Caring for Tile in Fall and Winter: Best Practices

There are many household chores required of the average homeowner during the fall season. Preparing the home for the possibly damaging effects of cold, ice, and snow during the winter can be a lengthy, but necessary, process. After all, if you don’t invest the time in preparing for inclement weather and its impact on your biggest investment, you may end up paying the price come spring. Your interior tile is very likely one area of your home that can benefit from some extra attention during the cooler fall months. Not only can you help protect a beautiful and likely expensive investment by maintaining it each fall, you can also check one major project off the list of things you have to clean to prepare the interior of your home for holiday gatherings!

Clean Tile Should Look Like New Tile

Because one of the most efficient means of cleaning tile is using a steam clean process, performing this routine maintenance in the fall makes sense. It is cool enough to allow for the professional use of steam in your space without that impacting your energy costs via your air conditioning system. However, it is also still warm enough to allow for open windows to provide excellent air circulation during the steam cleaning process. If you don’t own a steam cleaner, you can rent one from many chain grocery stores, big box stores, and home improvement stores.

How to Steam Clean Your Own Tile

First, you’re going to want to sweep up the area you’re going to clean. Follow this up by wiping down the tiling with a soft cloth, such as a towel or microfiber cloth, to remove any additional dust or spider webs that may have accumulated over the year.

Next, fill the water tank on the steam cleaner with distilled water. The steam cleaner should have a microfiber cloth that attaches to the head for tile cleaning. Now is the time to apply that. Plug in and turn on the device. Allow it to heat up, which can take anywhere from thirty seconds to five minutes.

Use the trigger on the handle of the steam cleaner to release the steamed water through the microfiber cloth you attached. Move the steamer over the tile in a similar manner to mopping. Move slowly across the surface, paying special attention to high-traffic areas and corners. If you are cleaning a backsplash or a tub or shower area, wipe down the sections with a towel or dry microfiber cloth immediately after steaming them to remove soap scum and other dried-on detritus. If you need to refill the water tank or clean or replace the microfiber cloth, unplug the steamer before doing so.

Work in an organized manner across the surface, starting in one area and ending in another. Steam cleaning is both efficient in terms of time and energy used for cleaning and in terms of how much dirt, mold, and other unwanted accumulation can be removed in a single cleaning session.

The removal of mold and other allergens can do a lot to keep the interior air in your home safe and clean throughout the dry, cold winter months. Steam cleaning your tile can also make the inside of your home sparkle, making it easier for you to prepare for the holidays and the influx of traffic they bring to your home.

Sometimes, It Pays to Call the Professionals!

Cleaning newly installed tile can be a simple, if protracted and physically demanding process. It requires some specialized equipment as well as patience and physical stamina to manually move the steamer across the surface (to say nothing of getting down on your hands and knees to wipe areas). If your tile is older or has aging or stained grout, it may be easier and more time and cost effective to call in professional help to prepare your tile for the winter.

Removing stains from grout or getting rid of old grout and replacing it with new grout can be exhausting, time-consuming activities for the average homeowner. Working with tile professionals can ensure that the process is done quickly, efficiently, and to the highest professional standards. Nothing can destroy the beauty of a tiled space like improperly applied grout. Don’t cut corners by trying to do this labor-intensive project yourself and end up with an unsightly mess! Deciding to let those with the experience and best equipment for the purpose of tile cleaning and grout replacement is one of the best decisions you can make when it comes to tile maintenance. 

Whether you have a tiled bathroom floor or shower area, a tiled kitchen backsplash or floor, or tile as flooring or decorative touches in other spaces, such as entranceways or fireplaces, Strictly Tile can help you maintain and clean your tiles surfaces!  If your grout is older or was poorly installed, Strictly Tile can also provide you with professional, high-quality work when it comes to removing the old grout and installing new grout.

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Can You Install Tile Over Tile?

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Can you install new tile directly over older, possibly faded or discolored tile? The short answer is yes, you can! The long answer, however, is that it can be a bit of a complicated and work-intensive process that only produces quality results if certain conditions are met. Read on to learn more about how to install fresh tile over existing tile without needing to tear out the old tile.

Will Tile-on-Tile Work in Your Space?

