For the last 18 years, I’ve been answering the multitude of questions for do-it-your-selfers and…
As the old saying goes “VCT is the cheapest most expensive flooring you can ever buy”
The expense associated with Vinyl Tile (VCT) is of course is in the maintenance. Conventional wax floor finish looks amazing when it is first installed over commercial VCT. However that gloss quickly begins to dull after 2 or 3 weeks or even faster depending on the use. Next up for the facility owner is a continual regime of cleaning, scrubbing, burnishing, stripping and recoating. Not only does this drive up costs for the facility but also diverts labor time into floor maintenance which could be better used elsewhere. Painting the building, or fixing the roof and widows for example.
The problem with conventional acrylic floor finishes is that they contain softer wax particles and surfactants which trap dirt and chemicals in the finish surface. They require daily cleaning and bi weekly buffing to maintain their shine and clean appearance.
Significant cost savings can be achieved in the maintenance of VCT however, by using a tough polyurethane based vinyl floor coating instead of conventional wax floor finishes. A low maintenance vinyl floor coating is extremely hard, durable and dirt sits on the surface rather than being trapped in it. Coated floors are easily cleaned and maintain with regular wet mopping or auto scrubbing.
The savings in maintenance labor costs can be over 40% but will vary depending on regional labor rates, how much traffic on the floor and the frequency of cleaning. Let’s crunch some numbers to get an idea.
Say it costs $1.10 per sq.ft to install a low maintenance vinyl floor coating in a single thick coat and $0.15 per sq.ft a year to maintain by wet mopping only. Compare that to say $0.35 to install a conventional 3 or 4 coat wax finish and $1.00 per sq.ft a year to maintain it.
In the first year that’s a $1.25 per sq.ft for the polyurethane vs. $1.35 for the wax finish. You see that a low maintenance vinyl floor coating can pay for its self in the 1st year. Certainly by the 2nd year you’re making major savings in the labor cost. Compare $0.15 per sq.ft per year vs. $1.00 per sq.ft per year to maintain the wax system.
A good quality vinyl floor coating should last up to 3 years before needing a recoat. This should involve sanding the surface and recoating only. The need for stripping should be totally eliminated. It’s important to source a polyurethane floor coating that has been developed for VCT. These products need to able to self level and leave a flat seamless surface across the face of the VCT tile in a single coat. Other benefits of a good low maintenance vinyl floor coating include increase slip resistance, high gloss satin and matte options, chemical and stain resistance, very low odor and VOC, the elimination of burnishing dust and stripping chemicals in the maintenance process and the sealing system should be eligible for LEED credits.