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To Seal, Or Not To Seal

As a contractor in the stone and tile industry, one of the most common services that we’ll be asked to provide will be the sealing of the tile and grout surfaces. While this service provides very high profit margins with minimal effort, knowing when a sealer is applicable and passing that knowledge onto your customers is a sure way to gain trust and the reputation of the true stone professional in your area. To better determine when sealers are, and are not applicable, it is important to understand how the sealer performs and what they are actually doing to the surface being sealed.

Clear penetrating sealers, most commonly referred to as “impregnators”, are offered in a variety of designs for protection from oil and water based stains of many types of surfaces. They are actually a two-part product; the first part being the carrier of the sealer, typically a water or solvent molecule, and the second part being the “resin”, or the solid that is actually clogging the pores of the stone. Natural look sealers (TECH SEAL, MAX GUARD, SELECT SEAL, and RAPID SEAL) and enhancing sealers (REVEAL & SEAL, ENHANCER) are all categorized as “penetrating”. These sealers are designed to “penetrate” past the surface tension of the substrate and fill the pores below, effectively blocking out other liquids.

So what should be sealed using an impregnating sealer? Simply put, every surface that it is absorbent. The biggest misnomer in the industry is that all natural stone is absorbent and therefore every stone needs to be sealed. Most granite, a large variety of marbles, and even some travertine have such a tight crystalline structure that even the highest quality solvent based sealers are unable to penetrate past the surface tension. These surfaces are tightened even further during the polishing process making the stone almost impenetrable. This is not to say that you should stop offering sealing for these types of surfaces. Many times your customers are going to have natural stone flooring that has not been brought up to a high polish or are purposely brought down to a completely matte finish. In these instances a penetrating sealer will be effective almost every single time. So how do we decide which stones should and which stones shouldn’t be sealed? It’s simple. Put water on the surface and find out if it absorbs. This absorption will be obvious as the surface will darken almost immediately as the water touches to the stone. A lot of times, during the bidding process, I’ll take a terry cloth and get it wet. I’ll then fold it into quarters and set the damp cloth on the areas that are to be treated. After measuring the area and answering any questions that the homeowner may have, I pick up the towel and look to see if that area has darkened. It will be very obvious at that point whether or not you should recommend sealing to you customers. If there is a dark square where your damp cloth was, they will benefit from a sealer. If not, they probably won’t. Here is a list of some common surfaces that you’ll run into and whether or not they should be sealed. Make note that there are no absolutes in this industry and that all surfaces should be tested for their absorbency rate regardless of the material.

“Shoulds” • All cementacious grout, both sanded and un-sanded • Limestone • Tumbled marble • Honed marble • Flamed granite • Tumbled travertine • Honed travertine • Slate • Saltillo • Brick • Concrete • Flagstone • Sandstone

“ Should Nots” • Epoxy or Acrylic grouts • Polished granite • Polished travertine • Polished marble • Ceramic tile • Polished terrazzo • Cultured stones • Color coated grout

So once you have determined whether or not the surface should be sealed, choosing the right base of sealer is the next important step. I get asked all the time, “which sealer is the best to use?” As mentioned earlier, there are typically two types of sealer bases; water and solvent. So how do we determine which sealer is better? The solvent based sealers are almost twice as much as the water based version, so certainly they must be better, right? Not necessarily. In fact, the chemicals used to seal or enhance the surfaces that you’re restoring are the exact same in both the water and solvent based. The difference between the two lies solely in the molecule that carries the chemical into the surface that is being sealed. With the solvent molecules being so much smaller, they are going to be more effective in penetrating past the surface tension of the denser stones like marble, granite, and travertine. Whereas, more porous surfaces such as brick, grout or Saltillo will absorb the water based sealers just as effectively. Once the carrier has evaporated, the sealing component remains in the pores of the stone leaving the surface resistant to staining. Here’s another list for you guys to help you determine which sealer is going to work best for your particular project. As always, I will recommend that you do an absorbency test on the areas that you will be sealing to make certain that you are choosing the right option.

Should Use Solvent • Granite • Travertine • Quartzite • Polished concrete • Marble • Polished limestone • Slate Should Use Water • Sandstone • Honed limestone • Flagstone • Stucco • Saltillo • Terra Cotta • Clay brick • Honed concrete • Cementacious Brick • Grout

Ask Jasen

Dealing with the Elements…

Jasen, Do you have recommendation for lime pops on brick? 1. Preventative 2. Correcting. Thanks, Kevin.