First of all, you need to inspect the existing tile to figure out if the space is a good candidate for tile on tile installation. The first thing that should be considered is the strength of the bond between the existing tile and the subflooring. This is very important, as the new tile will be bonded to the old tile and poor adhesion to the subflooring could result in a real disaster.

Check the whole floor for broken, shifted, or missing tiles. Also, check for tiles that have come loose from the subflooring. If the vast majority are in solid condition and well-adhered to the subflooring, you can always re-attach the few that have come loose due to damage or age. You can also remove them and fill the space with mortar. If there seems to be a proliferation of loose tiles, this could be an indication of an issue with the subflooring. Instead of tiling over the old tile, the older tile should be removed and the subflooring replaced if needed.

If the tiling is well-attached, the second thing you’ll need to do is take a lot of measurements. Even though it’s likely only 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch thick, that new layer of tile is going to impact how well doors and cabinets open. You’re going to need to make sure there is adequate clearance for the full path of the open and close swings for any doors or cabinets in the space you’re considering tiling. Add a bit of a buffer for the grout that will attach the new layer of tile, too. The flange of the toilet should be even with or just above where the new flooring falls. Provided that you have the space (or the ability and willingness to adjust any doors and transitions that need corrections to work with the extra height), you should be ready to get to planning.

The Basic Process of Tile-on-Tile Installation

As with any construction process, always measure twice and cut once. Make sure that you have exact measurements or outlines for pieces of tile that have to be trimmed to accommodate the toilet, bathtub, or the island in the kitchen. Once all the pieces that have to be cut or trimmed are ready, you should sweep and mop the existing tile to have a clean starting point.

You’ll want to purchase and then prepare some thin set mortar, which will be applied in a skim coat over the old tile and grout. You want an even, smooth application to provide a smooth base. Once it has dried, you will make a line that will mark your starting place, so that the tile application is even. Following the line, apply freshly mixed thin set mortar to the old tile, using a notched trowel. Spread the mortar with the flat side of the trowel, and then drag the trowel back over the smooth patch of mortar, leaving notches. Carefully place individual tiles onto the fresh mortar, twisting or pressing them to achieve a strong bond. Repeat over a small area, until you have covered the floor with the new tile. Allow the mortar to set at least 24 hours.

Next, you will mix the grout as instructed by the packaging and apply it using a grout float. Force grout into all the joins between tiles and then wipe off the excess with the flat side of the grout float like a squeegee. Follow this with a damp sponge, to ensure all grout is removed from the surface of the fresh tile. When the grout has partially set (appears hazy), wash any tile surfaces with grout with fresh water. Allow the grout to dry before buffing any areas that need it with a clean, dry towel.

How Much Work Is Tile-on-Tile Installation?

While many people do try to install tile, on fresh subflooring or over old tile, on their own, tile installation can be an exhausting, exacting, back-breaking process. Many homeowners lack the manual skill and patience to install tiling in a manner that appears professional and attractive. Tile projects, especially installation of new tile over older tile, are home repair projects that are often best left to the experts. If you want that perfect finish in your kitchen, bathroom, pool house, or other tiled space, your best bet is the work of those with countless hours of experience, not your own untried DIY skills.

Can You Install Radiant Heating in a Tile Floor?

bare feet on hard floor sepia tone

Heating flooring is among the most sought-after features of new constructions and remodel projects thanks to the improved energy efficiency standards modern heating products provide, but one of the most frequent questions we’re asked is the following: Can you heat a tile floor?

The answer: Absolutely! In fact, thanks to modern radiant heating systems from NuHeat, the process is easier and more cost-effective than ever.

Installed beneath the tile as a distinct layer, NuHeat floor heating systems provide clean, soundless electric-powered heat generation to entire floor surfaces. Unlike baseboard heaters that leave cold, uneven spots across the span of a floor, NuHeat systems provide consistent, comfortable radiant heat from corner to corner.

Tile flooring in kitchens and bathrooms are notoriously cold to the touch, making winter mornings that much chillier without thick rugs or slippers, therefore negating the tactile, natural feeling that comes with a tile surface. Temperature is controlled by its own unit or integrated within an existing thermostat solution such as Nest, NuHeat heating mats can improve a home’s comfort, energy efficiency, and insulation without the need for extensive construction or remodeling. Plus, NuHeat systems are rated for use in shower floors and benches, helping keep a consistently warm feeling throughout every aspect of your home!

