The floor had been under the carpet and underlay for at least 50 years. After lifting the carpet, the homeowner wanted to restore the quarry tiles.
The carpet and underlay had trapped salts-ladened moisture on the surface of the quarry tile floor. On lifting the old floor covering, a solid layer of salts covered the tiles.
This condition is called efflorescence.
The amount of efflorescence confirmed that the floor did not have a damp-proof membrane. The tiles were laid on; bear earth, lime or sand and ash.
In some areas, there was a substantial build-up of the efflorescence, creating a cement-like layer.
In other areas, the efflorescence was light.
In some areas, efflorescence had damaged the surface of some tiles.
Cleaning The Quarry Tiles.
Quarry tiles are natural clay, so they are relatively soft compared to ceramic tiles. Which means that abrasion will wear away the tiles, creating irreversible damage. So the key to cleaning this floor was to chemicals to try to dissolve the salts.
Quarry tiles are very resistant to acids. So I could use concentrated acid cleaners to dissolve the efflorescence salts.
I applied a gel-base acid treatment to dissolve the efflorescence salts. A gel is essential because it does not soak into the tiles as quickly as a liquid cleaner. The gel sits on the surface of the tiles, giving the chemical time to react with the salts and dissolve them.
To help the cleaner work, after 20 minutes, I used a rotary scrubbing machine to agitated cleaning gel.
I rinsed the slurry away with clean water and a powerful wet vacuum.
I repeated the process several times to remove most of the efflorescence.
There were some small areas of heavy efflorescence that the chemical treatment could not remove.
I used a combination of scraping and diamond sanding to remove the areas of cement-like efflorescence.
I used a lot of rinse water in the cleaning stage. So I installed air movers to help the floor dry for three days ready for sealing.
Sealing the Quarry Tiles
This floor needed to breathe and allow subfloor moisture to travel through the tiles. So I recommended applying a colour-enhancing impregnating sealer. Impregnating sealers allow moisture to move through the floor.
I explained to my client that the efflorescence would continue for weeks or years until the tiles and sub-floor had released the trapped moisture from years of being covered.
So, it was essential to remove any efflorescence by dry sweeping or possibly damp mopping with a light acid solution. As the floor settles down, the efflorescence will reduce.
It may be that the efflorescence never stops. My client was now aware of the situation and understood the maintenance needs of the floor. They really liked the look of the tiles and were more than happy to look after them.
If you need help with your quarry tile floor, please drop me a line, I will be happy to help you.
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