By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend
Someone who works only with new materials may not be familiar with professional stone restoration services or why they may be necessary. In the extreme, a visit to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece will present the viewer with centuries of damage from soil, wear and gunpowder. Closer to home, the damage to the perfect appearance of natural stones begins with the residue from the fabrication equipment, adds grout haze during installation, and continues with soil, spills, grit enhanced abrasion, supermarket cleaners and polishes. Stains, scratches, improper maintenance and wear obscure the original beauty of natural stone, concrete, tile and grout. An inevitable, gentile deterioration you may think.
Modern standards of perfection approach those of museum displays and far exceed the expectations of previous generations. Common kitchen spills must be removed from counters, backsplashes and floors. Residues of bath soaps and lotions are simply unacceptable on showers and vanities. Dark trails leading from each doorway must be erased. The standard of performance for stone, tile and concrete in modern homes has been set very high. Occasional professional restoration is necessary for these quality materials to maintain their original appearance.
Because the stone, tile or concrete has been permanently installed, it must be restored in place, and because the restoration process is essentially an industrial process the professional restorer must exercise the most extreme care to protect the surroundings. Water, chemical cleaners, powerful machines to scour accumulated coatings and dirt with stiff brushes, and wet vacuums remove dingy residue. Diamond impregnated grinding disks remove the damaged surfaces and create new polished or honed surfaces. Appropriate polishes, waxes and sealers complete the restoration and set-up the surfaces for future. When the machinery and protective coverings are removed, the professional has worked miracles without leaving excessive evidence of the process.
Surprise, relief and even amazement follow the restoration of long abused hard surfaces. The clear, deep play of light returns to the surface of polished marble. The even color of clean sandstone, the polish of limestone and the contrasting grid of grout return to clean and restored surfaces. Granite regains its mirror smooth polish; the soft color and texture is again revealed in slate; and the industrial uniformity of concrete reemerges. Layers of dull coatings and dirt are stripped from glazed and unglazed tile and grout to reveal the original subtle shades and patterns of colors and textures. The distinctive characteristics of fine materials reveal themselves. Floors are even smoother and flatter than when originally set.
Each floor, wall and counter has had its own unique history and each restoration is a distinct story. To see a few examples of restorations of various materials, take a look at the Our Work section of HartzStone.com.
The first step in the restoration of a marble floor, the original un-restored condition is on the right.
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By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend
Almost every public building and monument more than 5 years old is already marked by a lack of maintenance. Under staffed and underpaid, most governments and civic organizations opt to perform only the most basic maintenance, such as taking out the trash and cleaning the toilets. Town Halls, Fire Stations, Museums and War Memorial that were proudly dedicated by prominent politicians and wealthy donors gradually acquire the patina of grime and stains that we have come to expect on our neglected symbols of community.
Eventually many deteriorated buildings and monuments are removed to make space for modern replacements. A lucky few are extensively restored and renovated, thereby preserving the community’s architectural legacy. These public monuments were, after all, designed by the best architects and built by the best contractors using the best materials. Let’s remember that it is the well preserved church or courthouse that will be photographed for the scenic calendar, and used in the tourist brochures. The brand new pre-fab office building is best ignored.
Trustees of the public heritage need professional help to maintain public buildings and monuments in a condition that reflects community pride. Periodically, professionally clean the hard surfaces on a schedule that reflects the severity of the environment. Act promptly when the evidence of neglect becomes apparent; professionally remove stains, graffiti and grime before they become extensive and before they penetrate deeply.
But all this costs money that they don’t have, the trustees complain. Wise governments and organizations have begun to require that donors include an endowment to maintain the buildings and monuments. Governments and civic organizations have founded organizations to maintain the existing public heritage; often called “The Friends of” something or other, these organizations provide a focus for the maintenance of important community symbols and facilities. Some of this maintenance is hands-on, such as a trash pick-up day or spring flower planting. Other maintenance requires professional knowledge and equipment.
Everyone in the stone industry benefits when the natural stone in public buildings and monuments is clean and unblemished. It is good P.R. The retailer, installer and maintenance professionals can work together to create a little free publicity for everyone by adopting a prominent local stone installation and forming a “Friends of” organization to maintain it. Cleaning, restoring and conserving stone architectural elements are best left to the craftsmen at professional restoration companies, but the stone maintenance companies can often get most materials donated by the manufacturers if there will be sufficient publicity. Professional restoration companies can adopt a small monument and the allied businesses need only to help provide the publicity. Major buildings are a different situation. The stone retailers, architects and builders have potent contacts needed to raise the funds for major projects, but the pay-off will be proportionate.
I know that you are busy, but a few hours now to create an event that will put your businesses in the news every year is wise and forward thinking, just don’t forget to invite the TV news to your annual clean-up events.
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