Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Is Your Bathroom Your Best Feature?

AN37-3-refurb-bathrooms1The bathroom and kitchen in accommodation or apartments are often the most demanding.

Bathrooms - the first place a guest will check for cleanliness, the area where housekeepers spend the most time in a change-over clean, the majority of the cost when a manger is discussing a refurbishment with an owner and generally one of the limiting factors for a manager in achieving a good yield. A bathroom refurbishing specialist will be able to help.

When your building was new (how long ago was that?), the bathrooms and kitchen were clean and easily maintained. Guests were always complimentary.

Most likely, a few years later, your bathrooms probably generate less compliments and more of the following:

Guests – doesn't look clean enough

Housekeepers – takes too long to keep it clean... it's impossible

Owners – costs too much for a change-over clean, renovation costs are out of the question

Manager – it's affecting rates, do I need to put it into the permanents pool

What's gone wrong?

Most modern buildings feature tiles in the living areas and bathrooms. In principal, tiles are great - they are long wearing, look modern, easily maintained and cool. However, grout, silicone and slippery tiles can destroy the result. It is often said in the tiling industry that poor grout or silicone can spoil a good tiling job. Alternatively, good grout and silicone can overcome a poor tiling job.

Let's start with tiles and grout. Grout is generally a cement based sand mix. It literally fills the gap (grout-line) between slightly unevenly shaped tiles. Ceramic tiles, that are pressed in a mold then glazed, tend to need wider grout lines. Porcelain tiles are rectified (cut) and are very accurately square, so can be laid with narrower grout lines.

AN37-3-refurb-bathrooms 2Cement based grouts are nearly always porous, which simply means that any liquids will be slowly absorbed through the grout. Dirty mopping water, spilt wine or foods, oils on feet are all absorbed into the grout. Very few detergents will fully remove these ingrained stains – they just build up over time.

Every tiling job should include having the cement based grout sealed. Sealers have been available for many years.

Yet tilers virtually never seal grout. Why? Because grout needs to cure for up to a week before it can safely be sealed. The tiler has long moved on to his next job.

There are two broad types of sealer.

Penetrating clear sealers, which are generally designed to be applied when the grout is new and unstained.

After long development in the US, revolutionary acrylic based colour sealers have now become available. Not only do they seal against spilt liquids and staining, they enable the colour of the grout to be updated (in our case, with a choice of up to 90 designer colours). From the house-keepers point-of-view, they are make maintenance substantially simpler and quicker. No scrubbing!

Interestingly, in many buildings in Europe, rather than use cement based grouts, tillers are required to use epoxy based grouts. Considered to be water-proof, stain resistant and colour-fast, a much better solution.

Why isn't it used more widely in Australia? Mainly because it is more sophisticated to master and more expensive.

As a quick plug, one of our specialists can prep-clean your tiles and grout, then seal, probably with the new colour-sealer. They can also remove cement based grouts in wet areas such as showers and replace it with epoxy grout.

Next is silicone. Silicone's primary role is to provide a flexible, water-proof joint between vertical and horizontal surfaces (walls and floors). A hard, brittle material like grout will almost certainly crack if there is any building movement.

High quality silicones contain mould inhibitors and should last for up to 10 years before they start to delaminate and pull away. Poor quality silicones have been found to peel away, go mouldy and leak after as little as a couple of months.

AN37-3-refurb-bathrooms 3Any refresh of a bathroom area, in particular, should include the removal of old silicone and its replacement. Not a job for the faint hearted.

My last point on tiles will be no surprise. Wet tiles are often slippery when wet.

On a rainy day, do your guests complain about the reception area being slippery? Have you ever had a guest fall in a shower or on the bathroom floor? Or around the pool area?

The reason is identical with cars aquaplaning on a road – if the water can't be easily displaced by the weight of the car, it will be in danger of losing contact with the road and sliding.

With tiles, if there is no easy channel for water to escape under foot, there may be a loss of traction. I've read that wet floors ruin more holidays on the Gold Coast than sharks ever will.

Most ceramic and porcelain tiles can receive an anti-slip treatment that will significantly improve their R-rating (for wet slip).

With a little bit of specialist help, your bathroom or tiled kitchen and living areas can, in many cases, be given an intensive makeover that will help restore them back to being a feature. A makeover can be very cost effective and require limited downtime. Apart from happy guests, your housekeepers will be able to maintain at a higher standard much more easily.

Lawrence Opperman
GroutPro Queensland