Floor coverings are not given the attention they deserve as part of the general maintenance of office and commercial buildings. Floors in commercial buildings are constantly exposed to thousands of people walking on them day-in-day-out. The floors receive scuffs from shoes which sometimes contact the flooring like sand-paper under hundreds of pounds of pressure. The floors can be dented from the pressures of moving furniture, denting from dropped items, and chemical damage from an accumulation of spills .
Laminate flooring can last between 15 and 25 years, hardwood flooring can have a lifespan of 75 years. Wear and tear from constant use can drastically reduce the lifetime of flooring. Laminate flooring which is commonly used in commercial buildings has a printed paper outer layer protected by a thick layer of protective clear coat. Once the outer layer is worn down with heavy use, nothing can be done to restore the flooring. Laminate floors do not tolerate water spills well and can quickly warp and layers will separate. It will have to bereplaced. Hardwood floors can be re-sanded and refinished--but surfaces can become curved and pitted with use.
Vinyl tile or floor covering is a popular material for commercial applications. It is water-resistant and relatively low maintenance. The vinyl floor covering has a "wear layer" coating that protects the outer surface/ Low end vinyl may have only 10 millimeters of wear layer protection. Higher grade commercial materials may have wear layers of closer to 30 millimeters. Foot traffic and heavy objects moving over vinyl damage the finish of the vinyl flooring as particles of sand and other materials act as grit to damage the surface, wearing off any surface sheen. The build-up of dirt, oil and asphalt sealers tracked on the floor causes discoloration. Prolonged exposure to heat and direct sunlight also fades the floor surface.
Marble floors are made of calcite under intense pressure and heat. Although marble is extremely hard, it is also porous. With time under heavy use, water and common environmental acids leech in flooring. The calcite (calcium carbonate) is very vulnerable to the effects of dilute acids which causes the marble to soften and disintegrate. Other common chemicals like chlorides, nitrates also react with the calcite compound, sometimes dissolving it sometimes damaging it other ways, causing loss of polish and loss of surface detailing.
Ceramic tile is a common commercial floor covering. Usually only the highest of the 5 grades of tile is installed commercially in high traffic areas. The tile lasts longer than virtually any floor covering. Good tile has color clear through it so it does not fade with wear. However, even the best commercial tile will crack or break when a heavy object is dropped on it. There are mosaic tile floors in Italy that have lasted millennia and still look wonderful even though they are "completely boned to their bases."
The best solution for maintaining the appearance of buildings and expensive flooring over the long term is to use replaceable mats and rugs to separate walkers and day-to-day floor traffic from the direct pressure of feet. Fabric flooring is never as long lasting as the flooring materials under them, but they provide a replaceable cushion to protect floor surfaces.
Indoor mats are the best way to keep dirt, moisture, and chemical contaminants off your flooring. Mats can be placed in specific high traffic areas and entrance-way areas where they can significantly reduce the wear and contaminant pressure on the flooring but allow the quality of the original flooring to be visible over the less trafficked areas. Mats can be colorful and attractive on their own and can provide a softer smoother walk across the floor. The best thing is that cleaning and maintaining the floor covering is inexpensive and easy.