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Tile Restoration: Everything You Need to Know to See the Sparkle Again

Posted by Hammond Knoll on Dec 27, 2019 11:00:00 AM

Do you have tile in your home? At your business? Both?

No matter where your tile is, one thing is important: It needs regular care.

If your tile is in sad shape and in desperate need of repair, don’t worry. You have options.

We’re going to take a deep dive into everything you need to know about tile restoration.

Sit back, relax and get educated about your tile.

Tile Timeline

Tile has been around since the 1950s. 

Its popularity has ebbed and flowed through the years.

From the 60s through the mid-1990s, carpet was the hot ticket item.

pug on carpet

From 2000 until now, tile and natural stone are found in a majority of homes and businesses throughout the country.

Whether your tile or stone dates back 70 years ago or 7, at some point in its long life, it may need restoration (especially if it hasn’t been maintained properly).

Let’s dive into what tile restoration is and the many ways that your tile can be restored to its illustrious former glory.

The Ultimate Tile Restoration Guide

  • Tile cleaning and sealing
  • Grout cleaning and sealing
  • Color-enhancing of stone
  • Polishing stone
  • Polishing glass doors
  • Mildew and mold
  • Cracked tiles

What is tile restoration?

It can be as simple as giving it a good clean and then sealing it. Or, it may be as complicated as polishing a natural stone shower that has soap scum and mildew issues.

What is tile restoration?

Restoring tile may be as simple and cleaning and sealing it. It could also be more complicated and involve a deep cleaning to remove mildew, soap scum, etc.

Let’s get down and dirty (literally) and discuss the different types of restoration, shall we?

1. Tile cleaning and sealing

This service can be done on a routine basis to lightly soiled tile, grout and natural stone, or it can be a full restorative cleaning for tile that has tough-to-remove discoloration, such as mineral deposits. 

Side Note: Stay tuned, We’ll get into ALL that in a bit!

Tile, grout and stone are first cleaned using a hot water extraction. Then, we follow up with a sealer for natural stone or grout. 

(Porcelain tiles don’t need to be sealed because they’re not porous and cannot absorb stains.)  

2. Grout cleaning and sealing

Grout can stain, chip, crack or mildew when not sealed properly or when it hasn’t been well-maintained. 

There are a couple of processes that can be done to restore grout, such as:

  1. Regrouting. When grout is chipped, cracked or missing, the flawed portion can be removed where it’s unstable. Then, new grout can be applied to the damaged areas. A thin layer of new grout can also be applied over the entire floor or wall.
  2. Grout recoloring. This typically occurs when one of two things happen: 
    1. Disliking the grout color. Rather than removing the existing grout (which can be labor-intensive, and costly), a different color of  grout colorant can be applied over the original grout. 
    2. When the grout is permanently stained. This typically happens with lighter color grouts. The colorant can be applied, covering up the stains. Some colors are able to match the existing color of grout. If not, the entire grout area may need to be done, which is still way less expensive than replacement.

Below is an example of a colorant job we did in a residential restroom that was badly stained (the original grout was white).

Before and after of a grout colorant job done by HammondKnoll

3. Color-enhancing stone

Natural stone, such as slate, travertine and other stones, can be color-enhanced. 

Color-enhancing is when a special sealer is applied to the stone that will make the colors more vibrant, bringing out their true tones. 

This finish can be applied with a high-shine or a matte finish, depending on the look the owner desires.

Below is an example of a floor in an entryway that we cleaned and then applied a high-shine sealer to. Notice the light gray stone is now dark gray.

Before and after of color-enhanced stone restored by HammondKnoll.

4. Polishing stone

Polishing natural stone, such as granite, marble, limestone, etc., is typically done in showers, counters and floors. 

It’s a multi-step process that requires a technical expert because, if it isn’t done correctly, it can permanently damage the stone. 

Following are the problems that occur that require polishing:

  • Showers. Natural stone showers can be prone to soap scum and/or mineral deposits. These mineral deposits come from hard water – especially homes with well water. They’re impossible to remove with store-bought products (as you may have already discovered). The shower typically requires a cleaning and polishing to remove these pesky little deposits. The fixtures can also be polished, bringing them back to their original shine.

Check out these images of a soap-scummy shower that required LOTS of polishing. You can see the white soap scum where the shower head was directed in the before picture.

