Ask the Building Maintenance Experts
Solutions for Your Toughest Problems

ICAN  Q & A  Home

Sunday, October 04, 2015


I have an account with a correctional facility. The warden wants the bathrooms stripped and finished. I informed him since the flooring was sheet vinyl, I would not strip and finish them. The prior account holder applied finish over dirt, and used some type of finish that did not have a very good shine. Should sheet vinyl floors be finished?


“No-wax” flooring is very common, but we need to understand two things.

1) The use of the term ‘no-wax’ refers to the fact that the flooring has a manufactured surface that reflects light, shines, without the addition of any topical seal or finish. Hence, until foot traffic and grit destroy that finished surface, the product will have a gloss that most people feel is the hallmark of an attractive floor.
2) The term does not imply that there is a ‘no wear’ surface in place. Any flooring can be degraded by grit being tracked across it, damaging the finish until unsightly traffic lanes appear where the gloss is worn off.

A few days ago, a pure vinyl flooring was discussed as to the manufacturer’s recommendation to use it and avoid the need for a topical finish to preserve the flooring. ( Most glossy sheet vinyl flooring does not have this sort of finish durability, and even with the Vinyl Homogenous Tile (VHT) it is suggested that a topical finish be applied and maintained if a higher gloss or luster is desired. So, with these products, appearance is a primary concern, and I suspect that this is what the warden has in mind when he sees flooring with soil sealed-in by floor finish.

My recommendation, in your case, is to lightly strip the floors and apply a good quality modern floor finish, up to 5 coats with adequate drying time between. This finish may then be maintained by spray buffing or scrub-and-recoat, so that there is a preservation of the original gloss and of the original surface.
Make certain the flooring is vinyl and not linoleum, although the latter can be stripped and finished, if care is used. Vinyl will not be damaged by properly mixed stripper, and the clean, dry surface can be recoated with a self-polishing finish (we really don’t use wax on floors any more) to upgrade the appearance and make cleaning that much easier.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor