Tile Maintenance

THE tiling of a hearth or fireplace front is made up in the factory into complete slabs. When tiles become loose they should be carefully prized out. Chip the backing to a level surface and, similarly, clean the backs of the tiles. When cementing the tiles back in place remember that the tiles must be flush with those surrounding the area of repair. Use the jointing cement sparingly. Several brands of proprietary cements are obtainable at ironmongers’ for this purpose; follow the maker’s directions. Generally the joint surfaces of tiles and backing should be well primed with water so as to prevent excessive absorption of moisture from the cement which would lower its powers of adhesion when setting. The cement when prepared for use must be thin but not too fluid in consistency. Apply a thin buttering of the cement, and firmly press the tile into place, when it should soon adhere in position.

Where one tile only has come away, and can be returned exactly into its former position, so that the recesses of the tile will register again with the protuberances of the backing material that formerly filled them, we may omit the cutting away and levelling of the background. Try applying Seccotine rather liberally, and immediately press the tile back into place. In this instance do not wet the surfaces first. A thin mix of Keene’s cement (sold at most oil-shops as a powder resembling plaster) can, of course, be used for similar jobs where it is anticipated that no cutting away will be needed. But with all such repairs there is a probability that the tile will be a little high at the finish, as the new cement must take up some of the depth in the recess.

Wall Tiling

Here again, odd tiles may be put back as explained above, but when larger areas are affected the backing surface and joint faces of the tiles should be cleaned and levelled. The glazed tiles used in kitchens and bathrooms are fragile, and damage to adjoining ones may be done by unskilful manipulation. Broken tiles can often be matched, more or less, at the builder’s yard or by a builder’s merchant.

Fixing Shelves

Glass shelves to support tooth-brush holder, glasses, etc. are usually laid on special brackets plugged to the tiled surface. The first thing to do is to mark accurately the position of the brackets so that they will bring the shelf to the desired height. The points at which the screws are to enter must be indicated by a dot exactly central with the holes in the brackets. Obtain a tile drill, which must be of the same gauge as the wall plug and the screw to be used. Make sure the screw chosen will pass through the bracket and that it is not so long as to permit the plain shank to enter the wall plug. In attaching fittings that are thin use screws having the worm or threaded part taken quite close up to the head. If the unthreaded shank of a screw reaches the plug before the fixture has been drawn home, the plug itself may be turned round and loosened by any further driving of the screw; this is the reason for using the special screws previously mentioned. These are obtainable at most ironmonger shops.

Usually screws of No. 6 gauge an ½ in. long will suit these jobs, so that we need a No. 6 drill and No. 6 wall plugs. The drill is put into a carpenter’s brace and turned fairly slowly while the tool is kept pressed close against the tile. (A percussion drill, as used for ordinary plugging in brick, etc. is not suitable for tiles). A light tap just sufficient to mark the glazed surface of the tile may be made with a metalworker’s centre punch, struck with a light hammer, to start the drill and ensure that it begins at the right spot.

When the holes have been made, insert short plugs, cut off close to or a trifle below the face of the tile. The brackets, etc. may now be screwed on. If the worker has an odd tile, similar to those to be drilled, he would do well to practise on this first. Do not overdo the final screwing up, or the plug may be pulled forward and loosened.

Floor Tiles

These are usually laid on cement mortar. Loose ones should be taken up and the backs and edges cleaned. Chip or scrape off any old mortar that would prevent a close fit of the tile against the surface beneath. Brush out any dust and dirt, and clean out the surface. Any lumps must be chipped off and the whole area to be re-tiled must be made level. If only one or two tiles are affected, an attempt may be made to replace them by using a grouting (semi-liquid solution) of Portland cement and fine (sieved) sand, equal parts, Mix this up to a thin consistency, so that it will pour easily. Damp the cement surface with water and a brush, and soak the tiles in water. Now pour the grout on the cement surface, and re-lay the tiles. Make sure they go down flat and level.

Take up any that are not fs-factory, and remove any li’ps that impede them.

Next, mix up a little mortar (half-and-half, as before, but using less water), and work it down between the sides of the tiles with a small trowel as used for pointing brickwork. Do not attempt to clean off the tiled surface until later, when the mortar has begun to get firm; then rub the floor with a ball of newspaper, which will clean it better than anything else. A few hours later the floor can be wiped over with a damp cloth; to remove the worst of the cement, and a day later it can be washed in the ordinary way to remove the smears that will be left.

If the above method is not practicable, owing to the state of the cement beneath the tiles, or because many of the latter are affected, we must roughen the cement floor to improve the adhesive qualities of the surface for the new mortar; a cold chisel and a hammer will be needed for this job. Brush out any dust and fragments of mortar; damp the surface, and also soak the tiles. Lay mortar, not too watery, to the required level, and press in the tiles. Use a straightedge to get the level from adjacent tiles, and tap down any that need it by a light blow from the end of the trowel handle. Fill in the joints and clean off as directed above. As cement is prone to deteriorate from atmospheric causes, always purchase fresh cement for any small jobs such as this, and disappointing results will be avoided. Three parts sand to one cement is a satisfactory mixture for this kind of work; use only that quantity of water which will make the cement plastic enough for the purpose. Do not mix more than is required for the immediate task in hand.

Minor Repairs to Tiles etc

In general, small holes and cracks, or similar defects in tiles should be made good with plaster of Paris mixed with water; it sets very quickly, and becomes unmanageable even more rapidly, sb mix only a small quantity at a time. Press it into the hole or crack, using an old table-knife with a thin blade. Trim off surplus stopping and, later, stain the stopping to match the colour of the tiles. Patches of plaster at tile borders may be repaired with Keene’s cement, which is less troublesome to the beginner than ordinary plaster as used by the builder. It is essential to brush out all dirt and dust, and to damp the area inside the patch. The edges of the old material should be undercut at the back, so as to form a key to hold in the new stuff.

If the bad patch goes through to the undercoat of plaster, or even to the lathing, the repair should be done in two stages: first make good to the under layer, and then, an hour or two later, or next day, finish off flush with the wall surface. If the work is done in two stages, the undercoat should be scratched to roughen it and provide a good adhesive surface for the top coat. Small jobs can be done quite well by the use of a bricklayer’s trowel; the plasterer uses a flat trowel with a handle at the back. A flat wooden trowel is generally used for rough work and a steel one for finishing the surface.

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