Proper Expectations and Applications

Not seal -Sealer - Seal-E-R!

Not seal -Sealer – Seal-E-R!

In Tile and Stone Sealers Part 1 I explained how sealers work. If you haven’t yet read that please do so. It will give you a base understanding of how they get into your tile and what they protect against. It will help you understand what you’re looking for and also help decode some of the terms you may find here.

When choosing a sealer the first decision you should make is what you are trying to protect against. Silicone-based sealers protect against water-based stains – coffee, tea, beer Pepsi, stuff like that. Fluoropolymer-based sealers protect against oil-based stains – cooking oil, body oil, shampoo, stuff like that.

Easy enough so far?

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Seal of approval

Not that kind of seal!

How they work

Sealers, I’ve discovered since starting this site, are one of the most misunderstood products used for tile and stone. There are so many different brands, types and uses that it’s difficult to figure out what you actually need for your particular installation. So I’m gonna try to clear some of that up for you.

This will only cover a very small portion of the entire market for this type of product. I’m going to explain the different basic types of sealers and how they work, as well as the proper use for most common installations. This is NOT an all-encompassing article and will not include every scenario and installation. It is only a basic instruction on different types and uses.

Be sure to research any specific product you choose to utilize and always – ALWAYS – test the product first on a spare piece of your tile or stone to ensure you will not run into any incompatibility issues.

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I get a LOT of questions from my readers about basic shower construction. I understand that my readers don’t consider this stuff basic and there’s no problem with that. The problem is that I end up answering the same questions over and over and over… So, to save what very little is left of my sanity (which is a number roughly equivalent to absolute zero) I will cover some basic things here so I can simply reply ‘read this’.

If you’ve been channeled to this page by one of my smart-ass comments please take no offense to it, I’m here to help. Please understand that I currently have over 12,000 comments (questions) on this site (seriously) which I’ve answered – every one of them. I’m just trying to make your life (mine) easier.  I will continue to answer every question I’m asked, I’m just super cool like that. 8) If, after reading through this, you still have questions feel free to ask them in the comments below.

You can also download my shower waterproofing manual which should answer a lot of questions and cover basic techniques and methods you may be confused about. Go ahead, it’s free.  So without further ado (doesn’t even look like a word, does it?) let’s get on with it. (For all my readers who feel the need to correct me: I KNOW it’s actually ‘adieu’ – I was being facetious. Thanks. :D )

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SpectraLOCK logo

If you have read anything on either of my websites you should know that I tell everyone on the face of the planet who will listen (all three of them) that Laticrete’s SpectraLOCK is the only epoxy grout I will use – period. So rather than just talk smack I’m gonna show you why.

You see the bottom of that logo up there? The part that says ‘Grout that Locks in Color and Blocks Out Stains’? I’m going to put that to the test. And being the kind of warped individual I am – I’m gonna do it in the most ridiculous, convincing way I know how.

Since I have kids I happen to know what the most vile, dangerous, and toxic staining substance on the face of the planet actually is. It is not red wine, a sharpie, or grape juice. Not even close.

It’s cherry kool-aid.

If you have kids you know exactly what I’m talking typing about. If I even set my beer Pepsi near a cup of cherry kool-aid it turns pink through either osmosis or sheer fright, I’m not sure which. This stuff is brutal. I’m fairly certain kool-aid consists of toxic radiation and sugar. The toxic radiation is purchased in powdered form and my kids add about 3 lbs. of sugar per quart.

They like their radiation sweet.

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When I started this site it was intended to only focus on issues of installation. Through research I discovered a greater demand for information related to existing flooring. This particular subject was at the top of the list.

So, like every politician has promised and failed to deliver, I will give the people what they want! Well, as much as I can, anyway.

Out of curiosity I typed “how to clean grout” and “tile” into Google. I only made it through two pages of sites before I was fed up with all the crap from so-called “experts”. Ninety percent of what I discovered was bull!

Common sense dictates that you do not use bleach or hydrogen-peroxide (same effect) on any type of colored grout at all – ever. Yet this was the suggestion of most “experts”.  If you happen to have white sanded grout in your tile, you’re set. If not, you’re gonna screw it up more.

What’s “sanded” have to do with it, you may ask. Exactly. Without knowing the product you’re cleaning, it will be difficult to clean it properly. That being said typed, let’s start there.

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

For something that confuses some so much, this is actually relatively simple. The difference? Drum roll please . . . sanded grout has sand in it. Fairly anti-climactic, yes?  The implications are greater, though.

Sanded grout is used for grout lines (the space between the tiles) greater than 1/8 of an inch. I use it for grout lines 1/16 and larger. The reason sand is added is to prevent the grout from shrinking as it cures. If you attempt to use unsanded or non-sanded grout for larger grout lines it will shrink (sometimes as much as 50%) and look like hell.

Sanded grout is also much more stable and durable. Unsanded grout is used in smaller grout lines because sanded is difficult to force into the space. Because of this using sanded grout in smaller grout lines leaves open the possibility of not completely filling them which will, in time, lead to grout cracking, chipping out, and a number of other things that make an otherwise perfect tile job look sub-par.

Do I have sanded or unsanded grout in my tile?

I dunno, I can’t see it from here.

Sorry, I’m a bit warped, I stare at floors all day. There are several ways to determine this (the type of grout, not whether or not I’m warped). If you have large grout lines chances are it’s sanded grout. If it’s a shower with 4 X 4 or 6 X 6 inch tiles chances are it’s unsanded.

Run your finger across your grout, if it’s rough you have sanded grout. If you run your thumbnail along the grout line and you scrape a bit of grout out of it, you probably have non-sanded. If your grout is smooth, it is non-sanded.

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