The Five Keys to Realizing Your D.R.E.A.M. Floor
By Jeff Adney
As I travel the nation and talk with various animal care facility owners and staff, flooring is always a very hot topic. Whether it is deciding “what is the right kind of flooring to install in my new facility,” “what is the best floor option for my renovation,” or “how do I fix this mess,” the vast majority of the people I talk with have similar questions when choosing flooring. Let’s face it; there appear to be endless options available, and all claim to be the perfect fit and solve all your woes. Choosing the ultimate floor—the dream floor—for your facility is a confusing and important decision. To help you, I have created the D.R.E.A.M. floor process with the five key attributes that are most important for boarding/daycare facilities.
Return on Investment
Durability is defined as being able to exist for a long time without significant deterioration or capable of withstanding wear and tear or decay. Wow, does that ever ring true when it comes to a floor surface for boarding and daycare facilities. Whether it is animals doing their business, cleaning chemicals, bleach, toe nails scratching, digging, etc., flooring in animal care facilities is under constant attack. Having a tough surface that can withstand this abuse without deteriorating or showing signs of aging is no easy feat. What constitutes a durable floor in animal care facilities? The most common flooring objectives I hear when talking with clients are “able to withstand constant cleanings, bleach, and other,” “I want this floor to outlast me,” and “I don’t want to have to worry about this floor again.” In other words, the objectives are defined for durability are chemical and abrasion resistance and the ability to age without showing signs of wear.
Return on Investment
For a given use of money in an enterprise, the ROI is how much profit or cost saving is realized as a result. In terms of flooring, what kind of floor system can be installed, which will give the greatest return on your investment. Factors to consider are maintenance requirements/expense, initial investment, longevity of floor surface, and potential increased pricing power. In essence, finding a floor option with a moderate upfront investment, minimal maintenance, and long-term durability that can easily be renewed are the objectives to be looking for.
In an ongoing effort to preserve and protect our planet, finding “green” building solutions is a common theme. However, to do that without breaking the bank is a difficult task. Too many times I track a project that is going for LEED certification only to see the LEED drive fall off due to overwhelming costs associated with this approach. Luckily there are cost-effective solutions to going green.
One of the first steps is to install a floor system that can easily be renewed. This means that when it is time to redo the floor (for whatever reason), the current floor system does not need to be completely removed and end up in a landfill. Next, pick from flooring options that don’t require continual waxing, stripping, or buffing. Any system that requires the use of solvent-based materials for upkeep, which translates into high levels of V.O.C. (volatile organic compound) transmissions, also are a bad choice. Additionally, deter from floors that have solvent-based adhesives that are used to glue them down. Lastly, avoid options whose manufacturing process may cause serious pollution and hazardous emissions that damage the very environment we are trying to protect. Renewability, low maintenance, and VOC free are the key here.
You are spending good money on floor surfaces. You want them to be durable, have longevity, and they need to look good! We realize most dogs don’t understand what a great looking floor looks like (mine does of course, but he’s the exception), but our clients do. A clean, sharp, professional floor that doesn’t resonate sterile is important. It needs to be inviting yet not so luxurious that when accidents happen (which we know they will), the client isn’t concerned over this mishap. Clients need to feel at ease. I have always said that flooring needs to be attractive but not the focal point. Wow them with your service and features but remember that a clean floor not showing signs of wear, stains, and other imperfections portray to your customers that you care how your facility looks, which in return portrays how you will treat their loved one: with care and respect. Key components here: warm, inviting and professional.
Oh, that dreaded word! Finding a floor surface that can withstand the abuse that animal care facilities create with minimal maintenance requirements is the key attribute to look for here. Floor maintenance is an ongoing expense, presents logistical challenges, security issues, requires a detailed person, and when not done properly will ultimately be the cause of failure in floors. Waxing, stripping, buffing, grout maintenance, cleaning, sterilization, and scrubbing all cut into your bottom line. You are in the business to take care of your customers’ pets. Having to focus on properly caring for a floor should be the last thing you need to worry about. Oh, and I have yet to find a core group of employees say, “Boy, we really love cleaning!” Objectives: easy to clean and maintain with minimal maintenance.
So there it is: the top five key D.R.E.A.M. floor objectives. Now let’s explore the standard options available today and how they rate on the D.R.E.A.M floor scale.
Most sealers are a topical product applied on a concrete surface to aid in stopping liquids that cause it to stain and discolor from penetrating into the concrete as well as aid in prevention of dusting of concrete. Most sealers can be applied by you and come in many forms. Some are waxes; some are solvent and others water based. Most do not offer any type of long-term solution and need to be continually reapplied. Most chemicals, urine, and others will degrade sealers, and most are not chemical resistant. Although an inexpensive upfront investment, the D.R.E.A.M. floor score = 0.
