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What Can Be Done if My Terracotta Floor Was Not Correctly Sealed?

Terracotta floors provide a beautiful, warm, stain resistant surface that is easy to maintain when properly treated. However, given that terracotta is made from natural clay, it is sometimes prepared improperly prior to sealing it. Even if the correct steps have been followed when sealing the terracotta, using the wrong sealer can lead to early problems. Sometimes such problems will surface as early as within six months of the terracotta having been newly installed. We have seen it happen where an installation technician coated the tiles with the wrong solution and we have also encountered terracotta that was treated with the wrong sealers by the do-it-yourself homeowner. In each case, an expensive terracotta restoration followed.

Aren’t All Sealers the Same?

No. Some “sealers” are actually closer to a polish than a sealer, making them inappropriate for maintaining terracotta. For example, Linseed oil and wax based “sealers” will allow the terracotta to stain easily, attract dirt and generally only last around 6 months or so before the finish on the terracotta will begin to deteriorate. Emulsified polishes also stain easily and can wear off quickly. Both of these only coat the surface of the terracotta which can lead to the surface becoming patchy. Both are difficult to clean and, in fact, simple mopping will eventually erode their “finish” and cause the terracotta to deteriorate even further. Many other types of sealers and cleaners also don’t do what they claim, so it only makes sense to consult an expert about your terracotta before heading down the path to these kinds of problems.

Are There Solutions For This Kind of Problem?

Yes. There are solutions to these types of problems but they are best handled by a restoration professional. When installing new terracotta, there are no old polishes or ineffective seals that need to be removed. This is the perfect time to treat any salt residues in the terracotta. If this is done prior to sealing the terracotta, problems will be kept to a minimum. However, if you’re dealing with an existing terracotta floor, it is critical that as much of the old finish be removed as possible. The floor will need to be stripped completely and deep cleaned before it can be re-sealed. If you know what kinds of sealers and polishes have been used on the floor over time, inform your restoration technician. It will help with selecting the most efficient solvents to remove them.

But Can My Terracotta Floor Be Restored?

In most cases, the finishes that have been applied to your terracotta can be removed, along with stains and marks that will have resulted from the ineffective floor seal. You should take note that in most cases restoring terracotta flooring to its original condition is not a one-day job. The dissolved sealers and dirt that come off the floor must be thoroughly removed and the floor allowed to dry. The drying process can take several days. Only when the best results have been achieved by removing the old seal, dirt and debris and allowing the floor to dry, can the new seal be applied. Generally, most terracotta floors will require two to three coats of the new sealer. Once the seal is complete, it will not only protect the floor but will also enhance the natural colors and shades of the terracotta.

Before Restoration

After Restoration

Whenever considering restoring terracotta, we strongly recommend that you employ a restoration professional. It may cost more than doing it yourself, but you’ll avoid potentially expensive mistakes that can cost a lot more later on. And you will have a terracotta floor that, with a little maintenance, will look new for a very long time.

As always, let us know if you have any questions.

Restoration · Refinishing · Clean · Seal · Polish · Hone · Grind
Forensics · Counters · Floors · Elevators · Marble · Terracotta · Terrazzo · Granite
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Does It Matter What Grout I Use with My Stone or Tile?

Choosing the right grout is tremendously important to any stone or tile installation. Grout may seem insignificant to the rest of your project, but it is anything but insignificant. Choosing the right type of grout for your project, as well as choosing the right color, can have a big impact the look of your stone or tile and will also impact how your stone or tile performs over time.

What Type of Grout Should I Choose?

  • You should use a non-sanded cement based grout whenever the spaces between the tile or stone is narrow (1/8 inch or less). This helps de-emphasize the tile pattern and also creates an easy-to-clean surface, which is perfect for countertop backsplashes or shower walls.
  • When grout lines are wider than 1/8 inch, you should choose a sanded grout. The added sand helps bind and strengthen the larger grout joint. Floor tiles and natural stone tiles that have rough edges benefit most from large grout lines.
  • The best grout choices for tiled surfaces that will be exposed to harsh conditions are epoxy grouts. However, epoxy grouts tend to be more expensive and they can be tricky to work with. Epoxy grouts are very stain resistant and durable and this makes them a great choice for commercial kitchens or locker room showers.

