Home Improvement

Ask the Remodeler: Removing stains from limestone tiles

Plus, how to ensure you install the optimal heat pump system.

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The city offers four loan programs: the HomeWorks Home Equity Loan Program (HomeWorksHELP), Senior Home Repair, LeadSafe Boston, and Seniors Save. Adobe Stock

Q. Ask the Remodeler, what would you recommend for cleaning ceramic tile or limestone? I need to remove stains created from the oil of bare feet standing in one location.


A. Based on the problem, I am going to guess you have limestone. Ceramic tiles wouldn’t absorb oils; limestone ones most definitely will. You need to make or buy a poultice. Homemade ones typically work well using a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Make a paste, apply that over the stains, and cover the areas with a cloth overnight. The poultice works to draw the stains out of the stone. There are other recipes and products you can find online. We have used them on porous stones in the past, and they work well.


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Q. Saw your article on heat pumps in the Nov. 27 Globe (“Ask the Remodeler: Heat Pumps vs electric oil burners”). Three years ago I replaced my boiler with a Buderus and saw great results efficiency-wise. Now I need to replace my 3.5-ton whole-house air conditioner. The Mass Save representative is telling me to install a heat pump, which can be utilized for AC. Is there a rating system similar to a Consumer Reports breakdown for heat pumps?


A. My first piece of advice is to keep the existing heating system and add the heat pumps for cooling and as a supplemental heat source. There is not a rating agency per se, but there are standards you want to look for in a system. For the heating end of things, check out the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF, ratings. In order to get an Energy Star rating, it typically needs to be 7.5 or higher. Regarding cooling efficiency, you want to look at the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, number, which should be at least 12 to get an Energy Star rating. Many systems sold these days have ratings that are higher than those Department of Energy standards.

Q. I’m a homeowner who has a Franke kitchen sink that was quite expensive when it was purchased, and I’m dealing with scratches from pots, pans, and utensils. I tried multiple products to reduce some of the scratches. They’re not deep scratches, just many hairline ones. The sidewalls are as shiny as they were when we bought the sink 10 years ago. How do we polish the sink without damaging it?



A. There are some very good products on the market, ones that use a multistep process that goes from more abrasive to mildly abrasive to polishing. We have Scratch Pro, and it works well. It takes a long time and a fair amount of elbow grease, but with patience you can get a pretty good polish. I would highly recommend adding a stainless steel grate that sits at the bottom of the sink on little rubber legs. Some of our clients don’t like the look of those, but they are highly effective.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing.


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