Stained concrete basically is taking a sealed concrete surface and adding a “decorative touch.” I have seen some beautifully stained concrete surfaces, others that my dog wouldn’t let me walk on, and everything in between. Two of the most common ways to stain concrete can be achieved through a reactionary process (commonly called acid staining) or a through a water-based pigmentation. Reactive-based concrete stains are commonly called “acid stains,” because their formulas include acid. To be even more specific, most acid stain is a mixture of water, mineral salts, and muriatic acid and/or hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is one of the strongest, most potent acids on the pH scale. Other chemicals commonly used in acid stain include iron chloride (FeCl3) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). The staining process occurs when these acids react with the “free lime” in the concrete, which then causes a color change. With water-based stains, there is no reaction but merely a mixture of micronized pigments and water, which penetrates into properly prepared concrete (similar to how wood is stained). Water-based stains definitely fall into the more eco-friendly field. The down side is that once the staining is done, it needs to be protected. Conventional protection is a clear sealer or wax, like those mentioned in the previous paragraph. D.R.E.A.M. floor score = 1 - Aesthetics.
VCT (Vinyl Composite Tile) and Linoleum
VCT is yet another low-dollar investment floor covering. It has its place in some markets, but in order for it to last, a very regimented maintenance program is needed. Linoleum is a step up in terms of longevity from VCT and may work well in certain areas of the animal care facility, but it will cost a bit more. Front of the house applications are a good place (i.e. lobby, retail areas, break rooms, etc.). Linoleum, or “sheet goods” as they are commonly referred to, vary in grade as well as quality and aesthetics. Most linoleum floors require waxing in animal care facilities to maintain the standard warranty. Read the fine print! On the plus side, linoleum can be rolled up the wall (coved) for a seamless floor to wall junction. Failures of linoleum and VCT typically occur where the seams meet and/or are welded. Once the seams break apart or are no longer sealed by wax, water begins to seep under and break down the glue adhesive. Once that occurs, the floor will begin to peel and fail. Both VCT and linoleum can pass the durability and return on investment test when used in the proper location if and only if they are properly maintained. With some of the new looks and design available, they can also achieve the aesthetics attribute. However, they do not meet the other attributes when it comes to maintenance and environmentally friendly; they cannot be renewed and eventually end up in the landfill. D.R.E.A.M. floor score = 3 (when properly maintained and used in proper location).
The two most common types used today are ceramic and porcelain. Both can be very decorative and durable, with porcelain typically being the more expensive of the two options. If you decide to use either, please make sure you use an epoxy-based grout. Even with the epoxy-based grout, grout maintenance will be needed as they become stained and discolored. As they begin to wear, they can become odor absorbing. The grout is really the weak link. Be careful when using porcelain; it can be very slick when wet. Ceramic typically has a bit more texture. However, it is usually somewhat porous. Both types of tiles can be hard to stand on all day and can easily be broken. With grout maintenance being an issue and tiles being non-renewable, D.R.E.A.M. floor score = 3.
They can be defined as a proportioned combination of polymer products; when professionally installed on a properly prepared substrate, the mixed and cured components penetrate into the existing substrate to become a monolithic, non-porous wear surface. Wow, is that ever a mouthful. Resinous coatings come in many different looks and thickness. When talking in the animal care market, the resinous coatings that are typically used are epoxy-based systems. Some are solid while others are multicolored. Resinous coatings can be patterned and used to create logos. Others may be aggregate-filled, utilizing quartz or vinyl flake, and some may have metallic added to create different illusions. They can even be made to look like brick tile or stone. Resinous coatings are seamless and can be coved up the walls for a complete, seamless floor-to-wall junction. Most resinous coatings do not require an ongoing maintenance routine; manufacturers will actually state that they do not want you to wax the surface. In terms of durability, because they penetrate into the concrete and become monolithic with it, a properly installed quality resinous system will outlast most other features in your facility. Lastly, they can easily be renewed and/or coated over. Resinous coatings D.R.E.A.M. floor score = 5
Now that we have discussed the five key attributes of your D.R.E.A.M. floor and defined the floor option that achieves these attributes, the next step is to understand what is needed to ensure that your D.R.E.A.M floor will be installed successfully including proper specification and project management.
Jeff Adney is Regional Sales Manager for Prime Coat Coating Systems. Prime Coat is a national company and specializes in providing coating solutions to the animal care industry. Prime Coat manufactures as well as installs its own proprietary systems. Jeff has been heavily involved in the animal care industry for the past 15 years and continually works closely with the industry to develop new systems to meet market demands. Jeff earned his BA degree at University of Evansville and has since earned a Masters Certificate in Decorative Concrete.