100 Year-Old Victorian Hallway Tiles Renovated in Exeter

I was contacted by the owners of a Victorian terraced house in Exeter who had been lovingly restoring the property over the last couple of years and during the work they uncovered this section of tiled flooring and had decided to bring me in to make it look its best. It’s possible that this section of floor was all that was left from when the house was built over 100 years ago and at some point, in the past the rest of the floor was removed and replaced with something more modern.

Exeter has an abundance of character properties and there seems to be a bit of a trend to restore period features such as fireplaces and old floors at present. It’s always worth looking under old carpets and vinyl in the search of classic floors such as this, particularly if your neighbours have them, after all it will add value!

I visited the property to take a closer look and to take some moisture readings because these old floors were laid without a damp proof membrane and high moisture levels can restrict when this type of work can be carried out due to the sealer needing the floor to be dry(ish) in order to cure. I also did a test clean on one section of the floor to show the customer what level of cleaning could be achieved and inspected the floor for loose tiles to see if any replacement tiles would need to be sourced.

Small Victorian Tiled Hallway Entrance Exeter Before Cleaning

Cleaning Victorian Tiled Reception Area

With the customers happy with the quote I returned to complete the work starting by protecting the skirting and bottom of the stair carpet. Once done I began the cleaning process by applying a strong stripper/degreaser called Tile Doctor Pro-Clean on to the floor. For best results you need to achieve an even coverage and keeping and check it regularly to ensure it doesn’t dry out. After a short dwell time I set to work scrubbing the floor with a 400-grit diamond burnishing pad fitted to a rotary buffing machine. This really works the cleaning product into the pores of the tiles releasing the dirt and removes any sealers or other old coatings in the process. These large 17” pads do struggle to reach into the corners and edges of the floor however, so I always finish off with a hand-held diamond block. Once I was satisfied that the tiles were as good as they could be I rinsed the floor of the alkaline cleaner and dirty water and extracted the soil using a wet vacuum.

Next step was to give the floor what we like to call and Acid Rinse or Acid Wash as some of my colleagues refer to it. We don’t normally use acidic products on tile or stone however they are particularly good at dealing with mineral sales and removing grout smears. Old floors like these are particularly vulnerable to a natural process called efflorescence which results in white mineral salt deposits being left on the surface of the tile as the floor fully dries out and can interfere with the sealer. To counter this, the floor is cleaned with Tile Doctor Grout Clean-up, which is an acid-based product that will neutralise the alkalinity in the floor. The solution is quickly scrubbed into the floor and then rinsed off with water.

Before I left for the day I fixed any loose tiles back into place, re-grouted where needed and left an air mover on the floor to aid in the drying of the tiles. If there are radiators in the area I also suggest that they are turned on overnight to further aid the drying process. Occasionally these types of floors need to be left for several days to dry but it is worth the wait and the floors can be used in the meantime provided indoor shoes and socks only are used and care is taken not to get the floor dirty.

Sealing an Original Victorian Tiled Hallway and Entrance Lobby

Upon returning the next day I tested the moisture content of the floor and was pleased to find that it was well within acceptable levels for the application of the sealer that I was planning to use.

I quickly checked the floor for areas that I felt may be able to be improved and once satisfied I started the sealing process by applying a single coat of Tile Doctor Colour Grow which is an impregnating sealer that soaks into the pores of the tile protecting it from within and improving the colours in the tile beforehand. This was following with two coats of Tile Doctor Seal and Go that will add further protection and give the floor a subtle satin finish.

Small Victorian Tiled Hallway Entrance Exeter After Cleaning
The customers were thrilled and said that they wished they had brought me in sooner! For aftercare I left the customer with some guidance on care and maintenance of the floor as well as a suitable bottle of neutral tile cleaner.

Professional Renovation of a Victorian Tiled Hallway Floor in Devon

Old Reclaimed Slate Flagstone Floor Rejuvenated in Dawlish

These lovely old Slate flagstones were reclaimed form an old waterworks in Exeter about twenty years ago and had been laid in an old fisherman cottage in Dawlish during a sympathetic renovation, replacing an old floor that had been laid in the 1970s (which have a lot to answer for with old houses!). The flagstones really looked the part and were larger and thicker than usually available on the market new. Other than being dirty and a pain to clean because of the dogs living in the house, around the edges of some of the larger tiles there was some sort of fluorescent orange residue which was up to 10mm thick in places and as hard as the stone it was adhered to.

Dawlish is a lovely little fishing harbour village on the South-East Cornwall coast with lots of interesting history. For hundreds of years the practice of smuggling imported goods prospered in the area thanks to its convenient harbour. The village is home to only around 5,000 inhabitants.

As you can see from the photo below, the tiles – along with the grout lines – were very dirty and stained. No wonder the property owner was beginning to give up on salvaging them! However, I assured the customer that with the right cleaning products and techniques, I could make a significant improvement to the condition of the floor.

Slate Flagstones Before Cleaning in Dawlish

Burnishing and Cleaning Old Slate Flagstones

To tackle the orange residue staining I used a grout removal tool which allowed the natural texture of the stone to remain rather than smoothing off the whole edge.

