Floor Care Know-How

When it comes to refinishing floors, DIY customers need more than the right equipment and supplies, they need the expertise of their rental center personnel.

Often, homeowners with little experience have nowhere to turn for help when tackling a project for the first time, so take advantage of the opportunity to be the expert.
Often, homeowners with little experience have nowhere to turn for help when tackling a project for the first time, so take advantage of the opportunity to be the expert.

More than ever before, homeowners are tackling projects themselves rather than calling a professional. The reasons range from a need to save money to a desire to achieve the satisfaction that comes from doing the work and seeing the results.

Floor care is a good example of an area that homeowners are trying their hands at. Whether it's old, wooden floors to new vinyl tiles, your customers are willing to get the job done themselves, but they need help, and that's where you come in.

Wood floors

The process of refinishing wood floors takes patience, as there are many steps and they must be done with care. By properly explaining the process to customers and directing them toward the right piece of equipment, however, the results can be stunning.

The very first question that rental personnel should ask is what type of wood floor the customer has. Tongue-and-groove solid-wood flooring is typically 3/4" thick and can be sanded several times in its life. Factory-finished, engineered wood flooring, however, has a thin layer of solid wood at the surface which can't be sanded more than once. Laminate wood flooring - which is artificial - cannot be sanded at all.

Once the type of floor has been determined, the next step is to choose the right machine for the job. Drum sanders are highly effective at making the rough cut - which removes the old finish and levels the floor - but are large and don't fit into very tight spaces.

Drum sanders must be used with the grain of the wood and, if used carelessly, can also leave stop marks or dips in the wood surface if the operator stops the machine in one spot while it's running.

Orbital or rotary sanders are easier to use than drum sanders but they are not designed for heavy sanding. They can fit into tight spaces, so are good options for areas where a drum sander can't fit. Orbital sanders can be used against the grain of the wood.

Getting back to the refinishing process, instruct customers to first empty the room of all furniture, rugs, etc. and to remove the shoe mold or quarter round, if present. Nails must be set at least 1/16" below the wood surface.

The floor should be cleaned with a mop to remove all hard debris, such as tiny rocks or pebbles, which could get caught under the sanding pad and create deep scratches.

It's then time to make the rough cut. Use a heavy grit sand paper (usually 40 grit or lower) on a drum, orbital or rotary sander to remove all old finish down to bare wood in the open spaces in the room. Use the same grit sand paper on an edger to remove all old finish down to bare wood along wall lines and in tight spaces that could not be reached with the bigger sanders.

The rough cut will leave significant scratches in the wood surface. The intermediate cuts will smooth these scratches out and continue to level the floor. You should carry at least four grits of abrasives for the sanders and edgers: 20 grit, 40 grit (or 36g), 60 grit and 100 grit.

Rental businesses should offer tools for scraping the corners where the machines can't reach. A 1" scraper should do the trick. Complete the rental package with the scraper or your customers will not finish these areas properly.

Finally, the floor is ready to be screened, using a rotary or orbital polisher, before finish is applied. This process is sometimes ignored or the rental store is unaware that this will give their customers a better finish. Contractors always screen the floor to blend the different sanding patterns made by the sander and the edger. The store should sell a white pad and 100-grit screen if the customer is going to use oil-modified poly or 120-grit screen for water-based poly.

Before applying finish, instruct customers to thoroughly vacuum the floor to remove any remaining dust and debris. They should then use a damp cloth or towel to tack the floor, which will remove any dust caught in the wood grain.

According to finish manufacturer's instructions, apply the first coat of finish on the floor. After the first coat is dry, the finish will feel a little rough. Use an orbital or rotary sander and a very fine grit of sand paper or screen (120 to 180 grit) to lightly buff the coat of finish.

This will give the finish a smooth feel and will prepare the floor for the next finish coat. Thoroughly clean the floor and apply the second and third coats of finish in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Resilient floor refinishing

Some rental customers will have a need to care for or refinish their resilient floors, which include tile, linoleum and sealed concrete.

The first step for this type of floor is to determine whether or not it has a wax on it. If it does and the customer wishes to refinish the floor, it's necessary to first remove the wax. This is done using a floor stripper.

