Newbie question about cleaning VCT

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mico888

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Hi, I just got possession of my house and my basement has what I believe is VCT. It is very dull looking, has scuff marks in some places and has some stains due to foam padding tiles left on the floor for many years. Can someone please guide me on what is the best cleaner I can buy to clean it up and look better? I understand I can look to rent a buffer but is there an easier way? Is it harmful in any way to mess with the tile? The tiles look old, not sure if it's original to the house but it was built in 1979. Please help! Also please see attached picture of the tile. Thank you in advance
20220808_215143.png
 
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Welcome to the site.

It needs to be stripped with an appropriate VCT stripper (chemical), then it needs to have 3-5 coats of a metal-crosslinked acrylic floor finish applied. This process would need to be repeated based on traffic and your expectations of what you want the floor to look like. This can be done with a mop and bucket, but the results are generally much better with the appropriate equipment.

VCT is essentially a solid product with no built-in wear surface. That's why it's one of the cheapest floors you can (could) buy. The trade-off is that the cost of ownership (maintenance products & labor) is much higher than today's flooring options.

There is another alternative, but it's considerably more expensive and it would require hiring someone to do it. You can apply a semi-permanent coating to a VCT floor. These are specialized urethane topcoats made for this purpose (not just any old urethane) and it needs to be done by someone who has the equipment and experience to do it correctly because it can get messed up in a hurry. Typically, the companies who do this type of maintenance are commercially oriented and it may prove difficult finding someone to do such a small application in a basement. Probably much easier in the long run to go with the first option. ;) However, the upside is, if done correctly, you may never have to strip and re-apply finish to the floor again.

You can purchase a test "kit" from your local Lowe's or Home Depot to have the tile tested for asbestos. It's possible, if the flooring is truly that old, that both the flooring and the underlying adhesive may contain asbestos. However, that doesn't mean that in its present state it's going to harm you or your family. The asbestos fibers are encapsulated into the flooring and the adhesive and unless they are disturbed by removing the tile then it won't harm you. The loose fibers have to be breathed in to cause harm.

A word of caution...BEFORE you do anything to disturb or remove the floor, make sure that you are familiar with the requirements for doing so. Municipalities, Counties, & States can all have guidelines that dictate what you can and can't do as a homeowner to safely remove the product. Your local building department should be able to alert you to any requirements you must comply with for removal and disposal. If you find that there are none, then a good reference on what to do would be found here:

https://rfci.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/RWP_MASTER_English_2018.pdf

These guidelines were developed in conjunction with OSHA and can serve as a practical guide where no other ordinances, codes, or laws for abatement exist.

I would strongly caution against removal of this flooring and the adhesive. Given the age of the home, it's safe to assume that there is no intact vapor retarder underneath the basement slab and right now this floor is very likely serving as a pseudo vapor retarder. If you remove this flooring and adhesive in order to put in a new floor, you could very likely be opening up another issue and creating a slab moisture problem.

Wish you the best and please let us know if you have any other questions.
 
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JPfloor

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Yes strip and wax is the ticket but stay away from the big box stores when looking for the supplies. Find a janitorial supply place in your area, they will more likely carry the correct products for stripping wax. And the correct non-slip wax to apply.

It’s possible to do it by hand but I can tell you first hand it’s way easier with a buffing machine. If you go that route use the black pads for stripping. For a small area you have to decide if it’s worth the expense. Have a sharp scraper handy for the edges and be careful, the stripper gets real slippery when applied…A shop vac will work for sucking up all the slop. Don’t let it dry on the floor.

Be sure to neutralize right after stripping. Basically rinse it a number of times with fresh water and a clean mop. It helps to have a helper. Keep those buckets of clean water coming. Did I mention not to let the stripper and old wax dry on the floor?

Best advice I can give is to watch a few you tube videos. Just gotta make sure to get all the old wax up if there is any…

Easiest part is applying the new wax. I like four coats.

