Covering All the Bases

Have you covered all the pros and cons of each floor covering?

By Mike Watt

There are more floor covering choices for restaurant owners than ever before. These include LVT or laminate, broadloom carpet, carpet tiles and wood, just to name a few.

Each of these floor types has its pros and cons. Some wear better than others. Some absorb sound while others transmit it. Some are relatively easy to clean and maintain while other floor types require considerable time and attention, which invariably translates into increased costs.

We will examine these flooring choices with the goal of helping you select the floor covering that will work best for you. But before we do, let’s focus on a few big-picture items you should consider before selecting any front-of-the-house floor covering.

Does it promote safety?

The National Floor Safety Institute has reported that more than 3 million foodservice employees are injured on the job each year, usually as a result of a slip-and-fall accident occurring in the back of the house. About 1 million restaurant guests are injured due to a slip or fall in the front of the house.

Finding out the slip resistance ratings of hard surface floors as well as cleaning solutions and finish help determine the safety of the floor. These ratings are called COF for coefficient of friction or SCOF, static coefficient of friction.

Is it durable?

The back of the house, along with bar areas and serving stations, needs a durable floor covering that is also waterproof. Some commercial kitchens have installed quarry and similar tile or rubber flooring. Rubber flooring is highly durable, relatively easy to maintain, and, in many cases, naturally slip-resistant.

Does it add to the restaurant’s ambiance?

foods prepping areaway floorsAttractiveness is subjective, especially when we are discussing the front of the house. What looks great to one guest may not look so great to another. Possibly this question can be your guide. Ask yourself: Does the floor complement the ambiance of the dining room or not?

The floor covering should not jump out as soon as you walk in the door, nor should it look like it’s hiding in the corner. Rather, the floor should be one more component making up the overall look and feel desired for the restaurant.

What are the floor’s cleaning needs? Our guests expect to see a floor that is sparkling clean. Owners and managers have similar interests, but they also want a floor covering that is easy to maintain. This is especially important when you consider dining room floors may be subjected to spills, drips or dropped food virtually every day, along with soils walked in on the bottoms of guests’ shoes. Because cleaning is such a significant concern, we will look at this question in-depth later.

The Pros and Cons of Different Floor Types

Now that we have reviewed some of the big-picture considerations when selecting a front-of-the-house floor, it’s time to look at some of the features, benefits and potential drawbacks of these different floor types.

LVT and Laminate Floors

Both LVT and laminate floors are made of layers. This increases their durability and longevity. They are designed to mimic floors like wood and stone that are far more expensive and require considerably more care. There are a variety of patterns and styles to select from, and most LVT floors have a protective covering that resists scuffs, stains and scratches. If sound is an issue, they can help absorb sounds better than other types of floor coverings.

LVT floors can cost more than other types of floors, and their durability depends on how they are installed. This is true with all floor covering, but with LVT, if there are any irregularities in the subfloor, it can shorten the life span of the floor and make high and low areas much more apparent.

Broadloom Carpet

Broadloom carpet has lost some of its popularity; however, in a higher-end restaurant, it may still be the floor covering of choice. The significant benefits of carpet are aesthetics and sound absorption. If it is a higher-grade carpet, it can prove very durable and long-lasting. It is also slip-resistant, so there are fewer worries about a slip-and-fall accident occurring.

The big concern with carpet is upkeep. Carpets collect spots. If not addressed quickly enough, a spot can become a stain, permanently damaging the carpet. Some restaurants find they must have their carpets cleaned just about every month, which can be costly.

Carpet Tiles

Carpet tiles, also known as carpet squares or modular carpeting, are designed to be installed directly over a hard-surface floor or subfloor. The demand for carpet tiles is most robust in the retail industry, health care, airports and educational institutions, but they have found their way into restaurants as well.

In recent years, carpet tiles have become very popular because they are durable, lend themselves to flexible interior designs, and are easy to maintain. As to maintenance, probably their most significant benefit is that if there is excessive spotting or staining on some of the tiles, the soiled carpet squares can often be removed and new tiles inserted.

Cleaning these carpets can be an issue, however. Too much moisture can loosen the tiles, causing them to pop up. This has the potential to contribute to a slip-and-fall accident.

Real Wood

We mentioned earlier that carpet is not as popular today as it once was. While LVT has undoubtedly had a role in this, a bigger reason is the popularity of hardwood. Hardwood floors provide a home-like appearance to a restaurant; create a distinctive look; are very customizable to different decors; and are reasonably durable.

Hardwood is not very sound-absorbent, which can be a problem in some settings, and it can become scratched and marred over time. When this happens, these floors usually need to be sanded and stained, which can be a time-consuming and costly process and may require that the property be closed for 2 or 3 days.

Cleaning and Care

Carpet and hard surface floors are costly. The best way to protect them and extend the life of these floors is to ensure they are cleaned properly. Because this is so critical, here are a few tips to follow for each type of floor covering we have discussed:

Carpet:

  • Vacuum daily; most carpet soiling is dry soil, best removed by vacuuming.
  • Carpet extraction is the most effective way to clean restaurant carpet.
  • Always vacuum the carpets before carpet extraction; this helps the extractor work more effectively.
  • Follow the cleaning instructions of the carpet manufacturer; if not cleaned per instructions, the warranty can be voided.
  • Chemical dilution instructions must be adhered to; be aware that some solutions must be diluted in cold water only.

Hard Surface Floors:

  • Learn floorcare lingo: Daily cleaning refers to daily or regular floor cleaning; interim refers to a scrub and recoat of the floor on a set frequency or as needed; restoration is when the floor is stripped and a new floor finish is applied, usually about two times per year or as needed.
  • Proper daily cleaning and regular interim cleaning can help stretch restoration cycles, producing a cost savings.
  • Select only slip-resistant floor chemicals as discussed earlier.
  • When selecting green floorcare products, look for GREENGUARD certification; this organization puts greater emphasis on protecting indoor air quality than other certification organizations.

In General:

  • Check with the flooring manufacturer or retailer as to how the floors are to be maintained.
  • Select only high-quality cleaning equipment and cleaning solutions.
  • Choose cleaning solutions manufactured by well-established manufacturers with a proven track record over the years.

As we have discussed, different floor types serve different purposes. No matter which floor covering you select, however, protecting the floor from soils will be essential to ensuring you get the most out of your investment. Preventing soil buildup reduces the floor’s cleaning needs, improves its durability, enhances safety and extends its life. For restaurants, and all facilities, that is money well spent.

 

— Mike Watt is director of training and new product development at Avmor, a leading North American manufacturer of professional cleaning solutions. For more information, visit www.avmor.com.

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