When you are planning to lay tile, you may spend hours deliberating over the many choices of tile, but don’t forget the grout. It is what keeps the tiles bound together and stops them from moving and cracking. It is integral to the overall look of the finished tiled surface and needs to be color compatible and long lasting. You need to consider three main elements:
- The size of the grout joints
- Where the tiles will be laid – which determines how stain resistant the grout should be
- How easy is the grout to apply – important if you intend to lay the tile yourself
On the subject of grout joint size, if the spaces between the tiles are up to an eighth of an
inch wide, use unsanded grout. Any bigger and you should be using sanded grout which, unsurprisingly, contains sand and helps reduce any shrinkage or cracking of the grout in these bigger joints. Please note: do not use sanded grout for marble and granite tiles, because the sand contained in the grout mix will scratch the marble and granite over time.
Cement Based Tile Grouting
This grouting comes as a dry powder of Portland cement, colorant plus additives and must be mixed with water. It’s cheap and easy to apply. However, it needs to be sealed to ensure resistance to stains. The sealant is also easy to apply but must be reapplied annually to prolong the life and good looks of the grout.
Epoxy Tile Grouting
Epoxy grouts include a resin of epoxy and a hardener. This type of grout is extremely durable and highly resistant to chemicals such as acids, and greasy foodstuffs that might get dropped on the floor. Epoxy grouts require no sealant. While this all sounds wonderful, it is a tricky substance to work with and isn’t a project to undertake lightly. Unless you are completely confident in your DIY skills, it may be time to call in the experts.
Saying that, epoxy grout is far easier to work with than in the past, when it was not only difficult to apply but hardened quickly, within the hour. Today’s manufacturers of epoxy grouts have sensibly added detergent which makes things easier as the grout can be cleaned up with water. However, there are some other limitations for this type of grout: it is expensive and can only be applied to certain tiles: those with a thickness of more than half an inch and where the grout joints are at least a quarter of an inch wide.
Fundamentally, epoxy tile grouting is ideally suited to rooms which are likely to suffer chemical or foodstuff spills such as in industrial or commercial settings and is normally applied by professionals.
Acrylic Tile Grouting
The advantages of acrylic grouting lie in the fact that it contains silicone and is pre-mixed with Portland cement. This grout is strongly adhesive and is ideal for outdoor settings because it is undamaged by wide ranges in temperature – it can freeze and thaw without problem. So consider this type of grout if you wish to tile a patio or garage.
Another great advantage over epoxy grout is that acrylic grout is easy to work with: it can squeeze into much smaller grout joints, less than an eighth of an inch, can be applied just to the joints.
Acrylic tile grout is resistant to staining and is available in a variety of colors. It is the best option for marble and granite tile, as sanded grout will undoubtedly scratch these natural stones.
Premixed Urethane Tile Grouting
A relatively new addition to the DIY enthusiast’s options, urethane grout is great because of its long working time, the fact that it is water based allowing for easy cleaning of tools and because it needs no sealing. It can also be used on very narrow grout joints. However, care needs to be taken to wipe down the tiles completely before the grout dries or you may have a problem removing the grout residue.
When you have decided on the right grout for the job, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, put on your protective clothing and get grouting. As always, don’t forget to buy a grout cleaner and grout sealer to keep your tile and grout looking great for many years to come.