Hello, Kevin Was this brick installed outdoors? I usually don’t like putting coatings on surfaces outdoors for this exact reason…Without the coating it would be fairly easy to remove the minerals with Easy Etch provided the bricks are clay and not concrete. There is actually no way to completely prevent this from occurring again, but using the product Preserve will drastically slow down the minerals from reappearing by reacting and hardening the stone’s integrity. With the coating present this will be a much more challenging project. You would need to first remove the coating and then remove the lime with the Easy Etch, followed with the treatment of Preserve. If they are looking for an enhanced (but not shiny) look, you can seal the brick with the Reveal & Seal within 20 minutes after applying the Preserve. I would not recommend re-coating this bricks especially since they have a history of mineral migration. Hope this helped, Jasen

Over Sealing…The Common Culprit

Jasen, Yesterday I sealed an interior flagstone floor using a water based penetrating sealer. Today I got a call back from the homeowner saying that there are white blotches throughout. What could have caused this and what can I do to fix it?

Dave

Hello, Dave Which sealer did you use? Those white blotches could have been caused by a reaction with the water and the minerals present int he stone, but most likely is the result of leaving too much sealer on the surface without properly wiping the excess. Mineral reactions typically take a while to build, so it wouldn’t be something that you’d see right away. If it is caused by excess sealer, use the product Modern Clean to remove it and rinse well. If the white areas are a form of mineral migration, you’ll have to use the product Easy Etch to remove them. Make note that Easy Etch is an acid product and can damage the stone’s surface if it is sensitive to low pH cleaners (most sandstone flagstone is not.) I’d suggest doing a test area to ensure that the cleaner will not damage the stone before cleaning the whole area. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me at any time,

Jasen

Sometimes it’s just best to walk away…

Hey Jasen,

See pic below. They had a flood and it has damaged the marble. The floor is dry. It seems like the marble has completely absorbed the water. Have you seem this before? Is it fixable?

Hey, Noel Do you know how long the floors have been dry? It could take days to dry up…this would be the best case scenario for a variety of reasons. First, if it is staining, chances are it has stained through out the entire stone. But even if it’s just on the surface grinding it out will prove to be very challenging. You’re right up on the wall so grinding it out evenly will be tough to say the very least…Also, that appears to be a Thassos White which means that it is one of the harder marbles to re-polish. If I couldn’t take it out with a simple poultice I’d most likely walk away from it… Jasen

Is Your Website Targeting the RIGHT keywords?

The Google keyword tool provides data on the average monthly number of searches for keyword people use on their search engine. This is quite useful when identifying what keyword searches to optimize your website for. Keyword and niche research is the key to success for your marketing efforts, so it’s very important to get the right keywords. Targeting the wrong keywords equals wasted effort, simple as that. For example, the Google keyword tool provides data on the average monthly number of searches for “tile cleaning”…1600. So 1600 people are searching for tile cleaning each month in the U.S.…sounds like a good keyword to target right? The keyword is quite competitive…but let’s step back a moment and think about this.

When people search online, they are typically looking to solve a problem. Providing the solution to the problem right when a searcher is looking gives you a huge leg up. People with a dirty tile floor could just as easily search for “how to clean grout”…a MUCH LESS competitive term to rank in the search results for with an average number of people searching monthly of 5400…THREE TIMES THE NUMBER SEARCHING FOR TILE CLEANING.

Now, one could argue that someone searching for how to clean grout is looking for a do it yourself solution…but provided with the truth about how affordable your services are, how beautiful their grout will look when you’re finished, how satisfied your clients are, and how happy they’ll be with the same day transformation, many people will pick up the phone and schedule a bid. Less competitive keyword with 3 times the search volume=hidden gem.

Google says they will replace Google Keyword Tool with a new product that will be tied in with your Google account and will only be available to approved adsense and adwords clients. Now that Google Keyword Tool is being replaced, how are you to be assured of finding relevant keywords that people are actually looking for? Call Ken for 5 free sources.

