Bona’s Resilient Flooring Renewal System is designed with sustainability, efficiency and savings in mind. Dave Darche, national market manager of adhesives/A&D, Bona, explains how Bona is working to transform the mindset of the industry to view resilient in the same light as wood flooring with its ability to be refinished multiple times over the course of its life.
Darche has been in the flooring industry for over 35 years. He started in a warehouse, unloading wood flooring from railroad cars for a distributor. During that time, he made a point to learn from the contractors he delivered to and used that knowledge, and what he learned during an apprenticeship, to move into wood flooring installation. Bona approached him to join their team. He is celebrating 20 years with Bona this year.
We sat down with Darche to learn more about his flooring industry career, how the industry has changed over the years and dive into the sustainable attributes of the renewal process. The following are excerpts of our conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety at floortrendsmag.com/podcasts.
FCI: When did Bona launch this system?
Dave Darche: I would say it was first launched in Europe, and I want to say it was at least some time between five and seven years ago, and then it was imported to North America. So, it's been part of our offering for at least the last three to five years.
What’s interesting is Bona has a good history and heritage when it comes to recoating wood floors. That’s what we’re known for, but we saw a tremendous need to make that type of technology available for some of the other floor coverings that are out there, and that's why we decided on the name of a resilient floor system, because there were so many different types of resilient products that we had compatibility with to be able to recoat those floors.
In the wood flooring industry, refinishing a wood floor has always been part of the business model of being a hardwood flooring contractor. Just to give you another interesting statistic. In the city of Chicago, more sandpaper is sold for wood floor sanding machines than anywhere else in North America because of all of the wood floors that were installed at the turn of the century—not the one that happened 23 years ago. I’m talking about the one that happened 123 years ago. Those floors are still being refinished and restored, and so the concept is, if we can have wood be a very sustainable material, can we also make sure that resilient can be just as sustainable by offering this type of refinishing process.
FCI: This process accomplishes a multitude of things, but top of the list is it’s budget friendly, it's a time saver and sustainable.
Darche: Absolutely, and the other sustainable part of that story is, I read a statistic that in 2017,
10.5 million gallons of stripper was used just in the U.S. market. When you think about that volume and you think about the slurry that it creates. Then, you think about where does this stuff really go? I think it's a question that all of us need to ask ourselves. If there is a choice to not use these materials and create a safer environment as far as indoor air quality is concerned, why not take that route instead?
FCI: Let's talk about who is choosing to use this system and the results they are getting.
Darche: So, where we're seeing it primarily used is in your school systems, government work, retail as well as medical. I'm not gonna focus on all of those avenues, but I would like to focus on schools and medical. School systems, let's say years ago, had a gymnasium wooden floor. It was very common to have a ten-year plan for maintaining that wood floor. Summer would come. The floor would get recoated, and then, about ten years after doing that, a company would be hired to come in and sand it down to bear wood and start the process all over again, which obviously extended that 60 to 100-year life cycle that a wood floor can handle.
What we're finding on the resilient side is there's no ten-year plan. It's just we'll strip it, polish it, strip it and polish it until we can't do it anymore. And now the concept is we'll just rip it out and replace it. So, what we're trying to develop is that same mindset that's associated with the wood floor business model and create the same model in the resilient world as well.
FCI: What type of downtime can a facility expect during this renewal process?
Darche: So, some of the steps associated with this process is this is the last time that surface would need to be stripped. That's a good thing. So, you take all the materials that are offered there, all the different polishes that have accumulated over the years, you strip that. Now, that's the last time stripper has to be used. Then, a wet abrasion is done with standard buffing machines—175 rpm machines. The floor is cleaned, and now, working off of that clean surface, you now have the opportunity to design by utilizing color and you're also able to design by utilizing chips.
There's all kinds of variations of chips that are out there that can be used to create all different kinds of wonderful effects, and the other things that these chips that get added into the color or pink that is applied to this flooring area is that the chips really can help you camouflage some of the flooring that might be otherwise telegraphing through because of the substrate or the surface that it's on.
After you've colored and chipped, you have a clear coat—two coats of clear coat, that are then applied to that surface in about a 20 degree sheen, which definitely seems to be sheens that more schools and medical facilities want for their floors. I think we're all kind of getting away from some of these shiny floors that we've seen over the years. Before I get into the downtime, I just wanted to mention one other aspect is that what this system accomplishes is it creates what we call a monolithic surface. I know the word monolithic means a lot of different things to different people, but what you're trying to do is create a flat floor that's free of seams and creases, and it eliminates the environment that bacteria can grow in. We're still going through COVID-19, and we all know that we want hygienic practices that prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, infections, and so forth.
When we look at downtime, there are a lot of examples of floors that could have been ripped up and replaced, and you might be looking at a time of about 72 hours from removal to replacement of material. A lot of times we're talking, the work being accomplished in anywhere from three to five hours and eliminating that downtime from 72 hours to no more than 18 hours for those facilities to go back into normal use for however way that room has been intended.
FCI: So, it's easily something that could be done overnight or over a weekend?
