Meeting the Challenge of Maintaining Polished Marble High Traffic Floors

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[1]Meeting the Challenge of Maintaining  Polished Marble / Limestone High Traffic Floors

Whether you are in charge of caring for a busy Hotel lobby or a Commercial property that experiences high foot traffic, you know that the care of polished marble and limestone flooring can be expensive and problematic at best! So how do you make the right choices of care for your flooring? Is cost of upkeep a major concern? Is the method of current care meeting the demand of wear and restoration of the shine to everyone’s satisfaction?

I personally don’t do any marble restoration work anymore. Caring for parents and family I had to take a back seat to hands on work. So take what I write and comment on and judge for yourself what might work the best in your case. This is not a definitive article on marble care as experts with years of hands on experience dwarf me with knowledge!

Natural Stone Restoration: To me this is the finest way to create a natural shine as it imitates what is done in the marble shops around the world to create the high gloss appearance of the stone. A series of progressively finer diamond grinding grits get the stone to a high “hone”. The final process is a buffing with a special polishing powder that will heighten and do a final closing of the “pores” of the stone surface, which will then allow the stone to reflect light as showing as a “polish”. This is a very simple explanation I know , but a true craftsman can tell the differences to be expected between different stones and where they come from as they all vary in hardness and make up!

Draw Backs to Natural Stone Care: Dealing with high traffic wear patterns can be a challenge. Also the stone surface should be “ sealed” with an impregnator to help in prevention of staining. ( sub-surface protection) Periodic diamond resurfacing will be an ongoing contract of care.

Conclusion of Natural Stone Care:  If the cost is ok and the care has been up to high standards then maybe if it is not broken don’t fix approach might be best. However closing your eyes to new products and methods may not be in your best interest if you would like to save cost of care!

Recrystallization of the Stone Surface: What is Vitrification?

Also referred to as crystallization or re-crystallization, this is a method used to achieve a high gloss finish. This procedure is usually used as the final polishing process or for regular maintenance in high traffic areas that require a constant shine such as a hotel reception lobby. It is thought by some people that this is a relatively new method of shining stone however it has in fact been used for around 40 years since its invention in Barcelona.

The method works by creating a chemical reaction on the surface of the stone with the use of steel wool and specially formulated chemical compounds. This is only achievable on stone containing calcium carbonate and so most limestone, marble and travertine can be vitrified where as granite cannot.

How does it work?

Most manufacturers of vitrification products will use three main ingredients:

An acid

Fluorosilicate compounds

Waxes

Now it may sound strange to use acid in a product which is used on calcite stone because as we know, acid etches these types of stone. In this case however the acid is used to break down the bond between the calcium and the carbonate. This allows the fluorosilicate to bond with the calcium to produce calcium fluorosilicate. This process has chemically altered the surface of the stone producing a harder finish.

Benefits

Super Shine: The main benefit to this system is that it produces an absolutely amazing shine which can be hard to replicate with polishing powders or diamond grinding alone. It must be remembered however that there is no point in vitrifying a surface which is not clean and scratch free.

Durability: Because the surface of the stone has been chemically altered to calcium fluorosilicate, it will have a higher durability and be less porous.

The Problems of Recrystallization Method:

It creates a problematic hard chemical shell on your marble trapping acids (used in the process) in the marble. It will make the marble shiny and it seems this is the “proof”. But the shell also keeps the marble from breathing properly, which could lead to your marble simply falling apart. 

So, understand once you crystallize you no longer have a “marble” surface. It becomes a “chemically manufactured” surface. Traditional, proven methods for marble cleaning, care and marble repair can no longer be used. You are stuck having to maintain the surface. 

You have your marble, limestone, or travertine floor crystallized. Then a couple three years later when this chemical crust (that isn’t as durable as marble) starts to look less than desirable, you have it recrystallized again only the first guy who did it is out of business or not available so you go with someone else who uses a different formula. 

Well… his formula may not work with the first formula and the crust will have to be removed (grinding it away just like standard re-polishing) before the new formula can be applied. 

Back in 1987 when I first starting learning about caring for marble and limestone, I was approached by a gentleman in Denver about this “new” method of marble refinishing. “ It is foolproof. Just spray this chemical on the floor and buff with steel wool pads and wow you have a beautiful shine. Anybody can do it!” Red flags went off in my head as it seems incredulous to think you could walk off the street and be an expert on marble care.

Proponents of the procedure and the sales literature make it seem like it’s the latest greatest thing, but the main reason they like it is because it requires very little experience or knowledge of marble. Choose carefully the company you choose if picking this method of marble care! Again it is your choice.