Strictly Tile recommends NuHeat for Seattle’s first choice in energy-efficient radiant floor heating without the need for additional pipes or heat sources. We’ve partnered with NuHeat to provide excellent installation services as part of our acclaimed tile work, offering the best of both worlds to our customers.

Don’t begrudge your home’s freezing floors another day! Contact Strictly Tile today to learn more about NuHeat floor heating systems and our expert tile installation and restoration services. Give us a call at 425.750.6433 or use the contact form to get in touch.

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Choosing the Right Tile for Your Home Application

tiled shower

In the kitchen, we commonly use tile for countertops, backsplashes, and flooring. The applications for tile in the bathroom are the same, with the addition of the shower tiling. Tile is also commonly used for flooring elsewhere in the home, for decorative wall mosaics, and outside on the patio or walkway. With so many home applications for tile, and near-endless more choices in the variety of stone and tile available, choosing the right tile for your space may seem overwhelming.

Of course, your Strictly Tile representative will guide you through the selection process, comparing the different types of tile and their optimal uses. However, this summary may help give you a good place to start for choosing the right tile.

Narrow your choices by PEI Rating. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) has a rating system to help consumers determine the best kind of tile for their particular application, based on traffic and use to the desired area. Choose the tile that meets your needs for durability. Tile that falls into PEI Class 1 is recommended for wall use only (such as backsplashes or decorative wall mosaics), and Class 2 tile is good for walls and bathroom floors where there is minimal foot traffic. For countertops and floors where you expect normal foot traffic, tiles in the PEI’s Class 3 are recommended, and PEI Class 4 tile is good for any residential application as well as some commercial and institutional uses. Class 5 is for tile that can withstand heavy foot traffic in all applications.

Choose the stone based on the application. Not only do you need to choose tile that will remain durable throughout its life, but it needs to be the right stone for the application, whether that be flooring, countertops, or an artistic mural. Here is a handy chart to help you choose the right kind of stone:

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Select your stone for design. After you have narrowed down your choices to the stone that is appropriately durable and right for the application, the fun part begins! The final step in choosing the right tile is to select the natural pattern and color of the stone, to compliment the fixtures, colors, and style of the space where it will be installed. Click here to learn about some of the most popular types of stone tiles, to give you a better idea of what to expect. You will also need to choose a grout color to match or make the stone tiles pop, so be prepared to make that decision, as well.

Ready to get started on your project? Contact us to request a quote or discuss details.

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4 Quick Home Improvement Projects to Complete Before Spring

glass shower large bathtub

Homeowners often think of home improvement projects as long-term, incredibly expensive endeavors that disrupt the flow of your home and take months to complete. However, there’s something to be said for the quick weekend DIY project that beautifies and restores your home to near-new condition. If you’re looking ahead to warmer weather and thinking of ideas for your home’s future, consider these quick home improvement projects that are perfect to complete before spring:

1. Upgrade Your Front Door

The first interaction a guest (or potential homebuyer) has with your home is with your front door, so putting your home’s best foot forward is a good strategy to leave your visitors with a positive experience. Plus, the energy-saving aspects of new doors and windows makes them an ideal investment for a homeowner looking to save money on their energy bills all year long.

2. Clean Up Your Fireplace

During your holidays and deep winter months, you’ve probably turned to your fireplace a few more times than you anticipated. Many homeowners neglect this central feature of their home, leaving it to fall into disrepair. Regular chimney sweeping is highly recommended to ensure safe operation, but don’t neglect your chimney’s surround. If you’re dissatisfied with the appearance of your existing surround, replacing it with a new brick, tile, or natural stone surround is a great project to complete before spring arrives.

3. Downsize Your Storage Areas

Everyone has areas of their home that are too cluttered or otherwise unsightly. Getting a head start on spring cleaning not only frees up cleaning time later in the year, it’ll help improve your home’s indoor air quality while the doors and windows are still shut tight.

4. Repair or Replace Molded Tile

At Strictly Tile, we specialize in new tile installations and grout rehab, meaning we understand the importance of clean and beautiful tile surfaces. Molded grout brings with it various health hazards, but fortunately, the issue can be corrected with the right tools and expertise at your side. If you need help completing your tile repair or maintenance project, contact Strictly Tile in the Puget Sound region today and begin 2016 on a productive note.

