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Know Your Floors

10 September 2010

Neglect your floors at your peril and considerable cost. Taking a coordinated approach to flooring maintenance reduces risks of costly and disruptive remedial work, explains Howards Howlett

FLOORS PLAY SUCH AN important role in a buildings commercial life that when problems arise they frequently present the FM with and array of logistical and financial challenges. In many instances minor defects have been allowed to develop become essential floor works can cause direct conflict between productivity and available finance. Typical are construction joints that become major repairs or demarcation lines that need continual costly reapplication.
Some industries have the luxury of planned shut downs or lulls in demand where critical works can be carried out but where a catastrophic floor failure occurs a reactive response is the only option. Invariably short term solutions are just that, short term, but many people who authorise small repairs do in fact secretly carry the hope of a permanent solution.
When floors are constructed, maintained or repaired there are two things that can be guaranteed:
● in all but the most exceptional instances there will be no comprehensive in-house customer floor knowledge on site
● external expertise will be required to either specify a solution or indeed carry out the works.
This can be a fatal combination for cost and quality control. Making choices that meet short term reactive needs frequently lead to long term negative cost implications and problem floors. All buildings have floors that fulfil different functions and it is not unknown for different floor areas, to be treated differently and be under the control of several different departments ranging from the production to marketing or maintenance, each with different budgets. Conflicting demands between budgets, health & safety concerns, access issues or downtime losses pose a serious obstacle for the FM to delivering logistical, cost and quality outcomes. A faulty or failing floor can literally cost £thousands in lost revenue, with these costs hidden within maintenance or dilapidation budgets.
Floors are an extremely valuable asset that should be treated in the same way that any. It would be entirely unacceptable for a company car to be given a bodged repair, but in some quarters a bodged repair is OK on a floor that costs several times more than a car? Once a floor is viewed and valued in real cost terms its much easier to make the case for proper long term financial provision and one of the easiest ways to do this is to create an accurate sq m cost inclusive of all production and maintenance costs.
Floors simply are not perceived a valuable asset by senior management or purchasing departments with the exception a few industries such as VNA high bay racking or food industries.
Considering the enormous costs that can be involved, the disruption to production or loss of performance through reduced floor speeds or restricted access, the argument for a cohesive proactive approach to floor care and maintenance becomes compelling. It makes sense to see floors as the valuable asset that they are in the same way that a fleet of cars or forklifts are valued. A simple concrete floor can cost upwards of £50 per sq m to install and anywhere from £30 - £60 per sq m to renovate or re-coat with high performance epoxy resins every couple of years.
A floor is a technical product and the more coordinated the approach to construction design, care and maintenance and renewal the better the whole life cost controls become. Manufacturers have invested heavily to develop products that offer sound solutions. Sadly the improved quality of their products is seldom matched by an equal uplifting of skill with the capability to install these products properly. The cost benefits of taking a coordinated approach to flooring can be substantial and long lasting as unplanned expenditure is mitigated with proper planning, material selection and skills.
Floors simply don’t fail overnight. They deteriorate slowly over long periods until large scale re-engineering or floor reconstruction is necessary. By becoming proactive with floor care and selecting the right materials, small defects can be treated either in-house or from third party suppliers without major disruption, and the hidden costs of care and ongoing repairs that generally pass silently and unchallenged into the maintenance budget can be avoided.
● Howard Howlett is Managing Director at Bonus Flooring

Golden rules for floors
 Establish the true £value of every sq m of your productive floor taking into account all costs so that expenditure in care and maintenance can be properly measured
 Choose materials such as floor coatings and line markings that meet long term performance objectives
 Ask your supplier to provide a range of care and maintenance solutions (some have only one product and a vested interested in selling that to you but it might not be the best solution)
 Ensure that all floors works are coordinated with a service provider who understands how a floor column is constructed from the concrete through surface preparation to the final finish
 Deal with small defects without delay
 Keep a detailed maintenance record of any repairs and materials. A supplier or contractor will want to go back to sub-base to ensure that his product is compatible and won’t fail, and this where costs and delays start to mount.

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