Know-How: Flooring/Carpeting

Whether a school's floors are covered with carpet or a hard surface such as tile, maintenance workers have to be vigilant to combat the effects of heavy traffic and keep surfaces clean.

The typical school has hundreds or even thousands of people coming and going each day, and that can take a toll on the floor. That is especially true in the parts of a building that see the most traffic — entrances, hallways, cafeterias and common areas.

Maintenance programs that are vigilant about monitoring conditions in these areas will go a long way toward creating a clean and healthy educational environment.

The National Center for Education Statistics' Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities recommends these strategies for high-traffic areas:

  • Carpets:
    • Shake out floor mats in entryways.

    • Vacuum daily.

    • Apply spot remover as needed.

    • Deep-clean before the start of the school year and during holiday break.

    • Scrub-clean twice yearly.

  • Hard surfaces:
  • Shake out floor mats in entryways.

  • Dry-mop daily, and wet-mop three times a week.

  • Apply spot remover as needed.

  • Spray-burnish every other week, and strip and finish yearly.

Of course, the less dirt there is, the less there is to clean. That's why walk-off mats, which trap and collect dirt from shoes, can be found at many school entrances. Usually they are placed perpendicular to an entrance and can be as long as 20 feet.

“At a minimum, mats should be sized to catch four footfalls,” states “Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids,” a guide compiled by the Vermont Public Interest Group for improving environmental health in schools. “Longer is better.”

The guide also recommends that schools vacuum walk-off mats in main corridors several times a day. “Dirt trapped on the walk-off mats and on stair treads can be continuously tracked further into the building interior during the day,” it says.

In carpeted areas, the quality of the product also can help keep the surface well-maintained. School classrooms and corridors generate a “severe traffic level,” according to The Carpet & Rug Institute's rating system, and carpeting installed in those areas should be able to withstand such intense use. Staff and administrative areas typically have a less demanding “heavy traffic level,” the institute says.

Especially susceptible to wear and tear, the institute says, are track-off regions such as building entrances and congested channels, such as doorways, stairwells or drinking fountain areas.

NOTABLE

6 BY 15

Dimensions, in feet, of a track-off area at a building entrance.

2 BY 5

Dimensions, in feet, of a track-off area at an internal doorway.

5 BY 8

Dimensions, in feet, of a track-off area in a 6-foot-wide corridor.

80

Estimated percentage of dirt that can be trapped by a walk-off mat before it is tracked into a building.

Source: Carpet and Rug Institute

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