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Tom Conlon
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Cambridge Tile, Stone and Grout Specialist
Cambridge Tile, Stone and Grout Specialist

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Polishing Dull Limestone Floor Tiles to a High Shine in Boxworth

Boxworth is a very small village situated to the north-west of Cambridge. In the Middle Ages, it had a significant population, but in the modern day there are only around 100 houses in the area including one belonging to my customer.

I was there to take a look at a large installation of Polished Limestone floor tiles which had been laid throughout the ground floor including the Kitchen, Dining, Utility room and hallway.

Many people will already know that Limestone is a premium, yet somewhat sensitive natural stone. It’s also porous, meaning that dirt can easily become ingrained if the tiles are not sealed properly, or if the sealant has worn away. This leads eventually to a very unappealing, dirty, and dull appearance which often happens so slowly it hardly get’s noticed until one day you think, “I’m sure my floor looked better than that before!”.

In this case the sealer had degraded over time and my customer had called me in because she was now no longer happy with the appearance of the tiles. The lustre the tiles once had eventually disappeared and there was also damage in some areas caused by the placement of table and chair legs. I was asked to restore a high-quality polished finish to the tiles.

Cleaning and Burnishing Limestone Tiles

Before beginning the restoration, I took the necessary precaution of covering the walls and kitchen units to protect them from exposure to any cleaning products or mess.

To begin, I applied Tile Doctor Remove and Go, which is a high-performance stripping agent, to break down any old sealant remaining of the tiles. This product can also be used to clean the stone itself, as well as the grout lines.

After completing the initial cleaning process, I moved on to restoring the polish to the tiles. At Tile Doctor, we do this using a system we have developed called Burnishing. This system involves the application of Diamond encrusted pads – each possessing a different level of grit – to grind away the dirt from the stone, which is often stained or damaged. The process effectively resurfaces the stone leaving it looking new and fresh.

Firstly, I applied the Coarse 400 grit pad, fitted to a rotary machine, to grind away any excess muck and sealant lubricated with a little water. The resultant slurry was rinsed away and I followed up with the application of the Medium 800 grit pad to start the restoration of the polish again with a small amount of water, followed by the Fine 1500 grit pad for the second polish.

Finally, I applied the Very Fine 3000 grit pad to achieve the most refined and highest quality polish possible. The process of burnishing is a gradual but highly effective means of achieving this kind of finish.

Any slurry that was created through this process was removed using my truck-mounted hot water cleaning and extraction machine, resulting in minimum mess.

Sealing Limestone Tiles

After burnishing the tiles and to achieve a really hard wearing and high polish I covered the floor in Tile Doctor Shine Powder crystals and buffed them into the Limestone tiles using a White buffing pad. Then to give the floor extra protection I applied a coat of Tile Doctor Colour Grow, which impregnates the pores of the stone to prevent ingrained dirt.

Colour Grow also intensifies the natural colours in the Limestone, thus improving the appearance of the stone to an even greater extent. Following the application of Colour Grow, I gave the tiles a final light buffing with a soft red pad.

The customer was extremely happy with the outcome, remarking that the work was carried “quickly and efficiently with no fuss.” I took lots of photographs of the process, so you can really appreciate the difference that was made.
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Reviving the forgotten beauty of this Edwardian floor in the hallway which was covered in carpet for 3 decades.
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Renovating an Original Edwardian Tiled Hallway to Peak Condition in Chippenham

Edwardian-style tiled floors are very much of a likeness with Victorian-style tiled floors, both typically being made of encaustic cement and styled in painted in geometric patterns. The main difference, of course, is that Edwardian tiles are a main feature of Edwardian-era houses (1901-1910), while Victorian tiles are found in slightly older properties.

As with many Victorian tiled floors, we’ve found that Edwardian tiled floors have commonly been hidden away for many years under carpet or some other form of covering. These hallway Edwardian tiles, at a property in Chippenham, had been covered by carpet for 30 years. Upon removing the carpet, we could see why – the hallway was covered in paint splashes, decades’ worth of dirt and, of course, adhesive stains from the underlay.

