Restoring Quarry Tiles - Real World Example

23 June 2023
Est. Reading: 3 minutes
What's in This Guide?

Introduction

This post shows how we cleaned and restored quarry tiles in a 100-year-old house. The tiles were in dire need of restoration and deep cleaning. The beautiful quarry tiles are in the utility area of a mid-century home in Dublin.

Quarry tiles can be used anywhere and have a rougher texture than Victorian tiles. These tiles were frequently used to cover the flooring of utility rooms.

Old quarry tile restoration is incredibly rewarding, but it may also be difficult and frustrating. Unfortunately, these tiles were also covered in a vinyl floor covering for the last 50 years or so.

Steps We Followed

Below show some high-level steps we followed when cleaning and restoring the old quarry tiles. See the video at the bottom of the page for a visual walkthrough.

Step One: Stripping the Concrete Debris and Tile Adhesive
We removed the concrete from the renovations around the house. Any glue, concrete, or plaster that has been dry-bonded needed to be scraped off.

Step Two: Bathe the Tiles in an Acid Wash

  • The tiles must next be treated with an acid wash. This is done to break down any lime-based plasters that are on the floor. Acids dissolve the glue, cement, or soil, making it easier to scrape off and lift out.
  • We combined five litres of acid wash and water in a bucket. Then applied it to the tiles, causing them to bubble as the calcium in the plaster and cement is broken down.
  • A stiff broom was used to agitate and release the dirt from the tiles.
  • To remove the slurry, we used a wet-dry vacuum.

Step Three: Alkaline Wash

  • The next step was to apply an alkaline wash. Which is designed to strip and break down stubborn grease, grime, or other substances on the tile.
  • Remove the slurry with a wet-dry vacuum.
  • Neutralise with another acid wash.
  • At this stage, we could assess the condition of the floor.

Step Four: Stripping the Stubborn Residue
Unfortunately, the floor was in worse condition than we expected, thanks to the vinyl tiles and linoleum. The Quarry tiles' beauty and condition were destroyed by the amount of adhesive that was used. Essentially, we must now manually scrape the glue off the tiles and remove any extra glue with solvents.

To remove the remaining, stubborn glue residue by hand, we used a very coarse 200-grit diamond burnishing pad.

The floor was then manually finished with wire wool and scrapers.

Step Five: Sealing Tiles the Quarry Tiles
Before resealing the tiles, they must be completely dry. In this instance, they were left to dry for a couple of days. This is essential because any moisture might impair the sealer's efficacy. And expose the floor to more deeply embedded grime and stains.

The scraping left us with a fairly flat and dull-looking finish, so we need to seal them. We used a solvent-impregnated sealer. This makes them waterproof, resistant to water and oil stains, and improves the appearance of the tiles.

We used Faber sealer, which is good for this type of tile. The resin enriches and enhances the vibrancy of the tile.

Our Thoughts

The restoration took a few weeks to complete, but when we finally applied sealant to the quarry tile, it looked AMAZING! This has been a mammoth task, requiring about 60 man-hours of work.

It seems like an unbelievable amount of work for an approximate 350-square-foot area. But the quarry tiles needed some elbow grease to bring them back to life. They look transformed and were restored to their former glory.

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