A Walk Through Restoring Natural Stone Floors

By Ron Ebeyer

Natural stone and terrazzo floors are stunning, sturdy and long-lasting so long as they are properly maintained. If not, they literally lose their lustre, becoming dull as a result of heavy foot traffic, spills and possibly incorrect care.

Stone floors can be restored to their original beauty, though, provided that the job is done right. While there is always the DIY route, a stone restoration expert has the knowledge and equipment that ensures optimal results. The former may seem cheaper but if done improperly, a botched restoration effort may lead to a full flooring replacement, costing more money in the long-run.

The Restoration Process
Restoration techniques vary depending on the stone flooring material — marble, granite, limestone, slate, onyx and terrazzo — and the type and degree of damage. Generally, the process involves grinding, polishing or honing, and sealing.

The grinding process is similar to the concept of sanding wood. Wet diamond bit grinding is used to remove scratches, etches, stains and wear patterns from the stone’s surface. Depending on the extent of the damage, anywhere from three to 10 levels of diamond coarseness are used. The first levels of the grinding process are coarser in order to remove deep scratches. The level of sanding then becomes finer until a smooth, unabrasive surface texture is acquired.

The floor is then polished or honed, depending on customer preference and the nature of the material. Specialized refinishing compounds used during the polishing/honing process allow for a wide range of lustre levels.

Once the desired finish is achieved, the stone is thoroughly cleaned and a penetrating sealer applied. This prevents staining and prolongs the finish of the surface.

Chips, Cracks and Wax
There are times when the restoration process may include repairing chips and cracks with matching coloured epoxies, and/or the removal of topical waxes. Natural stone needs to be able to oxygenate or breathe in order to age correctly. Waxing the surface prevents this by clogging the stone’s pores, often resulting in discolouration and an unclear plastic-like shine. To remove the wax coating, the stone surface must be buffed with high-density floor strippers and rough nylon pads.

Care and Maintenance
It is important to implement a maintenance program following the restoration process to keep the stone flooring looking its best and increase its longevity.

The stone surface should be resealed every three to five years. However, the frequency depends on whether the floor is cleaned daily, the level of wear and tear, and the type of stone. For instance, limestone and certain marbles should be resealed yearly if in high-traffic areas.

Beyond this, it may be necessary to schedule periodic visits by a stone restoration technician who will focus on previous problem areas. The regularity of these visits is dependent on the type of stone and the amount of foot traffic.

Ron Ebeyer is a restoration consultant with the Marble Clinic, which specializes in natural stone restoration and maintenance. The company has been in business for more than 35 years, providing professional services to residential and commercial clients across Ontario. Ron can be reached at 905-270-2959 or [email protected].

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