Monthly Archives: August 2014

This Shell Slate tiled floor was installed in the kitchen of a house in Lytchett Minster and had not been sealed after its installation over twenty years ago and had now become deeply ingrained with dirt which the owner could not remove however hard she tried.

Cleaning Shell Slate Tiles

To clean the tiles I used Tile Doctor Pro-Clean diluted one part cleaner to five parts water, the solution was applied it to the floor and then left to soak in for ten minutes before working it in with a Numatic buffing machine fitted with 17″ medium firm brush. Next the tiles were steamed using an Earlex steamer and stubborn stains cleaned by hand using sections from a cut-up black buffing pad and a Spid brass-coated wire brush where necessary. Being riven slate the floor was too uneven to successfully clean using a black buffing pad fitted to a rotary machine as the sunken parts of the tile would have been missed and so cleaning tile by tile was the only option to ensure the slate was returned to the best possible condition. A stiff brush was also run along the grout lines before thoroughly rinsing the floor to remove any trace of cleaning product.

Shell Slate at Lytchett Minster Before Cleaning

Sealing Shell Slate Tiles

The floor was left to dry overnight and I returned the next day to seal using two coats of Tile Doctor Colour Grow sealer which is a penetrating sealer that occupies the pores in the tile preventing contaminates from lodging there and enhances the many beautiful colours of the Slate as well as leaving a subtle shine to floor.

Shell Slate at Lytchett Minster After Cleaning

The customer was very pleased with the result and said that she hadn’t before seen the true colour of her floor.
Source: Slate Tile Maintenance Advice


When a homeowner thinks about building or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, often the floor is the most significant component in the room being considered. An inexpensive design touch that is not seen, but certainly felt, is radiant floor warming.

For floors, ceramic, slate or marble tiles are attractive and durable alternatives to wood, carpet or vinyl. The eyes appreciate the beauty of tile floors, but the feet only notice the cold. And what a shame to hide a beautiful floor under a throw rug!

Most people feel comfortable with air temperatures of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and tend to feel uncomfortable if there’s more than a 5 degree difference in the surface temperature (80-85 F) between the head and that of the feet. A bare foot gives an immediate indication as to the comfort level of a given floor. For this reason alone, tile may not be used.

Consider: With just a tiny amount of heat drawn from a foot, carpet fibers warm almost instantaneously to “foot” temperature. A ceramic tile can’t compete in this foot race; its mass needs more body heat for a longer amount of time. It’d take approximately half an hour for each step taken on a 68 F marble floor to warm the 15 degrees between it and an uncomfortable 83 F bare foot!

This concern is eliminated with a radiant floor warming system.

The two most common radiant floor warming systems are hydronic, usually a whole house heating solution used not just for floors, or electric. Electric systems are inexpensive enough for single room applications when compared to hydronic floor warming systems that use pricey boilers and tubes to generate radiant heat.

Suitable for new construction or remodeling applications, electric floor warming systems include a network of cables, occasionally mounted to rectangular mats, installed in the mortar just below the tiles. These cables gently warm the tiles, operating on ordinary house current. While using a professional electrician is advised for those not comfortable working on electrical installations, these systems are generally easy to install. The use of a system will not compromise the integrity of the tile installation.

Designing a floor warming installation first requires a determination of the area to be warmed. Calculating the total square footage will require collecting information from the blueprints of the room or actually measuring the area itself. It should be noted that areas under vanities or cabinets, under plumbing fixtures or inaccessible areas should not be included. When making the calculations it is advisable to design a layout that considers actual use and traffic patterns in the area to be warmed. It is very important to calculate the square footage precisely. Using caution in measuring and calculating the area will help ensure a proper installation.

Using the square footage calculated above, the homeowner or contractor selects the appropriate product application. Easy Heat’s Warm Tiles cables are available as an off-the-shelf purchase in a growing number of distribution channels, reducing time in the purchase and installation process. Mat manufacturers can take several weeks creating custom-made mats for a particular application.

A complete system often can be installed using an electric drill and other ordinary hand tools. The installation process can be completed in three phases that will likely correspond with the construction phases of your home or building.

Phase One

During the electrical rough-in, the components of the installation kit will be installed. The outlet box should be located in the wall directly above the area to be warmed. Consideration should be given to the location of other electrical devices when installing the box. The appropriate power feed should be brought to the box in this phase.

Phase Two

After finishing the drywall and immediately preceding the tile installation, the cables should be installed. To simplify this procedure, a special template is provided with each cable to ensure correct spacing. Each cable also includes an appropriate amount of clips and screws to properly affix the cables to the floor.

