Restoring A Tiled Floor

Victorian tiled floor

Victorian floor in the hallwayRestoring a tiled floor – the right way!

Two years ago I bought a run-down Victorian house previously occupied by a large Irish family who proudly told me they had newly laminated the hall floor way. Since I hate the look of really cheap laminate, I took a chance in ripping all of it up. It was well worth the risk. Underneath I found a beautiful Victorian tiled floor in fairly good condition. If like me you are lucky enough to own such a beautiful feature and you’re wondering how to restore and/or protect it, read on.

These beautiful original tiled floors are found in both Victorian and Edwardian homes. Traditionally, they were laid without grouting, butted up hard against each other on a bedding layer. If this describes your floor, be aware that problems can arise if the floor is not swept regularly because dirt and grit then get ground down between the tiles. For these types of floors, it is best to regularly wipe over with a damp mop. Don’t wash them as the water may seep underneath.

If one of the tiles becomes dislodged, make sure you take action as quickly as possible. Since the tiles hold each other together, a single missing tile can cause damage to the rest of the area.

Should a large area have come loose, carefully mark each tile and use a photo or drawing to make sure the correct tile is returned to its proper place. Where the bedding has crumbled, make sure you remove at least 6mm of the old bedding so that there is a good base for the adhesive – see below for more detailed instructions.

A number of companies offer replacement geometric and encaustic tiles – try:

Repairing your floor – a step-by-step guide

  1. First deal with any loose tiles

    When restoring a tiled floor you should start with the loose tiles. As noted above, leaving them loose can cause others in the area to become dislodged or damaged. Because they are often butted up close to each other it can be hard to prise them out without damaging them around the edge. You can run a hacksaw blade or a paint scraper around the tile in order to loosen it further. Now gently ease it out.  Then clean up – using a sweeping brush or vacuum cleaner, remove any dirt and grit underneath the loose tile.

    Using a damp cloth, give the bed and back of the tile a thorough clean. If on lifting the tile you find that the bedding has crumbled, you will need to re-bed the tile in an adhesive. Remove some of the old bedding evenly (at least 6mm). Now apply tile adhesive to the back of the tile. Dampen the floor bed and the back of the tile, then prime both with one part PVA diluted with five parts water. Give this layer time to dry. Next, apply neat PVA to the floor bed and back of the tile, and press the tile firmly back in place. Make sure you wipe away surplus glue with a damp sponge. Then place a weight on top of the tile. Leave it for 24 hours until it is fully bonded.

  2. Carpet gripperRemove any carpet gripper rods

    – sometimes these will be hammered in so you’ll just have to prise them off gently. Other times, unfortunately, they will be glued on. In those cases, you can use the Tile Doctor’s Remove and Go to get them off. You’ll need to cover the remover with a plastic sheet so it doesn’t oxidize, leave it for 30 to 40 minutes. Then the hard glue should scrape off easily. Be careful not to scratch the tiles when you’re scraping – select a scraper that keeps the blade at an acute angle to the tile to avoid scratching or gouging it.

  3. Repair any chips

    When you’re restoring a tiled floor you have to deal with chips. Chips on the floor can be repaired with epoxy putty if you so desire (I personally have left mine as I think it adds to the character of the floor). The Modeller’s epoxy putty Milliput is ideal as it comes in various colors. To make the repair, first, clean the chipped area, then knead and roll equal amounts from both Milliput sticks for six minutes. Press the resulting putty into the chips using a flat edge. Smooth with a wet finger or finely woven moist cloth. Clean your tools immediately. 

  4. Remove any paint splashes

    – there are always a few paint splashes on these floors from past clumsy decorators! Fortunately, these can easily be removed with a scraper once dry. As above, make sure you select a scraper that keeps the blade at an acute angle to the tile. This will make certain you avoid damaging it; or, you can use a plastic scraper or plastic scouring pad. Avoid using metal scourers, a wire brush, or steel wool. All of these will cause damage to the surface of your tiles.

  5. Remove ingrained dirt

  6. Vulpex liquid soap as you can see from the gallery above, dirt gets really worked into the floor, especially near the front door. Initially, you can try removing it using hot water and a mild detergent such as conservation grade Vulpex Spirit Soap. Don’t allow water to pool on the surface as it may seep between and underneath the tiles, causing them to come loose. Sponge off the surplus as you scrub away.      

    Finally wipe over the tiles with clean water, rinsing the mop frequently. If this cleaning method doesn’t work for you, you might need to invest in a more heavy-duty cleaner. For this, I recommend the Tile Doctor’s products. Their Pro-Clean and Nanotech Ultra Clean solutions are both suitable for Victorian floors and ideal for lifting up wax sealers, grease, grime, and general dirt that has built up over the years (click here to visit their website).

  7. Wax the floor 

    – unglazed tiles were traditionally left unfinished. But unless you want to be down on your hands and knees cleaning every day, don’t skip this step or all of your hard work will go to waste! If your tiled floor is on the ground floor level and doesn’t have a damp proof membrane, don’t apply a sealant or impregnator. This would trap moisture. Instead, apply Liberon Liquid Beeswax sparingly to the tiles, using a soft cotton cloth. Then, after 24 hours when the Beeswax has dried, buff the floor using a cloth or electric polisher.

  8. Seal the floor

    – An alternative, for a low sheen hard-wearing finish, is to seal the floor – try Tile Doctor’s Seal & Go sealer which can be applied using a paint pad applicator and tray. You’ll need 4 to 5 coats of sealant to cover the floor and you need to allow it to dry before applying more coats. So choose a weekend when the kids are all out of the house!

Once you have repaired your Victorian or Edwardian floor, it’s important to keep it clean to save yourself work in the future. Some floor scrubbers may be suitable for use with your floor and will take the hard work out of keeping it clean – but read the manufacturer’s description carefully as some may be too harsh and cause damage. If you’ve waxed the floor, sweep or vacuum regularly to prevent dirt and grit from being trodden in on the floor.

Occasionally wipe over the floor with a damp mop. If you’ve sealed the floor, you’ll find most sealers will break down after 2-3 years. This will depend on usage and cleaning products used). For regular cleaning, use a sealer friendly cleaning product such as the Tile Doctor’s Neutral Tile Cleaner. This cleaner has been specially formulated for the regular cleaning of sealed stone and tile surfaces. Never use acid-based cleaners on your floor as these will damage your tiles.

Investing in a good doormat – a rubber one outside and a coir one inside – will help capture dirt too.

This sums up Restoring a Tiled Floor. Comment below if you have anything to add to this!

Restoring floorboards – step by step guide

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