Grout is meant to keep out moisture, and it give the area a more finished look. However, people don’t pay much attention to grout until something goes wrong. It can stain, crack, and even fall out. But grout plays an important role. Not only does it fill in the gaps between each tile, but it also serves as a bond that can make your wall or floor stronger.
There are two main types of cement-based grout:
- Sanded Grout – Has a very fine sand, which is better for wider spaces and larger tile.
- Unsanded Grout – Has a series of polymers instead of sand, which makes it better for thinner grout lines. It’s also better for vertical surfaces like bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes.
Sanded grout will be your choice for most applications. Not only is it cheaper and more widely available, but it can also come in a variety of colors. However, unsanded grout might be a better choice for tile that can be easily scratched.
There are some situations where tile is exposed to harsher substances like acids and grease. And in this case, a cement-based grout won’t be enough. An epoxy grout will be a better choice, because it’s more resistant to those substances. It’s made up of two parts (a resin and a hardener), and it comes in both sanded and unsanded form. Early epoxies were hard to apply because they cured fast and were hard to clean, but the detergents being used in more recent epoxies have made it easier for tile setters.
Epoxy grout can cause discoloration in tiles that have more porous surfaces (such as unglazed quarry and limestone tile), so they should be sealed before the grout is applied. And because of its resistance to stains, it’s the best option for kitchen counters, backsplashes, and floors. Epoxy grout is expensive, but there’s a positive to the higher price. Cement grout has a one-year shelf life, but epoxies can last forever.
Choosing the Right Grout Color
There are three main approaches to choosing the right grout color:
- Contrasting – A clear difference in the color of both the tile and the grout (such as a black tile with a white grout).
- Harmonizing – A blend of colors between the tile and the grout.
- Neutral – Choosing a shade of gray or white in the grout.
The best choice will depend on your specific situation, so be sure to speak to a professional for more information.
Choosing the right type of grout is as important as choosing the right tile, because it plays a more important role than many people think. Grout is more than just a decorative feature. It’s also part of the tile’s overall structure. And while cement-based grout is good for most applications, you may need to use something else. Be sure to speak to a professional so you can make the right choice.
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Tile is produced in mass quantity and must endure several levels of quality control along the way to ensure that the tile is up to a specific standard of quality and beauty. Those tiles are what manufacturers refer to as “seconds, b-grade, or builder grade.” But is it worth it?
When tile is fired incorrectly, irregularities may appear. Bubbles, watermarks, discolorations take away from the beauty and quality of a tile that has passed quality control. (Warped tile is unusable.) While you may be able to live with tile that suffers visual imperfections, the tile still needs to stand the rigors of time, especially if it’s floor tile.
Budgetary considerations are often the reason some of us buy seconds. You can purchase seconds for a huge discount, but you may not know the consequences of the choice until you’ve opened the boxes. And will you have enough?
There’s a chance that some of the tiles are already damaged, or could be damaged in transit, or when installed. The general rule when purchasing seconds is to buy 20% over what you think you’ll need in case any of the aforementioned scenarios are in play or have occurred. Plus, some seconds tile sellers won’t allow you to check the tile before you purchase a box; others don’t allow for returns. Who wants to be stuck with boxes of damaged tile?
Seconds don’t meet the ANSI A137.1 standards. ANSI A137.1 is a 2012 standard titled “American National Standard Specifications for Ceramic Tile.” The standards apply to ceramic tile and describes a wide variety of quality control metrics.
“These Specifications describe the normally available sizes and shapes of ceramic tile; the physical properties of Standard Grade and Second Grade Ceramic Tile, Decorative Tile, and Specialty Tile; the basis for acceptance and methods of testing prior to installation; the marking and certification of ceramic tile; and the definitions of terms employed in these specifications.” — American National Standards Institute, Inc.
There are many different quality control tests tile manufacturers execute while tile is being produced. Inspectors check for imperfections, flaws, and defective material as the tile is produced. There’s a level of quality that must be maintained that not all tile can meet. Tile is graded as either first or second choice. Anything beyond a second is taken right the equipment and discarded.
Characteristics of Second Choice tile:
• Off-Size. Size of tile vary more than the industry tolerance of 1/16″.
• Off-Shade. Different shades are present between tiles, sometimes very noticeably.
• Wrong Color. Tiles that come off the production line a different color that what was originally specified.
• Chipped edges. Tile corners that are chipped somewhere between forming and baking. Not often noticeable, but there are no guarantees in an unopened box.
• Glaze Imperfections. Imperfections during the firing. From pin-holes to uneven lines that span the body of the tile.
So basically, you have two choices to consider when buying tile: First Choice tile has no major flaws or defects. Any imperfection is rare and doesn’t affect the quality of the tile. Second Choice tile Failed quality control along the way and can have imperfections throughout any part of the tile.
Here at AFC Tile & Flooring we offer only first choice tile for the simple fact that it offers peace of mind in that it’s the best tile the manufacturers can offer.