You’ve lifted up some old lino and discovered original flagstone flooring; so, what do you do next?
At Indigenous, we believe that an original stone floor should be cherished, cared for and maintained wherever possible. A truly authentic floor is something very special – there’s so much history and, whatever condition it’s in, it can generally be rescued and transformed into something very beautiful. But, we’re practical too. Restoring original flagstone flooring to its former glory can be a costly labour of love and there are lots of issues that will need to be carefully considered. These mostly centre around cost, time and patience.
First of all, you’ll need to assess the state of the flagstone flooring. What kind of condition is it in? If it is damaged, can it realistically be fixed? Potential issues include:
- General dirt
- Residue on the top of the flagstone flooring; possibly glue left behind from the lino.
- Dirty grout joints
- Uneven stones
- Broken stones
- Damp – if this is the problem, this is going to be the hardest to fix!
Restoring flagstone flooring
Unless you’ve only got minimal surface dirt to deal with, you’ll probably need to call on the services of a specialist cleaning or flagstone flooring restoration company. There are lots of reputable firms out there; shop around on the internet, get advice and seek some testimonials to see who’s best suited to help you.
In terms of cleaning, specialists use a variety of different methods, from chemical cleans to mechanical sandblasting. There are also vacuum blasting machines that use ‘dustless’ technology, extracting dust as they clean which can make the whole process less disruptive.
Any holes in the flagstone flooring can be easily filled. Cracked or broken stones are often, by many, thought to add to the overall character, however if preferred they can also be replaced. A careful, authentic match is important (as close to the original colour as possible), to ensure that the new stone blends in. Re-grouting is pretty straightforward too and freshening up a dirty grout line can really transform a floor – as can a final fresh application of oil or beeswax.
If damp is an issue, then this will need very careful consideration and expert advice is essential. Ultimately, the flagstone flooring, being natural, needs to ‘breathe’ and be ‘breathable’. Typically, old flagstones will have been laid directly onto the earth below. It’s not always an issue but it is always worth seeking professional advice. You may need to seal the surface but you want to avoid trapping in moisture. There are lots of solvent-based and water-based sealers available, designed specifically for this purpose. Water-based sealers offer a safer, eco-friendlier option and can generally be applied where there’s residual moisture, which can make application a lot straighter forward. If the flagstone flooring can’t breathe, the moisture will escape through adjacent walls instead, so it’s really important to choose the right treatment.
We’re often asked if you can lift original flagstone flooring and then put it back. In theory, you can but it’s not easy and it will be expensive. How difficult it is will depend upon:
- The size of the original flagstones. If they’re incredibly thick, they will be very difficult to lift and relay. If you need to improve the subfloor, there may be floor height issues too.
- Variation in size and thickness of individual flagstones. It is possible to calibrate flagstone flooring, whereby you slice down the flags and reuse them in a thinner format. This can result in a lot of wastage.
If you manage to successfully lift the flagstone flooring, it may be tricky to emulate the original floor. Half the charm of an original floor is its undulating, worn areas, especially along walkways and it would be a shame to lose these. Careful coding and planning will allow you to recreate these areas.
If your flagstone flooring is beyond saving or a restoration isn’t realistic, you can still create something really beautiful with new flagstone flooring. There’s plenty of choice in terms of colour and formats, in a variety of price ranges, and lots of authentic designs are available. All sorts of clever finishing techniques, like tumbling and brushing, can be used to create vintage looks to suit all interior styles. In practical terms, new flagstone flooring is thinner than original flagstones, so it’s easier to install too - and you’re less likely to encounter floor height issues. As you’re starting from scratch, you can also consider installing the stone over underfloor heating – and there’s the option to continue the installation through doorways, onto patios and terraces, for a seamless inside-out look.
So, whether you restore or start again, both approaches can give great results. If you do come across an original, it’s worth exploring the ‘fix it’ option. But, if it’s just not feasible, there are some beautiful new flagstone flooring designs too.
If you’re looking for inspiration, you can browse our flagstone flooring collection, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Or pop into our Burford showroom; we’ve got lots of resources – from flagstones to finished floor photography – which may help you narrow down your choices.