The dirt and staining in the slate flagstones however was so deeply ingrained I felt it best to strip back the affected layer of stone using a process known as burnishing. This involves the application of diamond encrusted burnishing pads to the floor, effectively grinding away the muck to reveal a cleaner surface beneath. When dealing with polished stone such as Limestone, Marble and Travertine, we will normally use a system of four burnishing pads – each with a different level of grit – to gradually restore the shine to the tiles.

However, in the case of these rustic, unpolished Slate Flagstones, I opted only to use only the Coarse and Medium grit burnishing pads to cut back the affected layer of stone, leaving a surface that could subsequently be scrubbed using Tile Doctor Remove and Go. This is a multi-purpose product that strips away any old sealer, adhesive marks and paint stains, while also cleaning the stone and grout.

This process ensured all traces of old sealer were removed and that the whole floor was left fresh and clean. The resulting soiled solution was extracted from the floor using a wet vacuum and the whole area rinsed with fresh water to remove any traces of cleaning product. To end the first day of work, the floor was left to dry overnight.

The village the cottage is situated in is very isolated to traffic; there is a car park at the top of the town and the only option is to walk the nearly half a mile each way to the cottage on the harbour so streamlining the kit used was a necessity! In the end two trips each way go the kit required there and back with the biggest machines being a wet vac and a rotary scrubber.

Sealing Old Slate Flagstones

Returning to the property the next day, I ran some damp tests to check if the floor was dry and ready to be sealed. This is particularly important in older properties like this, as it’s quite likely that there is no damp proof course present and moisture issues are far from uncommon.

Thankfully, the tiles proved dry and I could seal them using Tile Doctor Colour Grow. This impregnating, colour-enhancing sealer provides a robust seal, as well as a natural-look matte finish which really matches the character of these original Flagstones. It also really lifted the natural shades in the stone.

Slate Flagstones After Cleaning in Dawlish
The customer was ecstatic with the result. To make sure the floor can be kept looking great for many years to come, I recommended that the customer clean it regularly using a product called Tile Doctor Stone Soap. It’s specially formulated for the routine maintenance of natural stone floors; not only will it clean the floor very well, it will also continue to add to the natural patina of the stone.

Professional Restoration of an Old Slate Flagstone Tiled Floor Devon

Dirty Travertine Kitchen Tiles Burnished and Sealed in Exeter

This Travertine kitchen floor in Exeter was mistakenly bought unfilled so there were deep holes on the surface of the stone that attracted grime and dirt in addition the floor had not been sealed to protect the stone and the whole floor was now in need of a deep clean and seal. The owners had installed the floor about five years before and were disappointed by the appearance from the onset. In fact, the floor had never lived up to their expectations and were close to ripping it up and starting again.

Unfilled Travertine Floor Exeter Before Burnishing
Travertine is a lovely stone and really adds to the appearance of any room however being a form of Limestone and acid sensitive it naturally suffers from pitting corrosion which leads to the creation of small holes in the stone. These small holes rapidly become ingrained with dirt and this ruins the appearance of the floor. Typically, Travertine tiles will be bought with the pitted holes pre-filled with a resin to avoid this problem.

After an initial visit to test the floor to identify the best products to use and a chat with the owners to talk through options, duration and processes involved a quote was produced along with standard T&Cs and the work was booked in to be completed shortly after.

Unfilled Travertine Floor Exeter Before Burnishing

Burnishing a Dirty Travertine Tiled Kitchen Floor

Burnishing is our tried and tested process for restoring polished stone such as Travertine, Limestone and Marble which has become stained and dirty. It involves the application of four diamond encrusted burnishing pads of varying grit levels from 100 to 1500.

The first pad, which is Coarse, was applied to the stone together with a dilution of Tile Doctor Remove and Go, a strong stripper/degreaser to get into the pitting and lift the grime and completely strip away the top layer of dirt, exposing the clean layer underneath.

The floor is rinsed with water and the soil extracted before the application of the Medium, Fine, and eventually the Very Fine pad to build up the polished appearance of the stone.

As well as using the burnishing pad system, I also applied to the floor Tile Doctor Remove and Go, which removes any old sealer and penetrates the pitted holes to lift out and dissolve the ingrained dirt.

At the end of the first day the floor was thoroughly rinsed to remove the dirt and chemicals from the now clean floor and the majority of the pitting was filled with a suitable filler.

Sealing a Travertine Tiled Floor

The floor was left to dry off overnight with the assistance of underfloor heating and then the following day a 3,000 grit extra fine diamond pad was used to clear off any remaining residue and give the tiles a slight shine before moving onto the next step of sealing the tiles.

I sealed the floor using Tile Doctor Ultra-Seal, which is a natural look penetrating sealer that leaves a matt finish. The sealer will ensure the tiles are more resistant to staining and allow the floor to look as the customer originally wanted it to look for a lot longer.

Unfilled Travertine Floor Exeter After Burnishing
For after care I left the customer with a bottle of Tile Doctor Stone Soap which is a very easy to use, neutral pH cleaner for natural, sealed stone which not only cleans the tiles but continues to add to the natural patina so the more you use it the better the floor continues to look.

Unfilled Travertine Floor Exeter After Burnishing

Professional Restoration of a Dirty and Un-Filled Travertine Tiled Kitchen Floor in Exeter

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