Friday, March 5, 2010

Sustainable Terrazzo Floor Care-Dispelling the Myths

Sustainable Terrazzo Floor Care-Dispelling the Myths

As the world moves towards more sustainable design and maintenance myths are starting to be propagated which only leads to confusion. School superintendents, custodians and teachers are being bombarded by false information. The following are some of these myths and the truth behind them as it applies to floor care

Myth #1- Coatings, waxes etc are used as a sacrificial layer to protect the floor.
FALSE- Coatings such as acrylics, epoxies, urethanes commonly found in floor finishes are soft compared to the natural hardness of terrazzo which is basically concrete and marble. Due to their inherit softness they tend to trap and hold dirt and debris which contributes to accelerated wear of the surface.
A simple test can be performed to prove this. Take a tile and coat one half of it with a standard floor finish and leave the other half polished using a sustainable method. Allow the tile to sit in a room for a week. After a week you will notice that the coated side has more dust than the uncoated side. Next take a rag and wipe it across both sides of the tile. You will note that the drag on the rag is much greater on the coated side vs. the uncoated side. Now imagine how hard it is to remove this dirt and debris with a dust mop on coated floor.

Myth #2- Terrazzo contains asbestos and should not be ground
Let’s take a look at what terrazzo consists of. It is composed of concrete and marble chips or epoxy and marble chips. None of these components contain asbestos. Some concrete mixes do contain fiberglass particles which under a microscope can easily be mistaken for asbestos. In addition we have taken core samples of terrazzo on several occasions and have had them tested for asbestos. In every case no asbestos was found.

Myth #3 -Using Green and sustainable methods cost more
False; In fact sustainable maintenance will reduce cost dramatically. Not only will less time be required to dust mop and wet mop, but you have totally eliminated all chemical costs. Several studies can be found at www.boylanstonerestoration that will show that on average the cost savings is around $1.85 per square foot per year. In addition the payback on the initial restoration cost can be less than 3 years.
Myth #4 –Going green will cost jobs
False: most floor care programs spend nearly 70 % of manpower on floor care. Due to budget cuts, other areas of maintenance are being neglected. In fact based on our informal surveys more and more work is being placed on maintenance staff. By reducing the maintenance costs and labor required on floor care, manpower can be directed to other neglected areas.

Myth #5- A natural polished terrazzo floor will stain without a protective coating.
False: The natural polishing process closes the pores of the terrazzo which reduces the absorption of liquids. In many of our terrazzo restoration projects coffee was spilled and dried on the floor. The dried coffee was scraped up leaving no visible stain.
Myth #6- Stripper, coating and cleaners are now available in Green Formulations
Caution must be excerised when looking at what constitutes a “green” product. Many chemical companies have reduced the percentage of hazdourous chemicals in their formulations. However this does not make the product any safer. Many articles have discussed this and have called it Green Washing. A great example of this is in a article by The Environmental Working Group(www.ewg.org/schoolcleaningsupplies , which uses the cleaner Simple Green as an example. There article states that Simple Green claims to be non-toxic and biodegradable but failes to mention that the principal cleaning ingredient it contains is a possible human carcinogen.The hazardous ingredient is still present along with all the dangerous it exhibits. To be totally sustainable it is best to use NO CHEMICALS at all.

The myths that are circulating must be investigated and common logic applied to them. Many of these myths are put forth by chemical companies who are trying to market there hazdourds , health threating products. A simple review of the MSDS will show many of the ill effects of these chemicals.

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Anonymous said...

Myth #2 Incorrect - I disagree in that some types of asbestos have possibly been used for specific applications. I conducted an investigation and found that terrazzo mechanics sometimes used Calidria asbestos from union carbide as a thickener. the use was limited to the coping/borders where greater adhesion and lower viscosity was required or to fix the zinc strips to the base. A replacement product was Cabosil. U/C produced Calidria from circa approx. 63-85.