Preventing Floor Failures: Surface Maintenance- Surface Protection

Preventing Floor Failures: Surface Maintenance- Surface Protection

Many companies are making a living by diagnosing and making determinations as to why a floor is experiencing failure. Legal protection and burden of proof makes determining why a floor has failed big business!

With increasing sophisticated methods and tools now available for recognizing and addressing vapor emissions and moisture problems, there is and ever-growing awareness of these “down-up” problems in the construction and related industries. The result is that owners and contractors increasingly assume that these “must” be the cause of tile, stone, and VCT floor failures.

There are other widespread causes of hard surface failures that are little understood , therefore often overlooked. these are the “up-down” problems that are fortunately quite easy and relatively inexpensive to solve by proper protection of the surface at the time of installation, and proper maintenance on an on going basis.

Addressing the “up-down” problems at any time in the life of a floor can often also prevent premature floor failures.

Consider: Any seamed, grouted or damaged floor is subject to various types of contamination seeping seeping through junctures to the base substrate. Soap and detergent cleaning agents, oils, salts and acids can all create conditions for lifting and buckling of hard-surface floors.

Many common cleaners use a variety of inexpensive compounds that make the cleaners appear to be highly effective but these compounds can cause severe damage to the flooring adhesive or to the bse substrate when they seep into junctures. This is especially true for the new low-VOC trowel adhesives that all become brittle and easily broken down by these chemistries.

  • Popular citrus-based cleaners contain a product called  d-limonene, a petroleum related product chemically that over time will break down adhesives and concrete. (Just soak either in this solution and it will eventually turn to mush)
  • Acidic cleaners that flow down through junctures will slowly create an environment that when re-wetted can cause concrete and all cementitious products to powder. This powder layer will eventually “lift” as it becomes less and less homogenous to the substrate.
  • High pH strippers (especially those with high amounts of potassium or sodium phosphates) and / or dirty water that seeps in an remains trapped under the flooring (and especially spaces between the rubber backing of small bathroom tiles) are idea sites for mold growth from these contaminates. As mold takes hold and begins to grow, it takes up increasing amounts of space, and starts the process of delamination. While many anti-microbial products are helpful, all have a short effective life, and any interruption in treatment will allow mold growth to re-start.

Preventing penetration of adverse chemistries into junctures along with the use of non-damaging advanced technology cleaners and strippers can prevent failure of new installations and stop deterioration of existing installations.

The first task is to seal seamed, grouted and damaged floors such that future contamination will not occur and the floor is given a durable overlay that can be cleaned and refreshed over time.

The second task is to use cleaners and strippers that actually “float” contamination “up” and “out” rather than just break it down and ultimately make it easier to penetrate damaged junctures of the flooring. The cleaners must also not contain harmful chemistries that can damage the flooring  and that leave residues that can react out later when re-wetted. No soapy residues left behind will mean no dangerous slippery floor when cleaning or after cleaning. The added benefit would be that they are effective highly diluted and deliver a pristine floor.

Polished marble is a good example of a floor needing gentle chemistry so as not to dehydrate the stone and cause deterioration. One client of mine was concerned about that and I told him to use StoneClean & Strip™ in lukewarm water highly diluted. He said that the daily cleaner StoneClean™ 60 was slowly cleaning the grout every time he cleaned the floor! (please read more about StoneClean™ Concentrates on my site)

Please contact me if you have any questions. For complete information about the specialty sealers and grout sealer please visit

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