Your Place: For vinyl tiles badly set, the only fix is a do-over

Posted: April 27, 2013

Question: When Sandy flooded our basement, we had a contractor pull up the carpeting and install vinyl tiles.

He prepared the concrete floor by scraping up the rug glue that remained, and used commercial adhesive to put down the new tiles.

Some of the tiles do not lie flat against the floor; their edges bow slightly, creating a space that rises above the adjoining tile. This looks bad, and I expect that dirt - or water, when the floor is mopped - will eventually accumulate in the spaces.

The contractor says the floor is not even. Is there a way to correct the way this looks? Should some sealant or grout be used to close the spaces?

Answer: I assume you paid the contractor for this job.

In its do-it-yourself vinyl tile installation instructions, Armstrong says it all:

"Make sure the floor you're laying over is clean, dry and flat."

I've done laminate, vinyl, wood, and ceramic tile floors and the first thing I've done in each case is make sure the surface on which each is installed is level. Otherwise, you are going to have problems, and you are.

What compounds the problem is that these are glue-down tiles rather than self-adhesive, which are easier to install and to fix.

With self-adhesive, you simply cut the affected tile, pry it up, and sand the glue. Glue-downs are embedded in mastic, which is tougher to remove.

The unevenness should have been determined beforehand and corrected with a leveling compound designed for use on concrete surfaces.

Vinyl tile is not designed to be grouted. You snap chalk lines and then you butt each tile up against the next.

Solution: It is a do-over.

Q: Anything I put on my back deck gets mildew on it every year.

I clean it with ammonia and water, then put on a new coat of stain about every two to three years.

Just wondering if there is anything else to do.

A: You can try a sealant, but if your back deck is on the north side where the sun doesn't shine very much, regular maintenance is probably the only answer.

I've tried many things over the years, but periodic "de-greening" and sealing is usually the best answer.

Q: I have a fine dining room table with a dark stain and the standard, I assume, urethane protective finish.

By mistake we placed on the naked wood hot plates without an undercover protection. The result is a series of three white spots. My guess is that the urethane coating blistered and turned white.

How do I remove the white spots without further damage and treat the area to bring back the dark finish?

One suggestion was to use fine-gauge steel wool to remove the white blister finish and treat it from there. What are your suggestions?

A: I've had that sort of problem with steam from a coffeemaker putting a white spot on a cherry cabinet, but what I noticed is that more steam removes it.

But your question piqued my curiosity, in that we have a mission-style oak dining room table that could suffer the same problem if someone is careless.

The solution I've found on the Internet is, oddly enough, applying more heat to the white spot created by something hot.

The solution I'm recommending you consider is on littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com, under "How to Remove White Heat Marks on Furniture."

Goddard's revisited.  OK , here goes : I paid $3.49 at the hardware store for Goddard's Granite & Marble Polish. You can find it on Amazon.

No, you don't have to use it every day unless you have all the time in the world. I use it annually, and it does the job.

The bottle says you also can use it on tile, stone, porcelain, Corian, Formica, and ceramic surfaces.


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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