You’ve probably heard the rumors about saltillo floors. Soak it, Strip it, Spacers, Seal it… I could go on and on with the old wives tales and myths. The truth is that all things change with the passing of time. Though Mexican saltillo tile floors offer a timeless look, installation techniques have improved over the years.
Here are 5 things you should no longer do with saltillo tile.
1. Do not buy unsealed tile. If you’re trying to save a buck, then let me enable you for success. Buying unsealed saltillo tile is problematic for several reasons. The raw clay is extremely absorbent. What you’re saving by purchasing unsealed tile will be spent (in excess) by buying enough sealer to protect the clay properly. Rustico Tile® presealed tiles have 5 coats of penetrating sealer already coated into the tile. Here’s the math if you are considering unsealed clay tiles.
5 coats of sealer + Labor cost for application of sealer + Time required for the sealer to dry = BIG $$$
To be blatantly honest, most of our customers who attempt to seal their unsealed saltillo tile floors regret it. Then, they call us to trouble-shoot their messed up floors. Fixing saltillo floors is not without considerable expense and stress. Why go through this madness when you can buy a great quality presealed saltillo tile that is ready to install?
Our recipe for success is simple. Buy Presealed Tile, Install it, Apply final topcoat sealer. Done. (And our topcoat sealers have lifespans up to 15 years so there’s very little maintenance with this process. Trust the pros at Rustico Tile®.)
2. Do not soak saltillo tile. Once upon a time installers would soak saltillo tile in water prior to setting it with thinset. This was done to serve the purpose of what penetrating sealer accomplishes for the tiles now. If saltillo tiles are soaked in water, you can expect to deal with efflorescence issues throughout the lifespan of your floor. This is an imperative point. Don’t trap excess water in the clay during the installation process. To reiterate point #1 above, just don’t buy unsealed saltillo tile. Buy it presealed and install it as-is.
3. Don’t use spacers when you install your saltillo tile. Because saltillo floors are handmade, there are variations in size and thickness from one tile to the next. This begets the use of spacers as problematic. Your floor installation may go smoothly at first, but the tiles will start spreading out in a funky way several square feet into the installation space. Rather than use spacers, a good installer will draw grid lines or snap chalk lines on the subfloor for guidance as the tile is set. See above. Any adept tile installer will install saltillo tile flourishingly if our tips are followed. He or she just needs to apply a craftsmanship approach as the tile is being laid.
4. Do not strip your tile. Really… don’t do it. We only recommend stripping saltillo clay tile as a last resort to repair or refinish a floor. In most instances, a floor can be fixed by using other methods that will not damage or discolor the tile. The risks presented with chemically stripping saltillo floors include: bleaching/discoloration of the clay, sealer delamination from the clay, and ongoing maintenance issues created from residual stripping chemical trapped in the clay. Look at other maintenance options before you consider stripping your saltillo floors.
5. Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your sealed saltillo floor. This is really a common sense approach to tile sealer. The lifespan of a good quality sealer will last several years. Preserve the life of your sealer by using diluted cleaning chemicals or no chemicals at all. I love the disinfecting power of a steam mop on my saltillo floors. No chemicals are used with steam mops so the life of the sealer is preserved.
I hope you find these tips to be beneficial. Installing and living on a saltillo floors should something you’re proud to own and love to show off to friends. After all, you must have exquisite taste if you’ve purchased handmade saltillo flooring. Follow these tips to avoid headaches and ongoing, unnecessary maintenance for the life of your floor. And don’t forget… Make Every Space Count!