Are You Floored By Your Showroom Floor?

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You Can Polish Your Vehicles till they shine or even invest in the most expensive fixtures, but if your showroom floor looks worn, you're not doing your merchandise justice. "The floor enhances whatever product you're selling," says Ed Sexton of Illinois-based Specifier Products, maker of Stonecarpet.

Superficial considerations are important, but choosing a floor that stands up to everyday wear and tear is key. "Dealers should be looking for a floor that is durable, attractive, and is easy to maintain," Sexton says. "[Dealers] would hopefully find a floor that has resilient qualities because it makes it easier for people working on the floor."

So what type of flooring is best for your dealership? Dealernews asked some dealers and manufacturers for their opinions. With the help of Jim Rasmus, president of the Retail Design Associates, and Dealernews columnist Christy Michaud, here's what we found.

TILE Visual: 10 Durability: 9-10 Maintenance: 8 Cost: midrange to high

Out of all the different types of tile flooring available, the experts find that ceramic and porcelain tiles work best. "Nine times out of 10, we would recommend ceramic tile or porcelain floors," Rasmus says. He estimates that you can expect to pay from $4.50 to $6.50 per square foot, depending on where you buy it and what the labor rate is for installation.

For a real bargain, however, Rasmus urges dealers to conduct their own extensive research, to make the process of cost negotiation easier.

"I've had dealers who've done their homework, and they purchase tiles for less than $1 per square foot," Rasmus says.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are visually appealing, yet they come with certain downfalls that need consideration. How much time are you willing to spend on maintenance like buffing and spot-cleaning? For Lynn Nathan, owner of Powersports East in Bear, Del., the upkeep of tile was reason enough to switch from tile flooring to Stonecarpet (detailed below).

"We had tile from 1995 to 2006," Nathan says. "We had to pay to have the floor professionally cleaned four times a year because tires [from display vehicles] would leave marks. Tile absorbs all of it."

Darris Blackford, director of marketing at A.D. Farrow in Columbus, Ohio, states that showroom bikes are put on rubber kickstand pucks to prevent them from damaging the tile floor. Tiles are also susceptible to cracking, whether due to a building settling or someone dropping something heavy directly on the floor. The plus side, however, is you can replace individual tiles instead of the whole floor when this happens.

"If it cracks, it takes 15 to 20 minutes to replace a tile," Rasmus notes.

Generally, steer clear of vinyl tiles, no matter how cheap the price tag (usually priced at $1.50 per square foot or less). Vinyl tile looks cheap, and maintenance, says Rasmus, is a major headache. It doesn't stand up to bleeding and requires constant cleaning.

If you have your heart set on vinyl, Michaud suggests learning more about Centiva, a company that designs quality vinyl flooring that looks like stone or wood, among other things. Centiva backs its products with a 20-year commercial warranty. "You have to touch it to believe that it's not stone or wood," Michaud says.

STONECARPET Visual: 10 Durability: 9-10 Maintenance: 10 Cost: high

Stonecarpet is made by Specifier Products out of natural, 3- to 4-millimeter quartz stones. When installed, it offers similar benefits of hard flooring. Its peppered finish gives it the look of carpeting. Rasmus estimates that Stonecarpet is around $7.50 or more per square foot.

"It looks great, and the only drawbacks I see are maintenance issues because dirt and liquid and its pebbles can fall into the crevices [of the floor]," Rasmus says.

As with tile flooring, dealers also have been known to put mats or "pucks" underneath showroom bikes to keep from chipping or otherwise damaging the floor. According to Ed Sexton of Specifier Products, Stonecarpet is highly stain-resistant, and requires minimal maintenance.

Stonecarpet also comes in a wide array of colors and is slip-resistant. Floors can be easily personalized with logos and graphics.

CARPET Visual: 7-8 Durability: 7-8 Maintenance: 8 Cost: low to high

It can be one of the most inexpensive flooring options, but carpet does come with a laundry list of inadequacies. "Carpet is the cheapest, but it really doesn't last very long," Nathan says. Powersports East carpets its lower-traffic areas like its finance offices. In a high-traffic showroom, however, carpet requires a lot of maintenance (including vacuuming and steam-cleaning), and it doesn't hold up well to the wear and tear from kickstands and bleeding from chemicals on tires.

"If the store doesn't get in the habit of moving bikes every day or every other day, typically they will have stains [from tire bleeding]," Rasmus says. And for good carpeting, like commercial Berber, the cost per foot is comparable to the cost of ceramic tiles. "We generally only put carpet in the apparel and accessories areas to soften up the environment."

Blackford of A.D. Farrow says the same rubber pucks used on its tiled floor are used on its carpeted floor. "You still have to be careful. We don't have any tears, but there's always a danger of tearing," Blackford says.

If going with carpet, choose a variegated color pattern that blends colors to tie all the elements of your showroom together. The color pattern will also provide depth, says Michaud, and will hide wear and tear better than a carpet in a single color.

POLISHED CONCRETE Visual: 8-9 Durability: 9-10 Maintenance: 9-10 Cost: midrange to high

Because of its polished and sealed surface, says Terry Kurucz of Futuristic Designs Inc., polished flooring is nearly bacteria-free and dust-free. Kurucz's company installed polished concrete at Trev Deeley Motorcycles in Vancouver, B.C., when the dealership moved to a larger building. "We get nothing but rave reviews about it," says Ron Friesen, assistant general manager of Trev Deeley. "It's a significant element that makes our [showroom] look as good as it does."

Polished concrete can be expensive and requires maintenance to preserve its surface. "Because of kickstands on bikes, we have to put a pad under each bike to not damage the floor," Friesen says. "We have our issues with the floor, but it looks fantastic."

Polished concrete can be slippery when wet, and like tile, can crack over time. Michaud states that dealers need to plan ahead if they are considering a polished concrete floor. "Any visible imperfection [in the floor] will still be there," she says. "You're just putting a finish on an existing floor."

Above all, when choosing a new floor material, make sure you are meeting the needs of your dealership as well as thinking of the aesthetic value of the flooring. And as far as cost goes, investing in quality is always better than getting a dirt-cheap deal on a floor that won't last.

"There is nothing wrong with quality," Blackford says. "You don't want to replace your floor in three to four years because the product is low-end. Even if you are on a tight budget, you still want to have something that will stand up over the years."

Are you thinking about a new showroom floor in your dealership? Visit "Web Exclusives" at www.Dealernews.com for more expert advice and a helpful checklist of issues to answer before you begin your renovation.