What is Grout?
Grout is an essential part of installing tile or stone, and it is imperative to use the right grout. The right grout can make all the difference between an installation that is beautiful and functioning well over time and one that deteriorates fast into a dangerous eye-sore.
It is used as a filler for the joints between tiles once the tile you are installing has been set. Grout helps keep dirt and debris from getting in between and under your tile. It adds hardness and strength to the tile installation. It also gives your installation a crisp finish.
Types of Grout
- Unsanded grout for ceramic tile: Used for wall tiles where the grout joint is less than 1/8” wide.
- Finely sanded grout for ceramic tile: Used for floor tiles where the joints are 1/8” to 3/8” wide.
- Quarry-type grout for ceramic tile: This is the same as finely sanded grout for ceramic tiles except that a coarser grade of sand is used. This type of tile is used for joints that are 3/8” wide to 1/2”.
- Epoxy grout for ceramic tile: Consists of an epoxy resin and hardener. This is highly resistant to stains and chemicals and has a tremendous bonding strength. Commonly used for countertops and other areas susceptible to stains.
In selecting the right grout, you can start by measuring the space between the tiles.
- Sanded grout is advisable if the space is larger than 1/8 of an inch. Unsanded grout will not fill the joint properly because it shrinks as it cures. The sand prevents the grout for ceramic tile from shrinking and cracking.
- The standard wall joint size is 1/16” wide.
- The standard grout joint size for floor tiles is 1/4″ wide (finely sanded).
- Grout joints in the floor tiles should not be smaller than 3/16”. Because floor tiles may vary slightly in size, the installer will not be able to keep a straight line if the joint is too narrow.
- Impregnating sealers go into the grout joint and protect against water and oil-based stains.
Grout for ceramic tiles come in a wide variety of pre-mixed colors. There are two schools of thought when choosing grout colors: monochromatic and dichromatic. Monochromatic is when your grout color blend with the tile so the tile stands out and the grout does not become the focal point. This is a more common choice among the two. Dichromatic on the other hand, is when your grout color contrasts with the tile. It can be either lighter or darker and usually makes the tile pattern gridwork pop up and catch the eye more than the actual tile pattern.
There is no right or wrong answer when choosing your grout color. Your local hardware would have a chart of different grout color choices you can choose from. When choosing grout color, to help you better visualize what your tile would look like when grouted, you can have two pieces of your tile with you so you can evaluate different grout samples between the tiles.
Grout is porous, so it traps dirt and is a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungus. Regularly cleaning your grout isn’t enough to prevent buildup of mold and bacteria, so sealing it is a must. Properly applying a grout sealant protects the grout. Apply grout sealant based on traffic or usage patterns. The tile floor in your living room may get a lot of traffic, but little moisture, whereas bathroom tile gets a lot of use and moisture, especially tile showers or tubs. Annually resealing these areas is advisable and also after you have deep cleaned your tile and grout. Low traffic areas need resealing every 4-5 years to remain effective.
There are various types of sealant products and each offers different benefits depending on your objective for grout maintenance. But generally, sealants fall under one of three categories:
Coatings prevents oil, water, or dirt from penetrating the grout pores. This sealant is a thin layer on the grout surface. There are two coatings available: permanent and strippable.
- Permanent coatings are difficult to remove. Because they are so difficult to remove, this type of product is not always recommended.
- Strippable coatings are easier to remove from the grout’s surface. Most of these sealants are water based, making removal easier to do.
Color sealers bonds to your grout, filling the pores, while keeping the same look and texture of your original grout. Color sealers will also allow you to change your grout from dark to light, or even light to dark.
Penetrating sealers are made to penetrate the grout surface and deposit particles that will protect the grout, preventing water and dirt from penetrating the grout. It also coats the minerals below the surface. This Category is classified in two groups Hydrophobic Repels water and water based chemicals only and Oleophobic Repels water and oil based liquids.