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Historic tiled floors restored to 'good as new' condition
Victorian tiled floors can be really beautiful but sadly they're often not maintained as they should be... They eventually become so dilapidated that the building owners feel they have no choice but to rip them up and replace them with something easier to maintain.
There is another option though. The team at Heritage Tiling aims to restore as many historic tiled floors and walls as it can, thus enabling the tiles to be viewed and enjoyed once more.
Proprietor Steve Sinnott started trading in 1982, and he tells us that his contracts have ranged from as small as 1sq.m to over 1200sq.m.
"We pay as much attention to small projects as we do larger projects," he promises. "Each job is important. I'm not concerned about the project size as such, what matters is the floor!
"I love what I do and like to see a happy customer, bringing a damaged floor from a ruin to a beautiful floor is what matters."
Steve tells us that in the 60s 70s and 80s, tiled floors of all types were routinely pulled up and consigned to the skip. Major investment only came about in tile restoration when the Americans got in touch with H&R Johnsons for contracts in the Capitol Building, Washington DC.
He originally started out as a stone carver but a contract that had a badly damaged marble mosaic changed his life. It took him nearly three years to restore the marble mosaic floor and meant that he had cut almost a million cubes! His job changed and he became a Tyler-mason - a term that had gone out of use but was suited to his new line of work.
Before long he had travelled to other countries to restore mosaic floors but as he got older he specialised in Victorian encaustic & geometric tile restoration.
Steve says he used to dig out tiles from landfill near the old factories of Maws & Mintons to use in some of his restoration projects. He has worked in many different countries from the US and Canada, through most European countries and as far away as New Zealand - plus all the different regions in the UK from the Shetlands down to Devon and Cornwall as well as the Isles (such as the Isle of Man and Ireland).
He says he learnt the hard way how to restore encaustic and geometric tiled floors, by taking them apart and putting them back again. Without the 'before' pictures to show the damage, he says it is virtually impossible to distinguish the restoration additions.
Steve says there is not a training programme that deals with encaustic and geometric tiling and that his company is happy to provide on-site training to those who are interested in learning the craft. One of his main points is always that observation of the work of past craftsmen is crucial in producing good work now. He says attention must be paid to the inclusion of detail work in thresholds when laying a new Victorian encaustic and geometric tiled floor, together with variable tile cuts on the wall/skirting side of borders, inside variable cuts (if needed) to set the field tiles correctly.
"A study of original Victorian tiled floors would show these crucial details which are too often missed out on many new Victorian reproduction tiled floors," he notes. "Unnecessary borders around the bottom of stairs or in sections where the field tiles are crowded out to a point that the border either side is wider than the field, is another common mistake."
The company provides clients with a comprehensive service covering restoration of existing tiling schemes, extensions to existing tiling and a restorative deep cleaning service for both period historic tiling and modern tiling.
As well as bringing historic tiling back to 'as new' condition, Heritage Tiling can clean and seal modern tiling as well as stone flooring and terracotta new or old.
"The floor doesn't need to be damaged to invest in our skills; however some modern tiled floors can't be repaired due to the high turnover of tiles & designs," he says.
"Our system employs both a low rpm scrubbing machine and hand-cleaning and is carried out in such a way that the floors are cleaned sympathetically without damage. If any of the floors need repairs or restoration we can do this... However some floors just need a little 'TLC' to bring them back to life again and our company has the experience and knowledge to do this.
"We use a mix of reclaimed tiles and new tiles to restore damaged floors; exact matches can be attained but sometimes a close match is all that can be achieved given that often we are dealing with tiles over 140 years old.
"We have restored mosaics in listed buildings in Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Victorian encaustic & geometric tiled floors in Grade 1 listed buildings and in Churches.
"Our references include those from Architects to Church clergy, private householders, lawyers and many others.
Steve says that the company offers a pre-contract consultation service for large scale Victorian tiling contracts that need specialist input - for example, for insurance purposes or for grants etc.
He says that this service would prevent a mistake being made when quoting for Victorian tile work; which is often under-priced.
5th May 2016