A home with natural stone flooring is very special. More homes would incorporate natural stone but there is a perception of high maintenance. Often the concerns are about stains but they needn’t be. Stains can be prevented by doing two things:

  1. Cleaning spillages up quickly so the fluid doesn’t have time to penetrate the stone matrix
  2. Sealing the stone to prevent moisture penetration

Sealing stone is usually advisable but not always necessary. In homes with young children or pets, it is certainly a good insurance policy and can make a family home less stressful to keep clean.

The science behind sealant formulations has moved with impressive speed in recent years. Some manufacturers claim their sealers will perform well for up to 15 years, depending on the amount and nature of traffic. These claims are very hard to challenge. As usual, you only get what you pay for and cheap products often have short working lives.

Do not use generic, all-purpose, floor sealants on stone. Use only products that have been specially formulated for the type of stone and its surface finish.

Choosing Sealers – Two Choices, Two Outcomes

There are two basic choices of sealant – surface or topical sealants (that leave a wet look appearance) and penetrating sealants or impregnators that result in no visible change to the look of the stone.

Penetrating sealants form an invisible protective barrier below the surface of the stone and act as repellents blocking the entry of contaminants into the pores and cavities of the stone. At the same time they allow internal moisture to escape. Penetrating sealants are used when the natural surface and colour of the stone needs to be preserved.

Surface or topical sealants protect the stone tiles surface from staining and provide a coating that helps to preserve the stone finish in heavy wear and high traffic conditions. They will enhance stone colours and provide an attractive, gloss finish that is easy to sweep, clean or wipe. They may also be used on external walls to reduce the risk of damage from graffiti.

Before applying sealant, ensure the surface is clean and dry. Apply the sealant with a soft bristle broom, mop or paint brush. Most manufacturers recommend that two coats of sealant should be applied to new surfaces. Floors should be allowed to dry for up to 24 hours before walking on them.

Re-sealing Floors – Knowing When and With What?

Sometimes old floors lose their lustre and need to be re-sealed.

Unfortunately floors are very uncommunicative – they don’t fly flags to say “please re-seal me”? The most practical way of determining whether a floor needs to be re-sealed is to do a little test. This involves comparing the absorption rate of water on two sites of your floor – a protected spot (e.g. under a mat or behind a door) and a very well worn section (e.g. doorway). If the floor in the well used section of floor absorbs water more quickly than the protected site, another coat of sealant may be justified. If there is no difference, don’t bother!

If re-sealing a floor, make sure you match sealant types. Solvent or water based sealant formulations are incompatible with each other. If a stone floor was initially sealed with a solvent based product, you must re-seal with a solvent based product. It doesn’t have to be the same brand (though that is preferable) but it does have to be the same type.

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