3 Incredible Advantages of Tile Flooring

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Tile flooring doesn’t just look and feel great – there are plenty of other benefits that many homeowners don’t realize when deciding between carpeting, tile, linoleum, or hardwood. Especially during home remodels and new constructions, selecting the right flooring material for your home could increase the value of your property and protect your construction materials for years to come.

1. Longer Lasting

Compared to hardwood or linoleum flooring materials, tile is much more durable and reliable material for use over a long period of time. Maintenance on tile is easier, as it doesn’t require sanding or replacement like hardwood. Both ceramic and porcelain tile are known for their durability and resilience, but without proper, professional installation, the material’s lifespan will be dramatically shortened.

2. Healthier for Your Family

Thanks to a high-temperature kiln used in the production of tile flooring panels, the end result contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can have negative affects on your home’s indoor air quality. Many adhesives and grouts contain very low levels of VOCs, meaning the impact of your flooring materials on your indoor air quality could be next to zero. Try finding a carpet that can do that.

3. Responsible and Green

Many tile brands are offering recycled tile material, meaning either the ceramic or porcelain used in the product is manufactured with majority previously-used materials. Furthermore, many production facilities are closed loop, meaning they reuse water and materials, sending only a miniscule amount of waste to landfills.

If the cold weather is causing you to take a hard look at your flooring options, contact the tile installation experts at Strictly Tile today. We can plan and implement a beautiful, functional tile flooring, accent, or feature that increase the emotional and financial value of your home for years to come. Give us a call or use the contact form to learn more about our process today!

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The Best Way to Protect Grout from Discoloration

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Discolored grout is unsightly, gross, and potentially dangerous. As grout ages and experiences long-term exposure to water or contaminant, it will fade, change colors, or start growing blotches – let alone the threat of mold and mildew that’s ever looming over your bathroom.

While we’d always recommend a tile and grout specialist’s expertise to ensure a quality finish, there is a way homeowners can protect their grout: sealing it once per year. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1

Thoroughly clean and scrub the surface of the grout with a grout cleaner. Products are readily available from hardware and home improvement stores and quality will vary, so check their labelling carefully. Use a rigid toothbrush to apply the cleaning solution and scrub rigorously, then rinse. Higher-end products are used by grout restoration professionals, so if yours isn’t getting the job done, give us a call.

Step 2

Strip out any old sealant by using a grout stripper. Results vary by brand, but applying the stripper with a brush and letting it permeate the sealant. After leaving it for the time stated by the specific product, scrub it off and rinse the tile with water.

Step 3

After you’ve treated your existing grout, allow the tile and grout to dry overnight (or the time specified by the product’s labelling).

Step 4

Apply the grout sealer to the grout lines and avoid getting any on the tiles as much as possible. Use either the applicator nozzle or a foam brush – whichever is more comfortable for you. Apply the sealer generously but carefully.

Step 5

Wipe the sealed lines with a clean cloth after letting the sealer dry for 5-10 minutes. Check to see if the sealer comes off in the cloth – if it does, apply more sealer to the grout lines in question. Repeat until all grout line areas are sealed.

For professional tile repair and grout restoration services that won’t break the bank, contact Strictly Tile today by using the contact form or calling 425-750-6433.

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Why Fall is the Most Important Time to Repair Your Tile

placing setting tile floor

If you’re like many other homeowners, chances are you’ve neglected the tile in your bathroom or kitchen due to busy summer schedules or more pressing home improvement chores during the warm weather months. But did you know that autumn is the best time to replace grout and repair your tile? Here’s why:

Cold Weather = Closed Windows

With cooler weather, your home gets closed up and less fresh air is allowed to circulate inside your home. Even if you have a decent ventilation system in your bathroom, indoor humidity and more organic particulates can limit the amount of air able to properly dry moisture on your tile. While you can squeegee and wipe down wet surfaces, the growth potential for mold and mildew is much higher in autumn and winter than other months.

More Time Spent Indoors

Once again, cold weather is the culprit here, but only because your family will be spending more time indoors than during the spring and summer. The combination of more movie nights, family dinners, and visitors for the holidays can put significant strain on your bathrooms. Additional plumbing usage and longer, hotter baths and showers can increase the moisture on your surfaces, once again leading to potential problems with mold and mildew.

