax, because they didn’t want to pay to have the floor
polished the correct way.

“These improper procedures and products can affect your daily, interim, or restoration maintenance of the floor,” he explained. “Before you can address issues of caring for the stone, you
have to identify if there was an improper product applied to the floor and then determine how to remove it. Only then can you restore the floor.”

Jollette said in cases where he has needed to identify floor types and sealants, he and his team will use a 40x microscope, conduct a scratch test, and even apply a small amount of vinegar to
determine if the floor etches. “Check in a visible area with good lighting. A good stone restoration company will check different areas of the floor including low-traffic spots where polish is less
likely to have worn off,” Jollette advised.

Once you have identified any improper sealers or waxes, removed them, restored the floor with the correct diamond pads, and applied the correct sealant, your work is far from done. Jollette discounted a commonly believed myth that sealing a stone floor will protect it from dirt, stains, etching, and damage forever.

“A sealant just helps with maintenance, it gives you more time to react to spills and helps shield the floor from damage, but it does not act as an invisible screen forever,” Jollette said. “After a while they wear off.”

Don’t go it alone

Perhaps the most important step in caring for stone floors is to find specialists who have your back. “The best advice I can give people is to find a supplier that deals exclusively with chemicals and equipment for natural stone floors,” Jollette said. “This type of business will offer you the best customer service. You can work with them directly to identify the stone and put together a floor care program specific to your needs.”

Even though such a supplier can provide you with all the chemicals and equipment you need, don’t feel pressured to do all the work yourself. Although facility maintenance staff can often handle daily and interim floor care, restorative care could be another matter. “Know your limitations. You may need a professional for restoration,” Jollette said. “Find someone with years of experience and ask them to do a small area of your floor. This will give you an idea of their work and ensure they can deliver the results you need.”

Kathleen Misovic

Managing Editor for CMM

Kathleen Misovic is managing editor for CMM. She has a degree in journalism and an extensive background in writing for print and digital media for various publications and associations. Contact her at [email protected].  

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