When Planning for Durability, Don’t Forget the Flooring


Facilities management professionals in industries such as healthcare, retail, education and government are often involved in the process of renovating their existing facilities or moving into historic buildings that require a renovation. One of the first decisions to be made when renovating a building is: “Do we keep the floors or do we remove them and install new ones?” »

the IVL Swedish Institute for Environmental Research (IVL) recently conducted a study to better understand the environmental impact of refinishing versus replacing hardwood or resilient flooring (i.e., linoleum, rubber, vinyl). The study found that renewing resilient flooring can offer:

  • Up to 92% reduction in a facility’s carbon footprint compared to floor replacement
  • A 95% saving in energy resources, measured by transport, electricity consumption, consumables and materials.

Sustainability is a key driver in construction today. Many architects, designers and facility managers are now converting dilapidated, scratched, faded and just plain ugly flooring into beautiful, eco-friendly, long-lasting and economical centerpieces.

However, project stakeholders, upon seeing the condition of certain facility flooring surfaces, often see a renovation as an insurmountable challenge and choose to replace instead. As a result, companies are contributing to overflowing landfills, lengthening construction times, ruining their budgets, and subjecting nearby people to noxious fumes.

In today’s reality of new flooring trends, floors can be successfully renovated, regardless of their current condition, and effectively maintained for a long life. Here are three key actions that shape floor renovation and offer economical, fast and elegant solutions.

Keep flooring out of landfills

The IVL study found that 27 million square feet (25 million square meters) of flooring is replaced each year in Swedish public and commercial buildings, and other countries are seeing similar numbers.

“The standard today is new and fresh, and finishing is often perceived as more difficult,” said Maria Ahlm, author of the report from the Swedish Environmental Institute IVL.

When it’s time to remodel the installation or if the resilient flooring is damaged to the point of being unsafe, the historical tendency is to rip it out. Landfills receive the majority of these non-biodegradable materials. In addition to creating more landfill waste, replacing flooring is expensive and time-consuming. Add to that list the current pandemic-related supply chain issues, and facilities could face a long wait for safe and attractive replacement floors.

Yet renovating existing surfaces is an innovative and growing option with many benefits, including reduced environmental impact.

For example, the vinyl flooring in the medication room at North Carolina-based Kadlec Regional Medical Center has been worn away by heavy foot traffic, transportation of medical equipment, and harsh chemical cleaning processes. Replacement costs were estimated at $7,000 and included three days of downtime. Looking for a cost-effective solution, the facilities maintenance team decided to renovate the existing floor.

The process, which included abrading, cleaning, applying a base color and pattern with pops of color, then adding a topcoat, took five hours and cost around $600. The hall was returned to service the next day, with a monolithic floor surface that prevents germs, contaminants and other materials from seeping into cracks or marring the appearance.

Avoid Stripping Toxic Soil

We’ve all seen resilient flooring that becomes dull, slippery or damaged with wear. At this point, and when budgets permit, most facility managers choose to polish or replace the flooring.

The polishing process is labor intensive and involves the use of harmful chemicals that can end up in the air and waterways. For these reasons, facilities crews often have to close the area to be renovated to staff, guests, and business operations, or wait for a holiday or weekend and pay maintenance crews overtime to complete the work.

Identifying solutions that allow maintenance teams to safely and efficiently maintain resilient flooring is a priority for facility managers. They realize that flooring is susceptible to deterioration due to heavy traffic, spills, extreme heat, excessive humidity and harsh cleaners. It can be scratched or dented by furniture and heavy equipment. Therefore, assessing the cost of the flooring over its lifetime, as well as the environmental impact of frequent stripping, are two important considerations.

New options to fully renovate and transform resilient surfaces eliminate the need to undergo the time-consuming and highly toxic stripping process after initial system application. Long-term benefits include minimized plant downtime (often reduced by 50%), reduced labor costs for polishing maintenance, and extended life of the resilient surface.

Improve air quality with water-based chemicals

Water-based floor renovation systems are a viable solution for facility managers looking for convenience and durability in floor maintenance. These products are:

Ecological. Not only do water-based products eliminate the need to strip resilient flooring, they are also less likely to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, making them safer for crews maintenance and other people in the building. When evaluating chemicals that are environmentally safe, facility managers should look for products that are UL GREENGUARD Certified for low chemical emissions, as they help to reduce indoor air pollution.

Economic. Remodeling saves time and money compared to a new floor installation. The new resilient finishing systems available today will provide a durable surface with minimal downtime for facility staff and guests, and help facilities avoid a long and costly construction process.

Sustainable. Water-based solutions are now an industry standard for durable, long-lasting floor surfaces. Additionally, most resilient renovation systems offer a clean, non-yellowing formula to keep the floor looking like new for years with the ability to change the color and design of the floor as well.

Resilient flooring is a constantly growing market. According to research by Freedonia Group, global demand for resilient flooring will reach 3.9 billion square feet in 2022.

As the resilient industry evolves and our focus on sustainability continues to grow, facilities will need to change renovation, replacement, cleaning and maintenance practices. New products and techniques will allow them to make these changes without compromising the quality of their floors.


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