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The dangers of having inexperienced contractors clean your floors

Marble floor stripped, polished and sealed by PMac

Be careful who you contract to work on your marble and natural stone surfaces! We were recently called upon once again to fix a marble floor that had been damaged by a contractor who really didn’t know what they were doing. The cost of repairing a damaged stone surface can be very high. We have come across this problem on marble and limestone floors in both domestic and commercial settings, but also on external surfaces where contractors have attempted to remove graffiti or paint using inappropriate methods and have actually damaged the stone.

It’s normal to shop around and try and get the best deal for cleaning your marble floors or removing a small piece of graffiti from your wall. After all, it’s only a bit of cleaning, right? Anyone can do it! Wrong! When dealing with natural stone surfaces, a lot can go wrong and you should only entrust this task to an experienced contractor.  It’s far cheaper in the long run to employ a stone cleaning contractor who has lots of experience and knowledge, and will return your stone to its original state.

A damaged crema marfil floor

We recently received a call from a someone at a dental surgery. They had contracted what they were led to believe were experts to clean the crema marfil floor in their practice’s reception area. Unfortunately, the floors were left in a worse state than before the job was started – the beautiful marble tiles were left with a glossy glaze, and there were even ring marks left on the tiles where the workers had stood their tins. When the client complained to the company, they just said that removing the glossy finish would incur an additional fee!

In our opinion, the contractor had no experience dealing with stone. It would seem they cleaned the marble tiles with an acid-based chemical. This of course burnt the tiles, so they quickly tried to neutralise the damage with vinegar, which only exasperated the problem. This is the equivalent of throwing petrol onto a fire to put it out. To cover up their mess, they sealed the floors with a topical seal and this is what gave the floor that terrible glossy finish. It beggars belief that someone purporting to be a professional stone cleaning company could actually do this. But we have come across this problem several times in the past few months.

On another occasion we were called out to look at a beautiful marble bathroom which again had just been treated by a ‘professional contractor’. The natural shine had been ruined by being cleaned with an abrasive scrubbing pad, and to cover up the damage this contractor also covered the tiles in sealer.

Stone cleaning and stone restoration is a specialist service and cannot be carried out by regular cleaning contractors who don’t have adequate knowledge or experience. Someone who cleans carpets or wooden floors does not necessarily know how to clean stone.

The cost of repairing a damaged marble floor

In the case of the dental surgery mentioned above, the cost of repairing their damaged floor was quite high. Luckily for the client, we were able to restore the floor to its former glory – and it was still significantly cheaper than replacing the marble. As this was their place of business, work had to be carried out over the weekend (which incurs additional costs).

The first task we had was to remove the sealer that had been put on the tiles. This can be a very tricky and labour intensive job, with the extra complication that you can only remove a sealant from marble or stone with a chemical that comes from the same manufacturer. Once the sealer was removed, it was evident that some of the tiles were damaged beyond repair. Luckily, the client had a few spare tiles left over, so we lifted the damaged tiles and replaced them.

Once that was done, the entire floor had to be re-honed – which involves grinding the floor to remove the burn marks. The new tiles had to be blended in to match the existing ones. Once we had removed all the burn and etch marks, the floor was polished up to bring back its true shine and sealed with a penetrating water-based sealer.

The results were stunning and the client was delighted. In fact, they remarked that “…the floors look even better than when they were first laid!

However, the cost to restore the floor to better than its original state was over €4,000… for a job that originally should have cost around €800.

We also restored the previously mentioned marble bathroom to its true finish, once again by painstakingly removing the inappropriate sealer. The marble was then re-hone and polished up to bring back the natural lustre of the marble. A penetrating seal was placed on the stone to help protect against spills, but will not alter the appearance of the stone.

Removing graffiti can damage your stonework

Graffiti removal seems like an easy enough task, any cleaning company can do it? Unfortunately, this is also not the case; graffiti removal is something best left to professionals who have experience and knowledge of the surfaces they are dealing with, the type of weapon used to place the graffiti and of course the substrate the graffiti is on.

The cost of repairing damage to walls and surfaces caused by using the wrong method and incorrect chemical used to remove graffiti can be quite high and far exceed the cost of having your graffiti removed by professionals who know what they’re doing.

For example, power-washing a limestone, brick or techcrete surface can cause substantial damage to surfaces and render them even more porous, which allows for further deterioration. Applying harsh chemicals can etch natural stone and leave unsightly marks that are even worse than the actual graffiti. Liquid chemicals when applied can run down your substrate, etching an entire wall with streaks that will need to be re-honed and repaired. Modern reconstituted stone such as techcrete cannot take any harsh cleaning and needs to be treated with kid gloves. Damaged stone can take several visits to rectify.

The cost of repairing a damaged stone surface caused by inexperienced contractors can be quadruple the original cost of having the graffiti removed by an experienced contractor. Hiring an inexperienced contractor to save a few bob can end up being a very expensive mistake. This of course is true for almost any profession, but somehow people see cleaning a marble floor or removing graffiti as an easy enough task that any old cleaner can do.

We have spent almost 20 years researching and working on stone, marble and concrete surfaces. We have come across all the scenarios and know what works and what doesn’t. We have of course made mistakes along the way, but have always rectified them and learnt from them. We have become experts in our field and that’s the way we intend to stay!

Next time you intend to contract someone to clean your marble or natural stone surfaces, shop around by all means, but don’t forget to also check out their credentials and experience – ask for proof and references from happy clients – as it could save you a lot of money in the long run.