Once you’ve selected the type of grout you’ll use, you can select a color. Even though colored dyes can be mixed with white grout to create custom colors, there are dozens of ready-made colored grouts available.

What Do You Recommend When Choosing a Grout Color?

  • You should choose a grout color that contrasts the color of your tile or stone when you want to emphasize the tile or stone pattern or accent individual tiles or stones. An example of this type of contrast would be seen should you choose a light gray grout with red, earth-toned saltillo floor tiles (sometimes called “Mexican tile”). The grey color in the grout will highlight the uneven edges of the tiles and create an eye-catching rustic pattern.
  • When you choose a grout color that matches the tile or stone color, you’ll create a more uniform look because the grout will cause the tiles or stone to blend with the larger field. If you were to choose a dark blue or dark grey grout for a gray slate floor, you would create a uniform backdrop that would highlight the room’s area rugs and furnishings much more than the tiles themselves.
  • You should always try to avoid stark white grout. This color shows the most dirt and discoloration and is difficult to keep clean. Instead consider an off-white, beige, or light gray.

How Can I Make Sure That the Grout Color I Choose Is the Right One?

You should always create what is called a “test board” so that you can see how the actual grout color will look against a sample of the tile or stone that you’re choosing. This eliminates grouting your floors or walls with a grout color that winds up turning out to be an expensive mistake.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Restoration · Refinishing · Clean · Seal · Polish · Hone · Grind
Forensics · Counters · Floors · Elevators · Marble · Terracotta · Terrazzo · Granite
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What Are the Considerations When Using Slate for Flooring?

Slate flooring is one of the most desirable types of stone flooring available and as a building material slate has many exceptional qualities. Slate is incredibly durable and is most effective when installed in areas where there is a lot of traffic or where it will be exposed to a significant amount of moisture, such as an entry foyer or lobby.

What Are the Characteristics of Slate and Why is it Good for Flooring?
Slate flooring has differing grades of quality. The finest slate is found underground and must be extracted by mining. Lower quality slate is located close to the Earth’s surface and costs less because it is less expensive to extract. Slate that is found on the surface has been likely been subjected to the elements for hundreds of years making it porous and flawed, and therefore less desirable as a building material.

High quality slate flooring is naturally slip and stain resistant. While lower quality slate can potentially be subject to stains, high-quality slate will remain non-porous and stain resistant for the life of a house (and will likely outlast most homes). Slate is resistant to fire as well as water and is also very easy to care for. Other than regular sweeping and mopping with mild detergent, a slate floor will require almost no maintenance.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Slate Flooring?

Yes, but they are few. Even though slate can take a significant amount of impact, it is still possible to crack or chip slate. However, slate is generally harder than most anything that might fall on it, so occurrences of cracking and chipping are rare.

Slate flooring only comes in only a few different colors so the variety you have to choose from is limited. The color variation comes from the various minerals that are naturally present in the area where the slate was mined. Some companies may not keep slate mined in one area separate from that mined in another area, which creates a floor that contains many different colors. If you want a slate floor that is as uniform in color as possible, you should ask if the slate you’re purchasing will all come from the same quarry.

For most people the biggest drawback to slate is the price. Slate is one of the most expensive building materials on the market. While purchasing good quality slate is costly, its performance, longevity and ease of care make it a worthy investment.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Restoration · Refinishing · Clean · Seal · Polish · Hone · Grind
Forensics · Counters · Floors · Elevators · Marble · Terracotta · Terrazzo · Granite
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How Can I Keep My Stone Sink and Bathtub Looking New?

Sinks and tubs fabricated from natural stone are so easy to care for that they are practically maintenance free. With very little effort on your part, a stone sink or bathtub will retain their beautiful color and remain looking new for a lifetime. If you’ll follow these easy steps you’ll have a beautiful stone sink or bathtub for years to come.