If ya really wanna get jiggy with it check out burnishing a day or two after. You can make that floor look like glass. But that’s another whole machine to carry up and down the steps…😎
 
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Incognito

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As stated----scrub/strip old wax/3-4 coats of new finish and then that really wants to be BUFFED out to get it shiny.

The SHINE is really what makes a VCT floor pop. If you're not going to do that I'd say overlay with some decent LVT.

You need the buffer for both cleaning and polishing. VCT doesn't really work without that system. Unless you don't care how it looks.
 
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Sweep and/ or vacuum as needed to remove any loose grit or dirt. Once it's clean, you can just use a neutral pH (get this from the janitorial supply along with the stripper and finish) cleaner with either a regular cotton mop or with a microfiber mop to do routine cleaning. I'd recommend staying with a single brand for all three products to make sure compatibility and for best performance. If the floor starts to show signs of traffic, you would just need to strip and re-apply the finish. Most likely though it's going to be quite a while before this needs done as a residential installation just isn't going to get nearly the traffic as a commercial setting would.
 

JPfloor

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To add to that, in the years to come you don’t necessarily have to strip the whole floor every time you wax it. A good scrubbing and a fresh coat of wax will do wonders. In a residential setting I would guesstimate every two years or so for that. Probably get away with 10 years before you want to strip it again.
 

Incognito

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To add to that, in the years to come you don’t necessarily have to strip the whole floor every time you wax it. A good scrubbing and a fresh coat of wax will do wonders. In a residential setting I would guesstimate every two years or so for that. Probably get away with 10 years before you want to strip it again.
Schools around here have gone to stripping and putting new wax/finish every two years rather than every summer as was the norm forever. If you put extra coats on instead of stripping and re-applying the finish you just do the light scrub and then buff it out. Sufficient finish will allow for buffing back to a virtual new condition. Department stores like target have the janitorial subcontractors (illegal aliens from Eastern Europe or Latin America) buff out the VCT with a high speed buffer EVERY NIGHT to get the shine. I believe the initial application after install is 12-14 coats-------so I've been told.
 

JPfloor

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Schools around here have gone to stripping and putting new wax/finish every two years rather than every summer as was the norm forever. If you put extra coats on instead of stripping and re-applying the finish you just do the light scrub and then buff it out. Sufficient finish will allow for buffing back to a virtual new condition. Department stores like target have the janitorial subcontractors (illegal aliens from Eastern Europe or Latin America) buff out the VCT with a high speed buffer EVERY NIGHT to get the shine. I believe the initial application after install is 12-14 coats-------so I've been told.
Schools sound like they're on track but remember we're talking about a guy's basement here.

I have ice cream stores, busy but certainly less traffic than Target or schools. We mop them daily and I spray buff about once a month. Add a coat of wax every 3-4 months. So far I've stripped them twice in six years. Keeps um looking good.

12-14 coats sounds excessive to me, especially if you're going to strip it on a regular basis. I think the big stores around here use autoscrubbers every night, the ride on jobbies, not high speed burnishers. The high speed burnishers should be used only after the floor is cleaned and waxed, never for cleaning. Also you need to wait a day for the wax to cure. But I must say all those coats of wax properly applied, allowed to dry, and then burnished would give you a glass like shine. I haven't seen that in any Target's around here... :cool:
 

Incognito

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Schools sound like they're on track but remember we're talking about a guy's basement here.

I have ice cream stores, busy but certainly less traffic than Target or schools. We mop them daily and I spray buff about once a month. Add a coat of wax every 3-4 months. So far I've stripped them twice in six years. Keeps um looking good.

12-14 coats sounds excessive to me, especially if you're going to strip it on a regular basis. I think the big stores around here use autoscrubbers every night, the ride on jobbies, not high speed burnishers. The high speed burnishers should be used only after the floor is cleaned and waxed, never for cleaning. Also you need to wait a day for the wax to cure. But I must say all those coats of wax properly applied, allowed to dry, and then burnished would give you a glass like shine. I haven't seen that in any Target's around here... :cool:
So I do recall the 12 coats as a standard for one of the grocery store chains for sure and I believe Target was another. They all put A LOT. Those Target stores really do shine here-------very consistent from store to store. It's always that Armstrong Cool White.

