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Old 09-28-2005, 10:34 PM   #1
erikjo
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efflorescence

Hello my name is Erik.

About three weeks ago I had tile installed in my house. The AC broke during the installation( I don't know if this is relevant or not but I thought I would add it) and I have a white powdery substance on the grout. The grout is supposed to be a cream color. It was called bone I think. Anyway, I was wondering if this is normal or not, whether the installer should pay to fix it, and how and why it happens.

The white substance is worst in the kitchen, where it looks like the tile is outlined with white grout. It is also in random places on the grout throughout the house, but it isn't very noticeable( maybe 1 in or larger in most spots on the grout. My tile is beige so it doesn't look terrible, but isn't really what I want. I was told it is effervesence. Anyway, I would appreciate some input on how this occurs and how to stop and prevent it in the future.

I was given some grout restorer/cleaner by the installer. It is acidic, so I didn't know if I should use it.

I have not sealed the floor at all due to this, and would like to seal it asap. I purchased aquamix sealer in the gold bottle I believe. Is this a good brand?

I have ceramic tile by daltile (edgefield line). The grout is looks grainy, I believe this was the sanded type. Anyways, thanks for your help.

Feeling hopeless in Houston....
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Old 09-28-2005, 11:26 PM   #2
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Hi Erik,
The term is actually "efflorescence" and it is a blooming of salts crystals usually carried to the surface of masonry by moisture, either liquid or vapor. True efflorescence would only appear at the cement-based groutlines. Since you describe the substance as also being on the surface of your glazed tile, I'm gonna say that it's more likely a deposit of some kind and not efflorescence at all.
When your AC crashed, was there water on the floor areas which were affected? Are the deposits 'dusty' or more like the crystals formed after sugar water dries? Why did your installer hand you the cleaner and not address this issue himself?
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Old 09-28-2005, 11:46 PM   #3
erikjo
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Hi Shaughnn thanks for the reply.

Sorry if my message was a little confusing, the substance is only on the grout lines. It is more of a powder, when I rub my finger on the substance, there is a white powder left on my finger. As for your other questions, all I can say is that they did a good job laying the tile, other than this problem, but there customer service stinks. The person that gave me the cleaner is the co-owner of the company, but doesn't actually do the installation. I have little faith in anything she tells me based on some things that have happened, thus I come here seeking knowledge. You are right, she shouldn't hand me the cleaner, but it is the pattern which they have illustrated to me. I call it incompetence. Anyway, I don't think that there was water on the floor, although I am not sure. I wasn't living in the house and was not there the entire time. I wasn't there when the AC broke and I just happened to go over and discover it. They didn't even bother to tell me!@!

To make a long story short, I really just want to do this my self if I can. The co-owner wanted to poor the cleaner on my floor without diluting it, even though the bottle says to dilute it. I didn't let her, and decided to come here again for advice. Thank goodness the person installing the tile at least did a good job other than the white powder issue. The deposits are dusty, and I would like to know how to remove this stuff and how to keep it from coming back. Should I still seal the floor? Thanks

Erik
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Old 09-29-2005, 12:06 AM   #4
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Hi Erik,
Are you on a well system or do you have any other water conditions like excessively "hard" water or a water softener?
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Old 09-29-2005, 12:33 AM   #5
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Yes I have a water softener, it was with the house when I bought it. I am in a subdivision, so I am pretty sure it isn't a well system.
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Old 09-29-2005, 12:44 AM   #6
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Well Erik, chemistry isn't my strong suite. I'm gonna change my tune a little, after you've cleared things up a bit, and say that you may indeed have some salts issues going on. a 1:1 solution of water and regular white distilled vinegar and a nylon scrubby pad are usually enough to clean most haze. Your problem might require real products though.
What cleaner did the co-owner give you? The Aquamix sealer you have is probably going to be fine once we've sorted out how to get your floors presentable. Aquamix is a good company and their products are dependable.
Can you post a photo of some of your areas so we can be sure about what we're talking about, please?
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Old 09-29-2005, 12:48 PM   #7
erikjo
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I can post some pictures when I get home. If the vinegar/water works, will the substance come back? Can I use vinegar/water to clean the floor every time to keep the substance from coming back or would that damage the floor or the sealer once I have put it down? I am not sure what she gave me, I will look when I get home and let you know.

By the way when they did the install they left space between the wall and the tile. They covered it with shoe molding. Is that what they call an expansion joint? What is the purpose of them doing this. There are also a couple minor things like some thin set left on the edge of the tile (it is gray). Would vinegar take that off, it isn't even visible unless you get on your hands and knees, I am just a perfectionist. There are also some holes the size of a pin in the grout every now and then. Is that normal? Thanks for all your advice.

Erik
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Old 09-29-2005, 08:16 PM   #8
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Finally got the pictures up I believe. The cleaner she gave me was a sample of stonetech professional restore in concentrate form. She wanted to put it directly on my grout undiluted, but it says to dilute so I didnt let her. This is my first house so I am sure I am being over picky to some extent, but not about way the grout looks or there customer service level which is abysmal.

