Much has been said about how to keep hard floorcoverings looking good, but it is often not realised that, whether they are natural stone or man-made, most of these unique surface finishes will require sealing to provide a trouble-free service life, and in this respect it pays to seek the advice of experts like Tile & Floor Care (TFC) to ensure that the correct sealer is selected and applied correctly.
For example, take three of the most popular natural stones – granite, marble and travertine. Granite is mined in large slabs which are cut to thinner slabs and then into tiles and counter tops and other decorative pieces which are mechanically polished to give them their high-gloss finish.
Marble is mined in almost exactly the same the way and is usually mechanically polished to a high gloss, but can be provided in matt and many different colours. However, it is relatively soft and needs to be protected from wear and tear as well as staining; it is also extremely sensitive to acids and is easily etched by common products such as cool drinks, lemon juice and vinegar.
Travertine is a stone that falls between limestone (sedimentary) and marble (metamorphic) although its manufacture and properties are similar to those of granite and marble. All three of these natural stones are very low in porosity, hence a high-viscosity penetrating sealer must be used, and it is advisable to contact TFC for a specification.
Sandstone and limestone are very similar to each other in their properties, although limestone consists mainly of calcite and is particularly sensitive to acids. Generally these stones are very porous and need to be sealed with suitable sealers.
TFC has a number of recommended sealers for sandstone – HP Sealer, Natural Stone Sealer Satin, Natural Stone Sealer Matt and Top Seal. Top Seal will not change the colour of the tile dramatically (which is important with this type of tile) but, although HP Sealer will enhance the colour of the tile (no two sandstones are alike and they vary from light cream to deep red) and will provide an attractive matt finish, it can sometimes cause the tile to acquire a greenish tinge. Check it in an inconspicuous area of the floor first! The two natural stone sealers will also colour enhance the sandstone but either with a satin or matt finish.
The appeal of slate comes mainly from its natural variations in colour and textured finish, and can be honed or polished, but the surface must be protected to preserve the colour, otherwise it is likely to be abraded away and a different colour below will then be exposed.
TFC once again has a number of recommended treatments for slate: one way of protecting the tile is to use a surface sealer that will protect the tile from the top, the other using a penetrating sealer that will bond and strengthen the tile. As a result, Deep Seal, HP Sealer, Natural Stone Sealer Satin, Natural Stone Sealer Matt and Top Seal from TFC will do the trick.
Terracotta tiles come in varying porosities, so the accurate coverage of sealers is difficult to predict, even though they are very hardwearing and often do not require surface protection. Consult the experts at TFC before embarking on any terracotta sealing programme.
Cement tiles are the only tiles for which TFC prescribes using a pre-seal. When protecting cement it is of the utmost importance to protect the surface, which will otherwise abrade away, causing a change of colour and possible exposure of the stone aggregate used in its manufacture. Recommended TFC treatments are similar to those for Terracotta tiles.
Although glazed porcelain tiles do not need to be treated, the unglazed varieties are highly vitrified and still need to be treated to prevent them from becoming dirty and ultimately stained. TFC’s Nano Seal is the only sealer that is able to penetrate (impregnate) and seal the porcelain tile from within. It is very effective and helps to keep the tile clean without making any visual change to the aesthetic finish of the porcelain.