Stone and tiles have some of the longest expected lifespans of any floor covering – if they are properly maintained. Often we expect that a ‘hard floor’ such as stone or tiles are resilient enough to require only minimal maintenance. That’s just not true, and it short-changes these beautiful surfaces by allowing them to deteriorate and shortening their lifespan. A stone or tile surface is a substantial investment in any property, and by maintaining the surface, you’re also maintaining the value it adds to the property. So what should you look for when maintaining and monitoring stone and tiles?
This article is part three of the series “What to look for: stone and tile life cycle” by Garry Phillips, Managing Director of Slique International, as published in InClean Magazine.
Determine a baseline
Before you can measure and/or monitor, you need to have a baseline to compare against. In the case of a stone or tile surface, nothing is better than photographic evidence. This is because the majority of deterioration or contamination happens gradually, over time, and therefore isn’t as noticeable. We can forget what it looked like when it was new.
As soon as the surface is installed, take good clear photos of all the areas. These are objective records that will act as your baseline. They can also be used to record changes, and to prove any potential damage when it may occur – for example, to insurance companies.
Keep a record of information provided by suppliers
Suppliers have a duty-of-care to provide you with information on how you should maintain your new stone or tile surface, and/or protective sealer or coating (if it has one). Paper records are particularly important where you have requested a commitment on performance – such as ‘suitable for use in a wet area’ and so on.
Keep a record of any commitments made as well as maintenance recommendations, and make sure you take this information into account when planning maintenance, as going against these documents could void any warranties that have been made.
Stone and tiles are not maintenance-free surfaces
The common misconception is that stone and tiles are hard floors, and hard floors are resilient and won’t stain, and don’t need much maintenance. That’s not accurate. For example, porous stone such as sandstone will soak up stains easily; soft stone like limestone can be scratched; acid-sensitive stone such as marble will etch if acid-based chemicals are used and non-slip surfaces will get dirtier quicker as they’re designed for ‘grip’ and in the process also grip dirt and grime.
Preparing a maintenance plan
A maintenance plan for cleaning staff should be prepared and issued in writing. The plan will be based on what the surface is, and where it is located. It should include all recommended equipment and chemicals (including dilution ratios), with clear processes to be followed.
When preparing a maintenance plan, first refer to any supplier documentation you have. If maintenance instructions are included, they are the safest to follow. You may need to cross-reference documentation (for example, if you have maintenance instructions for both the surface and for a sealer or coating that’s been applied to it). If the surface is existing and you don’t have information from a supplier, seek independent recommendations. For example, Slique has a variety of Care Guidelines for each type of surface that are available free of charge on their website.
Finally take into account any additional considerations such as access to equipment and machinery, and the location of a surface. For example, marble floors in a lobby will be cleaned quite differently from marble floors in a bathroom.
Prepare the maintenance plan in simple language, in writing, and make absolutely sure cleaning site staff can understand it.
Monitoring – of the maintenance plan
Don’t just trust that your carefully-prepared maintenance plan will be understood and followed. For the first few weeks, monitor the cleaning processes, usage and dilution of chemicals, and the completion of any periodic work that you may have specified (for example, machine scrubbing on a monthly basis).
It is also important that when cleaning staff changes, the whole process is recommenced and re-monitored. Don’t assume that the new cleaners will be trained by the old ones!
Monitoring – of the surface
Use your baseline photos at least every 3 months to monitor and ensure that the results of your maintenance plan are satisfactory and that no degradation to the surface is visible. Where there is a measurable or noticeable decline in the surface – such as dirty grout lines, loss of finish, build up of surface contamination, etc – then you should notice it early enough that it can be rectified immediately, and the maintenance plan adjusted to prevent it happening again.
Spring cleaning / intensive periodic maintenance
Even with the best maintenance plan, there may well be natural build up and contamination that can occur, which is likely to require expert intensive work to recover. For residential homes, this often falls into the ‘spring cleaning’ period, while for commercial properties it is usually easier to complete this work when the building is closed down (often during holidays) or refurbishment.
Whenever it occurs, schedule a time that you will complete detailed monitoring and comparison to your baseline photographs. It also helps to set aside a budget for specialist work on an annual basis – if it’s not necessary, that a nice bonus.
You can always contact your local Tile cleaning Sydney experts for more detailed advice. You can ask how to clean and utmost prolong the lifespan of your precious stones and tiles.
Source: Courtesy of Slique, Tile Cleaning Sydney