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Georgie Whitworth speaks to a Liverpool man whose skills in tile restoration are in high demand all over the world.

Having been in the flooring business for over 40 years, Steve Sinnott is an industry veteran, despite actually stumbling into the profession by accident.

Steve began work in the stone industry as a masonry apprentice but found his calling for tile restoration when he was tasked with repairing a marble mosaic after bricklayers accidentally spilt brick acid on it. The restoration process of the floor took almost three years and proved a great opportunity for Steve to hone his skills in cutting and restoring mosaic floors.

Steve also used to make his own geometric tiles from 6x6 inch tiles from some of the various manufacturers of dust pressed tiles such as Daniel Platt’s, Wooliscroft, Pilkington’s, H&R Johnsons. Steve used those tiles to restore damaged Victorian and Edwardian floors long before it became fashionable to do so.

When Steve realised that there was a growing market for his skills in tile restoration, he set up his own business, Heritage Tiling, in Liverpool in 1982. Since, Steve has worked on a huge variety of projects, both large and small, right across the world.

Steve said: “I had always travelled from early years so every now and then someone would hear of my work and contact me. I have worked all over, from Europe, to the USA and as far down as Australia and New Zealand.”

Steve has recently got back from a trip to Sweden where he carried out a survey with a view to setting out a programme for restoration maintenance for Victorian tiled floors.

The usual tasks that Steve is appointed to undertake involve work at listed buildings where Victorian encaustic and geometric tiling is in need of restoration or extension with similar, or work adhering to the original, pattern. However, there is some demand for

his skills for domestic projects which generally require restoration of or a new Victorian reproduction floor.

“I work alone now, however I used to carry out very large commercial projects and I have worked on such projects for the MOD and organisations like Rank.

“One large contract required using Pilkington 4 square tiles fixed with epoxy adhesive and grouted in epoxy which was the old three-part mix. That dates me as that was decades ago,” continued Steve.

One of the largest projects that Steve worked on in recent years was Tedsmore Hall, which was over 1,500m2

, took nine months to restore

and required a lot of care and patience as the owners requested that the floor tiles had no cracks of any kind, even shallow kiln cracks caused in the kiln when the tiles dry out quickly.

Talking about the project, Steve said: “It was an arduous process and extremely time-consuming. However, if a more vigorous process was to be used, such as large concrete grinders, then even larger areas of floor tiles would be lifted.”

Over the last 25 years or so, projects have mainly required historic tile restoration, particularly on Victorian works, as well as new Victorian reproduction, and a small percentage of work in tiled mural or mosaic.

Despite the high-demand for Steve’s skills, the majority of work that Steve gets comes from outside of his own city of Liverpool.

“Liverpool has always been a desert for me. The local councils and various representatives of heritage organisations appear to be have a negative attitude towards local craftspeople, I get more work in Glasgow and Edinburgh than my home city.

“St George’s Hall here in Liverpool has one of the best Victorian encaustic and geometric floors in the world, however due to the negative attitude that is unlikely to be a project I will ever work on,” said Steve.

Despite being 60 years old, Steve has no plans to leave his trade just yet and has a busy schedule of work lined up for the forthcoming months, including listed building work in Scotland and Dorset, and consultation work in Sweden and France .

Steve has expressed an interest in sharing his skills with others and highlighted the importance of correct training, saying: “I’d like to get involved in training others as, without the correct training, a great many floors will disappear due to neglect or incorrect works taking place.

“We need to look after our historic floors.”


Photo credit: Rebecca Lupton

Photo credit: Rebecca Lupton

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