Terracotta tiles stripping, cleaning and sealing, 3 long days
We’ve recently completed a job for a lovely customer restoring some terracotta tiles in her newly purchased house. The floor was covered in cement and other builders materials residue and the new homeowner thought that it might be beyond saving. So on the table was a new floor, which would have cost her a substantial amount of money.
I initially visited to inspect the floor and to carry out a test clean. As visible from the photos, the floor was in a very poor condition, to say the least, so I picked a couple of tiles and tested with Power Floor Stripper, scrubbing in each direction with a stiff hand brush. This seemed to be doing the trick so the customer proceeded with the booking of the job.
Terracotta tiled floor badly stained
A couple of weeks later I turned up early in the morning and started preparing the area for the intensive cleaning session that was underway. I fully masked up all skirting boards, doors, the base of the kitchen units and any adjacent floors that were not to be stripped. Although it takes some time to properly prepare the area, two hours on this occasion, it is very important to do so to avoid causing damage to the surroundings. And seeing the smile on the customer’s face is worthy of putting in the extra effort.
Terracotta floor restoration process
As always with terracotta tiled floor cleaning, I started with the edges first. Edges and tight areas, in which the big rotary machine can’t get, always take a long time to strip and clean. Cleaning the edges is actually a bit of art…it requires a selection of various hand brushes and some technique, whilst at the same time adjacent painted & varnished surfaces must be kept undamaged.
I then proceeded with the cleaning of the main open area using a mono-rotary stone scrubbing machine with a fitted brush attachment. Now because the terracotta tiles were hand-made, therefore quite rough and uneven, the big rotary machine was struggling a bit in getting in all nooks and crannies. So I had to use a small hand-held machine to ensure the most thorough cleaning results.
Here is the floor after stripping/cleaning and before sealing. Chemical – wise I used a water-based floor stripper to break down the existing sealer. This stripper emulsifies a few layers of wax and sealers simultaneously whilst giving the tiles a deep cleaning. The floor was then cleaned again using a specialist acid-based terracotta floor cleaning fluid.
These cleaning agents neutralise the high alkali left from the stripper and remove a very thin layer of the grout exposing a fresh layer, which in return gives the WOW factor. The floor was then rinsed with plenty of water and finally wet vaxed to remove as much moisture as possible.
At this point, I had to leave the floor to dry for 2-3 days before I return to seal it. I used an industrial dehumidifier to help dry the floor as terracotta is notorious for holding copious amounts of moisture for prolonged periods.
On my return, 3 days later, the floor was dry enough for me to seal it. I applied to applications of high quality impregnating sealer followed by 4 coats of stone wax matt effect. Applying the wax requires certain technique as to not let it pool and apply it evenly across the entire floor for a perfect finish. The stone wax gave the floor a really nice and warm finish whilst enhancing the tile colours.