And if you’re already seeing signs of mold in your grout, the additional time spent indoors means you’ll be breathing more spores than usual, so don’t wait another weekend – call Strictly Tile! Our tile and grout repair specialists can quickly and professionally treat your tile and replace any damaged grout so your indoor areas will be safe and beautiful all winter long. Use the contact form to make an appointment or to discuss your project with us today.

Removing Bathroom Mold: Breaking Down Several Methods

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A severe problem in the perennially humid Pacific Northwest, mold growth in poorly-ventilated bathrooms has many severe health hazards. Preventing mold growth is an entirely separate story, but there are steps homeowners can take to remove it and keep it out of your bathroom forever. Here are a few effective methods of removing mold from your bathroom.

Bleach and Water

Spraying a 2/3 water, 1/3 bleach solution onto the mold-covered surfaces of your bathroom grout or tile, letting it dry, then spraying again and scrubbing away the gunk is an arduous and tedious chore, but an effective one. Once you’ve gotten up off your hands and knees and put away the sponge, be sure to rinse off the entire area to wash away any lingering bleach. Repeat as many times as necessary, but be forewarned: if the mold won’t go away without scraping off your grout, it’s time for some grout rehab. 

White Vinegar

White vinegar can prevent mold outbreaks entirely, so it’s not a bad idea to spray some on your moldiest areas and leave it there. Do this as often as needed, but we’d suggest applying white vinegar after every rigorous bathroom cleaning session. Vinegar can kill up to 82% of mold species, making it an attractive solution for homeowners on a budget. While the smell might not be pleasant, take comfort in the fact that it’s a natural cleaning method and won’t leave behind toxic fumes like bleach does.


Ammonia is a common cleaning agent and for good reason – it’s highly effective at combating mold spores. Wiping down all moldy surfaces with ammonia, scrubbing rigorously, and leaving it to do its thing for a couple of hours will go a long way. Once it’s done, wipe away all ammonia to reduce the scent. Never mix it with bleach, however.

New Grout

Unfortunately, grout doesn’t last forever. Particularly moldy bathrooms are sometimes beyond repair and need to be replaced. A professional tile and grout restoration specialist can determine if your mold is just surface-level or has spread behind your tiles and into your walls, repairing the problem however deep it goes.

For more information on how to best replace your grout or to schedule an appointment to have your tile and grout assessed for damage, contact Strictly Tile. Our team of experts can help beautify your bathroom and help your family breathe easier in a mold-free environment. Give us a call today!

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3 Secret Benefits of Tile Flooring

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Tile is a beautiful, natural material that boasts many aesthetic and tangible benefits, as we’ve talked about many times in the past. However, there are a few little-known reasons why tile is the perfect alternative to other flooring materials that homeowners should investigate before making a purchasing decision.

It’s Healthy

Tile flooring is manufactured with non-volatile materials in high-temperature kilns, which can be a big boost to your home’s indoor air quality. Cheap and shoddy wood flooring performs with mixed results in that regard and carpet is a perfect breeding ground for dangerous particles, so if members of your home are sensitive to poor indoor air quality, tile might be the perfect solution. Plus, tile that’s glazed with antimicrobial agents can reduce the growth potential for bacteria on the surface of the tile itself.

Fire Resistance

Ceramic tile, unlike many other flooring materials, is highly-resistant to flames and high heat. It won’t burn or emit toxic fumes, which will prevent the spread of house fires and won’t scorch or become discolored when exposed to hot surfaces. Even lit cigarettes, overturned candles, and hot pans or skillets won’t damage glazed ceramic tile, making it a great choice for use in kitchens or even for fireplace surrounds.

Long-Lasting Appeal

Did you know that ceramic tile is resistant to fading? Whereas hardwood, vinyl, and carpet will all lose their hue and sheen after long-term exposure to direct sunlight, ceramic tile won’t fade or lose its color under the same circumstances. With proper care and upkeep, your tile floor or countertop will retain its original appearance for many years. Glazed flooring is also resistant to scratching and water damage – great for kitchen floors that see a lot of activity.

Strictly Tile is the premier tile installation and maintenance expert in the Pacific Northwest. With decades of experience and dozens of finished projects to show off our work, we’re confident we can help conceptualize and deliver a final product that will satisfy your friends and family for years to come. Contact us today to discuss your project ideas and get an estimate!

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