  • Quickly rinse your sink and bathtub after each use with clean water to make sure that you’re not leaving behind any chemicals or harmful residues that could build up on the surface or etch into the stone.
  • Clean your stone sink or tub once a week using a very mild soap and dry it with a soft, clean cloth.
  • Depending on how often you use your sink or bathtub, you should periodically re-apply a protective sealant. We recommend this be done at least once every 15 to 24 months. However, if your sink or tub gets a lot of use, you should re-apply a sealant on an “as needed” basis.

What Should I Do If I Live in a “Hard Water” Area?

If you live in an area where the water has a high mineral content, it’s even more important to dry your stone sink and bath tub with a soft cloth after each use. When “hard” water is left to stand, minerals in the water can accumulate and may begin to form deposits on your sink and tub.  It can become difficult to clean the residue and in extreme cases it may actually stain the stone. Once that happens, you’ll need to use a specially formulated poultice to try and remove the stain, or contact a qualified natural stone specialist to restore the condition of the stone.

REMEMBER: Any kind of abrasive product or acid-based cleaner will scratch the surface of your sink and bathtub and may cause irreparable damage. Always avoid using abrasive and/or acid-based products on your natural stone sink and tub.

I Use a Housekeeping Service. How Can I Make Sure They Take Proper Care of My Stone?

Housekeepers and maid services tend to scrub and polish using a variety of abrasive cleaners and disinfectants when cleaning bathrooms. If they are not informed about the proper care of your natural stone sink, bath tub, shower or vanity, they may unknowingly scratch or damage the surface. IT’S UP TO YOU TO MAKE SURE YOUR HOUSEKEEPER IS INFORMED ABOUT THE PROPER WAY TO CLEAN YOUR STONE.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Restoration · Refinishing · Clean · Seal · Polish · Hone · Grind
Forensics · Counters · Floors · Elevators · Marble · Terracotta · Terrazzo · Granite
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What Causes White Discoloration on Tile Grout?

There are three things that can cause this. Efflorescence is the most common cause of a white discoloration on grout and it’s commonly believed that discoloration is caused by impurities in the grout, or from minerals in the water used to clean the grout. However, in our experience, this is rarely the case. Neither of these sources provides sufficient salts to cause the discoloration.

What Causes This Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is usually a result of salts migrating from a masonry base underneath the tile or stone such as a mortar bed or a concrete slab. For efflorescence to occur, there must be salts present in the masonry base as well as a source of moisture. The white discoloration that you see is the result of salt migrating as part of a moisture flow. The source of the moisture can originate from water trapped in the masonry base, or in rare cases may be absorbed from surface water on the grout. While there are building techniques that attempt to prevent this, it is difficult to correct after installation. Sealing the grout with a vapor permeable sealer (not an acrylic sealer) may slow the flow of moisture and reduce the discoloration. Acrylic (topical) sealers can react with moisture and form additional white discoloration so they are not recommended.

What Else Might Cause This Type of Discoloration?

A second cause of discoloration is called leeching. Modern grouts contain a number of performance enhancing additives, many of which are polymers. These are either present in the grout mix or added by the installer. When too many of these additives are used, too much water is used when mixing the grout, or when the grout is not allowed to set properly, these additives can migrate to the surface. Since many of these additives are naturally white in color, a white residue will appear on the grout.

Leeching is much less common than efflorescence, but it can occur. This type of discoloration can often be removed with a strong soap or cleaning agent, but it can take some experimentation to find a cleaner effective on the particular polymer present. Over time, the accumulation of these deposits will decrease as the polymer is leeched out of the grout.

Is There Anything Else That Can Cause This?

Yes. A third cause of white discoloration comes from a combination of dirt and detergent residue. Depending on type of soil where you live, normal dirt and grime on your tile may build up in to a white residue. When this dirt combines with excess detergents that haven’t been fully removed when the tile is cleaned the white discoloration can become significant. Remember that when tile is cleaned, the grout lines are lower than the tile so they’re a natural place for residues and dirt to build up. Cleaning and complete removal of detergent and dirt residues can correct this type of discoloration.

Regardless of the cause of white grout discoloration, it can be difficult to clean and to prevent and may require the expertise of a restoration professional.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us should you have questions.

Restoration · Refinishing · Clean · Seal · Polish · Hone · Grind
Forensics · Counters · Floors · Elevators · Marble · Terracotta · Terrazzo · Granite
Read more