Preschoolers will have a carpet-like material called Powerbond under their feet when the Miller-Driscoll School renovation project is completed. The school building committee approved changing the new flooring in all classrooms from carpet tiles to Powerbond at its meeting on April 7. The use of vinyl composition tiles, although favored by the committee’s educational advisers, was rejected. The vote was 7-2 in favor of Powerbond. VCT will be used, however, in the school’s hallways.

The decision came down to maintenance and the future cost of that maintenance.

The selection of Powerbond will add $15,000 to the project’s flooring costs, while choosing the vinyl tiles, called VCT, would have resulted in a short-term savings of $40,000 to $55,000. However, with maintenance of Powerbond broken down to 30 minutes per 1,000 square feet, and VCT taking 55 minutes per 1,000 square feet, a majority of committee members felt Powerbond was the better choice.

The costs were provided by Turner Construction after consulting with suppliers. The maintenance numbers were provided by John Murphy, the district’s supervisor of buildings and grounds. The discrepancy in maintenance is in what work has to be done. Powerbond needs to be vacuumed. VCT, he said, requires a custodian to sweep, mop and spot clean area rugs teachers put in their classrooms.

The result, over the course of a 181-day school year based on the district’s labor rates, is $126,700 per year to vacuum the classrooms compared to $274,000 to clean VCT in classrooms. Over 20 years, using Powerbond would result in a savings of $2.9 million.

Powerbond, which was introduced in 1967, is a closed-cell sheet vinyl with a very short nylon tufted surface that comes in six-foot-wide rolls. According to product literature, it is not made with volatile compounds common in broadloom manufacturing. It has an adhesive backing and when it is installed the seams are welded together. A sales rep, who answered questions at the meeting, likened it to having a “pool liner” on the floor, in that moisture would not penetrate underneath.

The adhesive backing also eliminates the need for wet glues, allowing it to be installed without the need for off-gassing, the literature says.

In response to questions about spills and “accidents” young children might have, both the sales rep and Murphy, said the surface can be cleaned by using absorbent materials to sop up any liquids and then sucking up the residue with a hot water extractor. Disinfectant can then be added. The surface can dry within two hours, faster with the use of high-power dehumidifiers Murphy said his maintenance crew can use.

Superintendent Kevin Smith acknowledged there is already a considerable amount of Powerbond throughout several of the district’s schools, but he sees areas that are badly stained.

“What’s the issue, what’s the lifespan and what are the upkeep requirements? I worry that our staff can’t keep up with the kind of vacuuming that’s required,“ he said.

Murphy said most of the flooring around the district is very old and admitted maintenance has not been what it should have been for a long period of time.