FLOOR FINISH HISTORY
Prior to the 1929 solvent wax or solvent seal (varnish) were the
popular products of the day. They were used on virtually all floors in existence
(wood, cork, concrete, clay or stone).
In 1929 asphalt tile was introduced to the commercial
marketplace. It was much less expensive per square foot than any other alternative
at that time. This revolutionary floor material created the need for new maintenance
products. However, asphalt tile's major short coming was its inability to resist
solvent cleaners in use at that time. New floor polishes were developed. The
basic components were .... WATER, WAX, EMULSIFIER AND LEVELING AGENT. Thus the term
Water Emulsion Wax was born. New water emulsion floor polishes developed quickly and
changed floor care maintenance in a very positive way. This water emulsion
technology has changed dramatically over the years. Today we have highly
sophisticated, technologically advanced products that deliver a tremendous value per
dollar. Tiles have changed over the years also, today resilient tile includes many
different type of materials including vinyl composition, vinyl, rubber, linoleum to name
just a few.
FINISH IS THE PROGRAM CORNERSTONE
Floor Finish is the cornerstone of a maintenance program. The
starting point that the entire program is built around. It is important to select a
floor finish that matches the results desired with the equipment
available and the maintenance styles that will be used to
maintain the surface.
What differentiates one finish from another?
The features important in todays floor finishes include:
- Burnish Response
- Film Flexibility
- Low Foam
- Self Leveling
- Self Sealing
Price is often an important factor in finish selection.
However we should not make it the one and only reason for selecting a finish. The
price of finish is a small portion of the overall maintenance budget, but selection can
dramatically affect the amount of labor required for the overall maintenance system.
Gloss is most often equated with cleanliness. Today there are
finishes that are high gloss, low gloss and everywhere in-between. The gloss
of a finish often is the reason for choice. Initial gloss at application time,
initial burnish gloss, long term gloss should all be considerations in floor finish
Solid content can be express in two ways.
- TOTAL ANHYDROUS - Which means everything in the formula except water.
- TOTAL RESIDUAL or NON-VOLATILE - Which means everything in the
formula that does not evaporate.
The most important of the two is Total Residual or Non-Volatile
as that is the amount of material that remains on the floor. In other words, the
working ingredients. Most modern floor polishes are formulated in the 16 to 25%
non-volatile solids range.
Solids content was important in the comparison of floor waxes.
Since most waxes were the same, a higher solids floor wax would wear longer than a lower
solids product, assuming the same amount of both products were applied to the same floor
over the same number of square feet. Today it is not true to equate solids to
Combinations of polymers, resins, waxes, emulsifiers, plasticizers,
etc. give varying degrees of performance and longevity. Therefore one 17% solids
product can out perform another 20% solids product.
Durability refers to the ability to resist scuffing, scratching,
heelmarking, dirt, dirt penetration, detergents, cleaners and scrub ability.
A key contributor to a floor finish's durability is metal interlocking (metal
cross linking). Metal interlocking imparts the film with durability to resist
detergents and high pH cleaners. Yet metal cross linking provides the mechanism to
remove the finish with ammonia containing cleaners. Metal interlocking was
initially achieved by the addition of less than 1/4% of metal salt to the emulsification
system. Usually a compound of zinc ammonium carbonate. This imparted the
ability to scrub floor finishes with a neutral all purpose cleaner and floor scrubbing pad
without removing the finish from the floor.
When it is time to remove the film, use an ammoniated or amine
containing stripper (volatile alkalies). It should be understood that quaternary
ammonium compounds (quaternary disinfectant detergents) contain amines. Overuse of
these products in daily cleaning will attack the floor finish causing it to soften, become
tacky, and in some cases even stripped off the floor.
Nearly all finishes today are slip resistant. Some products
are UL Listed while others are certified by the ASTM James Machine method. Make
sure that the product you chose matches the maintenance style you are using.
Burnishing floor finishes that are not recommended for burnishing can cause them to become
Drying time can influence floor finish selection. Generally
acceptable drying times are from 10 minutes to 30 minutes per coat. There are many
factors that influence drying time, coat thickness, air flow, air temperature, floor
temperature, plus others. The most important thing is to have a product that
dries thoroughly without remaining tacky.
Niche products have been developed for nearly every maintenance
style imaginable. The three most common styles of maintenance are Conventional (low
maintenance), Spray Buffing and Burnishing. For best results,
select a finish that matches the maintenance style you are going to be using.
Conventional (low maintenance) finishes.
Many situations call for a finish that will get very little maintenance, but the desire is
to have a good gloss with a high degree of durability. Examples of these situations
are schools (classrooms in particular), nursing homes, cafeterias. This class of
finish is referred to as dri-brite. These products get their name from the fact that
they dry to a high initial gloss. These products are generally very detergent
resistant and scuff resistant. They are hard products with a combination of hard
polymers and hard waxes. These products can be spray buffed (usually with solvent
based restoration products), but generally do not work well when high speed burnished
(they tend to powder or scratch excessively). Solids are generally important to the
performance and cost of conventional finishes.
Spray Buffable finishes
When a high level of appearance is desired and the equipment available is limited to slow
speeds (175 - 1500 rpm's), then the finishes of choice are spray buffable. Spray
buffing uses chemical and physical action to restore the gloss of finishes with slower
When a high level of appearance is desired and burnish (2000+ rpm's) equipment is
available, then burnish finishes are the best choice. These products take advantage
of the speed and friction created by the equipment to restore gloss. These products
range from soft to hard depending on the amount of burnish response achieved.
Highly responsive burnish products look exceptionally good right
after burnishing. The example that comes to mind are retail outlets who burnish
every night. In the morning the stores look fabulous, during the day the traffic
scuffs and marks the finish, the gloss deteriorates as the day wears on. When it is
cleaned and burnished that evening, the gloss restores easily and is the floor is
beautiful for the next day. The benefit of these products is that they do not powder
when burnished and they perform well over a long period of time.
high gloss burnish products build to a high gloss over a series of
burnishing. Once the gloss is achieved, it maintains it well. The advantage
of this style of finish is that the gloss does not go up and down so dramatically, a more
consistent look throughout the day. While it may not achieve the dramatic high
gloss, it will not reach the low gloss level either. This style of product, due to
its hardness, may experience dusting or sanding (not really powdering, but often confused
Super-durable burnish finishes are a new
category of burnish finishes. These products incorporate super hard polymers with
hard waxes to get the best from both worlds. These products tend to be extremely
detergent, scuff and scratch resistant. They generally start out with lower gloss,
but after repeated burnishing can achieve dramatically high gloss.