Floor maintenance is a lengthy process, with different factors involved. Whether it’s finishing a new installation, restoring the existing one to its lost glory, or sprucing things up by changing the current stains and lacquers to different ones to alter the décor of the premises, there’s plenty that gets factored in. This ranges from the wood species involved, sealants, conditioners, oil based and water based products to use, the colourations desired, all through to the gloss of the final outcome. However, for your personal desires to be met, it all boils down to proper surface preparation. The wood needs to be ready to receive the products that are to be applied. Otherwise, there will be cases of dirt getting trapped under the wood stains, the varnishes not bonding well with the surface, to reactions of old and new finishes on sections where the former wasn’t properly removed. The pores of the wood need to be opened up to allow optimal absorption of the products, to ensure that they form a strong bond that will enhance properties such as its wear resistance. That’s where sanding comes in.
Sanding itself is multi-pronged. There’s the floor sanding on new installations, where the surface is simply being prepped for conditioning and finishing. There are those cases when there’s already an existing layer of treatments on the floor, and they are to be removed to set the stage for new ones to be applied. Here, one needs to grind down to the bare wood. There’s also the sanding that is carried out in between subsequent coat applications. In this case, it’s only light sanding to even out the finish coats that have been applied, so that the ones that are to follow are applied uniformly, and it’s a delicate process. Whichever the case, the sanding can be carried out in two ways: through the traditional standard approach, or the increasingly popular dustless floor sanding. This article delves into both, to give you an in-depth understanding.
The concept is straightforward: grind through the surface and expose the bare wood underneath. Different tools are used, like orbital and drum sanders, planetary and edger sanders, and there are those who go by hand to use sandpaper directly on the floor. It depends on the level of efficiency desired, the budget involved, the size of the area being worked on, and also the skill level of the person carrying out the sanding. Equipment is rented from stores, that has varying capacities. The sanders come with dust bags that pick up the sanding dust that is generated in the course of the process, holding it in waiting for disposal. That’s where the huge disparity comes in. For starters, the vacuuming action of the system has limited capacity. This means that coarse and fine dust particles end up escaping into the interior space of the establishment, covering the furnishings and upholstery, getting into sockets and HVAC units, and light ones hanging in the air, waiting to be inhaled. While the machinery does pick up plenty of the dust into the bag, the particles that are left out still make a huge mess, meaning an intensive cleaning will need to be carried out before the rest of the floor restoration process can continue. The dust bag itself, without sufficient holding capacity, will need to be emptied out regularly, which increases the interruptions in the process, causing it to take longer. Add to this the fire hazard that is created. All it takes is a spark to lead to an inferno, especially when transferred to garbage bags on the premises. These bags, full of dust collected from the old floor, can easily heat up and catch fire
Back to the dust that gets into the airspace during standard floor sanding. Note that this is not simply wood particles chipped off the floor. It’s mixed with the treatments that have been grinded off the surface. The chemical compounds are a cocktail of everything from allergens and toxins to carcinogens. Sure, while they were hardened on the floor, no one was at risk. However, one in the air space as a result of insufficient vacuuming, the persons on the premises are put at risk. It basically comes down to more time being spent on the task, lengthening the period the floor is out of commission, an increased workload due to the monstrous cleaning job that awaits, and increased risks to your family members at home, or the employees and customers in your commercial establishment.
Dustless Floor Sanding
Here the emphasis is doing away with the mounds of dust generated during the sanding. Technological advancements have made it possible to drastically reduce the messes that comes with floor maintenance, which is why professional companies employ dustless systems. Vacuum systems are attached to the sanders through hoses, and deliver high-powered suction to remove both the fine and coarse sand particles the moment they are generated. They aren’t housed in dust bags on the sanders, rather the particles are transported away into dust containment systems off the property. This makes it a faster and more convenient option. There are different options available, like cyclone-style separators that capture and filter the dust and keep the vacuum at optimal suction power, ensuring up to 99% of the dust is safely contained. More power means more efficient vacuuming, and the hose-systems to truck mounted units reduces down-time, since there aren’t aspects such as stopping to empty the bags as would have occurred with the standard floor sanding processes. This also makes it a healthy option for the persons on the premises, since the risks from fine particles being raised into the atmosphere are slashed down. It’s not just the vacuuming that gets a boost. The truck-mounted equipment ensures that there is sufficient power throughout the sanding. The rest of the equipment, like the orbital and planetary sanders, are of industrial grade. These are heavy investments, and are machinery rarely found in dealer stores. High capacity and heavy duty, they require plenty of skill to operate them safely without putting the floor at risk. . The sanders break through multiple tough layers of finish that are on the floor with ease, getting to the bare wood underneath in moments. The floor is left smooth and ready to be finished in a fraction of the time that would have been taken with the standard systems.
It’s also important to distinguish between “dustless” and “sandless” floor maintenance. The former is as explained above. However, for sandless processes, it’ exactly that: there is no sand. This means that the floor is not sanded in the first place. It’s simply screened or buffed, then a finish coat applied. For instance, an abrasive disk is placed under a waxing machine and run over the surface. It doesn’t change the underlying colouration of the wood. In case there are damaged sections, issues like scratches or areas where the finish has dulled due to oxidation, or the finish has worn off, the sandless process won’t solve these issues. It’s just like when you add a clear nail polish coat- in case the base colour is scratched or chipped, it will still continue to show. Complete dustless sanding is needed to rectify anomalies in the flooring.
Note that floor sanding alone does not prepare the floor for the finish products that are to be applied. Measures such as nail setting, countersinking those screw heads that are popping out of the surface, filling gaps and holes in the floor, are steps that will need to be taken to ensure the surface is smooth, uniform, and ready to be treated. Hiring professional dustless floor sanding services will enable you to ensure that you get the task done right, save you from the workload involved, take away the risks and liabilities, reduce the amount of time spent on the process, while simultaneously ensuring that you get high quality results.