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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Another request from one of my readers, this time concerning weep holes. As you may know I answer every question I’m asked here on my site when I sober up get home from work. I have tried to explain in the comments section several times where to create weep holes in a tub or shower (acrylic base) tile installation and now realize it’s a difficult thing to do with words.

So when Kurt asked me to clarify exactly where they go a stroke of genius hit me! (Yeah, I’m slow sometimes) I have pictures. Well, not exactly pictures of the weep holes themselves, but I can at least let you know where they are.

When you have a tub which does not have specific spaces for a weep hole you need to ‘create’ them in your caulk line. Let me back up here a second and explain what weep holes are and why you need them.

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Which tile to choose depends mostly upon where you plan to install it and, of course, whether or not is has the look you want for that specific application.For the former I will explain several things to take into consideration. The latter is entirely up to you (unless you’re the husband, in which case it’s up to your wife). So before you choose your tile you need to consider a couple of things.

Where are you installing the tile?

If it will be installed on a wall in a non-wet area, you do not need to worry about much except whether or not you like the way it looks. A non-wet area is defined as an area that is not regularly exposed to a significant amount of water. Wainscots, backsplashes, and fireplaces are examples on non-wet areas.

If it will be installed in a wet area, such as a shower, you need to take into consideration the absorption rate of the tile to an extent. Although it is not that dire to consider this, the lower the percentage of absorption, the better it will be for your application.

You can install travertine in a shower but porcelain will be easier to take care of. An application such as a steam shower or exterior patio would suggest a lower absorption rate. A good rule of thumb is the higher the chance of exposure to moisture and temperature, the lower the absorption rate you want.

If the tile will be installed on a floor you will also want to consider what is called the Static Coefficient of Friction. That’s just a big phrase to describe how slippery a tile is.

This number will (usually) be below one.  Just consider this number to be between 1 and 10. For instance, consider a SCOF (Static Coefficient of Friction) or COF of 0.5 to be a 5. This is the number which most standards consider “slip resistant”.The higher the number, the less slippery it will be.

Tile will have two COF numbers – one for wet and one for dry. You may want to consider both numbers for an application such as a bathroom or shower floor or a patio. Consider a 1 (0.1) to be akin to ice and a 10 (1.0) to be sandpaper.

Other factors to take into consideration include the size of the tile as well as the size of the grout lines (to a smaller degree).  If you have 2 inch by 2 inch tile with fairly large grout lines, such as a shower floor mosaic,  it will have more friction than 18 X 18 inch tiles with 1/16 grout lines. The grout lines add friction because they are uneven and break up the flat, continuous surface of the tile.

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