Grout sealer is an essential part of the tile installation process. Its purpose is to maintain the integrity of the tiles and prevent moisture from getting absorbed into the grout that might accumulate beneath the tiles over time. The grout itself is mainly made of sand and is used to fill the gaps between tiles. The tiles themselves are secured in position by the mortar or cement acting as adhesive.
Grout merely supports the entire layout. Grout sealing is a necessary process especially in areas such as bathrooms and kitchens where moisture content is highest because it can absorb moisture just as well as the sand that is its chief constituent. The sealant when applied gets absorbed in the grout and over it thus acting as a water-proof protective layer.
Grout sealing is a mandatory process whether it’s for tiles, ceramic, clay tiles or natural stone. It is advisable to apply a sealant after a year or two for maintenance sake. Whether one hires a professional to do it or wants to do it themselves, it is essential either way to know how to apply the best grout sealer.
1. Stock Up on Some Necessary Supplies
Before getting right to the job, make sure you have required and protective gear needed. Same essential utilities might be:
- Disposable gloves
- Lint-free rag/cheesecloth rag
- Sponge brush/Paint pad/Roller brush (as preferred)
- Sealant of choice
It is important to protect your hands and clothing from the sealant as a precaution.
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2. Choosing the Grout Sealant
There are two types of grout sealant in the market that one needs to choose from based on the kinds of tiles and location.
Membrane Forming Sealers:
Most suitable for unglazed tile as it does not adhere to the glaze. This sealant is best suited for floor tiles in areas that have potentially least moisture content. The sealant forms a nonporous layer that resists moisture absorption in the grout.
This is however not great for long term use, especially for bathroom tiles because of its inability to let trapped water evaporate. This can lead to mildew and discoloration of grout.
Penetrating Grout Sealers:
These use a water-based solvent that allows them to absorb or penetrate the grout quickly. When it sets, the silicone or latex composition fills out the porous nature of grout and forms a moisture resistant layer. It is most commonly used and ideal for tiles in bathrooms, showers, and kitchens.
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3. Beforehand Preparation
It is advised to tape off any baseboards, sideboards and other surfaces that need to be protected from the sealant otherwise. Another caution is that if a tile is not glazed, the sealant can absorb into the surface and possibly change tile color and finish.
In case of installation of new tiles, it is advised to wait at least 48 to 72 hours for the grout to set. This is to make sure it is absolutely dry and cured. The area ought to air dry. In case the dried grout looks uneven or cracked, apply new grout to fix it and wait for 48 to 72 additional hours. Once it dries, the grout is ready to be sealed.
In case of maintenance or renewing the grout sealant, it is required to keep the tiles and the grout bone dry. If grout lines appear cracked or damaged, new grout can be applied. The period for waiting for it to dry is the same as above. One can clean up excess debris and wipe excess grout escaping lines with a damp not wet rag.
4. Application Technique
There are three techniques on how to apply grout sealer. Depending on one’s ability, time and supplies, these all are about one’s preference.
Paint it: One can simply paint the sealer onto the grout line with a brush. It is; however, time taking. The sealant can often be thick and hard to handle. Accuracy is the key to this kind of application. It requires extensive labor, attention to details and reapplication on missed spots.
Roll it: Sounds fun and easy. This technique seems easier than brushes. The sealer application is more effectively within lines of the grout. There’s less chance of sloppiness or creating a mess.
Spray it: It sounds time saving but whatever time one saves during the application, might need to put in on cleaning up.
Inaccuracy is the biggest let down here. Sealer tends to get all over the tiles and takes quite the effort to get off. It also isn’t advisable if one has breathing problems, asthma or allergies.
5. When Applying
Always start from the farther inward corner of the room and work your way out. Starting from a fixed point allows one to keep track of the area covered. It is best to follow a consistent pattern while doing so. While application, whichever technique is used, emphasize on grout joints. Aim for a smooth, thick coat in a single application.
Use your damp rag to wipe off excess sealant off the tiles while it’s wet. Do not leave to clean it up at the end because it’ll dry and become harder to clean. In case it does dry out, use a cheesecloth rag in a rigorous buffing movement to remove it.
Once done, allow it to dry for an hour or two. This can be followed by a second coat if desired. Allow a total of 24 to 72 hours for the sealer to cure completely.
To check application take a few drops of water in the palm and drop it on the tiles. The water should bead and not absorb. If it does the latter, apply another coat.
It is required to seal your tiles annually or at least every other year. Despite some great sealants out there, the daily detergents and tile cleaners can wear out sealants much faster than we anticipate.
Sealants also protect tiles from bacterial and fungal outgrowths and staining. Investing in a suitable sealant means fewer payments for remodelling work in the future.