In their New York City brownstone days, serial renovators Robert and Cortney Novogratz wanted to make the infill house (which they designed and built on a vacant lot in Soho) family-friendly while preserving the area’s 19th-century feeling. A large kitchen/dining space makes use of salvaged treasures: a bar from Ohio, a rose window from France. The retro-style zinc countertops were made for them in Paris. But something to tie it together was missing. Then Cortney came across an original geometric-tile floor that had been removed from a Victorian chapel uptown. Cortney bought the entire lot of individual tiles.
Re-using Floor Tiles
1. Clean tile
Tiles were soaked in water and then lightly scrubbed with diluted muriatic acid (1 part acid: 5 parts water) to remove grout and “mud.” Experiment on a sample; wear gloves and eye protection.
2. Lay out
Beginning with the border, tiles were laid out on the floor, and re-arranged until a pleasing pattern emerged. Use leveling compound if the floor is very uneven. On the floor, draw a grid of the pattern in approximately 2- to 3-foot squares using a straightedge and pencil, to ensure tiles line up and the pattern does not “walk” during setting. Decide on grout joint width—typically 3 mm to 10 mm, often very tight. Larger grout lines have an impact on overall layout and fit.
Spread adhesive with a trowel in parallel lines. Set each tile in place with a slight twisting movement, avoiding air pockets underneath; wipe off excess adhesive with a damp sponge. Tamp with a damp grout trowel to create suction for setting. For new tiles, apply one sealer coat before grouting. Natural-tone grout is best; grey is safe. Do a test area to make sure the grout can be applied smoothly and removed without staining tiles. Grout entire floor in one application. Do not overwash the grout as this can result in efflorescence and discoloring. Don’t grout perimeter tiles; finish with a silicone sealer after the floor has been resealed or leave ungrouted if covered with trim.
These floor tiles are porous and must be sealed. Let floor cure for a week. Grout joints should be clean and free from dust before sealing. Apply a matte or satin finish sealer with a soft brush or short-fleece roller in thin layers and wipe off excess within 15 minutes. Wax may be applied after sealing. Always test.
Antique & Repurposed Tile Resources
L’ Antiquario Antique Tile
A wonderful selection of antique tiles with over 2500 reclaimed tile floors in stock tile for restoration.
L’Esperance Tile Works
Handmade tiles including reproduction encaustics; restoration and custom work.
Modern (vitrified ceramic) geometrics and hand-decorated tiles in quintessentially British designs.
U.S. supplier for genuine, handmade English Victorian encaustics and geometrics. Also: modern Victorian decorated and geometric tiles.
High-quality and bespoke vitrified tiles made in France, including geometrics and encaustics.