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Cleaning and restoration of slate floors in Northern Ireland and Ireland

Cleaning and restoration of slate floors in Northern Ireland and Ireland

We have prepared this short guide to restoring and deep – cleaning slate floors in Northern Ireland as help for those householders who are struggling with dirty floors and bad advice from installers and cleaners. Slate floor maintenance should be a simple thing to carry out given that the floor has been properly sealed initially.  We will address a number of the maintenance issues which we experience as professional contractors in this arena. We will give some guidance as to how householders can easily overcome common maintenance problems with slate floors in Ireland.

Improper or inadequate sealing:       This problem commonly manifests itself when staining is noticed on the floor. Also some patchiness of sealing can be apparent with heavy traffic areas developing a worn look. This problem is readily solved by deep – cleaning and resealing of the floor. As householders with less experience of sealing we would recommend a simple acrylic sealer to renew and protect the floor. There are many such sealers available online or in the hardware stores. We suggest Buckeye Castleguard or Lithofin multiseal for an easy to use and streak free finish. We suggest a few coats to build up resistance and create the lustre you are after. Always wash these sealed floors using a ph neutral floor detergent as any other type will break down the sealers.


Break down of old sealer:     This problem normally occurs when there has been a history of ingrained dirt or staining and the householder has made efforts to remove those contaminants but creates a new problem where the sealer is partially removed and broken down by the harshness of the detergents used.  The only reliable solution here is to remove the remainder of the original sealer using a contractor grade stripper. Then the floor needs to be neutralised in order that it is in a proper state to receive a new sealer. Drying time depends upon ambient temperature and ventilation but it must be ensured that the floor is completely dry before any further treatment is carried out. A sealer is then applied to protect the floor and add a lustre to the finish. There are many sealers available but generally can be categorized as penetrating or topical or surface. With slate , either coloured slate or black slate , a topical sealer is generally easiest and most effective in rendering the floor easy to maintain and attractive.


Lippage in slate floors: This common problem in very uneven slate floors is very simple and quick to solve using a hammer and bolster ( chisel ) . Simply place the flat side of the bolster along the edge of the lipped slate tile and strike it firmly. It will break off along the layer on the floor level with the bolster and thus remove the height of the lipped surface. Remember to reseal these areas as they will be a different colour to the rest of the floor and therefore they will need to be sealed to tone in. It is important to understand that this process only works on slate floors and does not under any circumstances work with any other type of natural stone floor.


Daily maintenance of natural slate floors:  Slate floors have become very popular in Northern Ireland for their good looks and ease of maintenance. Many kitchen floors in Ireland have in them  beautiful coloured or black slate floors. There are a few basic rules to live by which should ensure an easy maintenance of slate floors. First is to ensure that it is properly sealed. This can be with either a surface or penetrating sealer but a simple test is to place a few drops of water on the surface and watch it closely to see if it is absorbed into the surface. If it is absorbed then the floor is not adequately sealed and will need further sealing before it should be open to full use. Should the floor be adequately sealed then all we need to ensure is that the detergent we use is neutral in its ph rating and effective in its cleaning power.  Using a neutral ph  detergent in conjunction with hot water should ensure a clean floor with a sealer left intact for longterm floor protection.


Extraordinary stripping of acrylic or polyurethane sealer: Occasionally we come across floors which have been sealed with pu which has worn off in patches and which is now tired and ugly. The only effective treatment is the laborious stripping of the sealer using an acetone based stripper and a lot of personal protective equipment. After this horrendous stripping job is finished we are back to the neutralising stage and things can progress as normal. The trick for the longterm is not to use a polyurethane sealer in order that we don’t have to strip it off eventually. Acrylic sealers are more than adequate for the protection and enhancement of slate floors.