Types of Non-Resilient Flooring

The first step in planning a floor care program is knowing what type of flooring you have in your facility. Not all cleaning methods and surface treatments are safe for all floors, and using the wrong approach can be a costly mistake. This article looks at the various types of non-resilient hard floors you might encounter as a facility manager.

Resilient vs. non-resilient flooring

Before we get to the specific flooring types, let’s review the two main flooring categories: resilient and non-resilient.

Resilient flooring is flooring that has a particular property. When you press into a resilient floor, it gives a little and then returns to its standard shape. Resilient floors offer a few benefits you won’t find in non-resilient floors:

  • Better traction and a lower risk of slip-and-fall accidents.
  • Lower cost to replace damaged sections.
  • Ergonomic benefits; less fatigue and more comfort to the people walking on the floor.
  • Lower noise from foot traffic.
  • Lots of choices in appearance. A wide variety of colors, patterns, and finishes are available.

Non-resilient flooring is precisely the opposite. A non-resilient floor has no give. If it’s dented, the dent is permanent. Non-resilient floors are also more likely to chip rather than deform. Concrete, for example, is a non-resilient flooring. There are some benefits to non-resilient floors as well:

  • Durability. Non-resilient flooring can generally last longer than resilient flooring. When designing a high-traffic area, builders will often opt for non-resilient flooring.
  • Price. Typically, a non-resilient floor is more expensive to install. Since it lasts longer, there is a tradeoff to consider.
  • Maintenance cost. Non-resilient floors are typically less expensive to maintain than resilient floors.

Are you looking for information about resilient flooring, like VCT? Check out this post.

All About Grout

Since grout is an integral part of floor tile installations, we will cover grout types and cleaning grout issues before talking about the kinds of floor tiles.

When planning floor maintenance, understanding how to clean the grout is just as important as knowing how to clean the tile. There are several kinds of grout, and the right cleaning process depends on the type of grout.

Cement-based grout – This grout consists of concrete, water, and sometimes sand. You may see this kind of grout referred to as sanded or non-sanded. Adding sand to the grout increases strength. Wall tile installations, which have thinner grout lines and require less strength, use non-sanded grout. Floor tile installation use sanded grout, where the grout lines can be between 1/8-inch and 3/8-inch.

Cement-based grout is porous and absorbs moisture. Dirty water soaks into the grout giving it a poor appearance. Using an automatic scrubber, rather than a mop, on grouted tile helps remove the dirt before it can soak into the grout.  Also, making sure your scrubber’s squeegee performs well can help dry grout lines. Check out this article for tips on optimizing squeegee performance.

When the grout is newly installed or freshly cleaned, apply a sealant to protect against moisture absorption. Sealants come in two varieties, penetrating and non-penetrating sealant. Non-penetrating sealants don’t absorb into the grout and offer less protection than penetrating sealants. A penetrating sealant will absorb into the grout, reducing the grout’s porosity, making water bead on the surface. When applying any sealant, be careful to avoid getting it on the tile because it will leave behind a hard to remove haze. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when sealing the grout to ensure that the products you have selected are appropriate for your flooring. Sealants wear out over time, so cleaning the grout and reapplying sealant is a typical restorative process.

Important! Never apply a water-based floor finish to grouted floors. The floor finish will penetrate the grout, and it will be impossible to restore the grout to the original appearance.

Epoxy-based unsanded and sanded grout – Epoxy-based unsanded grout uses a polymer, instead of concrete, to create a hard, waterproof, stain-resistant filler between tiles. It is easy to clean and does not require a sealant. It is also very durable. With these benefits come a few tradeoffs. Epoxy-based grout is more expensive and takes longer to install. Also, epoxy-based grouts can have a “plastic” looking appearance, which some people find undesirable.

Types of non-resilient flooring

Ceramic Tile

Manufacturers produce ceramic tile using clay, sand, other additives, and water. The solid ingredients are ground into a fine powder, mixed with the water, and then pressed into a tile shape using a mold. The newly formed tiles are passed through a dryer to remove some of the moisture. After drying the tiles, a decorative pattern is printed on the tile. After printing, a glaze layer coats the tile. The glaze is a coating made from a mixture of minerals and metals. The tile passes through a kiln where the tile dries further, and the glaze goes through a molecular change, forming the top coating. The glaze composition determines the final color and gloss of the tile.

Ceramic tiles are installed by applying mortar to a subfloor and pressing the tile onto the floor. During installation, spacers keep the tiles a uniform distance apart. Once all the tile is laid and the mortar is dry, the installer fills the spaces between tiles with grout. When the grout is dry, the floor is ready to be used. The grout may be sealed or unsealed.

