Having needed some space to live, our first task upon moving in was to clean enough floors to fix ourselves a temporary living room, a bedroom and a kitchen. The house had been derelict for just over ten years and everything was, understandably, dirtier than a blind mans toilet. Cleaning the kitchen floor, rocking the beautifully moody encaustic tiles shown above, was a piece of cake: It turned out, most of the tiles cleaned up well with just a drop of PH neutral dish soap and were, rather surprisingly, not in a desperate need of resealing.
The case of terracotta tiles found hiding in our bedroom and the lounge, however, was a different matter entirely. Having been in a need of a sealant and re-grouting, somebody in the 60’s (curse these people to hell) thought, either, that repairs were too much work or just preferred more of a contemporary no-maintenance material. Luckily, instead of lifting the tiles and the sand-cement they were laid on, the homeowners leveled the floor by covering it entirely in lime and installed a carpet of linoleum straight on top of the compacted lime dust.
Of course, a no-maintenance material does not exist – except in the dreams of salesmen and lazy homeowners. Easy to install, easy to care materials such as linoleum, vinyl or laminate do not need maintenance at first and clean with ease, but after a decade or two, depending variables such as the quality of the product, general wear and exposure to the sun and moisture, even the toughest of these materials will age ungracefully and will need to be replaced. The wood imitation-linoleum, laid on top of our century old terracotta tiles, had faded, bubbled and cracked so badly under the blazing sun of Mazamet that it was taken straight to the tip. It did not adhere to the floor at all, implying that it was never properly fastened to it’s base or the glue holding it had dissolved a long time ago.
Turned out, taking off the lino was the easy part…
It took the both of us, me and my husband that is, two days to scrape off the packed lime dust on each floor. Sometimes the stuff came off in big sheets, but more often than not, it needed to be chiseled off one tiny chip at a time. To save our little Henry the Hoover from clogging up, we swept the dust by hand before revving up the vacuum – in hind sight, I firmly recommend wearing a mask for these types of jobs… safety first boys and girls! You don’t want to be digging out dust from your nose like I had to.