My task was to restore the hallway floor back to its peak condition, when it was first installed over a century ago.

Cleaning an Original Edwardian Tiled Hallway Floor

The first step of the restoration was to ensure the walls surrounding the hallway were protected. I did this by applying a protective film around the edges of the room. Next, I removed all the old carpet grippers and adhesive deposits manually using a handheld scraper.

Tile Doctor Remove and Go was then applied to the floor to strip away any old sealant, which certainly by now was no longer effectual. This product also helped to break down the paint stains on the surface of the floor, though I also used a handheld scraper, as well as a rotary machine fitted with a black scrubbing pad, to speed up the process of removing both the sealant and the paint.

To complete the cleaning process, I applied Tile Doctor Acid Gel, which is a blend of phosphoric and hydrochloric acids in a gel form, formulated to remove grout haze (grout smears) and treat efflorescence which is the formation of white salts on the surface of the tile.

Sealing an Original Edwardian Tiled Hallway Floor

I left the floor to dry completely overnight after installing air movers to assist with the process. These older properties do not typically have damp-proof membrane installed, which makes damp issues a real possibility. Upon returning to the property the following day, I ran some damp tests, and thankfully the tiles proved dry and ready to be resealed.

To do this, I used one coat of Tile Doctor Ultra-Seal, which is a penetrating sealer designed for maximum stain protection. I then also added four coats of Tile Doctor Seal and Go to provide the customer with the low-sheen, highly quality finish he desired.

He was so impressed with the outcome that he left the following glowing review on the Tile Doctor feedback system:

“Tile Doctor did an excellent job, starting from a very dirty and paint covered surface. The hallway floor now looks fantastic, just like it was a century ago. I’m pleased to recommend Cambridge Tile Doctor.”
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Dirty and Stained Marble Kitchen Tiles Rejuvenated in St Neots

St Neots is the largest town in Cambridgeshire, with a population of approximately 40,000 (Cambridge is after all a city). This is unsurprising, since the town has a long and rich history. In fact, archaeological evidence indicates that the area was home to settlements as early as the prehistoric Mesolithic period.

I was recently called out to a property in the area – which itself was relatively old – to see what could be done to restore the condition and appearance of a Marble tiled kitchen floor, stylised in a small and uniform square pattern. It appeared to me that the tiles had been installed for a long time – perhaps even laid down in the original construction of the property – and, in any case, had suffered many years’ worth of neglect.

The result? A very dirty and unappealing appearance and a very unhappy owner.

Cleaning a Dirty Marble Tiled Kitchen Floor

Before beginning the restoration of the floor, I covered up the walls and kitchen units to protect from exposure to any of the cleaning products I would be using. I then started by cleaning the floor with Tile Doctor Remove and Go, which is a multi-purpose product. Remove and Go both cleans the stone and strips away any old sealer.

However, there were several areas of the floor which were affected by more deeply ingrained dirt and stains. To remove these, I needed to use a process which we call burnishing. This involves the application of diamond encrusted burnishing pads to grind away the damage layer of stone. I then used a truck-mounted pressure washing system to rinse the floor and remove all the excess slurry and chemicals.

Sealing a Marble Tiled Kitchen Floor

While burnishing can be used to achieve a high quality polished finish on stone such as Marble, Limestone and Travertine, the customer decided instead to have a more natural look for the floor.

Therefore, to seal the freshly cleaned Marble tiles, I applied two coats of Tile Doctor Colour Grow, which is an impregnating sealer that offers maximum protection and a matte finish that matches nicely with the rustic characteristics of the floor. As an impregnating sealer, Colour Grow penetrate deep into the pores of the stone to fill them and prevent dirt from becoming ingrained in the future.