For more information about optimizing your web presence to target keywords that convert to leads, call Ken Sherman or email ken@goprolocal.com

Protecting Your Online Reputation

In today’s competitive market, you must protect your online reputation to avoid losing business..if your local business is not online, it doesn’t exist.

Your prospective customers go online everyday to find out more about you and your business..what will they find…a bunch of people complaining…or a list of happy

clients thrilled about your service?

They are checking sites like Google Places to review experiences others have had with your business. Or sites like Yelp.com, MerchantCircle, or similar review sites to check your online ratings and reputation.

One single negative review, or a poor overall rating, is enough to drive people away for good. In today’s marketing, you cannot afford to lose potential clients because of poor ratings online. That’s where we can help.

Our sister marketing company, Go Pro Local, identifies your negative reviews and then works to restore your online business reputation.

Contact us today and protect your business. Click here for pricing.

Warming Up Cold Calling

Conventional sales wisdom suggests that you should use every effort to get past the so-called “gate keeper”, otherwise known as the receptionist/office manager, when calling on new accounts in order to reach the decision maker faster. Instead of following this short sighted advice, consider making a friend of this individual from the start of the process, and you just may find a long term who will save you time and increase your profits in the long run.

I do my best to read sales-based articles on a regular basis in order to keep myself sharp, and from time to time, I read something that gives me new insight into my profession. Recently, I read article on a “Six Easy Techniques” for getting past the gate keeper and to the decision maker faster. The article went on to suggest that the gate keeper is an individual of no value, an obstacle to be overcome as quickly as possible. Sounds good on the surface – get to the decision make sooner, so you can move on to your next potential account. So why could this actually be short sighted advice? Let’s take a closer look at who this frustrating and negative person is anyway.

The “gate keeper” is usually a receptionist or office manager, who handles a variety of functions within the company you are calling on. In some companies, they are only answering phone calls and “receiving” guests at the door, but often, they have other responsibilities as well. These people handle a lot of the “stuff” that a busy owner no longer has the time to handle on top of their increasing work load. For those of you who have someone like this working for you in your business, you know they are usually a life saver!

Instead of spending your energies trying to bypass this individual, consider making them the entire focus of your first few sales calls. By acknowledging them and communicating silently that they are important enough to be part of your sales process, you will find that eventually you will create an ally in your efforts to reach the owner. If you take the advice that the article was offering, in the hopes of a fast connection and sale, you will only offend this individual and never enlist their help.

The sales professional communicates to the “gate keeper” that he or she understands their worth within the organization they are calling on, and respects them as a person. In turn, the gate keeper usually will help out the salesperson, which ultimately results in getting to see the decision maker faster. For example, when you’ve made a friend behind the desk, he or she will often offer information that can make your job simpler, “Good to see you again Nelson, how was your trip?” then she whispers, ”Next time come in around 7 AM, you’ll have a better chance catching him.”, The gate keeper will save you time by directing you towards the products or services that the owner needs, “Make sure you mention your stone repair services, I know that’s something he’s been looking for in a company.”

If handled correctly, this method can not only get your products or services the in front of the decision maker faster, but you are more likely to be presenting them only those goods or services they are interested in, thanks to the advice of the gate keeper. You’ll earn the decision maker’s respect by not wasting their time and by showing them you’ve done your homework.

How To Evaluate Your Social Media Campaign

“Frustration” – a word frequently used to describe companies new to social media and those who have been involved in social media but have yet to enjoy a return.

The problem is two-fold. First, establishing a social media presence takes time and continued effort. You have to be consistent in your involvement with the social media medium and remember that returns will not be overnight. Second, you have to make sure that you are using social media in a way that makes sense for your business.

If you are not sure, ask yourself these simple questions:

– Are you using the right platform? First, remember that there are a variety of social media platforms for you to consider – most notably Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Further, within these platforms, there exist variations on the theme. For example, in Facebook, you can have a “Page,” a “Group,” or a “Community.” Each variation has its own set of tools, purposes, and capabilities. In addition, you may decide to participate in several social media platforms at the same time. For example, if you have a restoration company, you may want to use your YouTube channel to publish videos on how to perform certain maintenance tasks while using Facebook to build a sense of community through candid photos, listings of hours, available services, success stories about your business and upcoming events.