Anyway, I put some pictures to see what you thought about what they had done as well, along with one showing the white haze(I hope you can see it...). If you think vinegar/water will work, I might try that first. You seem infinitely more informative than she does, so I don't trust much of anything that she says.

One other question that I have is there are very small places in the grout where there is a hole the size of the head of a pin. Is that normal? There are also places where the grout line is deeper, like they didn't put enough grout in. They didnt leave me any extra grout, so is it worth making them come fill them or am I being to critical. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, this is the first time I have really ever dealt with contractors. I also am wondering what you think from a professionals point of view about my tile. I tried to attach some pictures so that you could see some of what they did. Thank you

Do you have any tips for preventing this from happening again once I get it resolved? I was also wondering if using vinegar/water frequently on the tile and grout would be bad for it. I have used a hoover floor mate with hot water to clean the tile since I bought it and have not used anything but water. Thanks again for your help.

Erik
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Old 09-29-2005, 08:51 PM   #9
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Hi Erik,
It does look to me like they used too much water to clean up the grout and didn't replace their dirty water often enough. I also don't think that you need to do anything except insist that the contractor you hired either fix the problem or pay the bill of some other professional you have to hire to do it for you. If you had tackled this job on your own, then you'd have some elbow grease in your future, but not if you hired a real company.
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:05 PM   #10
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So you don't think that this is efflorescence? I have scrubbed in one place using only water, and it didn't come up at all. The thing is that it is really bad in the kitchen and no where else. Throughout the rest of the house there is like one small area where it is white every now and then. In the kithchen the grout lines actually look white though from this substance. I see your point about making them do it, but I honestly don't know if I want them back in here again. Would you recommend that I try the vinegar/water, there cleaner or something else? THanks
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:21 PM   #11
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No, this isn't efflorescence. It's just a sloppy grout job. The kitchen is obviously where they switched grouters, or the problem would be consistant throughout the house. The lower grout joints are from using a hydro sponge that's worn out and the pinholes *might* be either from grout that was mixed incorrectly or from too much water being used during cleaning too soon on soft grout. What were the temperatures outside during the time that tile was installed and grouted? What was that nature of your air conditioning's malfunction?
My honest reccommendation is for you to stop trying to fix this yourself for the present. Any work you do only gives this company ammunition to put the blame on you if this has to go to court. What brand of grout was used? It *might* be possibleto get a local rep from the grout manufacturer to swing by and give you his/her professional opinion?
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Old 09-29-2005, 09:53 PM   #12
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There are areas like this throughout the house, but it seems to be most prevalent in the kitchen. When I wipe my hand on it, there is a white powder on my finger. Is that a characteristic of a sloppy grout job? I am just trying to get confirmation before I tell them to redo it. I don't want to travel down that road if it isn't necessary. I really don't know much about this, when I bought the house it had old mauve carpet in it, and I had to get it replaced quickly since I only had about a month till I had to move. I guess I should have waited before getting this done...
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Old 09-29-2005, 10:05 PM   #13
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Erik,
You can't blame yourself so please don't. Efflorescence is caused by salts which are carried by moisture in either liquid or vapor form . Unless you have a ground spring under your house that's pushing the salts up through the pad and the tile or your foundation had been flooded and the tile set while the cement was still saturated so that the vapor carried salts to the surface, it's not efflorescence. A lot of people use the term when it doesn't really apply. What you have are deposits, which are a much different animal.
I can only give you a general impression based on what you tell me and the pictures you share. You need an independant professional to look at your job and explain what your options truely are. I don't think it's that bad at all, honestly. But I do think that the more you tinker with it, the more likely you will be stuck holding the bag. The company that you hired left their product in an unsatisfactory condition. They know what good products are, by their use of Stonetech, and I'll wager that they also know exactly how to use them properly. The fact is that the bottle you were handed might very well be the solution, even at full strength. But in the hands on a novice they could create more problems than they solve.
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Old 09-29-2005, 10:14 PM   #14
erikjo
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I see what you are saying and thank you for you advice. I actually haven't done anything up till now, I am just trying to get information. I guess I should have her come do it though, that way she can't say that I did it incorrectly. Once I get this resolved, what would be the next thing I should do? I want to seal the tile so I don't have to worry about the grout getting stained. If I seal it can the efflorescence come back afterwards, and I assume it would be very difficult to remove then with a sealer on it. Am I better off not sealing it?

Other than that I have two other questions:

1. Is it alright to use hot water for everyday cleaning, or will it make the problem worse.

2. Will rubbing the grout with my finger back and forth or scraping it with my finger nail damage the grout or leave any type of indentation in the grout? I just want to make sure that the white powder on my hand isn't the grout. Thanks again for all your help. I will try and take a picture to show you what the kitchen looks like. It is hard with the lighting in there ( It is flourescent). Thanks again..

Erik
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Old 09-29-2005, 10:33 PM   #15
erikjo
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Here are the pictures. You have been a great help, I will have them come over and do it themselves. Is this something that they are responsible for or not. I only ask because I would not be surprised if they try to charge me for the stone tech restore, she only gave me a sample bottle and I am sure it wont be enough. Have a good day.

Erik
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