The 5 Keys to Realizing Your D.R.E.A.M. Floor
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 5 key attributes that are most important for Boarding/Daycare facilities.
(D)urability, (R)eturn on Investment, (E)nvironmentally Friendly, (A)esthetics and (M)aintenance
(D)urability 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. etc. animal care facilities flooring are under constant attack. Having a tough surface that can withstand this abuse without deteriorating or showing signs of aging is no easy feat. So, what constitutes a durable floor in animal care facilities? The most common flooring objectives I hear when talking with clients is: “able to withstand constant cleanings, bleach and other”, “I want this floor to outlast me”, and “I don’t want to have to replace this floor in the foreseeable future.” In terms of durability, the objectives are defined as - chemical and abrasion resistance, and the ability to age without showing signs of wear.
(R)eturn 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 that will give the greatest return on your investment. Factors to consider is 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.
(E)nvironmentally Friendly. 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 to continually waxing, stripping or buffing. Avoid floor systems that require ongoing maintenance involving waxes or chemicals. 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 and deter from floors that have solvent based adhesives that are used to glue them down. Also, 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 keys here.
(A)esthetics. 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. Having 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) that the client isn’t concerned over this mishap. Clients need to feel at ease. I have always said, 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 and that in return portrays how you will treat their loved one – with care and respect. Key components here - warm, inviting and professional.
(M)aintenance. 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, 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 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.
Sealed concrete – Most sealers are a topical product applied on a concrete surface to aid in stopping liquids from penetrating into the concrete that cause it to stain, discolor and absorb 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 other 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) being the one of the strongest, most potent acid on the pH scale. Other chemicals commonly used in acid stain include iron chloride (FeCl3) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). The staining process is occurs when these acids react with the “free lime” in the concrete which then cause a color change. With water based stains, there is no reaction, but merely a mixture of micronized pigments and water that penetrates into properly prepared concrete. 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. The same sealers mentioned in previous paragraph. D.R.E.A.M. floor score. = 1 - Aesthetics.
V.C.T (Vinyl Composite Tile) and linoleum. V.C.T. is yet another low dollar investment floor covering. It has its place in other 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 V.C.T and may work well in certain areas of the animal care facility, but 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 and 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 V.C.T. 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. And with some of the new looks and design available, they can 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 in proper location)
Tile – 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 and as they being to wear they can become odor absorbing. The grout is really the weak link. Be careful when using porcelain in that it can be very slick when wet. Ceramic typically has a bit more texture, however 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
Resinous Coatings – can be defined as a proportioned combination of polymer products that 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 system. Some are solid, while others are multi colored. Resinous coatings can be patterned or used to create logos. Others yet 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, and/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, in fact manufacturers’ will actually state that they do 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 5 key attributes of your D.R.E.A.M. floor and defined the floor option that achieves these attributes, the next step is understanding 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 President of PermaTek Coatings – “Animal Care Flooring by the Animal Care Experts.” PermaTek Coatings is a national company that specializes in installing floor and wall coating solutions specifically for the animal care industry. PermaTek offers decorative and durable solutions that apply to virtually all areas of the facility, promoting a professional, attractive, and hygienic work space. Jeff has been involved in the Animal Care Industry for more than 16 years and continually works to develop new systems to meet market demands. Contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-780-1075. www.permatekcoatings.com
Reprinted with Permission from Pet Boarding & Daycare Magazine