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A Commercial Floor Buffer/Polisher Machine Buyer's Guide: Costs, Types, and Purchasing Advice

If you routinely care for large areas of linoleum, tile, or hardwood flooring, a commercial floor buffer/polisher makes a solid investment. These machines are incredible labor savers and available in a wide variety of styles and speeds.

Look for units that are easy to use as well as maintain. Carefully consider the total flooring area that requires buffing, as well as the logistics of that area (width of hallways, doorways, and aisles, as well as tight spaces requiring greater maneuverability).

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What Are the Different Types of Floor Buffers?

There are three main types of floor buffers. The walk-behind manual is what it sounds like: the person operating the buffer walks behind the unit, propelling it forward. The walk-behind automatic differs in that it is self-propelled, meaning the operator need only guide the machine as it moves forward on its own. The ride-on includes a seat for the operator.

You also choose the power source for your floor polisher. Electric types are corded machines that must be plugged into an outlet and typically include a 50 to 75-foot power cord. They cost less but require the operator to manage the cord during operation, as well as ensure access to an outlet, and typically are lower-powered. Battery-powered units are the next step up in terms of power and price. Look for a unit with a good battery life that runs on a single charge. Finally, propane buffers are better for larger areas. They have much greater power, but also cost more in both initial price and maintenance.

Buffers also come in varying speeds. An RPM of 175 is the traditional speed of an industrial polisher, and handles the basic duties of a buffer: stripping, scrubbing, and polishing. A dual speed buffer operates between 200 and 400 RPM and performs the same tasks, just more quickly. High speed buffers are actually called burnishers. They run between 1,000 and 2,500 RPM and give a high polish to floors that almost looks wet.

Finally, size and speed together help determine the best uses for a commercial buffer.

  • Standard speed, 13-15 inches: Use to scrub, strip, and polish less than 2,000 square feet of flooring and for confined spaces or those with numerous obstacles
  • Standard speed, 17-20 inches: Use to scrub, strip, and polish larger areas and hardwood floors
  • Dual speed, 20 inches: Use to scrub, strip, and polish large areas, such as schools and businesses
  • High speed, 20 inches: Burnishers that perform the same function as buffers but more quickly and easily and with a higher shine
  • High speed, 20-27 inches: The tops as far as speed and power, typically run on propane

What to Look for in a Floor Buffer

One of the first things to look at in a commercial floor buffer is size. The industry standard is 17 inches for the base, though you find units both smaller and larger. Larger machines, of course, cover a greater distance in less time. However, you want a floor buffer that fits into the smallest spaces in your facility.

Only look at machines that include a bumper. This rubber base protects walls, furniture, and other surfaces from the inevitable bumping that occurs during use.

How Much Does a Commercial Floor Buffer Cost?

Like all equipment, floor buffer pricing varies widely depending on size, features, speed, engine type, and location. Costs start as low as a few hundred and extend to several thousands.

  • A 20" electric walk-behind averages between $500 and $1,000
  • An battery-powered, automatic scrubber averages between $1,400 and $2,000
  • Expect to pay around $7,300 for a battery-powered ride-on burnisher
  • Propane-powered buffers average between $4,000 and $7,000

Extra Floor Buffer Costs

Of course, the buffer needs buffing pads, wax, and sealant. Most units come with a starter pack of these materials (check with your vendor to be sure), but those don't last forever.

Manufacturers make finding the right pads easy with the use of color-coding. Use the right pad for each task to ensure you do not damage the floors.

  • Black: Stripping away protective coating from previous buffing
  • Green: Scrubbing away dirt and scuff marks before buffing
  • Red: Cleaning the floor and applying wax/polish
  • Beige: Polishing or burnishing the floor

In addition, you need your wax and/or sealant. Apply wax to wood or linoleum flooring to protect it from spills and scuffs and bring it to a high shine. Use sealant to protect stone flooring and outdoor wood surfaces.

Replacement pads cost around $8 on average. Stripping solutions cost around $20 per gallon, and floor wax ranges from $20 to $50 per gallon.

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