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It’s Not Just About The Tile But What Is Between It

Grouts are available in many colors. While color is important to the final finished look of the tile installation, it has little effect on the functionality of the grout. When grout does its job — locking tiles tight, keeping out water, and giving floors and walls a finished look — nobody pays much attention. It’s only when grout fails, becoming stained, cracked, or falling out altogether, that people take notice.

But grout deserves more respect. “Not only does grout fill the voids, it makes the floor, wall, or countertop stronger by bonding the tiles together and preventing the edges of a tile from chipping and cracking,” says David Goodman tile contractor for This Old House. There are basically two different types of grout you can buy, cement based or epoxy based. Let’s look at both.

Cement Based Grout is basically colored cement and is available in sanded or non sanded depending on the width of your grout joint. If you grout joint is smaller that 1/8″, non sanded grout is generally recommended. If you grout joint is larger that 1/8″, sanded grout is generally recommended. Most tile installations use cement based grout. This type of grout is porous and should be sealed after installation to prevent to color from staining. Cement based grout should be sealed with a penetrating / impregnating sealer (often called grout sealers) which does not contain silicone, as silicone can shorten the useful life of the sealer.

Epoxy Based Grouts are chemically cured and are acid and stain resistant. Epoxy based grouts are becoming more popular because they do not require a sealer and are virtually maintenance free. There are some settings — notably those exposed to acids and greases — in which even an additive-enhanced, sealed grout falls short. Such harsh conditions call for epoxy grout. Made up of two parts, resin and hardener, epoxy grout comes in both sanded and unsanded varieties and is impervious to most chemicals and stains. The new generation of epoxies contain detergents in the hardeners, which make for quick cleanup with water and improve workability. Because epoxy can discolor porous surfaces, such as unglazed quarry tiles or limestone, these should be sealed before grouting. But its stain resistance, hardness, and durability make epoxy grout the best choice for applications such as kitchen counters, backsplashes, floors, and other heavy-traffic areas.

But what color? When it comes to grout color, there are three approaches: contrasting (say, white grout with black tile), harmonizing (green grout with green tile), or neutral (a shade of gray or white). While it can be tempting to go with an eye-popping combination, David Goodman tries to steer his clients toward the neutral option. “You may not be madly in love with gray,” he says, “but chances are you won’t hate it, either.”

If you do choose a bold color, grout up a sample section of tile on plywood and live with it for a few days. “I tell people to look at the color in lots of different lights — natural, incandescent, fluorescent,” Goodman says. If you make a mistake, unsealed cementitious grout can be stained or painted after it cures (sealed or epoxy grouts will have to be removed). “However, it’s a pretty tedious procedure,” Goodman says, “so why not make the right choice the first time?”

So while grout color is important, choosing the grout that will work best in a specific area of your home or busines, cement or epoxy will factor heavily into the decision.

For more information on choosing the grout that will work best for your needs,

stop by our showroom and speak with one of our sales associates.

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