Ceramic tile is relatively easy to clean with an automatic scrubber and the right cleaning solution. Acidic cleaners can attack concrete-based grout, so manufacturers recommend neutral and alkaline cleaning solutions. For typical soils, a neutral cleaner should suffice. If you’re dealing with a greasy or heavy soil load, an alkaline cleaner may be necessary. Using a brush instead of a floor pad can help more thoroughly clean grout lines. 


Concrete flooring is manufactured by pouring the concrete mixture directly on to a gravel or dirt bed. While concrete flooring is a basic building material, modern techniques can produce a variety of surfaces. Concrete floors may be textured to provide traction or polished to a smooth finish. Paint or stain can replicate the look of natural materials or intricate printed designs.

Sealing a concrete floor helps protect the floor from moisture and stains. Immediately cleaning up spills is essential in avoiding long term stains.

Concrete has a very high pH and readily reacts with acids. Concrete is also extremely porous, so water and chemicals absorb quickly into the surface. Dust mop the floor before scrubbing. Use an automatic scrubber equipped with a floor pad or a brush. The brush or pad you choose will depend on the surface treatment of the concrete and soil type. For polished concrete, you might use a neutral pH cleaner or a conditioner designed for polished concrete. You may also want to buff the concrete if it is losing its shine. For plain concrete, start by scrubbing with a pH-neutral cleaner. More aggressive brushes or degreasers may be required, depending on the type of soil. Consult with your local distributor or NSS representative to find out which products will work in your situation.

Granite Tile

Granite is an igneous rock (formed from volcanos) used to manufacture countertops and floor tiles. Granite can be cut into thin slabs and polished to a smooth glass-like texture. Alternatively, some manufacturers use a flame to give the tile a rough surface. Flamed tiles are more common on exteriors and entryways because it is more slip-resistant. Manufacturers cut the slabs into smaller squares and rectangles to make tiles.

Granite tile installation is similar to ceramic tile installation. Tiles are held fast by a layer of mortar, and then grout seals the gaps after installation.
Once the installation is complete, the installer will apply a sealer to the floor to protect it from moisture and make it easier to clean. Sealant manufacturers recommend sealing the floor annually for the best results. Even when sealed, it is essential to clean up spills immediately to avoid possible stains. Polishing a granite floor is possible after sealing. Water-based floor finish is not recommended for granite floors.

Vacuum or dust mop granite floors frequently. Abrasive particles, like sand, can damage the surface, so removing them often helps preserve the floor’s appearance. Highly alkaline, acidic, ammoniated, or abrasive cleaners are not required for daily maintenance. Use a neutral pH cleaner for daily cleaning. When scrubbing with a floor scrubber, use soft floor pads or soft nylon brushes to avoid scratching the surface. Contact your local janitorial supply distributor to find the right products, and be sure to test your cleaning process in a small out-of-the-way area before starting.


Terrazzo is a mixture of chips, water, sand, and cement, or epoxy. The chips can be a variety of materials; marble, glass, stone, plastic, steel. Terrazzo offers a wide variety of design options and is widely used in airports, cultural institutions, schools, and hotels. Terrazzo is a low-maintenance and durable flooring. Terrazzo flooring is manufactured by laying out a metal grid pattern on the floor and then pouring the mixture into the grid. A weighted roller finishes the material. Once the material has cured, a large grinder smooths the top of the surface. Next, a pigmented slurry fills in any pinholes in the floor. Finally, a high-speed burnisher shines the floor to a glass-smooth finish. Applying a sealant to the terrazzo further protects the floor from stains. As with other stone-based floorings, prompt cleaning of spills is essential to avoid difficult to remove stains.

To clean a terrazzo floor, first dust mop to remove loose dirt. Next, scrub the floor with an automatic scrubber and a neutral cleaner. Finally, polish the floor with a battery burnisher. You may want to consider a diamond pad for terrazzo, which can clean and polish the floor without using chemicals.

Limestone Tile

Limestone is softer than other natural flooring materials and not well suited for high traffic areas. Also, heavy furniture can scratch the floor tiles, so be careful when moving it around.

Vacuum with a soft brush tool or dust mop limestone frequently to prevent the build-up of abrasive soils that might scratch the surface. Use a neutral-pH detergent with soft floor pads or brushes to clean the tiles. Your local distributor will have chemicals that are recommended for limestone floors. If you are testing a new cleaning process, try to find a small out-of-the-way area to clean first.

Marble Tile

Marble is formed when limestone rocks are subjected to heat and pressure for millions of years. Miners extract large marble rocks from quarries. Manufacturers use diamond saws to cut the rocks into slabs, which are then polished. Finally, rectangular tiles are cut from the slabs to form the tiles.

