November 29, 2013

Werner Braun: Preparing for winter’s wrath

— It’s Thanksgiving week, and among the many things I’m grateful for is the temperate climate we enjoy in northwest Georgia.

Well, maybe not so much this week.

This recent blast of frigid air is startlingly foreboding of the cold and dreary days to come. Winter can not only take a toll on our health and our spirits, but it can also wreak havoc on our homes, our cars and our places of business.

At CRI, we often get asked how best to protect carpets and hard surface flooring when Mother Nature unleashes her wrath. Many of these questions come from business owners and retailers who have high traffic flow in very public entryways.  

These professionals want to know how best to handle snow on floors and carpets and how to deal with water residue from melting snow or rain. And they want to know how to deal with man-made infiltrators like certain types of chemical agents used to dissolve snow or designed to make outside surfaces less dangerous and slippery.

We have always suggested that businesses large and small, basically anyone who invites others through their doors, consider an effective entry mat system that can catch particulate matter, snow and moisture and “deal with it” before it becomes a problem.

There are a number of “protective entry area systems” that exist as the first line of defense against outdoor elements being tracked indoors. What a consumer chooses to use depends on the type of facility and flooring that needs to be protected.

Depending on its intended usage, a system can be as simple as using “walk-off mats” that can be changed out regularly to employing a more permanent system, one that is designed for its pleasing aesthetics as well as its functionality.

For example, a corporate headquarters that has marble floors in the lobby would be a good candidate for an “in place” system, which is typically a built-in permanent system at the main entry sites. The use of “walk-off” mats would likely not convey the sophisticated impression needed for this type of setting.

But those more casual types of mats are very appropriate in such locations as the entryways of grocery stores where the mats can be changed weekly by a rental company. During periods of inclement weather when snow and ice abound, walk-off mats are definitely in order.

Choosing the right “mat” system is not all that difficult, but an important consideration with mat systems, especially those that are loose laid, is the ability for them to stay in place and lie flat. While you want to protect the flooring, you don’t want to jeopardize the safety of those coming in and out of a building and risk the chance of “facilitating” a “trip and fall” accident.

Another issue faced in the winter is that of humidity. Cold air during the winter months can cause flooring material to contract, so if you see cracks where there weren’t any before, or if you see seams shrinking in carpet, it’s just a reaction to that drop in air temperature. This can often lead to static buildup in carpet and can also create static discharge in office furniture.

To help keep static electricity under control, you should try to keep the humidity levels in buildings at 55 percent or higher, which is not always easy to do.

The color choice for your commercial carpets and flooring is something important to consider because if the selected colors are not conducive to hiding the effects of winter soiling, then maintaining those floors will be a constant battle.  While light colored flooring might be very attractive, that flooring might become visibly soiled if the traffic pattern is extremely high during those foul weather months. Unfortunately, that could lead to high maintenance costs and even premature replacement of those flooring materials. And that’s not being very “green” in the long run.

The most important lesson here is that when you’re choosing your flooring, you should consider not only the inside aesthetics but also the outside environment and what impact the “out of doors” might have on your interior flooring.

We’re lucky to live in a pretty moderate climate — most of the time — but we still have our share of winter woes. The good news is that there’s a correct product for just about every application. You just have to know what will work best for your situation.

If you need more specific advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call. At CRI, we’re always glad to help out.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.