The Guide To Grouting
When it comes to home renovations, grout is an essential part of tile installation, however, it is often overshadowed by other elements such as tile colours, interior finishes, and furniture. Choosing the right grout can make all the difference between an installation that can withstand the tests of time, and one that discolours or damages rapidly. Furthermore, grouting plays an important role in the stability, waterproofing, as well as aesthetics of your home or building.
So what is grout? Grout is a filler for the joints between tiles once the tile installation is set. Most grouts offered by grouting services in Singapore are a powdered mix of cement, lime, colour pigment, and sometimes, cement hardener.
Grout in Singapore homes is found between the tiles in kitchens, bathrooms, as well as other common areas. Grout is also often found in the lobbies and walkways of commercial properties.
Under normal circumstances, no one pays attention to grouting, and only takes notice when it becomes stained and cracked.
There are valuable benefits to quality grout, and here are our top five:
It gives your floor or walls a clean and finished appearance.
It prevents dirt and debris from getting in between or under your tiles.
It provides added rigidity and strength to tile installations.
Has great tensile strength to provide space between each tile for natural expansion and contraction under environmental circumstances, like the rise in temperature.
Last but not least, it increases the longevity of your floor and wall tiles.
Part I: Understanding The Different Materials Used For Grouting
It is important to select the right type of grout for your floor or wall application. You can always start by measuring the space between your tiles, for instance, if your space is larger than ⅛ of an inch, you can opt for sanded grout. Choosing unsanded grout for a larger space may result in it shrinking, and thus be unable to fill the joint properly.
As such, unsanded grout is ideal for widths that are smaller than ⅛ of an inch. When selected and applied properly, not only will your grout last longer, your tiles will too. Here are some of the different types of materials used by grout contractors in Singapore.
Cement grout, otherwise commonly known as seams filling agent, or groove seams agent, uses white sand as the main material. It is often combined with tiny inorganic pigments, polymers, as well as other dry power materials to form a mixture. There are two types of cement grout: sanded and unsanded.
As mentioned earlier, sanded grout is often used for joints greater than ⅛ inch, as it resists cracks that occur as a result of shrinkage. Essentially, it allows your tile and grout to look better and last longer as compared to unsanded grout in bigger joints. Furthermore, sanded grout has a coarser texture, thus making it harder to clean and force into smaller grout lines. Sanded grout also comes in a wider range of colours. However, due to its coarseness, sanded grout tends to cause scratches on polished and honed stones.Hence, many reliable grout contractors in Singapore do not recommend sanded grout if your tiles are prone to scratching.
Unsanded grout, on the other hand, is commonly used for joints that are less than ⅛ inch, since it will slump, crack, or not fill properly in bigger widths. Unlike sanded grout, unsanded grout has a smooth texture and is not prone to scratching your tiles. Thus, if you have highly-polished stone tiles like marble, it is ideal to choose unsanded grout. Vertical tiles such as those in the bathroom and kitchen walls are also well-suited for unsanded grout since it is easier to clean, especially in wet areas.
Cement grout is thinner and porous, allowing it to flow through the joints between tiles. However, this creates almost undetectable openings throughout the grout mixture after it dries. These pores then allow dirt as well as other outside elements to be embedded in the grout, resulting in the formation of stains, mildew, as well as mould. In addition, due to its adhesive properties, cement grout also allows stains to stick on more easily to the grout lines, making them more susceptible to discolouration when exposed to any staining materials. Cement-based grout is also not waterproof. This means that tiles, like the ones in your bathroom, are more prone to damage if cement grout is used. As such, cement grouts require grout sealers to waterproof it. .
Epoxy grout is unique and one of the most popular materials for tiling. It does not use cement or water in the mixing process. Instead, hardeners, epoxy resin, pigments, as well as silica fillers are often used. As this material is less porous as compared to cement grout, making it ideal for tiles that are in greasy areas like the kitchen. One of the most important components in epoxy grout is the hardener. It helps repair cavities and hairline cracks in concrete structures, as well as speed up the hardening process of the grout. The hardener is also commonly used in the tiles of swimming pools to protect against the high water pressure.
