Frederick M. Hueston, PhD  

Stone Care Consultant 

I was on the road again headed to look at a floor that a local restoration contractor had called me on, and there was that old song playing on the radio by Don Ho.         

I think the song was called “Tiny Bubbles.” I found myself singing along like an idiot. Little did I know that the problem I was about to see would fit this song perfectly.

I arrived at the house where the contractor was working. His truck was parked out front in the circular drive and he was sitting next to it on a five gallon bucket with his head in his hands. 

He looked really depressed. It kind of reminded me of my younger years when I was in the same position in the middle of the night, exhausted, sitting on bucket wondering why I entered this business. So, you see, I really felt for this guy. 

He was kind of a big fellow, wearing a neatly pressed uniform. The uniform impressed me and told me that he must be professional. Really ticks me off when I see contractors dressed like they live on the street. 

I pulled the ole Woody in the drive and he immediately came running toward me. He was huffing and puffing by the time he reached me. “I’m so glad you’re here and I sure hope you can help me solve this problem,” he said, looking worried and exhausted. I told him I would certainly take a look and see what I could do. I got out of my car and said, “Let’s go take a look.”  

He grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Wait, before we go in there, let me tell you what happen.” He told me that the floor was a marble tile and that it had severe lippage. 

He said he ground it flat with some 60 grit metal bond diamonds. “It went pretty good until I reached the 400 grit, and then I noticed that the floor was bubbling with these little tiny bubbles from the surface of the marble.”  

Now, at this point I almost started laughing because Don Ho’s song was playing in my mind. But I didn’t think it was a good idea to let him in on my little joke.  I just looked at him and said, “Tiny bubbles?” 

“Yes,” he said, “it was like the floor was one giant Alka-Seltzer. The more I tried honing, the more bubbles appeared.” 

Well, I just had to see this, so I told him let’s go and take a look. He grabbed me by the shoulder again and said, “Wait. I have to tell you something else.” 

This was getting really interesting since I don’t think I have ever seen a marble floor bubble. Tiny bubbles in the wine, make me happy, and make me feel fine. Sorry, just can’t get that song off my mind. 

He started to tell me that this customer is a real witch (except he replaced the “w” with the second letter of the alphabet). “She is constantly asking questions and just stands over my shoulder the entire time. When she saw the bubbles, she kept asking me what was happening. I finally had to stop and tell her I was taking a break. That’s when I called you.”  

“OK, let’s go take a look, then,” I said. I followed the contractor into the home and there was Mrs. Witch standing there waiting for us. I introduced myself, told her who I was and most importantly, I told her that she was in good hands with this contractor. She seemed relieved.  

We walked into the kitchen where he had last been working and my jaw dropped when I looked down at the floor. There was still a little water on the floor and in several places I saw tiny bubbles popping right on the surface of the stone.   

I asked the contractor to vac up a section so I could get a closer look. He turned on the wet vac and vacuumed up a 4 foot square area. 

“Oh my,” I said.  

The contractor looked at me as if he had just seen a ghost. I was half tempted to tell him that I see dead people but this guy didn’t look like he could take a joke at this point.  

The first thing I noticed is that this tile wasn’t marble at all but was what is called an agglomerate. Now, for those of you who don’t know what an agglomerate is, it’s basically a man-made tile consisting of marble chips and polyester resin. 

I looked up at the contractor and explained to him what he was dealing with. He just looked at me and said how that explained the bubbling. 

I looked really close at the tile surface and noticed tiny pin holes where the bubbles were coming from. I told him that sometimes during the manufacturing process, air bubbles get trapped in the polyester resin. When he ground the floor, it opened up these voids and the bubbles were air escaping out of the holes. 

“OMG,” he said. “What can I do? Those holes are too small to fill.” 

I told him that there are penetrating glues available that will fill these holes, but it’s going to be a tedious process and the floor will have to be completely dry. 

He said thanks. I said good-bye and left the poor fellow to deal with the witch. Another case solved. I did find out weeks later that he managed to finish the floor. The customer was happy but he took a huge loss–which sometimes happen if you want to keep your reputation intact.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send any email comments to him at