Today interest in terracotta tiles for flooring seems to be on the rise and people find its warm color and rustic, natural beauty quite appealing. These tiles look great with their distinct amber shade and ethnic grace. But its surface has no natural glaze of their own and so they pick-up and store dust and dirt very quickly. These tiles need regular maintenance to retain their looks.
How to Protect Terracotta Tiles:
The best way to protect the tiles is to seal the tiles. There are sealants available specifically for terracotta. Once you seal the tiles properly, it can be maintained by cleaning them regularly with mild soap and water. The tiles are porous and quite absorbent and may need a good amount of sealant, but a well-sealed terracotta-tiled floor looks attractive and very ethnic with little maintenance.
Two ways to seal terracotta tiles are:
1. The traditional way of pre-sealing with boiled Linseed oil and then finishing with neutral surface wax.
2. The synthetic method. There are many sealants that are either water-based or wax-based.
Oil & Wax Based Sealing:
This is the method used traditionally to pre-seal the tiles with several coats of boiled Linseed oil. After this, grouting will be done. Allowing the floor to cure for a few days and after thorough cleaning and removal of any residual grout, it is finished with a surface wax-polish.
This method has both advantages and disadvantages. There is nothing to beat the natural waxed look with the warm and rich color tones. But it is a messy, time-consuming job, both sealing & maintenance.
This is the preferred method today for both previously sealed floors as well as freshly-laid terracotta-tiled floors. Many people prefer water-based sealants over wax-based as the latter absorbs more dirt and dust with higher maintenance needs.
1. Wash the tiles well to remove any dirt or sand particles. Using a wet vacuum will help. There should be no soap or any residue from cleaning. And let dry fully.
2. If you are laying new tiles, either pre-seal them with a stone sealant and lay the tiles or use the stone sealant within 24-hrs of laying the tiles. This is as per instructions given by the sealant manufacturers. The brush/cloth to apply the sealant must be clean as are the tiles.
3. Once the pre-sealant is thoroughly dry, you can apply the grout.
4. Now seal the new tile floors with sealant until the floor has a smooth shiny look. Unsealed areas will have an unpolished, dull look with visible porous-looking tiles. Start from one corner of the floor and work backward toward a doorway without stepping/walking or kneeling on the sealed floor.
5. Old floors can be re-sealed without stripping them if the old seal is not peeling or bubbling.
6. Let dry thoroughly.
- Several coats of water-based sealant may be needed for a smooth finish.
- Keep the room well-ventilated while sealing and avoid inhaling the fumes.
- To keep up the look, clean with water and mild soap frequently to remove any dirt or sand.