Similar to cement, epoxy grout also comes in two types - 100% solid epoxy and single component epoxy. 100% solid epoxy grout is a two-component system that consists of a resin and hardener. This type of epoxy grout offers maximum resistance to staining and chemical attacks from food, beverages, chemicals, as well as cleaning agents.
Single component epoxy, also known as an edge sealant, is made of waterborne epoxy resin and pigment. Often, these products are available in liquid, paste, and solid forms. Most of the time, single component epoxy compositions are used by grout contractors to accelerate productivity and eliminate wastes, all while alleviating concerns with regard to mix ratios. When compared to acrylic grout, the raw materials used, hardness, as well as the colour of epoxy grout are in a lower range. Due to its lower tensile strength, single component epoxy is also prone to cracks. Despite this, it is considered better quality than traditional cement grouting, thus it’s commonly used for high traffic and impact areas like your balcony or bathroom floor. Furthermore, it provides a second layer of protection against moisture under the tile, making it ideal for splashback tiling.
Epoxy grout is challenging to apply and requires highly-skilled workmanship as compared to regular cement grout for tiling. So, it is advisable to seek the help of professional grout contractors should you opt for epoxy grout for your home or office space.
1.3 Acrylic-Epoxy grout (AEG)
Acrylic grout is considered of better quality than epoxy to give a smooth, sanded, or gloss surface. There are two types of acrylic grouting offered by grouting services in Singapore: two-component high-tech polymer epoxy and two-component Polyaspartic joint grout.
1. Two-component high-tech polymer epoxy
Two-component high-tech polymer epoxy is a mixture of oil- and water-based tile grout, with high-grade pigments and additives. Due to the components used, it is an upgraded material from single component epoxy and solves the defects of single-component sealants like cracking or becoming brittle.
Aside from that, this material is also:
High tensile strength
Resistant to wear and tear
To top it off, this material comes in a wide range of colours that are of good quality making it suitable for different kinds of tiles. It is also particularly useful for disguising irregularities in handmade tiles, and even bridging joint thickness in patterned installations.
Essentially, two-component epoxy grout is best for homes, and has water as well as mildew-proof properties. Furthermore, the wide range of colours available for two-component epoxy make it easy for you to match it to your tile colour for an overall aesthetic look.
The main disadvantage of this material is that it should not be used with pebble tiles, nor should it be left submerged in water during application.
2. Two-component polyaspartic joint grout
As its name suggests, this joint grout is formulated with two main components - high-tech polyaspartic and isocyanate hardener. High-grade pigments and additives are then added to the mixture. and high UV resistance, making it less prone to discolouration or yellowing in outdoor areas. This coating has a clear and glossy finish, and non-yellowing properties, making it less prone to discolouration.
Tips To Select The Best Grout Type For Your Home
Here are some common factors you will need to consider:
Lifespan of the grout selected
Area of grouting - Is it a high traffic area, or one that has high water or UV exposure?
Benefits of the type of grouting
Range of colours available for the selection
The desired surface finishing for your grout - Are you looking for a smooth, glossy, matte, or rough finishing?
Maintenance required - How frequently do you need to perform cleaning?
Tips To Select The Best Grout Colour For Your Tiles
Choosing new tiles for your kitchen, toilet, or other spaces may be an exciting experience. It is easy for many to become distracted by tile samples and their variety of colours as well as patterns that can give life to your home. As such, the decision of grout colour is often overlooked or downplayed.
Grout colours help to further enhance the appearance and design of your tiles and even create different effects or textures to the overall look of the space. Here we share some tips to help you choose the right grout colour for the design scheme of your tiles:
1. White or light-coloured tiles are best paired with a matching or almost-white grout. This causes the lines between tiles to seemingly disappear, resulting in a surface that blends together and allows the room to feel light and open. This look is ideal especially if you want to create an illusion of a bigger space. However, stains may be easily observed since the overall tiles and grout are white, thus you need to take extra care when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.