First, start by cleaning up all debris. Then, liberally apply the floor stripper to a portion no larger than 10' by 20', so the stripper won't dry. Allow to dwell according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Begin scrubbing the floor using a floor machine with a stripping pad or brush. Be sure to clean all of the finish off. This may take several passes with the floor machine or additional applications of stripper. The corners and sides of the room can be scrubbed using hand stripping pads or 'doodle bug' cleaners.

Once an area has been thoroughly scrubbed, use a wet/dry vacuum and squeegee to recover the stripper solution. Be careful to recover the stripper before it dries or it will require restripping to remove it. Continue applying stripper, scrubbing and recovering until all of the finish has been removed from the floor.

Thoroughly clean the floor using a neutral cleaner. Recover the neutral cleaner in a wet/dry vacuum. Rinse the floor using a clean, new cotton or rayon mop and clean water in a mop bucket and ringer. Be sure to frequently rinse the mop and change the water once it becomes cloudy. Rinse the floor until the water in the mop bucket doesn't become cloudy, usually within two to three passes.

Instruct customers to allow the floor to dry completely. They can then begin applying the new finish, using a new nylon or rayon finish mop. All efforts should be made to prevent contaminating the finish.

Allow the finish to dry between coats, according to manufacturer's recommendations. Apply four to six coats of finish and polish with a high-speed burnisher after one week.

Hard tile and concrete

There are two recommended methods of refinishing hard tile and sealed concrete floors: using a high-pressure washing and recovery system and using a floor machine, brush and wet/dry vacuum.

High-pressure washing and recovery systems use a wand tool that simultaneously pressure washes and then recovers the water. This tool is attached to a truck-mounted or high-pressure portable machine.

The first step is to thoroughly dust mop the floors. Then, apply heavy-duty cleaner/degreaser to the floor using a pump-up sprayer. Be sure to match the strength of the cleaner to the amount of the soil on the floor. Allow the cleaner to dwell on the floor according to manufacturer's recommendations.

Next, begin pressure washing the floor. Be careful to recover as much water as possible. Rinse the floor using a clean, new cotton or rayon mop and clean warm water, in a mop bucket and ringer. Apply sealer, if necessary.

When using a floor scrubber, follow the same procedure, but instead of pressure washing the area, use a floor machine with brush to thoroughly cleanse the entire area. Recover the cleaning solution with a wet/dry vac, rinse with a clean, new cotton or rayon mop and clean warm water in a mop bucket and ringer.

You can have all the right equipment and supplies, but without the knowledge and expertise to back them up, you can't effectively assist your customers with their floor refinishing project. Often, homeowners with little experience have nowhere to turn for help when tackling a project for the first time, so take advantage of the opportunity to be the expert. Show your customers that their most useful tool is you and your rental business.

To really make a concrete floor shine, concrete polishing is an extra step your rental customers can take. The steps for polishing concrete depend on what condition the concrete is in. If the floor is in great shape, start by grinding it with a 120-grit metal bond diamond tooling under a passive planetary machine. This will allow for proper surface preparation and evening out of the floor. Rougher grits could be used before this if the floor is very uneven and blemished. Vacuum between each step thoroughly.

Next, switch to 50-grit resin pads under the floor machine. Then vacuum; switch to 100-grit resin; vacuum; switch to 200-grit resin; vacuum. After the 200-grit resin bond step, apply a concrete densifier (such as Lavina SPS Premium Densifier) to the floor with an air pump sprayer and a microfiber mop.

Once the densifier is dry to the touch, continue with the resin bond diamond steps beginning with 400-grit resin pads. Continue with the remaining resin diamond tooling steps (800-, 1,500-, 3,000-grit) until the desired clarity and shine is achieved in the concrete floor. The highest polishing step available on today's market is an 8,500 grit V-Harr Pad (extreme shine).

For equipment, a rental customer is going to want a machine that does more than one task so that they do not have to rent multiple pieces of equipment. Any 20-inch-diameter machine that can grind, polish and burnish is a great choice.

Some consumables a rental business should have on hand include fast-drying concrete densifiers, sealers (indoor and outdoor sealers), microfiber mops and mop heads, and air pump sprayers.

Information provided by Superabrasive.p>

Information provided by Clarke American Sanders, Husqvarna Construction Products, Powr-Flite and WerkMaster.