Cultured marble is a human-made flooring where crushed marble dust and resin are mixed to create a flooring material. Cultured marble has a finishing coat applied and will appear more glossy than natural marble tiles.
Like other tile floors, marble flooring is installed using a mortar. Spaces between tiles are filled with grout. Sealing marble flooring is recommended to protect the tiles from stains and moisture.

Dust mop or vacuum marble floors to remove loose dirt. If vacuuming, use a soft brush or felt tool. Hard plastic vacuum tools can scratch the tiles. Avoid using acidic cleaners on marble floor tiles. Many chemical manufacturers make detergents specifically designed for cleaning natural stone. Follow the instructions on the bottle when using an automatic scrubber with these products.

Marble floors can be polished using specialty machines and polishing discs. These processes typically start by honing the floor with a coarse abrasive and then repeating the process with progressively finer abrasives. You may want to use an automatic scrubber with some of these processes, which will speed up the process by making clean-up between steps faster.

Mexican Tile

Mexican tile, or Saltillo tile, is a hand made tile that is dried in the sun rather than in a kiln. These tiles are a rustic appearance and can vary slightly in size, are not perfectly square, and are not entirely flat. Mexican tile is very porous and is commonly chemically sealed.
Many of the same products used to clean other tile floors can be used with Mexican tile. Contact your local janitorial supply distributor to identify the right products for Mexican tile if you have any questions.

Dust mop thoroughly before cleaning the floor. Floor machines and floor scrubbers can be part of your maintenance program, but avoid using high-pressure settings when cleaning Mexican tile. Use soft pads or soft brushes as well to prevent scratching the tiles.

Quarry Tile

Quarry tiles are produced from a mixture of natural ingredients, including clay, shale, and feldspar. Quarry tile is manufactured much in the same way as bricks, using a high-temperature kiln. Quarry tile is extruded through a die or press, which forms a texture on the back to promote adhesion to the mortar. Quarry tile is tough and non-porous. Most quarry tile does not have a glaze layer. Although the tile is tough, you will still want to maintain the grout as we covered earlier in this article.

Depending on your preference, you can use a sealant with an unglazed quarry tile. Adding a sealant can help protect against stains and moisture.

Quarry tile is straightforward to maintain. Thoroughly dust mop the area and scrub with a floor scrubber. For most applications, a neutral-pH cleaner is all the detergent needed. If the soils are oily, as you might find in a commercial kitchen, use an alkaline cleaner or another type of degreaser. As with other tile floors, avoid acidic cleaners because they can react with the grout.

Slate Tile

Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock formed from existing rock by long periods of heat and pressure. Slate is cleaved along its natural graining, resulting in more size variation than other types of tiles. Slate tiles are either “ungauged,” meaning that they are not uniform in size and thickness, or “gauged,” where the surfaces are ground until smooth. Slate can be honed and polished until it is as glossy as marble or left in a rougher unfinished state. After installation, use a chemical sealer to protect the tile from spills and stains.

Cleaning a slate floor is similar to cleaning other natural stone floors, like marble. Clean up spills immediately to minimize absorption into the tile. Avoid acidic and abrasive cleaners. Dust mop the floor and scrub with an automatic scrubber as part of your regular maintenance program. Reseal the floor every three to five years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.


Wood floors in commercial buildings can be either softwoods or hardwoods. Common softwoods are pine, spruce, and cedar. Common hardwood floors are oak, maple, and ash. In addition to solid wood floors, commercial buildings might also use laminate wood flooring or engineered wood flooring.

Maintaining a wood floor is similar to maintaining other softer non-resilient floor types. Keeping abrasive dirt off the floor is critical. Dust mop or vacuum the floor with a soft brush frequently to prevent build-up. Keep the floor dry and clean up spills immediately. Protect the wood by adding felt pads to furniture legs, especially chairs.

Not every cleaning product is safe for wood floors. Contact your local janitorial supplies distributor to identify precisely which wood floor care chemicals are right for your floor. Refinishing wood floors every three to five years can help keep them looking new. The refinishing process typically entails sanding away the old finish, buffing the floor to remove sanding marks, staining the floor (optional), and applying a sealant.


Maintaining non-resilient flooring starts with knowing what kind of floor you have.  From there, you can select the right cleaning machines, chemicals, and processes to keep your floors looking great.  Your local janitorial supply distributor is an excellent source of information when selecting products.  In addition to your local distributor, NSS has regional managers throughout North America to help steer you in the right direction.  Use the “Start a conversation” button on our homepage to let us know who you are and where you’re located.  One of our regional managers will reach out to consult with you about your cleaning operations.

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