How to: Spruce up a dark slate floor


A reader’s dark slate floor. (Reader photo)
April 30

Question: The floor of the front entryway of our townhouse is a dark greenish slate. I’d like to brighten up this floor, but I need something sturdy that could withstand the rigor of being the main entrance to the house. In the winter, particularly, a lot of sand gets tracked in. I think it would be expensive to replace the stone. Is there a kind of paint or coating I could use? Is it something I could do myself?

— Arlington

Answer: It’s possible to paint stone, but on a floor with grit, the paint is sure to wear through. If you ever go to sell, or if your tastes change, you’re likely to curse the day you did it.

Instead, consider covering the floor with a light-colored carpet or other material. Flor carpet tiles, which come with adhesive pieces that link the squares to each other, rather than to the flooring underneath, would work especially well. Most carpet tiles have a peel-and-stick backing, which might not work as well on textured stone. With the Flor system, that’s not an issue. Plus, if you decide later that you want to see the slate again, you won’t have to scrape adhesive residue from the stone.

Flor tiles are square, 19.7 inches on each side. The thickness varies between a quarter-inch and a half-inch, so measure the gaps under doors before you buy. You can cut pieces to fit wall-to-wall. Or you can use full squares and link them into an area rug that leaves a strip of stone visible on each side.

Flor has a store in Georgetown (202-944-5057; 1037 33rd St. NW). The company’s Web site, www.flor.com, includes an “outlet” section that sells discounted styles.

In the How To column on March 27 [“How To: Remove stains around drains”], you wrote that Pumie Scouring Stick cleans mineral stains in a sink. There was a period when we did not flush toilets during the night and, as a result, we have mineral deposits at the bottom of our toilet bowls. Would the Pumie Scouring Stick work there also? If so, do we have to remove the water from the toilet bowl first, or just reach through the water with the scouring stick?

— Bethesda

Yes, pumice works great to take off just the kind of deposit you mention. No need to bail out the water first. It’s actually helpful as a lubricant. Just put on long rubber gloves and reach in. As you scrub, the stick will wear down and form a curved shape that takes off even stubborn deposits at the very bottom.

Your turn

First your reader [“How To: Remove stains around drains,” March 27] should try vinegar. I had such rings around my drain, and just recently I closed the drain, put a paper towel in the bottom of the sink and saturated it with vinegar. After a few hours the stains wiped away with no effort. Now it is sparkly clean. No elbow grease and no trip to buy a pumice stone.

— Vienna

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s month-by-month roundup of home-improvement tasks at washingtonpost.com/home.

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