Taking the floor
For hotels, the importance of finding the perfect flooring material cannot be overemphasized. A crucial part of the entire décor and ambience, flooring forms the base of any interior scheme, and floor texture, pattern and design must all come together to leave a lasting impression on the guest.
Therefore, it has to be a combination of something that is easy to maintain, durable, vibrant as well as aesthetic.
The kind of flooring, of course, depends on what kind of movement is expected in the given area. Owing to constant innovation, exposure to newer designs and access to materials from across the world, flooring has become one of the most diverse areas in a hotel.
Priya Nandakumar, executive housekeeper, The Oberoi, Bangalore, says “flooring in hotels has evolved in a big way from carpets to tiles to indigenous marble to imported marble. Hotels have moved away from intricate to a more contemporary design with neutral colours.Wooden flooring has become the most preferred flooring in rooms and marble continues to be the most preferred in public areas.” She adds, “The theme of the hotel is what defines the kind of materials used in the hotel. For instance, our Italian restaurant at The Oberoi New Delhi is named on a building material called travertine used in Italy. Hence the restaurant got its name Travertino.”
Ajit Kumar, executive housekeeper, Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, agrees. “Today the requirements in a hotel are changing, so also the flooring. Flooring is based on a lot of factors like climatic conditions, footfall and aesthetics. Usage of artificial floorings has increased because of its original-like look and easy maintenance. Nowadays, one often uses engineered wood in spa or sauna, instead of solid wood.”
Whether it’s a restaurant, hotel room or public area, floor covering makes a strong statement. These stunning surfaces come in many varieties, namely, ceramic tile, carpet, hardwood, laminates. Kasturi Deo, executive housekeeper, Hilton Mumbai International Airport, says, “Wooden flooring and various types of marble, granite and sand stone are some options today. For back-of-the-house areas, Kota stone tiles and vitrified tiles are popular.”
Indeed, the choices are many. For instance, Mumbai headquartered Square Foot offers a vast array of product categories, consisting of solid wood, engineered wood, laminate wood, outdoor deck flooring, commercial heterogeneous and homogeneous vinyl and many more. These are available in several colours and shades, patterns and designs, quality standards and price points.
Abhishek Saraf, joint MD, Square Foot, says, “The two latest trends today are the design floor like herringbone, and the movement to a composite deck. Earlier, hotels were not using this due to high prices of real wood decks. We offer laminated wood flooring, engineered wood flooring, solid wood flooring and wood-wall cladding, among other options.”
Style and looks may be important, but durability is also a vital consideration. And vendors and suppliers are cognisant of this aspect as well. Naresh Maheshwari, CEO, Pergo, says, “Given the footfalls, hotels look for options that are durable, yet, elegant and sophisticated. A combination of style and functionality is what hotels are striving to achieve, and Pergo offers just that. Be it original excellence, wood parquet or vinyl, all our products are durable and long-lasting.”
The decision about flooring in a hotel is a critical one, since over the long run, maintenance is a major consideration. Kumar says “a lot of factors are considered before finalising the flooring for a given area. While the interior designers select flooring material along with the hotel management, but maintenance is the sole responsibility of the housekeeping department.”
Preeti Thakur, executive housekeeper, Kemipinski Ambience Hotel Delhi, adds, “Clean and shining floors give a positive impression. A well-maintained and polished floor represents the overall hygiene and quality of housekeeping. And of course, proper maintenance of floor increases the life of the flooring.”
Nandakumar says guests expect everything to be “spot on” and hence the importance placed on maintaining the highest quality of service and product.”
But getting it right and spot on is not an easy task. Hygiene and cleanliness have to be central to the issue and is therefore, accorded the highest priority. Sealed Air, a partner to most major hotels across the industry, has a number of floor care and maintenance solutions specially to maintain the required levels of hygiene.
Ramesh Kanna, senior manager, marketing, Sealed Air, states, “Identifying the type of stains and surfaces before opting for a product is a priority if one wants to get the best possible results at the most optimised expenditure. What is certain is cleaning cannot be seen as expenditure but as an investment.”
Kanna says while the hospitality sector has an evident charm, it also poses greater risk when it comes to contagious diseases like swine flu or Ebola. He says “guests are at high risk if the property is unable to maintain a safe environment. With innovations on the way, colour coding the zones within a hotel, use of microfiber technology with pre-wetted concept, opting for a trustworthy brand of cleaning agents that is renowned for providing consistent products and know-how, need to be focused upon.”
With the maintenance being such an important function, hotels make use of the best cleaning processes and materials which they source from the right vendors. There are agencies offering hotel flooring services to ensure well-maintained, spotless and sparkling floors. Such services include initial assessment and planning as well as execution, cleaning up, repairs, maintenance and aesthetics.
“We see the emergence of specialist floor-care contractors who undertake the maintenance and restoration of floors including sealing, coating and crystallisation,” says Vishal Sharma, VP & GM, India, Ecolab.
Indeed, with floor care being specialised and not a high volume activity, requiring specialised machines, it is not economical for hotels to invest in these equipment themselves, says Sharma.
“The cleaning process,” he adds, “starts from identifying the exact type of floors and then arriving at the cleaning, maintenance and restoration protocols. These then need to be carried out meticulously and systematically to ensure the desired look and feel.”
Hotels adhere to proper cleaning schedules for different areas depending upon the cleaning needs of that place. This, in turn, is based upon the kind of traffic there is in a particular area. Kumar elaborates. “We maintain daily, weekly and monthly schedules to maintain our cleanliness in public areas and rooms. We have people reporting in three different shifts and each shift has defined duties, helping us maintain the highest level of cleanliness in our hotel. We have various internal and external audits done to verify the level of cleanliness and gloss of the marble floor. We get assistance from external agencies as well.”
Deo of Hilton Mumbai believes prevention is better than cure. “Matting at the entrance prevents dirt and soil from coming into the hotel, Regular sweeping and vacuuming prevents dirt from accumulated and getting stuck to the floor. A regular wipe with a damp cloth dipped in a neutral detergent or chemical helps to remove stains and maintain the shine quality. Periodic buffing, scrubbing and polishing improve longevity of the surface,” she says.
When it comes to cleaning materials, hotels obviously settle for nothing less than the best. Thakur says she relies on a neutral floor cleaner (pH of 6 to 8) detergent that does not contain any strongly alkaline material, for damp mopping, spot mopping, scrubbing and general floor cleaning. She prefers a general purpose cleaner for high traffic areas that might require the removal of more stubborn soils.
Again, sealers, usually acrylics, are applied in the pores and fillings. This temporary coating gives it a polished, smooth surface and enhances the look and feel of the flooring. It also protects the flooring surface from abrasive wear and scratches from dust, dirt, grit and debris to which it is applied.
The Oberoi Bangalore predominantly uses Taski branded products from Diversey while at the Taj Rambagh Palace Kumar says he uses “diverse products where they supply tools as well as cleaning agents. They have different ranges of cleaning agents for different purposes.”
It is evident, then, while design and material options for flooring can be mind-boggling, in their bid to look trendy, hotels are thoroughly exploring each and every option placed in front of them. And with the increasing importance guests place on cleanliness and hygiene, no one wants to slip up on any of these aspects. No wonder, then, floor care and maintenance is such an exact science.