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How to Grout and Seal Tile
We recently completed our boy’s bathroom renovation which included adding a tile floor. The tile floor almost didn’t happen because I was so afraid of the cleaning and maintenance aspect. While tile is very durable, I was coming from a pretty bad experience. You see, our last bathroom had small square tiles that dated back to the 1960’s. They were very worn, and the grout in many areas had crumbled away or was terribly stained. Having two small boys added to the challenge and nightmare of cleaning it. I was ready to go the solid sheet vinyl route when I stumbled across a fantastic deal on white marble hexagon tiles. I loved their classic look, and they would give the space so much more character. But once again it was a small tile which meant lots of grout to keep clean, and it was WHITE marble. What is harder to keep clean than white marble? I talked with our contractor, and he explained that it would just require grouting and sealing it properly to ensure easy maintenance. I did a lot of research, and he was kind enough to offer up his years of experience grouting and sealing tile.
(This post is going to outline grouting and sealing new tile, but if you have existing tile you are looking to re-grout True Value has a great tutorial here.)
You will need:
- Large bucket for grout
- 2 buckets for water
- Trowel and/or Drill Mixer
- Rubber Float
- 2 Extra Large Grout Sponges
- Cheesecloth and clean terrycloth rags
- White nylon sponge pad or a light colored Scotch-Brite Pad
- Grout sealer
- Applicator for sealer (paint pad, small brush or grout roller)
We began by applying our tile* with adhesive over new backer board.
Once it was laid out and had set for 48 hours (allow the full dry time recommended on your adhesive) we were ready to being grouting. While mortar or mastic will hold the tile to the floor, it’s the grout that really stabilizes it and keeps any moisture from seeping underneath. Grout comes in two types: sanded or non-sanded. Sanded has sand added to it and is a bit stronger. It is best for grout joints that are wider than 1/8”. Non-sanded grout is much finer. It is ideal for tighter joints less than 1/8”. In my application I used a non-sanded grout.
Grout also comes in a wide variety of colors. You can choose one that blends with the tones of your tile, or go with a high contrast option that will emphasize the design and pattern of your tile. The choice is completely personal here. I chose a soft gray that picked up the veining in my marble. I also knew a gray wasn’t going to show dirt as quickly as white would. Here is a little fact that is good to know when estimating your grout: the larger your tile, the less grout joints you will have to fill. This means you will need less grout. Smaller tiles equal more joints, so you will need more grout.
Mix your grout in a large bucket according to the instructions on the package. If you are doing a large area you will want to mix smaller batches so it doesn't dry out too quickly. Each brand varies a bit, but you can mix it with a trowel or in our case we used a drill mixer attachment which made quick work of the job. Make sure to thoroughly mix the grout until it is the consistency of toothpaste. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Check its consistency, adding more water or grout if it seems too thick or thin and give it one more mix. You are now ready to begin grouting!
You will want to work from the edges towards the center, allowing yourself a path to exit the space. Apply a generous amount of grout to the floor.
Hold the float at a 45 degree angle to the floor and begin working the grout into the joints. Move along swiping in alternating directions to ensure you are getting the grout in at every angle. Make at least 3 passes over a surface.
Now hold the float at a 90 degree angle to remove any excess. There will be some grout covering your tile, but don’t worry.
Let the grout set for about 15-20 minutes and then use a damp sponge to wipe off the excess grout, using two buckets of clean water to rinse your sponge as you go. As you wipe you will notice grout on your sponge. When your sponge appears clean you are done!
As it dries it will “haze” and look like a film over the tile surface. This is normal!
They do make Grout Haze Clean-Up products to add to the water to help reduce the film if you want to try them. Wait about 2 hours (check your package for approximate time) and remove the “haze” by gently buffing it with cheesecloth or clean terry cloth rag. For any stubborn areas use a white nylon pad or a light colored Scotch-Brite pad. Allow surface to dry completely before using or sealing it. This time may vary by brand, but in my case I waited 72 hours.
To seal your grout you can use a clean paint pad (best for smaller tiles) or a foam brush (for larger tile). Always read the instructions on your sealer and be sure to have good ventilation. It is always recommended to test in an inconspicuous areas first to make sure it is the desired result you are looking for.
Once again, work from the edges toward the center. We poured the sealer in a tray and dipped the pad into it.
We then liberally applied the sealer to the floor and let it penetrate for about 5 minutes.
Wipe off the excess sealer from your tile at this time using a clean rag.
You can add a second coat of sealer if it seemed to penetrate very quickly. I did this because I really wanted to make sure my grout was completely sealed for easier maintenance. You can do a test to see if the grout is sealed by dripping a small amount of water on the grout and seeing if it beads up.
If it beads, you are sealed and finished! Let dry 2-3 hours and enjoy your new tile.
It is recommended to reseal your tile periodically, especially if you notice your sealer has worn off or if water seems to be getting absorbed into your grout. To reseal you will want to clean the floor well and follow the above instructions.
*One more note about sealer… You can also use it to seal your tile prior to grouting. This is necessary for vey porous tile that may get stained by grout. Simply add two coats of sealer and allow to dry before you install.
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