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How to seal Honed & Tumbled Natural Stone Tiles step by step

27 September

Honed (matt) and tumbled (antiqued) natural stone tiles are given their finish at the quarry's manufacturing plant prior to shipping. To ensure that perfect showroom finish is maintained honed and tumbled these tiles should be sealed on installation to protect the surface from everyday stains and dirt.

Starting life as large blocks typically measuring 3m by 2m, the raw material is inspected for cracks and flaws, and tested for hardness and durability before being shipped to the processing plant. Blocks are cut into slabs with an industrial sized wet saw, then each slab is then cut into tiles. Working on one tile at a time, slabs are laid horizontally on a large conveyor line called a 'polishing' line. The slabs pass under heads fitted with diamond/grit abrasive pads and grind away the rough surface, starting with very coarse grades and graduating to finer grades. Depending on the finish required, and the toughness of the material, the process is repeated a number of times.

Tiles are given a honed surface finish before being placed in a tumbling machine. The tiles are placed on a rack within a cradle, smaller stones and pebbles are put into the machine, and the rack is rotated. As the rack rotates the stones and pebbles bash against tiles creating the tumbled finish. The tiles are placed on the rack vertically on edge, rather than horizontally flat, therefore the edges get most of the bashing giving the tiles their characteristic aged look.

All natural stone tiles polished, honed, or tumbled are porous, therefore sealing on installation is essential to fill the pores with protective sealer, otherwise grime will penetrate the tile and dull the shine. Prior to fixing, and ideally at the quoting stage, it’s prudent to discuss sealing of your tiles project with your tiler to ensure this vital process is incorporated into your budget and the work schedule.

Once fixed, but before sealing, new tiles should be cleaned with LTP Grimex to remove surface residues and impurities. Often this pre-seal clean is overlooked as tilers will simply wipe the surface with water. This is inadequate, as small dust and dirt particles not visible to the naked eye, will be imbedded in the micro-pores of the tile during the installation process. These particles will be locked in when the sealer is applied, as a result the surface will be appear smeared and will be difficult to buff to a high shine.

This is particularly relevant if the installation dictates the need for numerous cuts, as the cutting process exposes the tile to dirty water from the cutting machine and residues on drying out. Also, often natural stone tiles are fitted throughout the downstairs living area from the kitchen, through into the dining area, and maybe continuing onto an external patio or walkway. Fitting to such a large area will take a number of days, and it’s common, either as a family needing to use facilities or tradesman completing another part of the project, to need to walk on laid tiles – this inevitably dirties the tile.

One more key thing before proceeding to the sealing stage is to check residual moisture in the tile. Water from the adhesive and from cutting the tiles can leave moisture in the tile which needs to evaporate before the sealer is applied. Tile adhesive should be allowed to dry in line with manufacturer guidelines, and tested for moisture with a moisture meter. Failure to check for sufficiently dried tiles will result in the sealer failing to protect the tiles, and patchy uneven colouration across the installation.

Providing an invisible barrier of protection we recommend LTP Mattstone impregnating sealer for honed natural stone tiles, such as Stonestore’s Tuscan Grey Limestone and Tuscan Beige tumbled marble. We recommend one coat before and one after sealing. Apply with a purposeful pad or cloth, allowing to absorb into the tile for 20 minutes, buff away any excess before it dries. Can be walked on after a minimum of 3 hours, protect the surface from water for 24 hours and don’t clean for 3 days.

Sealing the tiles will make daily maintenance easier. As part of your cleaning routine use LTPWaxwash a high-quality liquid soap suitable for all types of natural stone, including polished marble, a gentle cleaner containing a trace of linseed oil especially formulated to clean the most delicate surfaces. Ideal for use on travertine, limestone, sandstone, slate, marble, granite, porcelain, terracotta, terrazzo, concrete, quarry tiles and flagstones. It has a fresh, clean fragrance, simply dilute 2 or 3 capfuls (5 capfuls on dirtier floors) in a bucket of warm water. Wash the floor and allow to dry. Does not require rinsing, polished finished will benefit from buffing with a dry soft cloth.

For advice on which type of natural stone tiles are most suitable StoneStore on 0161 277 6850, for technical information and to restock on LTP products visit LTP or call 01823 666 213.

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