During this uncertain economic time, we are repeatedly asked questions about stone maintenance costs, procedures, and value. At Sungloss Marble Restoration Company, we emphasize customer education, to help everyone to be on the same page when it comes to making decisions. Here are a few issues that have come up recently:
Natural Stone Sealing. It seems the internet and every stone care professional has a slightly different take on the age-old question of when to use stone sealers. In general, Sungloss follows the guidelines and logic of the Marble Institute of America’s position on sealing marble, granite, limestone, travertine, terrazzo, and other natural stone. The bottom line is, in most situations we highly recommend a penetrating stone sealer. The re-application schedule, and sealer type may be variables, but we would almost never dissuade a customer from sealing their stone, as part of a plan for upkeep of a natural stone installation. We also are dedicated to using all water-based sealers, for the sake of the environment. If solvent-based sealers are somehow more appropriate for a particular job, we are dedicated to using only use the lowest-VOC products available. We feel in the big picture, the cost of overlooking this crucial part of maintenance is pound-foolish, and barely penny-wise. By the time a typical marble, limestone, terrazzo, or granite cleaning, maintenance, or restoration job is nearing completion our crews would typically already be set up and primed to apply the sealer; this step is usually the smallest relative portion of the full job. Therefore, by cutting this step the cost savings is minimal and probably not worth it. And you can know that sealing your stone will have little or no cost to the environment as well.
Patching Holes Versus Replacing Tiles. At Sungloss, we have Stone Technicians who are artists at what they do. Some of them are excellent at filling cracks, divots, or holes in damaged stone (usually tiles or countertops) with a colored epoxy compound, designed for patching stone. Although some damaged areas are too difficult to repair due to excessive damage, spalling, loose tiles, or too narrow a crack, most holes and broken pieces have at least some chance of repair. When considering a repair, the owner must look at the big picture, i.e. what are the consequences of the repair versus the alternatives, the cost differences, and what are my ultimate expectations? I think we can confidently say a high proportion of repairs look very good, meaning they blend in and fulfill the owner’s expectations. But not all repairs will satisfy all customers. We say this because due to the position of the repair, the stone veining, texture, or size, the repair will be harder to fully blend in, meaning it will be detectable visually or texturally. This might not bother some customers who are only looking for a structural repair, but could be a factor to some. However, when looking at the typical alternative to a patch repair–removing and replacing tiles or slabs–repairs can be highly desirable. First, the costs of replacing tiles can be substantially higher than patching (we estimate at least four times costlier to replace a tile than repair it). Second, the dust, noise, and time involved in a tile or slab replacement is going to always be higher than a patch job. Sometimes the tiles have to be chiseled out with a prybar and hammer, incurring damage to adjacent tiles that don’t even need replacement! And matching old grout with new grout is an art in itself; that issue alone is one that might derail an otherwise successful replacement.
When considering tile replacement or repair, it helps to think of the environmental advantage of repairing otherwise perfectly good existing stone, as opposed to supporting the largely non-environmentally conscious world of stone quarrying. It will ease your mind as well as your pocketbook!