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Unread 02-22-2020, 11:55 AM   #1
chrisr
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Reclaimed Terracotta tile installation plan

I purchased 350 sqft of this hex tile that I plan on installing and wanted to get a check on my plan.

Can anyone provide feedback on my plan and call out anything that looks like a mistake.

1. Clean tiles thoroughly in water
2. soak tiles in water overnight
3. install tiles
4. grout
5. wait for everything to completely dry
6. seal 2-3x

Given the tiles will be soaked I am concerned about sealing even the tops before grouting. I want everything to dry together (tiles+grout) before I seal anything.

Am I being overly concerned about getting sealer in the non-grouted lines and should seal a first coat before grouting?

Since this is my own bathroom I have the luxury of time if needed to let things dry.

I am located in the Denver area so humidity is low.

Any thoughts?
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Unread 02-22-2020, 01:48 PM   #2
Davy
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Chris, there seems to be two ways of doing this. Some guys like to seal first and not soak the tiles. I like soaking the tiles like you have planned. Years ago, we did tons of Saltillo and would soak the tiles in a mud box. We also had a large fiberglass tub that was handy for soaking. It only takes an hour or two for them to get saturated but leaving them over night is fine. After they soak, take them out of the water and stack them on their edges and let the water drain out for an hour or so before setting them. If the tiles are out of the water too long (say, 6-8 hours) and allowed to dry back out, soak them again.

The reason for soaking is too make the grouting easier. You want there to be moisture still in the tiles so your grout won't dry out too fast. If the tiles are bone dry, the grout will turn to powder and of course never get hard. So it's important to get the tiles grouted before the tiles are allowed to dry out too much. Even after soaking, we would usually have to wet the tiles down with a pump up sprayer or a water hose (on large floors) before grouting. So we would try to set the tiles one day and grout the next.

The tiles may need a week or so to dry out completely before sealing. If efflorescence appears while it's drying then it needs to be removed before sealing.

I always like using a topical sealer with Saltillo but a penetrating sealer can also be used. Sparks Stone glamor is one sealer I've used in the past.
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Unread 02-22-2020, 02:42 PM   #3
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Chris, it'll help if you'll add that geographic location to your User Profile so it appears permanently.

I learned Saltillo installing the other way; sealing the tiles with two coats of a topical product before setting.

Our really good sealer has been taken off the market years ago thanks to our friends out in the Granola State. I have since used Sparks Mex Seal topical sealant and, while not the same as the good ol' stuff, it seems to do OK. I think the Stone Glamor, from the same manufacturer, Davy uses is a penetrating sealer, but you'd need to verify that.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 02-22-2020, 03:07 PM   #4
Davy
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Actually, I think I goofed (first time today). I think it is the Mex seal from Sparks that I used on Saltillo instead of the Stone Glamor. I have heard of using a penetrating sealer but I like the Sparks best. It will protect the surface better.

Edit; I do remember buying presealed Saltillo years ago and was told to wet the floor down before grouting. I did and had a little efflorescence form under the sealer right along the grout joints. It wasn't a big problem, not enough for the homeowner to complain but I did notice it. Don't know if Cx ever had that problem.
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Unread 02-23-2020, 12:20 AM   #5
chrisr
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Thank you both for the responses. Given this tile is reclaimed and supposedly around 150 years old, I wonder if efflorescence would be an issue vs something newly made.

Given I am not a professional installer or have a crew, it will probably take me at least a week or two to finish the install. I am trying to figure out how to keep the tiles wet or rewet them when it is time to grout. Since this is an install over subfloor and hardibacker, I was thinking I could not hose down the tiles before grouting.

I was considering grouting the small sections as I do them the next day.

Also, on the grouting, given how porous these tiles are and how many cavities that could fill with grout I am dreading the thought of avoiding the full float of grout and just keeping it tight to the seams. Without any sealer on the tiles I would expect the grout to fill those cavities and pretty much not come out.

I was reading on the mex seal and from the website:

"It is best to use Stone Glamor as a primer before applying Mex Seal"

Is this just marketing or is that something either of you have done in the past?

Thank you!

Chris
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Unread 02-23-2020, 01:12 AM   #6
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I don't remember doing that but they know their product better than I do. From what I remember, both products are cheaper than most sealers on the market these days.

You can apply more water with a pump up garden sprayer. That way you wouldn't fill the joints with water like you would with a water hose.
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Unread 02-23-2020, 09:08 AM   #7
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I've never done that two-step application method, Chris, but I've used the Mex Seal only on previously sealed floors, never as a pre-seal for new tiles.

For most of the time when Saltillo was all the rage in my area, I still had access to the solvent-based Treewax Beauty Seal and never needed to worry about the problem. Wonderful stuff. My use of the Mex Seal has been limited to previously installed floors or minor repairs to same. Has been a long time since any of my customers wanted a new Saltillo floor. I think it was Davy who put me onto the Sparks products some years back.

Were I to do a new Saltillo floor today, I think I'd be inclined to use the Sparks products as the manufacturer recommends.

As for grouting, we always used a garden sprayer to wet the joints before grouting with a site-mixed cementitious grout. With grout widths of 3/4" and more in places, store-bought grout was just too expensive. Sand, cement, and colorant (if desired) in a barrel mixer were the order of the day.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 02-23-2020, 12:53 PM   #8
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Back in the mid 70's, we used so much sand for grout, dad and I made a motorized contraption that screened sand. Seems like it would take out all pebbles 1/8 or larger. For grout, we mixed a wheelbarrow load at a time (3 five gallon buckets of sand to one Portland) and would dump it out on the floor and push it around with a 24 inch wide squeegee.

One important part I forgot to mention, We mixed it up dry and before adding water, we would take out a half bucket or so in case the floor ended up too wet. If it needed it, we would sprinkle the dry mix on the floor and push it around with the squeegee absorbing areas that were too wet. The key is getting just the right amount of water in the tiles.
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