In the days I was doing this work it was a walk behind, high-speed polisher. Maybe they didn't get a whole Target buffed out every night. For sure they'd run the machines down the main aisles though. Custodians in the schools RUN through nightly with backpack vacuums and dust mops. That's why the LVT looks dull and dirty real quick, They do almost no scrubbing and if they do rinse it'll be with the same scummy mopbucket water from last year. I think it's in their union contract that the don't have to ever replace the dirty water.

When I started the trade in New England in the '70s a "supermarket" was just a couple hundred cartons. Gradually they just got bigger and bigger. Super Walmarts are a couple thousand. Targets are more than a thousand----depends on how much carpet. Walmart uses the LVT where they used to put carpet. The whole stripping and re-applying of wax/finish is the #1 reason the school are going to LVT. They just fail to understand no-wax does not mean no-scrub and no-rinse.

In a home we're talking VERY minimal effort to maintain VCT. Hell, the area in the photo could be buffed out with the same type equipment people use to buff the wax on their cars/trucks.
 
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High speed burnishing, when done by someone who knows how to do it, does look great. But if you get someone who doesn't know what they are doing you can really screw things up.

Also, the heat it generates will cause the VCT to conform and show any and all subfloor imperfections and they will stand out like a sore thumb. Trowel ridges from using too large of a trowel, minor patch, cracks in the subfloor, any "goobers" that got missed will end up looking like that big old crack running through the landing in the photo except very shiny. There's pretty bright lighting in this home so any high shine finish that's applied is going to exaggerate and show anything like that crack likes there is a spotlight on it. Just my two pennies.

Here's one I was involved with many years ago in a school with great maintenance:


Kennedy School Interior Finishes Prest Inst.JPG


Here's another one in a hospital with good maintenance:

Parkview Heart Center 2.jpg


(EDIT) Here's one that's not so good. Maintenance is decent but it actually ends up showing issues in the floor:

IMG_0279.JPG
 
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Incognito

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I would re-phrase that CFR.

The way I'm seeing things there a proper finish HIGHLIGHTS a great job and it also HIGHLIGHTS a shoddy job. So you sure as heck dont want a high gloss, routine polish on a resilient floor over crappy floor prep.

We don't always know if that's a workmanship error. Frequently installers are constrained from the full, proper demo/moisture remediation/leveling/smoothing procedures by cost considerations dictated to them or other issues like limits to access. (Cant shut down facilities)
 
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Yeah, you are correct. The way I stated that wasn't the best. I was trying to show that good maintenance with a poor installation or subfloor problems and the wrong lighting condition can highlight the problem.

Here's that same facility with a different perspective that eliminates the lighting. The problems (somewhat) disappear. Would have possibly been difficult for the installation crew to see as most likely they weren't working in actual facility lighting conditions during the install. More likely had 3 guys with ladders doing stuff over their heads while they were installing the floor.

Turnstone 3.jpg
 

JPfloor

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So you sure as heck dont want a high gloss, routine polish on a resilient floor over crappy floor prep.
For sure. That's the premier reason I don't burnish.... Along with being such a small space.... and laziness... :cool:

But that mirror finish sure is purdy when everything is done right...:) Way nicer than all these no wax floors of today... In my opinion.
 

JPfloor

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More likely had 3 guys with ladders doing stuff over their heads while they were installing the floor.
That's the way I remember it...LOL

Cant tell ya how many times people walked through my prep work no matter how many signs and barracades I put up.

I liked to put down three coats of compound and come back the next day and sand...But who's got time for that?
 

JPfloor

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They do almost no scrubbing and if they do rinse it'll be with the same scummy mopbucket water from last year. I think it's in their union contract that the don't have to ever replace the dirty water.

LOL

We change the water every day but getting a kid to rinse out the mop with clean water is like pulling teeth. So then they stick the dirty mop back into the new clean bucket... Kinda defeats the purpose.

I change the mop heads every three weeks but that's really not enough.
 

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