The customer was amazed by the difference made to the condition and appearance of the floor, so much so that he has queried about getting more areas of the property cleaned in the future. Another satisfied customer.
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Successful removal of wood-effect linoleum floor in the kitchen.
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Full restoration of a Lino Covered Quarry Tiled Kitchen floor in Cambridge

This job was for a lovely old lady in Cambridge, her kitchen floor had been covered with a wood effect Lino thirty years earlier and she felt it was time to have it removed and have the original Kitchen Quarry tiles underneath restored.

The lino was good quality having stood the test of time however to ensure the lino didn’t sink into the grout lines the whole floor had been levelled with some sort of screed which would need to be carefully removed.

Removing the Linoleum covering and cleaning the floor

My first task was to carefully scrape off as much of the linoleum covering as possible without damaging the floor beneath. I managed toe remove most of the screed by lightly chipping away with a chisel and hammer followed by a blade to scrape as much screed as possible off the tile and grout.

To deal with the remaining screed I used a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Grout Clean-up which is an acidic product and needs to be applied with care. It was scrubbed in using a rotary machine running on slow speed and fitted with a black scrubbing pad. To remove the soil I used our truck mounted hot water extraction machine which applies hot water under pressure with a special lance that simultaneously extracts the waste back to a tank on the van.

The last stage of cleaning was to apply a coat of Tile Doctor Oxy-Gel to remove any previous sealer that may still be present on the tile. As well as using the scrubbing machine I also used a stiff brush along the grout lines as well. Final step was another rinse with the truck mounted extraction machine before leaving the floor to dry off fully overnight.

Sealing Kitchen Quarry Tiles

When I returned to the property I used a damp meter to test the floor, making sure that the surface was dry enough to commence sealing (as any excess solution can affect the performance of the sealer). My sealer of choice was Tile Doctor Seal & Go Extra, a topical sealer which works well on Quarry tiles restoring appearance and providing a nice finish along with durable protection. This particular sealer is also suitable for floors where damp maybe an issue and with an old floor like this installed before the invention of Damp Proof Membranes choosing the right sealer is very important to avoid issues with efflorescence.

The floor was completely transformed and the client was extremely happy with the out come and even left the following lengthy testimonial on the Tile Doctor Feedback system which is always appreciated.

“Tom did excellent work on quite a tricky job. Our kitchen tiles are over sixty years old. Tom took up and disposed of our old kitchen Lino, removed the layers of concrete screed, then buffed, glossed and sealed the original tiles until they shone like new! The natural salts worked their way to the surface of the tiles just like Tom said would happen, and a fortnight later Tom returned to re-surface and re-gloss the tiles. The floor now looks great. Tom was very professional throughout and the work was no easy job to accomplish, so he has done a great job. We are very pleased with our kitchen floor, which now has a new lease of life. I would recommend the Tile Doctor if you need a floor restored at any time.

Miss Webber, Cambridge 02 August 2017”
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Lustre Restored to Large Area of Travertine Tiles in Cambridge

Travertine is a type of Limestone which exists in several variations, including white, tan, and cream-colored. It has distinct colourings and patterns that no other stone can offer and as such it is a very popular choice for tiled floors amongst home owners.

However, Travertine tiles are not the easiest to keep looking at their best. A high-quality polished finish can be difficult to maintain, especially as sealers wear away and all manner of dirt becomes ingrained in the pores of the stone.

The pictures below were taken at a house in Cambridge where the owner had this exact same problem and requested my help to get them looking their best again. The Travertine tiles had been installed across most of the entire ground floor of the house, including the kitchen, dining room, living room, office and utility room.

The owner was not happy with the current appearance of the floor because the shine and reflectivity that had once existed had gradually worn away. The floor was also littered with many pitted holes (caused by natural erosion) and a few cracks which would need to be filled.

Cleaning and Burnishing Travertine Tiles

My first step in restoring the tiles was to remove the kick boards from around the kitchen and utility room, before masking up all walls and wooden units with protective décor film. This was done to prevent these areas from encountering any cleaning product.

