First things first, nothing in life is free!
Let’s say this again, out loud this time…
NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE !
Ok, do you feel better? I know I do. Remember that movie with the line..”I’m as mad as hell and I”m not going to take it anymore…” . Well if I hear one more sales rep expousing the notion that their certain granite or engineered quartz counters are “maintenance free” I’m going to walk over to that person and yell in their ear…nothing in life is free!
Maintenance: (noun) The act of maintaining, care or upkeep.
I live in a world of “hard” finishes. Stone, ceramic tile, terrazzo and polished concrete. All of these products reduce the amount of maintenance that you need to do to keep your home or building looking good. All of these products will last a long, long time but none of these products are “maintenance free”. This singular reality my friends also applies to granite and quartz countertops. I know some sales people will take keys and try to show you that you can’t scratch their product or they’ll pour red wine and ink on top of their sample and then, drum-roll please……………….wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Oh by the way my product has a 10 year warranty, oh ya well my product has a 15 year warranty. Look honey, it’s maintenance free and it’s warrantied. Oh joy, oh bliss now we can waltz through a field of flowers believing all is well in the world.
Sorry. I hate to burst your bubble but let’s say it once more. this time with feeling…
NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE !
I love granite counters and I’m beginning to love engineered quartz as well. Yes some granites are harder than others and yes some colours of granite and engineered quartz are easier to stain than others but all granites and all engineered stone can be damaged and all require some level of maintenance. However, I truly believe these are the most beautiful products to use in you kitchens and baths even though you do have to care for them.
First read my very first blog on sealing counters, stone and ceramic. Then continue reading on.
Maintenance really means keeping your counters clean.
Cleaning – If you spill stuff on your counters clean-up with a damp cloth as soon as you can. If the stone has been sealed during its manufacture and/or installation it will have a level of protection. Ask about this before you buy the product. If you’re not sure what happened ask your fabricator. If the counters weren’t sealed the purchase a high quality impregnator/sealer and apply as directed. Once properly sealed natural stone counters should be cleaned with a neutral ph cleaner (ph 7). Anything higher (basic) or lower (acidic) could damage the product and at the very least leach out the sealers that have been applied to your counter. Quartz counters do not require sealing but they still need to be cleaned. Remember, neutral ph.
Re-Sealing – Talk to your fabricator about this. Granites & marbles should be re-sealed occasionally. An easy test it to pour some water on the counter. If the stone darkens within a few minutes then the stone needs to be re-sealed. Some better stone cleaners actually have sealer in their formulation and if you use these products you may never have to re-seal.
At the end of it all granite and engineered quartz are exceptional products that with a little care and cleaning will add beauty and elegance to your home for a long, long time.
It’s not Shakespeare but I’m sure even Hamlet had concerns about his home improvement projects.
If you are the classic, self-motivated, serious Do It Your Selver this post might be a non-starter. However, if you are thinking about a Do It Yourself home project regarding ceramic tile or stone tile you may want to read on. Let’s face it no one wants their project to end as a tragedy.
I’ve always felt that anyone approaching a DIY type project should try to maintain a feeling of adventure. You need to believe that each step along the way will bring the satisfaction of learning something new and not one of grief. Again for those of you whose second career is home renovation this might not apply but for the rest of us mere mortals, every time we step into our garages and slip on those safety glasses we are entering a land of intrigue and mystery. A land where sentinels like Mike Holmes and Carter Oosterhouse stand as the gate keepers and we are the outsiders.
In the world of DIY somethings are easier than others. I’d like to think that installing ceramic tile can be one of those “easier”projects and there is a lot of technical info out to help you. However here are three points that I think are paramount.
1. Plan your work well.
2. Use the right tools.
3. Exercise patience.
Believe me there is a lot more to installing ceramic tile but if you can wrap your head around those three items you might be a candidate for home-improvement tile setter of the week award.
Planning to do a ceramic floor tile project can be the biggest part of the job. Planning encompasses all the decisions around what type and/or size of tile you need, what accessory products are required to properly install the tile and finally how you will layout the tile to simplify the installation and use the space to your advantage.
Ok. You’re about to buy the tile, thin-set, grout and maybe a sub-floor material. You’ve researched and feel confident in your choice. You’ve read all the instructional material labelled “Ceramic Tile Installation Made Easy”. Now if you want to minimize your frustation during the installation look into buying or renting the correct tools.
1. Electric mixing drill and wand. You are not baking a cake. This is not flour you’ll be mixing. You will need to mix cement-based materials and believe me you want to make this as painless as possible. The electric mixing drill is the way to go. It’s faster, simpler and does a better job than hand mixing.
2. Properly sized grooved trowel. I like to use square grooved trowels. The groove size for tiles less than 12″x12″ should be 1/4″ x 1/4″. This should increase to 1/4″ x 3/8″ if you are installing a tile 12″x12″ or slightly larger. If the tile is larger than 16″ x 16″ back-buttering is a good idea. Note, back-buttering has nothing to do with your breakfast toast before you start laying tile. If you are unsure what this means ask your tile supplier. If they don’t know what back-buttering tile means consider buying your tile elsewhere. I’m just kidding. Google the phrase.
3. Professional grouting trowel and sponge. Yes a professional quality grouting trowel and a good, thick sponge. Not some thin, black sponged, plastic pretend grout trowel and a little green or yellow sponge that you use to wash the dishes. The quality of your grouting will make or break your installation.
4. A decent wet saw. Yes I printed the word decent in block letters. The water pump must work before someone can call it a wet saw.The diamond blade must be of good quality or you will break tile and frustration will rule. The guides must be straight and the saw must have a stand so you can work safely and in a comfortable position. Unless you can get a saw that as a minimum fits the description above walk away.
5. Other miscellaneous tools: straight-edge, chalk line, tape-measure, pencil and a carpenter’s square.
Patience is a major requirement for all DIY projects and installing ceramic floor tile is no different. As we say in the construction world, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, just look at the Coliseum, still no windows”. But seriously now folks, take your time. The old adage, measure twice and cut once was never more useful. Patience also means that you start simple, straight walls and a rectangular room. Stay away from showers or wet areas for the first few times. Let’s not complicate issues with waterproof membranes and sloped floors. A small entrance, two piece powder room, even a small kitchen is an easier project than a shower enclosure. Remember, simple is good, complicated is bad.
I’m sure notice that I haven’t talked about how to install the ceramic tile. Like I mentioned earlier there are plenty of books and videos that will give you all the technical instruction that you’ll need. However, if you can’t get past the material above don’t do it. Save yourself the aggravation and hire a good installer. The tile you purchase is expensive enough and doing the job twice is no good for anyone.
Remember what happened to Hamlet, poor planning, some bad advice and …”Alas poor Yorick…”