Removing Cement from Stone

marthavilaAugust 18, 2005

I used to be owner of a 100 year old limestone house with lovely bluestone steps. Now, I am the owner of a 100 year old limestone house with bluestone steps covered in cement! In repairing cracks in the limestone walls that encase my steps, the contractor applied cement so sloppily that it got all over the bluestone steps. He attempted to remove it with water, but to no avail. I've now got a hugely disfigured, cement-ridden bluestone staircase leading up to my front door. Can anyone suggest a way out of this mess that is short of totally rebuilding my stone stairs? Is there any cleaning process that will effectively remove cement from bluestone without destroying the stone itself? Is it possible just to reface the risers and treads with bluestone? Help!

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kudzu9

I'm sorry to tell you this, but, from what you've described, it doesn't sound like there is an easy remedy. Is it correct that there's a thin layer or haze over a lot of the bluestone? While it's true that some acids can dissolve concrete, this would be very dangerous for you to try yourself, and the acid might also dissolve or etch the bluestone. The only thing I can think of is to use a mechnical abrasive grinder if the concrete mess is thin enough. You would probably have to use it over the whole surface so that the bluestone looks uniform when you're done, and it will alter the appearance: it might look a little "new" until it got walked on for quite a while.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 2:13PM
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marthavila

I was afraid you would say that. Yes, there is a thin layer of cement over a lot of the bluestone. There are also distinct "drippings and droppings" all over. Worst of all, in patching the joints between the wall and the steps, the contractor liberally applied cement far beyond the joint seams. That means I now have sloshed sections of concrete on each tread, at both ends, that are 3"-4" in width. PLUS, he applied bands of cement, from 1" - 2" in width, to the bottom of each riser as well. A total mess!

I'm prepared to call in a preservation expert, and to spend the money to undo this madness, IF that is even possible! That's why I'm writing to this forum. I'm trying to figure out if I even have recourse to this situation or whether the guy has just totally destroyed my stoop. From your response, it seems you are suggesting that my steps are gone. In that case, is it possible to "reface" the risers and treads with bluestone?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 3:25PM
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kudzu9

martha-
I'm by no means an expert in this field...just someone who has a lot of experience with home remodeling and making and undoing mistakes. I suggest you make a number of local calls to masons and preservationists to get a consensus -- and have at least one person come take a look at this -- about whether it's salvageable. However, from what you just described, it sounds even worse than I first imagined. Even if it can be restored, it might not look "right" and could be a whole lot more time and money than simply doing a refacing with thin bluestone (so as not to change the heights much). The refacing is certainly possible...you've just seen how well mortar sticks to bluestone!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 4:30AM
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marthavila

Hi Kudzu9,

Thanks so much for talking about this with me! I have calls out already to 4 "master" masons to come and check out this new job of mine. No matter what happens, this is a prime example of how one must really not allow cost to become the driving factor in choosing a contractor in the first place. This is not to day that you should, or can, toss cost concerns out the window altogether. But now I will end up spending quite a deal more on this one aspect of my reno than I had initially imagined. And, all just to reverse what is essentially a cosmetic mistake . . . on a historic house. You live and you learn! Maybe I'll post back here on what the masons suggest.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 7:28AM
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kudzu9

Good luck. I'd be interested to hear how this turns out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 2:20AM
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marthavila

Here's a good news report! Turns out that some muriatic acid, along with a little bit of elbow grease and a hand scraper, pretty much did the trick! However, an aesthetically offensive excess of yellowy patch cement remains at the joints. In order to correct this, the rescue mason I hired proposes to experiment with various tints and stains in white cement (and NOT portland cement as used by the first contractor) to come up with a patch color that more closely matches the bluestone. My front steps are definitely looking up!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 10:40AM
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foxjohnsix

A worker smeared mortar/cement on my outdoor faucet and now I can not screw a hose onto it. Any suggestions on how to get this stuff out of the fine threads without damaging the faucet threads. I was thinking of using muriatic acid.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 1:04PM
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marthavila

Gee, foxjohnsix, I am shocked to see that this thread is still alive! Frankly, I don't have an answer for you. But my gut instinct is to tell you to forget about the muriatic acid and just replace the faucet head. In my case, the muriatic removed some of the cement, but not all. Worse, since the acid was applied, the blue stone has started wrinkling/creasing somewhat. I'm not quite sure how to describe it. But the steps are no longer nice, smooth layers of bluestone. As such, I consider them now doubly damaged (aesthetically). IMHO, muriatic acid is seriously strong stuff that should only be used in certain applications. I don't think removing cement from the fine threads of a faucet qualifies. Just my 2 cents.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 9:18PM
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janice_l_gmail_com

We are having the same problem! It is hard to believe someone who does this often (pictures looked great) could make a mistake like this. I am glad you posted, I will avoid muratic acid. I hope you find a solution. What about sandblasting, wire brush on a drill, or another mechanical removal method?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 7:20AM
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marthavila

Wow, Janice, it's been six years since I first posted about this! But, unfortunately, all I can tell you is that I never found a solution. The first contractor really did one heck of a nasty job to my bluestone steps when he applied that cement. Then, in trying to remove the harm done by that first contractor, the second contractor introduced a new kind of damage to the situation. A third contractor who specializes in preservation looked at the steps and concluded that there really was no adequate "fix" to be applied. OTOH, he noted that the cost of completely rebuilding those steps with new bluestone would likely be prohibitive. He was right. After that last opinion, I left it that, dried my tears, and went on to deal with a myriad number of other old house issues. Through the years, I've come to live with my worn and scarred steps and, most times, don't notice their disfigurement. Meanwhile,I love to imagine that (A) I will win the lottery some day and effectively remedy this situation or (B), at some point in the ownership history of this house, a true preservationist with very deep pockets will come along, make the purchase and one day restore the steps to their original beauty. Well, one can hope, right? :-)

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 9:37AM
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