Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT) floors are maintained with a protective finish for three reasons: to make the floor less slippery, to protect it, and to maintain its beauty.
People are less likely to slip and fall when the floor finish is maintained properly.
VCT in its original state has little slip resistance. It is relatively soft and highly porous, so that dirt, grease, and water will quickly penetrate surface, making the floor either slick or sticky – and hazardous.
When you walk, friction helps hold your foot in place as your foot presses against the floor to move you forward.
To imagine walking without friction, think of walking on ice. The slick ice provides little friction and your foot slides when you try to walk. Too little friction will cause your foot to slip. Too much friction will stop your foot mid-stride and cause you to trip.
Floor wax provides a durable, slip-resistant surface for easy walking.
Foot traffic eventually wears down a finish.
Before new VCT is shipped from the manufacturer, it is coated with a thin layer of finish to prevent surface scratches during shipping. This fine layer is not designed for foot traffic, though, and wears away quickly.
Even properly applied floor wax wears away eventually, eroded by use. A floor coating erodes unevenly depending on the type and amount of traffic across its surface. Scuffs and scratches from shoes, salt, and grit tracked inside from outdoors, furniture rolling on wheels, furniture scraping without wheels: everything that moves across a floor has the potential to scratch or erode the surface coating.
Floor mats help a great deal in protecting VCT from damage in high traffic areas and under furniture. Still, wax wears away more quickly in high traffic areas, while the rest of the floor retains its finish.
Uneven wear leaves patches that are smooth and areas that are rough. The smooth vinyl and the uneven layer of finish give different levels of traction. This interrupts the smooth stride needed for walking – in other words, the floor surface itself becomes a trip hazard.
Applying an even floor coating maintains a smooth, safe surface for walking.
Floors need maintenance to withstand traffic.
Floor wax protects the floor itself. VCT is composed of a small amount of vinyl synthesized with limestone or clay. Lime and clay make VCT very porous and thus highly absorbent. Without the protective coating of floor wax as a sealer, dirt, grease, and grime will get pressed down into the structure of the tile. The discoloration is not just unsightly; some substances will damage or destroy the tile itself or the adhesive holding it in place. The damage is permanent and the tiles must be replaced.
Floor finish protects the tile from staining, dirt, and damage, making it a wise investment of maintenance.
Your floor defines your space.
Floor finish itself needs care, too, to prolong its life. Regularly buffing the floor will maintain a beautiful high gloss and cleanliness. Burnishing heats the floor wax to smooth out scratches and bring back the original shine. Polishing the floor eventually wears down the finish, though. This is normal and part of proper floor maintenance.
Dull, scratched, or dirty looking floors usually just need a new coat of finish. This is called a “scrub and recoat” and is also part of the regular maintenance of a VCT floor.
Once the original tile has been coated with a strong finish, the life of the finish depends on two things: the amount of traffic across the floor, and the level of maintenance. High traffic areas need more maintenance than floors that get little use.