HammondKnoll, before and after polishing a stone shower with a soap scum problem

  • Counters. Counters with natural stone can become etched, scratched or even stained.  Natural stone is very porous, and when not sealed or not sealed properly, the stone absorbs (literally sucks up) the liquid. Colored liquids can stain the stone, while acidic liquids like orange or tomato juice and cleaners can scratch or etch. (Etching – which can occur in a mild, moderate, or severe form – is a chemical reaction from exposure to liquid acids that causes dulling of the surface, which can be mistaken for a stain). These stains, scratching and etching require the multi-step process to bring back the stone’s natural beauty.

The marble counter (below, left) was terribly etched. It was even rough to the touch and appeared dull. A good polishing and resealing made it shine!

before and after, marble counter that HammondKnoll polished and resealed

5. Polishing glass doors

Even though it’s technically not “tile,” it still goes right along with a restorative cleaning.  

Shower doors get just as abused as the showers themselves do. They attract the same soap scum and mineral deposits.

The glass can be polished to remove the discoloration and a sealer can be applied to the door to keep those nasty little mineral deposits from attaching to the glass.

The door below was riddled with soap scum and mineral deposits. To top it off, the home had experienced a small fire and the smoke damage attached to the already discolored door and caused an unsightly mess.  

A lot of polishing and scrubbing went into restoring this entire shower.

Before and after HammondKnoll cleaned and polished glass shower door

6. Mildew and mold

Showers are the culprit again. They’re a breeding ground for mold and mildew – especially the areas of caulking around the edges of tubs, shower doors and along the base of where the floor meets the wall. 

Mold and mildew also grow outside, especially in the beautiful PNW during the wet months on outdoor slate, concrete and pavers.

Here’s how these areas can be restored:

  • Showers. The caulk can be removed, the mildew cleaned underneath and then re-caulked with anti-mildew caulking. Mold and mildew stains can be removed from the floors and walls with cleaning, in most cases. On natural stone, it may require a bit of polishing.
  • Outdoors. Outdoor surfaces can be cleaned using a high-pressure, hot-water-extraction method to remove moss, mold and mildew from these areas. Some stones, such as slate, can be sealed with an outdoor sealer to protect it from the harsh weather.

This sidewalk had moss and mildew in areas that were unable to be removed with a standard pressure washer. 

A hot-water-extraction cleaning did the trick for this walkway.

before and after of sidewalk mildew, cleaned up by HammondKnoll

Here’s another example:

The outdoor stone shown below was not made for outdoor installation (oops on the floor store’s part!).  

The stone discolored unevenly from exposure to the elements. The original coating was stripped and a heavy-duty outdoor sealer was applied. 

Our team of experts saved the day on this one!

Before and after, stone cleaned and sealed by HammondKnoll

  • Pool and hot tub decks. Pools and hot tub decks can become discolored due to calcium deposits that are in the chlorine and additives to keep the water clean and healthy. As swimmers climb in and out of the pools, the water dries and stains the decks and edges of the pool with a white chalky substance over time.  

There is a solution, but usually, the pool needs to be partially or fully drained, depending on where and how bad the discoloration is. It can be cleaned removing the chalky stain, but, in some cases, the grout needs to be recolored or replaced if it’s missing or stained.  

The inside edge of this pool shows the discoloration from calcium deposits on the tile. This required a full restorative cleaning to remove the chalk.

Before and after, HammondKnoll cleaned discoloration from pool tile

7. Cracked tiles

Tile cracks. It happens.  

Of course, tiles get cracked if something heavy is dropped on them, but that’s not the only reason. 

It can also happen if the tile hasn’t been properly installed. For example, if not enough thin-set was applied to support the stone while being walked on. It can also crack from the ground settling.  

Whatever the reason, when cracks appear, they can often be fixed by adding a custom-colored epoxy or polyester filler. With natural stones, we can sometimes fill cracks with a clear sealer.

Often, with ceramic tile, we have to mix several colors so the repaired area blends in.

After filling the areas, they need to be ground, finished, and then polished to the same luster as the original stone.

The image below is of a travertine tile that cracked. We filled it in with an epoxy filler, saving the entire tile from having to be removed. Then, grout was re-applied to the surrounding tile.

cracked travertine tile fixed by HammondKnoll

The bottom line on tile restoration

These are the most common tile restoration options that are available. 

We encounter a new problem almost weekly, which makes our expert tile techs giddy with excitement.  

excited pug gif

Restoring any tile, grout or natural stone may seem expensive, but when compared to replacing an entire shower, floor or outdoor walkway, it’s a huge savings.

When tile is maintained properly both by the owner and professionally cleaned, the cost to maintain it is pennies compared to replacement.

Do you have a challenge, question or thought? Send it our way – we love a good challenge!

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