2. If you want to go for contrast, you can pair your tiles with cool or warm undertones of grout. This is usually preferred if you have a tile that is unique in shape or design, as the negative space created from the colour contrast of the grout is able to complement and bring out the positives of your tile. It is advisable to look at your tile colour and your overall room design to study the undertones before deciding on a grout colour that will match. Or, you can simply reach out to reliable grout contractors at Grout Pro Tech to give you professional advice.
3. Aside from the tiles, you also need to consider other surfaces in the space, for instance, if you have any existing design elements that dominate a space (e.g. a large countertop), you need to find a grout colour that matches both the element and tile colour to create a seamless look. Or if there are two different tiles in your space, you need to choose a grout colour that works well with both. Multi-coloured tiles tend to go well with grout colours that are the same as one of the shades in the tile.
It is always best to seek the help of grout contractors in Singapore when it comes to grouting, however, you can also do it on your own. Read on for a brief guide to grouting tiles.
Step 1: Choose your grout - cement, epoxy, or acrylic.
Step 2: Select the right tools like a margin trowel, grout sponge, grout float, tape, and tarp to mix grout on.
Step 3: Mix your grout. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the bag or box carefully. Do not add too much water as it may affect the consistency and strength of the grout. The most important thing is to ensure that you mix it thoroughly so that the colour stays true throughout the entire grout.
Step 4: Before starting on your tiles, it is best to do a trial run, and start on a small area to see what it would look like.
Step 5: Apply grout in small sections, and be sure to hold your grout float at a 45-degree angle and make sweeping arcs to work into all of the tile joints.
Step 6: Clean tiles thoroughly with a cloth or towel once the grout hardens to rub off grout haze.
Even though it is not difficult to do grouting, it is easy to make mistakes and end up with poor results. A tip to successful grouting is to always keep in mind that grout has a limited working time and thus dries up very quickly. Hence, if you grout an area that is too large, it may become difficult to work with or remove.
But there’s more to tile grouts than just grouting. There are other processes such as grout sealing and the application of marble gum to ensure durability and improve the appearance of the floor or wall.
Applying a top layer of grout with a sealer or filler prevents it from absorbing liquid, and thus waterproofing it. Waterproofing is especially ideal for cement grouts, however, it tends to wear and peel off after a few months. Sealing your grout helps to prolong the look, texture, as well as consistency of your grout, all while preventing mildew and mould. Generally, there are three ways grout sealer can be applied: brushing, roll-on, or spray-on.
It is recommended to wait for approximately 48 to 72 hours for the grout to dry and cure. You also need to ensure that the grout lines are not cracked or chipped before sealing. If your tiles are non-glazed, or natural stone, then it is best to not apply grout sealer to the surface as it may ruin your tiles.
Marble gum grouting, also known as marble gumming, is a polishing process to enhance the gloss effect of unglazed homogenous tiles. The effect? An amazing marble-like lustre finish. Marble gum grout has become popular in Singapore due to its effectiveness in cleaning dull, old flooring and reinstating shine. Marble gum grouting requires regular maintenance every 3-5 years to allow the glue/wax to maintain its shine. For this process, most grout contractors in Singapore will regrout your tiles with cement or epoxy grout before polishing them with marble gum.
Part II: Grout Replacement And When You Should Do It
2.1 Common Grout Problems
Clean tiled surfaces play an interesting role in maintaining a safe and healthy home or even an office space. Spaces that are exposed to moisture and grease like bathrooms and kitchen, in particular, tend to be perfect breeding grounds for fungus, mould, as well as other tile-related problems. These bacteria and fungus in turn increase your chances of falling ill.
