Here, Robert Merry of The Stone Consultants provides expert advice on how to properly care for and maintain real stone floors.
SET IN STONE
All commercial contracts will have an operation and maintenance manual and this should contain information on all materials used, including adhesives, grouts and sealants. It should also provide some guidance on how to keep it looking good and performing well.
Caring for all floors takes time and consideration. Looking after stone floors adds a little extra dimension.
Sealing a stone surface using ‘impregnators’ is part of the solution, but not the only one. These products are good at forming barriers, particularly solvent-based impregnators. But they won’t resist all stains. Spillages of any liquids containing acids need to be removed from the floors quickly. Many food and drink products contain acids in one form or another, and will burnish the face of limestones and marbles if left on the surface. Glass or bottle ring marks are often caused by the acidic liquid such as wine, juice or sauce running down the receptacle and gathering on the base.
Regular cleaning is key. Stone soap or preparatory cleaners developed especially for stone contain mild surfactants – soaps with emulsifiers that break down dirt on the surface without stripping the polish from the face.
However, beware of dirty mops. If your floor is not big enough to invest in a floor scrubber, make sure that the mop is clean and the dirty water is changed in the bucket. If not, you end up moving the dirt across the surface without taking it away. The beauty of floor scrubbers is that they vacuum away the dirty water as they go, removing the dirt with it.
Of course, there are more traditional ways of ensuring stone surfaces keep their looks. One method for calcium rich stones such as limestone and marble is to vitrify the floor.
Vitrification is either applied as a wet or dry system. A dry system is quicker and does not involve extensive drying times and small localised areas can be worked on. The wet method cleans the stone more thoroughly. Either method involves the use of powders activating
TOP TIPS FOR SELECTING THE RIGHT STONE FOR
YOUR FLOOR: • Limestone and marbles are mainly formed from calcium carbonate which will burnish and stain from acids commonly found in household foods and cleaning products.
• Granite and slate are less prone to damage from acids and are harder wearing.
• The surface of stone is like a skin. Once the polish is removed the ‘pores’ of the stone are exposed and dirt and moisture are more likely to become trapped.
• Honed floors will need more cleaning than polished floors.
the calcium in the stone with a wire wool or plastic polishing head. This creates friction and heat, leaving the floor polished. But beware – it may turn the joints black. This is often caused where the polishing head deposits the residual of the powders in the joints.
Diamond cutting of stone floors is only usually carried out if the floor is very poorly installed with lips between tiles or slabs. Highly effective in levelling a floor and leaving a clean crisp finish, it is expensive.
All those diamond-tipped blades are not cheap. It uses a great deal of water which needs to be contained. Excessive water can find its way under the stones, debonding the base. In a worst-case scenario, the drying process can cause oxidization of iron minerals within some stones, turning the floor yellow in places over time. Best advice - if you need to diamond cut the floor - use a scrubber dryer to remove the water.
There are plenty of highly competent stone cleaning companies that can transform tired and stained floors.
But it is so much better to get the cleaning and sealing of the new stone
• Polished floors show scratches more readily, particularly black stone.
• In general, honed materials give better slip resistance.
• Impregnators or sealers will not prevent all staining.
• A regular maintenance regime, using the correct products designed for use with the type of stone installed will keep the floor looking fantastic for years.
• Always ask the supplier for a copy of the CE Certificate, which should give vital information on the performance of the stone. You may need a stone consultant to interpret the results.
floor right the first time and maintain it correctly. This will help keep its good looks for longer.
Stone floors are the Rolls Royce of floors. As with any luxury item, the more you look after it, the longer it keeps its value.
Robert Merry is a member of the Technical Committee of the Stone Federation of Great Britain. His company, The Stone Consultants, are an independent stone consultancy who offer advice and guidance on stone related issues to the construction industry as well as acting as an expert witness.
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