– Have you scrapped past attempts? However, you also need to remember that whatever you take on has to be maintained and updated regularly. This can take up valuable time and people resources. While it can certainly be worth it in the long run, remember that consistency is key. If you do not think you will be able to maintain various platforms (or you have already started and stopped using a platform) be sure to erase or delete those accounts. Otherwise, you stand the risk of eroding your brand value when a customer (current or potential) stumbles across your forgotten account. Instead, make sure that what you have is the best it can be and do away with anything that you are not actively using.

– Are you providing the type of information and interaction that your audience wants? Ask yourself what it is that your audience would want to read, not what you want to tell them. Providing discounts or having giveaways can be useful, but you have to have more substance than that. Consider posting facts about your company, the brand, or its products. Think of the tidbits of information you encounter everyday that make you stop and say, “Really?” Examples include fun facts about how long you have been in business, what happens “behind the scenes”, why your business operates as it does (e.g. why Yoga class was cancelled on Tuesdays, why you do not serve poppyseed bagels, why you buy local, why legal documents are presented in blue card stock), etc.

– Are you listening to your audience? Likewise, are you listening to your audience? When they make a post, do you respond? Do you stay on top of when your company is mentioned on other sites, blogs, social media, etc., and make relevant comments to that affect (on that site and yours)? Remember that social media has developed because of the continued interaction it affords. Its purpose is not to simply broadcast, but rather give people a voice in things they would otherwise not be privy to.

– Do you allow them a voice? Similarly, make sure that you give your audience a voice. Ask open-ended questions, run surveys and polls, include them in new offering decisions, etc. – the more things like this you do, the more valued your audience will feel. Remember that interaction is a large part of a successful social media campaign. If miss out on this, you may already be out of the game.

Local Internet Marketing is a key part of growing your business and brand, to attract local consumers. It isn’t just about having a website, it includes being findable in multiple places when local consumers are looking for your product or service. Go Pro Local can help you determine the best route for your online marketing plan. Call today for a free consultation.

All Color Sealing Jobs Are Not Created Equally

As professional contractors in the tile and grout industry we have many goals that we are trying to achieve; Customer satisfaction, beautiful results, and efficient procedures just to name a few. But our main goal remains the same; profitability. In order to be most profitable we must understand how to bid our projects. And most importantly, we must understand that not all projects should be bid the same way.

Hopefully at this point, most of us have all experienced the benefits of color sealing grout. The proficiency to make grout look completely uniform, the capability to completely change the grout color all together and the ability to make sure our customer’s grout has been sealed with a quality sealer that will keep their investment protected for many years to come. But for new contractors doing this work on a regular basis, you’re likely to find that the color sealing job you did on Monday is nothing like the color sealing job you completed on Wednesday. We’ve all heard the good advice of not quoting a price over the phone without seeing the job. This especially holds true when charging for estimates in the color sealing industry.

There are many things to consider when determining the price of your next color sealing job. How many cleaning steps will be required? What size of tiles will you be dealing with? What is the finish of the said tiles? Everything from the most obvious obstacles all the way to the smallest details should be considered when walking into the house for the initial inspection. By having the ability to recognize any challenges before you start the project, you will not only make the job more profitable, but it will also give you an opportunity to educate your clients on their floor leaving a very knowledgeable and professional impression after you have left.

Here is a list of things to look for during your next color sealing estimate: • The size of the tiles- Smaller tiles have more grout lines. More grout lines mean more products used and more labor required. • The finish of the tiles- Dull tiles typically are more textured than shiny ones. Heavily textured tiles requires more clean-up and a lengthier buffing process • The amount of furniture- If your policy is to move furniture, this must be taken into consideration. Moving furniture properly can take up to 2 hours or more. This is time that you need to be getting paid for. • The conditions of the floor- Tile and grout that have heavy build-up can require a two step cleaning process adding significant time to your project. • The lay out of the home- Smaller areas such as bathrooms or hallways take much longer than wide open areas (especially if protecting the walls.) In other words, five 100 square foot areas will take at least twice as long as one 500 square foot area. Also, moving equipment upstairs can add challenges and time to your scope of work. • The type of customer you’re dealing with- We’ve all experienced the “trouble customer” and know how they can affect the job. Get a feel for your client during the bidding process. If you feel there could be a challenge, charge according.