There are a lot of steps when taking on a new tiling project. From choosing the perfect design, color, and pattern to making sure the material is compatible with the space you’re tiling and will be able to outlast daily wear and tear, giving you the most out of your investment. Then there is researching layouts and how to lay your tile to make sure it is done properly. And then there is the often forgotten step, grout. All tile needs grout to hold the individual tiles in place, and choosing the grout color and type is all part of the process that can make or break your tile project.
Finally, sealing. Wait, what? You have to seal the grout too? That’s right, to get maximum longevity and performance from your tile floor, shower, backsplash, or pool deck you’ll probably want to seal the tile, and here’s why.
Don’t Forget to Seal!
Ensure the longest life for your beautiful tiles, the easiest way to maintain your grout by making sure they are properly sealed! When it comes to sealing tile, it will depend on the type of tile you are using, and the type of grout. Grout is naturally porous and will stain easily and allow moisture to get under the tiles themselves if not properly sealed. Sealing the grout increases its strength, makes it much easier to clean, and will lengthen the lifespan of your tiled surface.
However, not all tile needs to be sealed. Ceramic and porcelain tile usually does not need additional sealing, whereas natural stone tile will. Natural stone porous, allowing for stains and moisture to occur where ceramic and porcelain are not.
When to Seal
So we have covered the why, but when to seal is equally important. First, determine the type of tile you have and whether or not it falls into the category of needing to be sealed. For porous materials, they will need more TLC than non-porous tile. For more porous tiles such as travertine, marble, or granite, it is advised to seal the tile during installation and prior to grouting and again after the grout is fully cured. It may also need to be reapplied as time goes on. Sealing tiles prior to setting them is the most ideal time–this will protect the tile from mortar staining if some lands on the tile face unexpectedly.
Debunking Common Myths About Sealing Tile
Myth #1: Tile grout lasts forever
This would be nice, however, this is not the case. The truth is, grout can last a very long time (when properly sealed and maintained). Traditional grout is cement based, therefore highly porous by nature–meaning it can trap tiny particles of moisture, dirt, debris, dust, or oil that comes in contact with the surface. When you clean your tile, whether flooring, backsplash, or wall, you can only remove surface dirt, not the dirt trapped within the pores of the grout. For light colored grout, this is a major problem because it will look very soiled very quickly. In addition to looking unsightly, it is also unsanitary creating a breeding ground for mold and other things that could even endanger your health. Fear not, applying a layer of protective sealant goes a long way to extend the life and preserve the appearance of your tile grout.
Myth #2: All grout sealers perform the same
Do not assume all sealants provide the same high level of protection. Paying attention to which sealer works best not only on your chosen materials, but for the use-case is critical. Depending on your tile and its location, you can narrow your grout sealant to two main categories: penetrating sealers and membrane-forming sealers.
Penetrating grout sealers absorb into the grout and help protect it from stains and grease infiltration. As the porous grout absorbs your chosen sealer, the material fills in all the gaps and keeps moisture out.
Membrane-forming sealers are ideal if you’re just looking for a basic layer of protection, as they will create a surface layer coating on top of the tile and grout which will resist water penetration, however on the other hand will also allow any trapped moisture underneath to evaporate creating an ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow. It is best to use this type of sealant for kitchen floors or backsplash areas rather than extremely damp spaces such as the bathroom floor or shower surround.
Myth #3: Sealing tile is not as important as sealing grout
It is just as important to seal porous tile as it is to seal the grout. Similarly to sealed grout, a proper tile sealant keeps dirt, liquids, and debris out of porous materials, avoiding their chance to penetrate and ensuring that stains can come up without issues.
Another reason to seal porous tile is to prevent damage during grout and mortar application, because failure to seal can result in grout that’s absorbed into the tile and ruins the finish. And while we normally are talking about sealing natural stone tile and not ceramic and porcelain, it is important to note that unglazed ceramic and porcelain tiles will need to be sealed to protect their surfaces and prevent damage.
DIY or Leave it to the Pros?
It is a misconception that you cannot DIY sealing your grout or tiles, truthfully, you can seal it yourself with proper care and research. There are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure optimal performance when you’re done. However, the process is not for everyone, and that is where the flooring and tile experts at Flowers Flooring come in–we have done the research for you and will gladly prepare your surface, seal, lay and grout your tile for you. Contact us today for your free in-home estimate.
About Flowers Flooring
Flowers Flooring is your family flooring specialist with two locations – Cornelius, NC, and Winston-Salem, NC. Both locations service a 100-mile radius from the showroom. Both locations specialize in flooring sales and installation, including carpet, laminate, hardwood, sand & finish, hardwood restoration, vinyl plank, vinyl tile, rubber flooring, tile floors, tile showers, tile backsplash, area rugs, interior painting, and more. To reach the Cornelius, NC location please call (704) 445-7750 and to reach our Winston-Salem location, please call (336) 660-0977. Please be sure to inquire about our current promotion and financing offers.