Renovations, Stories & Finds

Uncovering Hidden Quarry Tiles

That is some mighty fine carpet you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it.

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Oh wait, that’s not carpet. That’s dog hair. Everywhere.

S: Maybe the original hardwood is still under there.
D: (picking up carpet) Nope, just cement.
S: Cement? That makes no sense. All the other floors are wood. What’s under that?
D: …

This conversation is how month long projects start. I know because I wondered into that time bomb three times already with this project, and only thing keeping me from walking into anymore is the sage advice of my sister-in-law Cindy which goes something like: “Don’t.”

Looking back at these pictures, this room use to be so pretty. Even though at the time I thought it was…well, not. But it was a room and not a dirt pit like it is now. Someday it will be pretty again, some day.

I digress in Nostalgiaville, back to the conversation:

S: Wait, pull it back further. What’s that?
D: It looks like a tile.
S: Ohmigod.

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S: Dinner is in like 10 minutes. What should we do?
D: (*grabs the chisel*)

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QUARRY TILE?!?!?!!?!?!
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Oh man. Black and red. Some of the tarry bitumen pulled off via a steamer:

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That night I didn’t sleep. I counted down the minutes until I could return and uncover that amazing floor.

The next day, I sat for hours gently tapping up the cement creed with a scrapper turned chisel and a hammer. By 2pm I got this far:

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At first the giant rectangle against the wall was just an odd spot that was super difficult to crack and where the screed came up super thick. I thought I was breaking the tiles, so I went around it. Only after the surrounding part of the floor was uncovered did it begin to make sense.

“It’s a hearth stone,” a friend of ours who specializes in 17th and 18th century antiques (and screed covered hearthstones) said as he chiseled enough back to see the stone below.

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After lunch I came back, disheartened by the mere progress I was able to achieve in the 4 hours I had been working that morning. As I was working, I began adapting my technique. At first I lightly tapped the screed edges I was unable to get under with my hammer to break them up. Then I realized: 1/8″ screed was likely to be decimated before I ever made a dent on the 130 year old quarry tiles.

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By the end I perfected my new technique, which I lovingly called “Thor on the Floor”. I’m sure you can imagine the details. Now let me correct them for you: lightly tap about 2″-3″ inside the current broken edge to break more off. Clear it away with your scrapper (i.e. move it away, your scrapper is like a broom instead of a chisel now) and repeat with the new edge. So much therapy, so little money spent.

Needless to say it progressed quickly. The clean up, however, didn’t.

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I gave it a good mop…

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…four times and was still pulling up mud. There was more demo to be had in this room, so I called it a day.

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Pending: Bitumen removal