How Floor Buffers Work

Home vs. Commercial Models: What's the Difference?
Chances are, you won't need a commercial-grade floor buffer to take care of the floors in your home.
Chances are, you won't need a commercial-grade floor buffer to take care of the floors in your home.

The kind of floor buffer you're probably most familiar with, either by firsthand observation or from watching any of a number of movie scenes featuring maintenance workers, is the commercial model. Because these are quite large and heavy, they are far more practical for buffing jobs that require the buffing of a very large area, such as a large warehouse or the floors of an office building. While commercial floor buffers are highly effective, they're also unwieldy in the small spaces you typically have in a residential home.

With commercial floor buffers, also called floor burnishers, the buffing pads rotate at 1,000 rotations per minute (RPM) or more -- usually 1,500 to 3,000 RPM [source:]. It's this high speed that enables a commercial floor buffer to achieve the kind of wet-looking shine that you'll find on, for example, an NBA basketball court [source: Curtiss]. Commercial floor buffers can be electrical or propane-powered, but propane is often more practical and less dangerous -- especially during a large buffing job where a long extension cord can serve as a tripping and mechanical hazard as well as a nuisance [source: Warren].

If you need to add some shine to your floors at home, however, you're not out of luck. Smaller, lighter and less expensive floor buffers are available as well. Also called low-speed buffers, these feature pads that swing side to side in addition to simply rotating. The buffing pads rotate at speeds under 1,000 RPM, usually around 175 to 350 RPM [source: Curtiss].

While home floor buffers won't buff a floor up to the high shine that a commercial floor buffer can achieve, they're still capable of giving a floor a nice, new-looking sheen. However, what home models lack in power, they make up for in versatility [source: Curtiss].

Commercial floor buffer models have pad drivers that can't be removed without some serious tools and a good deal of elbow grease, so it's highly impractical -- and unusual -- to use them for anything but buffing floors. However, for home models, that's not the case. Home models are designed to accommodate other attachments that can be used for a wide variety of home improvement and construction purposes like cleaning grout and stripping glue. Read on to find out how.

More to Explore