Decorating & Furniture/Terracotta Tiles


I have moved into an old farmhouse which has been tastefully renovated.  On the ground floor part of the house has the original terracotta tile flooring.  Firstly, there appears to be a white coloured 'salty' substance that returns after cleaning.  What is this and how do I clean it permanently?  Secondly, in one room facing north it darkens the room.  Can I paint terracotta and if so what type of paint should I use to lighten it?  If I lay a carpet on top would it create damp/mould between the rug and the tile?  I need to create a sense of light and warmth which light and wall colours alone do not achieve as the floor is too harsh.

Thanks for writing and for your questions.  The salty substance remaining on the tile may be simply a residue from some cleansing agent that was used.  Unfortunately, tile is pourous even though durable, and will embed some cleaners in the pores only to become visible again when the surface dries.  I'd suggest using a mixture of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) and water to clean the surface thoroughly.  You may also want to use purified or distilled water for this cleaning to eliminate any minerals that may be found in the tap water.  Once you've cleaned it -  according to package directions, you should have a clean surface.  

As for painting tile, you can, and to do so you should use a tile paint medium (available in arts and crafts stores)which you then add to regular latex paint.  If you're talking about a large area, and want complete coverage, this will take several coats and a sealer on top once everything dries.  The "milkier" the finish, the less coats you have to paint.  Seal with a non-yellowing polyeurthane.

TSP, polyeurthane etc. is available in your local home improvement or hardware stores.  

Adding a carpet section to tile should not cause any moisture problems if the surface is dry to begin with.  Be sure to add a rug liner to avoid slipping on the rug.


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Jennifer Taylor Wojcik


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BA, Psychology

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