Thursday, April 11, 2013

Grouting - The Nitty-Gritty Details

When I specify tile and grout at work, I prefer to have the grout blend into the tile. I do not like accentuating tile using contrasting grout, especially on the floor. I think it looks cheap and like a fast food restaurant floor. Since I started professionally practicing in 2008 I have matched, as closely as possible, my grout selections to my main tile. I think it looks clean and seamless. The only time I am a proponent for contrasting grout is when it is dark gray/black grout with white subway tile. And even then I'm halfway on the fence about it some days.

So that's what we did at the house. We purchased this floor tile because of it's color, pattern, size and price. I bought it through one of my product representatives as it is not available for purchase from big box retailers or small tile shops. We installed it using appropriate mortar and 1/8" spacers.

Then I selected the grout color. In case you've never selected grout before there are two types: sanded and unsanded. You use unsanded grout in areas where you have a delicate tile (glass, etc) and sanded in most other installations. I'm not a big fan of installing the sanded grout, because it's grainy and rough during install but does really well once it's cured. Also, there are too many grout manufacturers and each of them has their own color chart of grout. It's kind of ridiculous.
Once we settled on a manufacturer and the color Delorian Gray, we started laying it on throughout the house and I couldn't have been more thrilled with how it set up.


I cannot recommend matching enough. However, if it isn't almost exactly a match, don't do it. Just like paints and fabrics can be kind of similar and be completely different, that can happen with grout. You don't want your grout to go tan and your tile to read blue, it needs to be as close as possibly, otherwise it'll look like you missed.
Matches need to match or don't even bother.
With that being said, we did not match our grout color in the kids bathroom on their walls. We used the 1" x 1" glass mosaic tile (that I love) and went with a bright white grout instead.
That was just a personal aesthetic choice as well. We did use a grout additive instead of water when doing this part of the tile job though. When you use regular latex grout whether sanded or not you have to seal it. Otherwise it is prone to stains, water absorption and mildew/mold. But when you use epoxy grout, many of those factors go away and sealing is not required. However, epoxy grout is costly and difficult to work with. So over the last few years, grout manufacturers have come up with an additive that you mix your dry grout powder with (instead of water) that allows a standard latex grout to act similar to an epoxy.
My wonderful tile rep at Crossville had been given some bottles of this additive to distribute for trial and she passed two of them along to us to use on our project. As I mentioned before our friend Tara grouted this shower and while the installation of the grout was more difficult to install than a typical grout, once she got the hang of it it went quickly. The grout did dry out extremely fast and we were constantly having to add an ounce or two of the additive, remixing it to get it back into a usable form.
We've only been using the shower for a month now so I can't report on how its handling stains and mildew yet but it seems to be holding up better than the grout in the shower at our apartment was.  
So, the moral of today's story kids is to match your grout, it will look fabulous. And use epoxy if you can, if you can't, request an additive. It should save you some cleaning elbow grease later.

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