Next, I began the cleaning process by applying Tile Doctor Pro Clean across the entire area and worked it into the stone using a scrubbing brush fitted to my rotary machine. This high alkaline cleaner broke down any old sealer while also relieving the stone and grout lines of any ingrained dirt.

After the initial clean, I used the Tile Doctor system of four diamond encrusted burnishing pads on the tiles. Burnishing is a form of polishing that involves gradually honing the surface of the stone, first by applying a Coarse grit pad, followed by a Medium, Fine, and finally a Very Fine grit pad to achieve a high quality polished finish. The system uses a little water for lubrication and the floor is rinsed between each pad to remove the soil so it can take some time to complete especially on a floor this size.

Once I was done I filled in the pitted holes and cracks with an appropriate resin filler before applying the Very Fine pad.

Sealing Travertine Tiles

To finish the restoration, the tiles needed to be sealed. I did this firstly by applying Tile Doctor Shine Powder, which is natural sealer in a crystallising powder form. I applied it using a white pad and polished the tiles to provide the very high shine and tough durable finish the client had requested.

Following this I applied one coat of Tile Doctor Ultra Seal, which is an impregnating sealer, to add further protection. To add the finishing touches, I quick buffed the floor with Tile Doctor Stone Patina Spray, a cleaner that is designed to enhance the natural beauty and lustre of polished stone as it cleans. Regular use of this product helps to maintain the polished effect.

The customer absolutely loved her new floor. She even remarked that it looked as good as new and better than ever before.
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Stained Terracotta Conservatory Tiles Rejuvenated in Isleham

Isleham is a small village in the Fens area of Cambridgeshire which, as the name suggests, is a natural marshland. The town itself is home to just over 2,000 people and some very nice properties.

I recently visited a customer in the town who contacted me after finding our website because her Terracotta tiled conservatory and utility room had become worn and stained due to leakages from plant pots and other various spillages. Terracotta is a highly porous stone and so has a strong propensity to absorb stains, and dirt can easily become ingrained. This problem is easily exacerbated when the sealer has worn away and can no longer adequately protect the stone.

These tiles were now due for deep clean and reseal, and I was more than happy to oblige.

Cleaning a Stained Terracotta Tiled Floor

My first action, before beginning the restoration, was to tape up all the walls and wood features around the conservatory and utility areas with our décor protection film, to protect them from getting damaged.

Then, to begin, I applied Tile Doctor Pro Clean – which is our high alkaline cleaner – across the floor to strip away the old sealer and to provide an initial clean. The product was left to dwell for 10-20 minutes before being worked into the pores of the stone using a firm scrubbing brush fitted to a rotary machine.

Next, I removed any deep staining using Tile Doctor NanoTech HBU, a potent cleaner which contains nano-sized particles to penetrate the pores of the Terracotta to dissolve and lift out the embedded stains. I also used this product to remove the very stubborn salt deposits in the utility room – although it took three to four attempts.

To complete the cleaning process, I gave the grout a light clean using Tile Doctor Grout Clean Up, which is a concentrated phosphoric acid cleaner designed to remove grout haze and any deep staining in the grout. The floor was then dried down with cloths and air-movers, and left over the weekend to make sure any excess moisture had evaporated.

Sealing a Terracotta Tiled Floor

Upon returning to the property at the beginning of the week, I sealed the floor firstly using one coat of Tile Doctor Ultra-Seal, followed by five coats of Tile Doctor Seal and Go Extra.
Ultra-Seal is a penetrating sealer which fills the pores of the stone to protect against staining and ingrained dirt. It is also fully breathable and allows for moisture vapour transmission. Seal and Go Extra provides further protection and a durable and aesthetically pleasing low-sheen finish to really improve the overall look of the floor.

The customer absolutely loved her newly restored Terracotta tiles and was amazed by the transformation. I’m sure she is looking forward to spending time in her conservatory over the course of the summer months.
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A process of restoring a dull and stained terracotta floor at a conservatory in Isleham
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A well-polished travertine floor in the kitchen and lounge area that leaves the client so happy with the outcome of the process.
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