Phase Three

The last phase calls for the installation of the control and connection to the power source. Complete wiring instructions are provided with each thermostat. Once completed, the circuit can be energized.

Several options exist for controlling a floor warming system. A system can be wired with an appropriately rated switch for manual on/off control, though the use of a thermostat for maximum comfort control and energy conservation is recommended. Thermostats usually have built in on/off switches to allow the system to be turned off during vacations or at other times when the floor warming system is not needed. Today, a homeowner can find floor warming thermostats, such as Easy Heat’s FTS-1, with sophisticated programming features as well.

Using a thermostat, a typical floor warming system may be inexpensive to operate. Homeowner can visit the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration’s Web page at to determine typical electrical usage. Using Easy Heat’s Warm Tiles square foot operating cost for 40 square feet, results in a price of $0.008 — less than a cent per square foot per day, or 32 cents a day for the 40 square foot floor.

A ceramic tile cutter is an important tool for cutting border tiles during floor tile installation. A ready-made tile cutter with base, clamp, and cutter in one unit can cost a lot of money. To lessen the cost, make an improvised ceramic tile cutter unit with a table base instead.

What You’ll Need
Handheld Tile Cutter
Table (2-3 feet in width and at least 3 feet in length)
1×1 or 2×2 Wooden Board
Meter Stick
Two C-Clamps

Step 1 – Setting up the Table

Determine which side edge of the table to work with. For right-handed people, the right side edge is best. On the back length of the tabletop, secure the meter stick on the edge with the scaled markings, rising up and facing toward the tabletop. Half of the width of the meter stick should be rising from the tabletop and the scales should be in centimeters (or in inches depending on one’s preference). The end of the stick should be flush with the right side edge of the table. At the back of the meter stick, on the lower half of its width, pre-drill screw holes 2 inches apart. Set the screws and tighten them.

Step 2 – Installing the Fixed Straight Edge

Cut two 1×1 or 2×2 wooden boards exactly the same width as the table. Position one on top of the table with the tip exactly on the starting edge of the meter stick and the length perpendicular with the meter stick. The other board will serve as the straight edge guide for cutting the tile.

Step 3 – Positioning the Tile on the Table Base

To prepare a tile for cutting, position it on top of the table with one side flush with the fixed wooden beam and the other side flush with the meter stick. The meter stick and the beam will ensure that the tile is positioned at a right angle. Position one of the C-clamps on the back length of the table and use it to clamp the left side corner of the tile. Tighten the clamp, but make sure not to put too much pressure to avoid breaking the tile.

Step 4 – Marking, Scoring and Cutting the Tile

Using the scales on the meter stick, determine where the tile will be cut. Use the straight edge wooden beam as a guide; mark the tile with a pencil. With the straight edge in position, use the other clamp to secure it on top of the tile. Take the hand-held tile cutter and position it on top of the marked line. Place the tip of the cutter exactly on the marked line, apply pressure and score the entire line downwards to the bottom edge. Remove the clamps and the straight edge, move the tile towards the right side edge of the table until the scored line is in line with the edge. Press the left side of the tile with the left hand and push the right side of the tile slightly downwards until it snaps off.

Occasionally I get a call to pop down to Sandbanks on the Dorset Coast which is well known for containing the most expensive property in the UK outside of London. This particular residence had a Travertine tiled hallway which was badly in need of renovation, it had become very soiled and dirt had become trapped in holes that has opened up in the stone over time and now needed cleaning and filling.

Travertine Tiled Floor Sandbanks Before Cleaning

Cleaning and Filling a Travertine Tiled Floor

I began by applying a dilution of Tile Doctor Pro-Clean which was left to soak into the floor for ten minutes before being worked into the tile and grout using a Numatic buffing machine fitted with a medium brush. I then dried the floor using a hot air gun and filled the holes with Harbro Stone Filler which is an epoxy filler as hard as the stone itself. I carefully scraped off the excess filler before leaving it to set overnight.

Burnishing Travertine Tiles

The next day I used 17″ wet and dry paper to remove the excess filler and to cut out some of the deep scratches in the travertine. This I followed by honing and polishing the floor using Tile Doctor burnishing pads which are diamond encrusted and come in a setup of four pads which are applied one after the other from Coarse, Medium, Fine and then Super Fine to restore the surface polish.

