Working with natural stone - protection/maintenance
Natural stone tiles can be very porous or textured and because of this require careful preparation prior to grouting to stop damage occurring. Once in service, natural stone will also need regular maintenance to keep it looking in top condition.
Common issues and queries you can face
Protect and increase the life of the tiles
It is necessary to use not only the correct materials but also the correct techniques to protect, enhance and maintain natural stone. If these techniques are not used, stone could be damaged or stained which would destroy the natural beauty and effect of the stone.
Cleaning prior to grouting
Prior to grouting, check tiles are clean and dry. If the tiles need to be cleaned to remove dust, dirt or footprints, a pH neutral cleaner must be used. This will remove the marks without damaging the surface of the stone. If there is a small amount of adhesive residue on the tiles, a specially formulated, higher pH cleaner may be needed.
Protection of the stone prior to grouting
Once the stone is clean, it needs to be prepared for grouting. The surface of natural stone can be very porous and textured and if it is not prepared correctly, can be stained during the grouting process. To aid the removal of grout and to reduce the chance of staining, a suitable natural stone impregnator should be applied to the surface of the stone using a roller or sponge. This should be worked into the surface slowly to maximise effectiveness and to minimise frothing. After 4-6 hours the tiles should be dry enough to grout.
Grout should be applied liberally and worked across the whole surface of the tile, not just along the joints. This will help minimise the 'picture framing' effect that is achieved when point grouting. Excess grout should be removed from the surface of the tile within 5-10 minutes. If any excess grout is left on the tile surface, it should be removed with the help of a specially formulated, high pH cleaner.
Final protection of the grout and stone
Once the grout is completely dry, preferably left overnight, another coat of natural stone impregnator should be applied over the tiles and grout. This should be repeated until all the surfaces are saturated and do not absorb any more impregnator. Once the stone and grout has dried it will be resistant to staining and easy to clean.
For regular cleaning a neutral pH cleaner should be used. This will prevent long term damage to the stone, sealant and grout. A good quality cleaner will contain cleaning components and enhancing agents that will make the surface richer. Any cleaning products containing wax should not be used as they promote a build up of false layers that will spoil the floor's appearance in the long term.