Traditional”Wax” Coatings:

There are many different brands of “marble sealers” and “ marble polishes” available on the market. Many companies have expertise on the application and maintenance of the shine using such products. Usually this type of care requires the occasional stripping of the sealer/wax and then re-coating of the finish. 

The reason why there is periodic stripping and re-coating is that the finish starts to abrade and dull or it has started to discolor from dirt getting trapped into the finish. Either way the appearance requires the stripping and re-coating procedures. 

Many companies are expert in their care.  Hotels and commercial locations often are satisfied with their level of care. 

The expense of care needs to be considered. The appearance of natural stone with a wax coating should be considered as well. I personally was in a 5 Star Hotel where the method of marble care was wax and re-coat to the point it looked like a thick coating was on the stone! It was shiny but looked artificial! It hid the true appearance of the stone.

 Complementary Products and Methods to Consider as well:

Cleaning chemistry does matter when caring for natural stone floors. It is simple to say that it has to be neutral pH so it won’t etch the polished surface. Typical stone cleansers tend to dehydrate the surface of the stone due to detergent ingredients and stone “soaps” simply just move the dirt around without lifting off the surface properly. The Richard James Specialty Chemicals Corp. StoneClean™️ “60” is simply the best on the market for daily , weekly cleanings.

Any method of care be it 

natural care, recrystallization, coatings StoneClean™️”60” will lengthen the life of the shine! In fact, those that do diamond grinding prefer using StoneClean™️”60” for their slurry water. Then a final rinse totally removes the grinding process for the final polishing! Either way StoneClean™️ “60” should be used for all stone floors, in my opinion.

Better Polish Protection with StoneHardener™️ 3 Polish

Longest-lasting shine and best possible protection for marble, limestone & other natural stones

Give this new product a try to see if it isn’t simply the best protection available for polished stone. SH-3 is a break-through technology because RJSC scientists were able to incorporate and uniquely combine several of the very newest chemical components available for renewable finishes.

It delivers all the visual benefits of traditional “pink”and other sprays but it adds superior protection that polishing with conventional products simply cannot achieve.

With StoneHardener-3 the surface is harder, more abrasion-resistant and more durable. The stone is protected from a wide range of contaminants such as oil, acetone, coffee and other beverage spills.

The shine is high gloss with just a mop-on or roll-on. With a light buff, it becomes a true mirror finish. With no yellowing or stone discoloration it can make easy touch-up of traffic patterns; no “stripping” required! It will never look like it needs a strip and re-coat job to look great. Dirt cannot get trapped into the finish.

This new product was released after I stopped doing work on stone myself. I was impressed by its predecessor StoneHardener 2 Polish! I did a sample spray buff on a busy marble floor in Des Moines , Iowa. I was told that months later the area I did still looked like new! That being said, I am not the expert with this new product. For further information about application and usage please contact RJSC directly at their web site rjsconline.com or 914-478-7500.

Basically I would suggest using StoneHardener™️ 3 Polish as an “additional shine enhancement” to your floors after they have been polished professionally to a natural shine or even a recrystallization shine. The finish is a breathable and durable longer lasting shine.

If you would like to avoid diamond grinding and would like another option of shine in a renewable finish please consider SuperTop™️ XL All-Surface Finish.   

Any type of care for stone and tile will only be enhance but the use of the StoneClean™️ Concentrates! StoneClean™️ 60 is simply the best cleanser for polished stone flooring no matter what you decision is regarding maintenance of the shine!

Remodeling of a Hotel other Options of Stone Care

When a commercial building is scheduled for remodel or a hotel property is slated for a major renovation  please consider the new long lasting protection of specialty sealers;

StoneLok™️ “MLT Plus”: A High Performance Water-Based Sealer for Concrete, Engineered Cement & Dimensional Stone 

Appropriate substrates include flamed/ honed granites, quarry tile, slate and quartzite; ceramic tile, Sandstone, and flagstone; concrete and cement. For opened (diamond grind to a high hone) terrazzo, limestone, marble, calcium carbonate aggregates.

The durability is unmatched in the industry of sealers/coatings. The level of stain resistance is unmatched as well. Application of sacrificial top sealers can and will add to the life of the flooring appearance. 

The application and preparation is only carried out by trained skilled craftsmen who have experience applying the StoneLok™️ family of specialty sealers. Please ask for help! and direction for any future plans of renovations and type of flooring desired to be protected.

I hope this article has helped sort out your options better.

Thanks

Stan Zimmer

Marble Shine Services