About 6 months ago we had red/blue reclaimed Victorian tiles laid in a checkerboard pattern outside the front of our house. Red dust seems to be constantly coming off the red tiles, so that the grout looks pink, and it will even tread indoors. Now on one of the tiles the smooth surface seems to have come away about the size of a 50p piece.

Does any one know what might be causing this (wrong bed? wrong grout? need treating?), these tile must be a hundred years old, and seemed in fine condition before laid.

Perhaps unrelated, but might be: we frequently find a white salt-like deposit on the surface of the tiles - almost like you might expect after the snow melts in winter and the gritting salt is left behind. There hasn't been any salt around, and so I don't know where this is coming from. It brushes off by hand easily.


I had an "expert" come and look at them, and he thinks the efflorescence and crumbling are not related. He wonders if they are particularly soft, and are not sealed and so they are simply wearing away because of that. He is also suspicious that the glaze/surface may have been missing on some of them when they were laid, and so we are simply just picking up on it now. I had a couple that were left over from laying and they are ok, but not all the tiles may be identical. He noted that not all the red tiles seem to have faired as badly as each other.

I also did manage to get hold of the person who laid them, and he is also planning a visit. He thinks they probably need sealing.

  • Which country/climate? English, judging from the "50p"? Surely fairly northern, since you're familiar with road salt, but these tiles were laid during late winter? – TDHofstetter Aug 18 '14 at 14:52
  • Sorry yes, UK East Anglia - (gardening hardiness zone 8 if that helps!), laid March, so not quite 6 months ago. No severe weather at the time. – Korone Aug 18 '14 at 15:18
  • Weather so far this summer has been alternating lots of rain, lots of hot sun (well hot for UK ~ 20-28C), so it has been wet and then dry many many times. White marks usually appear quite some time after it has dried though. (i.e. they aren't left behind from the puddle) – Korone Aug 18 '14 at 15:25
  • OK, so that rules out any incompatibility issue between the soft tile and the grout under freezing conditions ("hard" mortar & grout - made with Portland cement - aren't compatible with soft tile or brick under freezing conditions, while "soft" mortar & grout - made with lime - are). – TDHofstetter Aug 18 '14 at 15:34
  • The tiles still seem to be set solid, and the grout is firm with no cracks showing. It is literally just like they are eroding away! – Korone Aug 18 '14 at 15:39

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