Vintage tile repair
March 22, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

The good news is that I found white hexagonal tile under the nasty vinyl flooring. That's also the bad news. Here is the floor currently. Basically, the tiles themselves are in pretty good shape considering they are about 100 years old. There are a few cracks, but the real problem is that the glue from the floor that was above it will not come off from in between the tiles. Detail shot. This is pretty much the kind of floor we want, but the mrs. is about ready to call it and just install a new hex floor on top. I'm not quite ready to give up.

So far I've tried goo gone, mineral spirits and most recently DuPont stone tech acidic cleaner. I'm using a steel brush and it is bringing up the concrete the tiles are set in but seems to have minimal impact on the glue. I'm running out of ideas. It seems like a shame to tile over original tile just because of a little glue to me, what do you think? Main issue is that this is holding up putting in the sink while I decide what to do. We've done this a bit in the wrong order, the walls are already tiled. So the basic question is, keep trying to repair or just give up?
posted by mike_bling to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This would be tedious as hell, but you could always just paint the glue spots to match the grout. Have you tried using a dental tool?

Nicole Curtis on the show Rehab Addict (DIY Network) deals with this stuff all the time. Maybe there are a few episodes that might give you some ideas.
posted by Madamina at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2014

Best answer: Googleling around is giving advice about steaming or using a heat gun on the glue to soften it.

I also found this floor adhesive remover PDF from Home Depot.

Here's even more options about removing linoleum adhesive. (Which also recommends heat, vinegar, or solvents.) And another.

I would try to solvent method since it seems easier, but if you're wanting to go low-chemical then go for the heat gun or steamer and scraping method. The room seems small enough for either to work.

I wouldn't worry about scraping up the grout either. Once you're done with the glue removal just re-grout the tile. Ask your local hardware store for advice and products too.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you tried a dremel tool? I've used a dremel to remove cracked grout in a similar tile floor so that I could re-grout areas with damaged grout. I used a wire brush attachment, but if you don't want to remove the grout, a softer material may help to get just the glue off.

That's a great looking antique floor you've got.
posted by u2604ab at 10:56 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oy. It's a pretty floor but it's not like you can't replicate it with modern tile. If you're really committed to keeping it, the thing to do would be to Dremel out ALL the grout and regrout the whole thing. Best wishes to your knees and back.
posted by HotToddy at 11:05 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That's beautiful.

Your alternative is problematic as well. Tiling over tile isn't a good idea. You'll need to sub over it (if feasible) or rip it up.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2014

I used BEAN-e-doo soy-based mastic remover to get old mastic off ceramic tiles. It supposed to work on vinyl mastic as well.

It's doesn't have any nasty fumes, and worked well for me. I bought it at a local green building materials store, but you can get it mail order as well.
posted by ShooBoo at 11:29 AM on March 22, 2014

Response by poster: Heat is working better than the other things I've tried. Thanks for the help. I've done all the work which is why I'm less inclined to give up now. It will get there.
posted by mike_bling at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have not seen modern tile that has the same look, and I encourage you to preserve that gorgeous floor. Kudos.
posted by theora55 at 11:57 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had good luck with vinegar when restoring my own floor. It's acidic and eats up glue pretty well, and it won't damage porcelain (or terracotta, for that matter – my hex tiles are terracotta).

Loads of water (the floor needs to soak) + one part vinegar to about 5 parts water. Wait at least 15 minutes. Then scrub. See all that gook in the photo I posted? It's tile adhesive (they tiled over locally-made terracotta hex tiles aaaagh). It all came up with nothing more than that. And sweat. Lots of sweat.

I used steel wool to scrub, btw, but you might want to test that on your floor first; old porcelain should be quality enough to stand up to it, but you never know. It didn't leave any traces on my tiles – actually helped polish them, in fact.
posted by fraula at 12:04 PM on March 22, 2014

I came in to say heat works well on floor adhesive...I would point a hair dryer at the spots and peel it up slowly.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2014

I've done this, but unfortunately don't remember which products I used. But it can be done with a combo of heat and solvent. And find a good tool for scraping between the tiles that fits. I'm thinking about one of those manicure tools that are for like scraping cuticles... Would be just the right size to scrape between tiles. And regrouting afterwards is probably a good plan. It is mostly just a matter of a lot of elbow grease, no magic solution.

Incidentally, in my last apartment the bathroom had the exact same floor (though I never worked on that specific one) and it is definitely worth preserving the original tile.
posted by catatethebird at 1:01 PM on March 22, 2014

Don't know how sticky it is, but could grout paint help?

This site shows a before and after. Tedious, but could be worth it.
posted by MayNicholas at 2:29 PM on March 22, 2014

Beautiful floor.

Unfortunately restoring this is going to take grease. Lots of grease. Elbow grease.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:54 PM on March 23, 2014

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