Darche: Exactly. In fact, one of my colleagues did a project in an operating room where the operating room next door was being used. So, because of the low VOCs of these products being Green Guard Certified, they were able to get that other operating room up and running and knowing the cost of operating rooms nowadays, that is a huge financial decision that medical facilities, retail facilities and schools can make to save on that downtime.
FCI: What are some of the options that the different sectors are choosing with flooring renewal?
Darche: I heard a very interesting TedMed that was recorded in 2016. This was a talk given on why hospitals are making us sick, and this was by Robin Guenther. She's a principal at Perkins+Will, and she made this statement, “How does it feel to inhabit these health care environments—these endlessly deep floor plans where surgeons literally never see the light of day?” I thought that was a very interesting thing for her to say, and then she talked about something else for a while, and then she came back, and she said, “Let's return to the health care worker who walks all day on shiny vinyl flooring. We know vinyl flooring makes people sick because health care workers account for more than 40% of adult occupational asthma, an issue linked to the cleaning chemicals that are used to wax and strip those floors.”
When I saw this presentation, I was kind of floored by it because I had never really given it that much thought. I knew there were benefits from using waterborne coatings for redoing resilient floors, but I never realized the asthma that was associated with some of these cleaning chemicals used to wax and strip floors.
FCI: But that's not the case today, right? It's changed drastically since then.
Darche: It's still in the process of changing. There's still a tremendous amount of waxing and polishing that goes on out there. I think what's exciting for me on the A&D side, talking to architects and designers, is letting them know that there is another option.
One of the things that I really like about working with the A&D community is that so many of them are forward thinkers. They get it, and when they hear that something of that nature or caliber is available, they're very quick to adapt to it because they see the benefits to the end-users, the people doing the work and the benefit to the environment in general.
FCI: Can other surfaces be resurfaced with this system?
Darche: Some of the options that you have are linoleum floors, and I know linoleum has become kind of a generic term over the years When you look at the history of linoleum, it was created in the mid 1800s and was made of very sustainable materials. Linoleum is a very good choice for receiving this type of treatment. LVTs, LVPs, vinyl tiles, rubber. Concrete is also an option to be able to have a coated.
There's a lot of different products that are being used out there, and when you look at the flooring industry as a total, if we take carpet out of the mix. When we look at hardwood, resilient and vinyl, we're looking at about 7 billion square feet a year. So, the problem is not in specifying those materials. The problem is in not specifying them and then letting others know that it can be treated down the road so that it can have that same sustainable footprint as a wood floor would.
FCI: What are the advantages, from an environmental standpoint, by renewing instead of replacing?
Darche: I did some quick statistics, and I'll use a Sweden as an example. Sweden is a country with 10 million people. So, it's about two and a half percent of the North American market. Just in Sweden alone, floors that are torn out and replaced would fill the landfill space equivalent to over 4,600 football stadiums. And that's just the country of Sweden.
Now, if I extrapolate that and take those numbers and apply it to North America, we're looking at well over 180,000 football stadiums. That is the landfill area that needs to be utilized to incorporate floors that are torn out and disposed of. Obviously, a very critical part of sustainability really comes down to renewing, restoring, repurposing, reusing, versus ripping out and tearing it apart.
A quick little example. Once again, because my strength is really in the wood flooring industry, I always try to apply it to the resilient world as well. A couple of months ago I was able to visit the 1707 home in Plimpton, Massachusetts. Recently HGTV featured the wood floor being restored on that project, so I was able to see it. Here are 316-year-old floors that were able to be reused, which I think is a great message.
My goal, with working with the A&D community, is to make architects and designers feel that resilient can be just as sustainable as wood floor.
FCI: What is the cost of this flooring renewal system?
Darche: Generally, we are looking at about $4 a square foot for the coloration, the chips and the coatings. Now, on the concrete side, it's probably about another 50 cents to a dollar more. The only reason between recoating a resilient floor versus concrete is, with the porosity of concrete, it's recommended that you put a primer down because over resilient floors one coat of color in 99% of the applications is all you need. But in concrete because of the porosity, you want to prime it, so that now, you only need that one coat of color, and you get a far more consistent look.
FCI: What tips do you have for organizations that renew their resilient floors?
Darche: One of the things that I've seen over the years is the value of education. We have lots of organizations that have done a tremendous job in making education available for all types of industries, and this is across all channels. For me, it's been a very good thing to see when I look at the education that was done in the early 1980s versus what I’m seeing today and what I’m going to see in the next five years is a very encouraging sign.
Obviously, teaching people how to do proper maintenance is huge. If people are going to do things in house, there are many companies that do these train-the-trainer programs where once you're able to train the trainer, the rest of it is going to be done in a very responsible way, and there's also other things that that can be done.
I've always recommended utilizing rugs in high maintenance areas or mats where people are coming in off of the streets. Just dust mopping floors on a regular basis, whether it's wood or resilient, [removes] all those particulates, instead of having them accumulate on the floor and turn into a potential abrasive. You now have the ability to keep those off of the surface, and it goes a long way towards keeping those surface coatings in proper condition.
For more news on Bona's Resilient Renewal System, click here.
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