Daily, monthly and yearly maintenance keeps gym floors looking and performing their best.

Custodial crews at schools and universities are beset with a number of responsibilities, not the least of which is floor care and maintenance. With gym surfaces made of wood, synthetic material or resilient vinyl tile, many custodial crews need to know the specifics of maintenance procedures for multiple flooring types. About the only thing all floor types have in common is that they require regular attention in the form of daily or weekly care, monthly maintenance and annual maintenance. Daily care typically involves dust mopping, with damp mopping or autoscrubbing performed as needed, depending on traffic and use. Frequent dust mopping is important because it helps remove loose dirt and soil, which is the biggest cause of floor wear. By removing the grit and grime that students and teachers track in each day, cleaning crews can make a huge difference in extending the life of a floor finish. Depending on traffic, it may be necessary to dust mop multiple times a day. For resilient hard floors and wood floors finished with a water-based product, burnishing should be scheduled monthly, or as needed depending on use, to remove scuffmarks and restore gloss. (Synthetic surfaces should never be burnished.) If burnishing alone does not enhance the shine, consider using one of the many spray-on floor restorers now available. Be careful to select a product for the specific floor type - and never use products meant for resilient vinyl tile floors on either wood or synthetic surfaces. Yearly maintenance for hardwood and synthetic gym floors consists of scrubbing or stripping and recoating the floor surface. In reality, the term "yearly" can mean several times a year or once every two or three years, depending on the amount of finish wear. Most schools and universities choose the summer to perform this task, since classes are not in session and traffic is at its lowest. However, in some parts of the United States, winter or spring break may actually be the optimal time, since many finishes should not be used when the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit or humidity is greater than 80 percent. When it comes to floor care, the choice of products appears limitless. A first step is to select a quality brand with a full range of products. Using the same manufacturer's brand of daily cleaners, strippers and finishes will greatly enhance the results you get. Chemicals manufactured by the same company are usually formulated to work together, maximizing the life of the shine and minimizing the need for interim maintenance. The appearance and characteristics of maple wood make it an ideal playing surface, scoring high in such areas as shock absorption, vertical deflection, ball bounce and surface friction. Wood's natural enemy is moisture, and this must be kept in mind whenever maintenance is performed. When damp mopping, always thoroughly wring out the mop before applying it to the floor, and remove excess water promptly. After mopping, wipe up all puddles and streaks immediately with a dry cloth. Spills on the floor should be removed immediately as well, and when cleaning spills, do not use products that leave a residue, as this will make the floor slippery. To extend the gloss life of the finish, use a floor cleaner that removes particulate soil and has a neutral impact on floor finishes. Myriad products are available for wood floor maintenance. Choose either water- or solvent-based products, but do not mix these together without consulting the manufacturer. Burnishing of wood floors should be performed monthly using a 1,500-rpm or faster machine. After burnishing, dust mop with a microfiber mop head to pick up any fine particles that may have gathered. Dry times for a refinished wood floor will take one to three days for water-based coatings and up to seven for solvent-based coatings. (Actual dry time will be determined by weather conditions.) Make sure the floor is thoroughly dry before resuming regular activities. One advantage of synthetic surfaces, besides an installation cost lower than wood, is that they are less affected by climate changes. In addition, synthetic flooring requires less maintenance. Besides cleaning with a microfiber dust mop every day, wash the floor with a neutral cleaner as needed; scrubbing, stripping and recoating usually need to be done at least once per year. To maintain the integrity of synthetic floors, it is important to use chemicals designed specifically for them. One such product is a heavy-duty no-rinse stripper that cuts through old, built-up finishes. This stripper emulsifies the synthetic floor finish, breaking the bond with the floor, and does not require labor-intensive flood rinsing. With the most durable finishes, recoating often can be extended to every two or three years. Resilient hard flooring such as vinyl tile requires much the same maintenance as wood flooring, including stripping, finishing, buffing, and dry and damp mopping or autoscrubbing. To keep a high gloss, use a neutral cleaner when damp mopping or autoscrubbing. For cleaning stains, choose a pH-neutral degreaser that attacks dirt yet leaves the shine. When using concentrated formulas, consider a dilution-control system that will ensure chemicals are properly mixed with water and are not being wasted. While choosing the proper chemicals and equipment is imperative, if they are not being used appropriately, their benefits quickly evaporate. Consistent and frequent training of the custodial crew will ensure that products and equipment are being used correctly, ultimately saving time and money. Proper matting is an essential element in protecting flooring surfaces. According to Christopher Tricozzi, vice president of sales and marketing for Crown Mats and Matting, an easy way to be sure matting is protecting floors and the indoor environment is to follow the Rule of 15:

  • Outside of each entry should be five feet of scraper mat, which scrapes away large bits of debris from shoes.
  • Five feet of scraper/wiper matting should be placed just inside the entryway or in the breezeway between two doors.
  • A final five feet of wiper mat following the scraper/wiper will remove any remaining soil still being tracked in on shoes.
According to the International Sanitary and Supply Association, an area of floor that accumulates one pound of dirt in the summer can collect as much as 15 pounds of dirt in the winter. "It is estimated that each building occupant can track up to seven pounds of soil into a facility per year," says Tricozzi. "With the proper matting system in place, a large percentage of this soil can be captured, producing savings on soil removal as well as protection of floor finishes." Proper floor-care maintenance extends the life of a gym floor, and there are many effective ways of keeping it looking its best as the years go by. Moreover, a well-maintained gym floor improves surface-level traction, ensuring that athletes can safely shine right along with the surface underfoot.