Over the past ten years I’ve restored many tiled pathways, however none were in such a poor state as this example in Surbiton. Unfortunately, it had been badly installed and then further “repairs” by the customers ex father In-law hadn’t helped. I certainly had my work cut out and working outside of course has its own challenges.
Repairing a Neglected Victorian Tiled Pathway
The first task was to clear the area of plant life and other detritus, all the existing holes had to be totally cleaned out so I could see exactly what I was dealing with. I discovered the foundation of the path was not very deep and this had allowed it to be disturbed by adjacent rose bushes so these had to be chopped back and the roots removed. I also had to rope-off the area as anyone treading on the path would dislodge further tiles resulting in Amazon and the postwoman having to take a more cumbersome route.
The next step was to remove the existing concrete edging, now normally I wouldn’t do this as I’m not a building contractor however given the problems with the path foundations it made sense. Additionally new steel edging would form an excellent base and straight line from which I could re-build the path. I had to break the concrete edging out with a power chisel and left the pieces in building sacks for the customer to dispose of. The customer supplied the replacement metal edging which is joined together, worked into the ground with a sledgehammer and then secured with foot long metal stakes.
The next day were spent cleaning up three buckets of loose tiles in the rear garden. These had been reclaimed over the years. I knew we would be short of replacements so I also ordered matching Victorian tiles from the Vintage Tile Company in Margate. The only way to clean them up effectively is with a wet tile cutting machine whizzing down the edges. It’s a wet, messy, noisy business made harder by the incoming rain. It took all day to make 100’s of tiles acceptable. It was tedious work but made more enjoyable by the numerous cups of tea that were made available.
The next day was spent removing and cleaning up the existing broken base. Once removed I filled the holes and gaps with self-levelling compound. Thankfully the new metal straight edges allowed the compound to level out nicely. It was then left to set over night.
The next two days were spent tiling. I had three buckets and two boxes of tiles to use. It’s a slow process that sometimes you need to step away from to make sure you’d used the correct colour and pattern. The customers ex father in-law hadn’t done this so rogue tiles were removed.
Deep Cleaning a Neglected Victorian Tiled Pathway
Once I had finished repairing the tiles on the pathway, I was able to move onto what I know best, i.e., cleaning and sealing the whole area. This work began by coating the path in a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Remove and Go which as the name suggests is a coatings remover that breaks down dirt, old sealers and other contaminates. As usual it was left to dwell for ten to fifteen minutes to give it time to break down the soils.
Then I introduced a heavily weighted buffing machine fitted with a 100-grit diamond pad to scrub the product into the tile. The industrial diamonds in the pad slightly cut the tiles resulting in a Black and White slurry. This is then rinsed with water then extracted with a wet vacuum cleaner.
Sealing a Victorian Tiled Pathway
Once the tiles had dried from the warm Sun, I was able to start applying the sealer which for these tiles I applied Tile Doctor X-Tra Seal. This is a modern oil-based sealer that is rated for external use and contains UV protection thereby providing excellent protection and making the tiles very easy to maintain.
This was a long job that due to being outside I had to come back to due to the weather, so it took longer expected but I think the transformation speaks for itself. Lastly for aftercare cleaning I recommended the use of Tile Doctor Neutral Tile Cleaner. Most tile cleaning products you find in supermarkets are simply too strong for the sealer and can degrade them prematurely.