Regrouting is a cost-effective method to increase the longevity of your tiles, and can be done as long as your tiles are in good condition (e.g. unchipped nor cracked). When properly maintained, quality grout only needs to be regrouted once every eight years. However, these are just estimated timelines and it is best to get your tiles regrouted as soon as you notice these signs:
Loose and uneven tiles
Loose tiles often indicate that your grout is no longer effective in holding onto the tiles. The tiles do not usually become loose overnight hence you may not notice till it chips or cracks. While a chipped tile may not seem much, it can affect tiles surrounding it. Thus, you should get your grout sealed, or call for a regrout as soon as you notice loose tiles.
The toilet provides the ideal environment for mould to grow since it is often wet and humid with poor ventilation. It is impossible to get rid of mould growth in porous grout joints, and using chemicals will cause further damage to your grout. Always check your grout for small holes, or cracks in the shower corners as these can lead to water build-up and mould ingress. In this instance, you should call a plumber to identify the cause of mould, before removing it and regrouting your tiles.
Furthermore, cement grout tends to have microscopic air bubbles present in them, and these air bubbles store water whenever your grout gets wet. These small and wet holes in the grout, combined with humid conditions, provide a good breeding ground for bacteria. This is known as a bacteria reservoir.
Stained or dirty grout
Stained or dirty grout is often caused by the cleaning processes. This can be attributed to the grout joints sitting lower than the tiles. When you’re scrubbing or mopping your tiles, you may unintentionally push dirt and other contaminants into these joints. Hence, you should always engage in the services of a professional grout cleaner or contractor in Singapore to keep them looking as good as new.
Cracking is one of the most common causes of damaged grout. This can be a result of poor grout mix, or even improper tile installation. Grout crack can also be caused by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature changes, or if insufficient adhesive is used to install the tiles. Hence, in the event that a tile pulls away from the wall after the adhesive dries, the stress on the grout to hold it in place can increase its chances of cracking.
You may notice white residue or stains on tiles, and this is often a result of water penetrating beneath the tiles, and the minerals in the water crystallising. This process is known as efflorescence. Efflorescence usually happens in porous tiles, and this issue can be solved by a grout contractor. However, it is important to hire companies that offer grouting services so that they can help you to salvage the situation, and prevent the worsening of efflorescence.
You should also regrout your tiles even if you do not notice any discolouration or mould growing in your grout. This is to strengthen your grout and prevent serious problems from occurring.
2.2 Tips To Clean And Maintain Grout
Cement grout without proper cleaning and maintenance can become stained, mildewed, and even cracked. Over time, these factors result in a cracked grout, allowing water to seep in, causing major damage and bacteria reservoirs, as well as mould growth. Unlike the other surfaces of your home or office space, special techniques that are dependent on the material of your grout should be used to keep your ground in good condition. As grout is easily damaged, you need to ensure that your cleaning technique does not wear away your grout or surround tiles.
Avoid using bleach or harsh grout cleaners when cleaning cement grout as it may result in erosion. Instead, you can mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and scrub your grout with a brush or old toothbrush. The small size and soft bristles of the toothbrush make it easier to remove the dirt in the grout. It is best to apply the mixture to the grout for approximately 15 minutes, before scrubbing and rinsing with hot water. The hot water helps remove any baking soda and hydrogen peroxide residue whilst loosening the remaining dirt. Be sure to wipe off the entire surface using a clean cloth or rag.
Epoxy or Acrylic-Epoxy grout
The cleaning process is different for epoxy and acrylic grout. As most of them are high-performance and stain-resistant, they do not require a lot of maintenance or extra care in cleaning. However, you should always take note of the various materials, like bleach,acidity, and PH, in the grout cleaner and check with a grout contractor if you are unsure of its suitability on your grout at home.
There are many levels of tile damage and decay, from hairline cracks to chips and bare spots. Minor issues may not warrant an entire tile replacement job, and simple DIY grouting or cleaning may suffice as short-term solutions. However, it is recommended to get a grout replacement with a local trusted specialist to prolong the lifespan of your tiles.
There’s a grout type for your tiles and lifestyle habits. Rely on the grout specialists at Grout Pro Tech to help you with all your grouting solutions. Reach out to us today and let us know how we can make your grout great again!