Tile & Grout Go Hand In Hand
Friday, November 24, 2023, from Floor Covering Weekly
GETTING TO KNOW GROUT
When selecting grout to go with tile, consumers should not only consider how it looks immediately after installation, but also ﬁve years later. “When it comes time to pick a grout to match their tiles, consumers are looking for something that’s not only going to stick around for the long haul, but also won’t give them a headache with upkeep,” remarked Ryan Blair, senior product manager, grouts & sealants at LATICRETE.
Suzanne Zurﬂuh, director of design and trend at Emser Tile, outlined the types of grout consumers can expect to see on the market. “The most used and least expensive type of grout is cement-based. There is also epoxy grout which is more expensive and used mostly in commercial settings due to its strength and resistance to chemicals. Lastly, there is urethane-based grout, which is similar to epoxy in strength and durability, but slightly easier to use as no mixing is required.”
Zurﬂuh noted that it’s important to consider a wide variety of logistical aspects when selecting grout. How often will the space be susceptible to frequent cleaning? Foot traﬃc? Moisture? Zurﬂuh explained, “The consumer should work with their supplier and installer to select the proper grout based on foot traﬃc, usage of the space and other elements, such as temperatures and moisture levels. For example, while both cement and epoxy grout can be used for pool tile, epoxy grout is the harder, more durable option that we suggest.”
While grout is mostly practical, a good design ﬁnds ways to show it oﬀ. As Brett Mauney, a national technical manager for the SikaTile product line commented, “Grout adds strength to tile and stone installations by ﬁlling in gaps. It is also a powerful design element that can enhance the installation and the space it resides in. … There is no hard, fast rule on choosing the right grout color for a tile installation. By matching the grout to the tile, you can create a minimalist look that downplays the grout’s appearance, allowing it to fade into the tile. A contrasting grout color can forward a more dynamic look that makes the tile design really ‘pop.’ One could also opt for a mid-tone color that splits the diﬀerence, but still allows the tile’s unique ﬁnish to be seen.”
Emser Tile’s Zurﬂuh said there’s a great deal of options available on the market for consumers to choose from. “Grout comes in a wide assortment of colors, glitters and glow-in-the-dark varieties making it an aﬀordable and easy way to infuse a unique aesthetic to the ﬁnal design,” she said adding “Thus, small details like selecting grout colors can make an incredible impact, making the most standard tile installations stand out. Since grout can be seen as a thread of color running through a fabric, a contrasting grout color will add a striking border or bold pop of color to the walls or ﬂoors. Whereas a tonal or coordinating grout shade that blends with the value of the tile will provide a more subtle and understated visual.”
BACK TO BASICS
LATICRETE’s Blair acknowledged that while grout can be a strong design element, it’s critical to pay attention to elements surrounding grout to ensure consumers achieve the look they strive for. “Factors such as water content during mixing can aﬀect the color of grout once it dries. This means that the same product can vary slightly in shade depending on the conditions during installation.
The type of grout chosen also plays a role. The composition of the grout, including the aggregates and polymers used, can inﬂuence the ﬁnish. For instance, cementitious grouts and epoxy grouts might have subtle diﬀerences in sheen and texture, aﬀecting the overall look. Epoxy grouts typically oﬀer a smoother, more uniform ﬁnish, while cementitious grouts can appear more varied due to their porous nature.”
Furthermore, Blair explained that how grout is installed and where it’s installed can make a big diﬀerence in its appearance. “Proper application is essential to achieve the best color quality. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines for mixing and application will help ensure that the color remains as true as possible to what was chosen,” he said. Lighting, too, according to Blair, “cannot be overlooked. The color of grout can look diﬀerent under various lighting conditions — natural daylight can make colors appear diﬀerent from artiﬁcial lighting.”
Emser Tile’s Zurﬂuh noted that consumers might want to consider traﬃc or wear and tear when selecting grout colors. “It’s important to remember that the grout color will not only aﬀect the aesthetics of the space but also the maintenance that is required. Lighter grout lines show stains more easily requiring more upkeep on ﬂoors and walls, whereas darker shades help to hide stains along with any additional dirt buildup,” she said.
Ultimately, it’s important that the consumer works with the retail sales associate (RSA) and installer to ensure that they’re achieving the style and look they have in mind. As SikaTile’s Mauney remarked, “Retailers need to understand that the types of available grouts can vary in terms of performance and application. When it comes to helping customers choose the right grout for their particular installation, the questions that need to be asked are: What size do they want their grout joints to be? Joint sizes can vary from 1/16 inch to ¾ inch in width. Where will this grout be used? Is the application interior or exterior? Bathroom or food prep area? Depending on the area, a more robust grout such as SikaTile-825 Epoxy Grout may be needed. Are you looking for a low- maintenance grout? Will the installation be subject to heavy traﬃc? Will harsh cleaning chemicals be present during maintenance? Is this a residential or commercial installation? Finally, make sure to mention the matching caulks needed to apply to change of plane and expansion joints.”