Sealing Travertine Tiles

On the third day I returned to seal the Travertine tiles using Tile Doctor Colour Grow which is a colour enhancing impregnating sealer that soaks into the pores of the stone occupying them and in doing so preventing dirt and soil from becoming ingrained into the stone. Colour Grow is also a colour enhancing product that brings out the colour in the stone

Travertine Tiled Floor Sandbanks After Cleaning

Unfortunately I didn’t remember to take a photo of the floor until after the initial clean but the effect of the filling and burnishing pad treatment should be visible.
Source: Resolving problems with Travertine tiles

Sanded grout is a special type of grout that has small particles of silica sand in it to make it a lot stronger than regular grout. Grouting ceramic tiles may do well with regular grout, but there are some instances that require the use of stronger and more durable sanded grout. This type of grout is best to use in between tile slates, glass blocks, or any other material that has wider spaces in between. If regular grout were to be used in wide areas in need of grout, the grout will simply crack afterwards because of shrinkage. Therefore, it is important to use sanded grout in these instances. Below is a set of instructions on how to mix and apply sanded grout properly.

What You’ll Need
Sanded Grout
Rubber Float
Grouting Sponge
Grout Mixing Knife

Step 1 – Mixing the Sanded Grout

The grout should match the color of the tile in order to create a good blend. For glass blocks, use white color. Open a bag of sanded grout and pour half of its contents into the bucket. The reason for not pouring all of the grout is to have ready supply of grout in case too much water is added into the mix. Put a small amount of water into the bucket sufficient enough to make a pasty mixture. To get the right grout consistency, follow the instructions carefully on the grout powder bag. Use a mixing knife to mix the water with the grout powder. Make sure that all the grout is made wet. Scrape the sides of the bucket to make sure. If the mix is too watery, add more grout until a consistent mixture is made.

Step 2 – Applying the Grout

Make sure that the tiles or blocks to be grouted are clean enough before applying the grout. Scoop a good amount of grout and spread it on the sides of the tiles or glass blocks. If the grout is of good consistency, it will not fall down easily when spread onto a wall. Do not put too much grout on the wall or the floor at once. Work on a portion of the floor or the wall one area at a time.

Wet the rubber float to make it easy to use. Wipe off the excess water. Use the float to go across the tiles or the blocks while pressing firmly. This motion will drive the excess grout into the large spaces in between the tiling materials.

Wet the sponge and squeeze off all the excess water. Use the sponge to go over the tiles or blocks as lightly as possible. This will remove the excess grout on the surface of the tiling materials. Rinse the sponge, squeeze off the water and go over the tiles or blocks all over again until most or all of the excess grout is removed from the surfaces. Continue in this manner until all spaces are grouted. Afterwards, allow the grout to cure.

Grout between kitchen floor tiles can loosen for many reasons. The grout will crack, break up and eventually cause tiles to shift.

Faulty Sub Floor

If your sub floor, that is the wood the tile is laid on, is loose or gives, it can cause the grout to crack and also possibly the tiles to break up.

Old Grout

Most people don’t realize that not all grout jobs will last for the life of the floor. Very often they have to be scraped up and replaced. Sealing the grout will help keep this job to a minimum.

Improperly Mixed Grout

Grout that was mixed with too much or too little water will tend to disintegrate and fall apart. It can actually turn to a sand-like material and be swept up when you clean the floor.

As well as bathrooms and kitchens we also cover swimming pools which usually have a tiled pool surround and this was certainly the case with the photograph below which was taken at a property near the small market town of Sandy in Bedfordshire where the tile and grout around the pool had discoloured over time.

Cleaning Mosaic Pool Tiles

To clean the tiles we used a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Pro-Clean which left to soak into the tile and grout in sections before being scrubbed in using a stiff brush. You have to be careful with machinery around swimming poos as you don’t want any cleaning products draining into the swimming pool water.

Mosaic Pool Tiles Cleaned near Sandy Bedford

The pro-clean and scrubbing action loosened the dirt and we were then able to use a Rotovac machine to finish the floor off and get the results you see above. The Rotovac which is also known as a Spinner tool is a really useful piece of equipment for a Tile Cleaner as it directs a jet of high pressure hot water onto the tile whilst simultaneously removing the water through a separate suction feature. The tool needs a lot of power so it runs from a high-pressure cleaning and extractor unit fitted into our van which can delivery water pressure between 500 and 3000 PSI. Another feature of the tool is the side skirts around the spinner head which along with the high suction prevent water from being splashed around making it ideal for this job.
Source: Help with Ceramic Tile Cleaning