Grout is a cement-like material that fills the void spaces between ceramic, glass or stone tiles to prevent debris from settling in between the tiles. It also blocks water from seeping in under the tile where it can loosen the tile adhesive or mortar. Water can soak into the substrate and cause rot, mold or mildew. Typically, do-it-yourself homeowners and tile setters mix dry, powdered forms with water in a bucket, dip a rubber tool called a float into the mixture and spread it over the unfilled lies between tiles. After ited lines dries and hardens a barrier lies between the tiles to protect the substrate and tiles.
It come in a variety of colors to match or create a contrast to the tile and room colors. Not all grout is the same. The type of grout that will best serve your needs depends on the width of the lines between the tiles, if the tiles hang on the wall or lie on the floor, if they hang or lie in a wet or dry area and the amount of traffic across the tiles.
Unsanded-grout literally means it does not contain sand, it is made of Portland cement and coloring pigments. Unsanded grout is used between tiles that are set 1/8 inch or less apart from each other. Filling narrow spaces requires a mixture that does not have small bits of sand that will not fit all the way down to the substrate. It is most often used on kitchen backsplashes, tile countertops and shower walls where tile tightly fit next to each other. If you have polished natural stone, set them closely so you can use unsanded grout, sanded grout will be abrasive on the tile surface and cause scratches.
Sanded-grout contains sand, Portland cement and polymers to add to its strength and durability. Sanded grout is used between tiles that are set greater than 1/8 inch apart. Typically, sanded is found on floors and walls where it lines are wide.
Cement-based-grout begins with Portland cement, colorings and some contain sand. Cement- grouts are available in a powdered or premixed, ready to use formulas. This type is strong, easy to work with and fills joints between tiles well. Cement-based resist water, but are not waterproof and therefore require a sealant once it is fully set.
Dry-set-grout is a Portland cement-based grout that is good for use when grouting during hot conditions. Some require wetting the tile so it does not attempt to pull the moisture from the mortar bed and cause it to crack. Many types will lose water too quickly when drying and cause it to shrink and crack. Dry-set forms sets well and does not encounter those issues.
Portland cement-grout comes as a powder and requires water to make it spreadable and usable. Most times Portland cement-grout is used on a floor where the mortar bed and tiles are thick. It is necessary to wet or soak the tiles before grout the joint lines. Most portland cement-grouts have to dry slowly to keep them from shrinking and cracking. Covering the newly laid grout with plastic and misting it with water promotes slow drying. Portland cement grout is dense and uniform making application easy.
Adding powdered or liquid latex to cement based-grouts creates a latex modified-grout. Latex modified ones have more strength than non-modified versions and allow for some movement without cracking. Latex modified grout is an excellent choice for areas that are subject to freeze thaw cycles. Even if you are adding latex, it lines still require sealing to prevent the water from seeping into it.
Epoxy-based-grout is typically used in commercial settings where impact resistance and high strength is necessary. Many car enthusiasts use an epoxy based forms on their tile garage floors and walls because it offers superior stain resistance. Epoxy-grout is the most expensive of all grouts and the most difficult to work with because of its fluidity. Epoxy based grouts cannot be used between tiles that are set less than ¼ inch apart and are not thicker than ½ inch because it may not completely penetrate through to the substrate.
Non-sag grouts are epoxy-based. Generally used on walls, non-sag grout will not “fall” or “drip” as some types of grouts may. Non-sag-grout is especially good for areas that remain wet such as pool walls, water fixtures, fountains and ponds.
Refractory-grouts are used to fill the spaces between tiles set around a fireplace or between bricks inside a brick oven. Refractory-grout is made to withstand high temperatures without cracking, flaking or shrinking.
To protect the surface between the tiles from staining, use a grout-sealer. Cementitious grouts will absorbs liquids and leave stains. Sealing grout is important in showers and on bathroom walls or floors where mold and mildew growth is most likely. Mold and mildew will create dark stains on it which are difficult to remove from an untreated surface.
Cement-based-grouts can be mixed with a specialty product rather than water to help resist mold, mildew and staining. These grout enhances are found at specialty stores and home improvement stores where grout is sold.
Laticrete, a grout manufacturer, makes a type of grout that looks metallic, which adds an element of flair to your design style or theme. As an added bit of fun, they also make a glow in the dark grout. Besides being fun glow in the dark additives provide a measure of safety when making your way around a dark area.
Use tile spacers to keep your grout lines uniform and consistent throughout the entire floor or wall. Crooked grout lines on straight edged tiles are the classic sign of an amateur project. Some tile and stone has a jagged an uneven edge that leaves crooked grout-lines, but it is important to keep the same distance between the tiles.