Getting to Know Your Grout (and Tile)
Tiles and grout are the true bathroom dream team, creating a beautiful, durable surface that can withstand the wear and tear of heavy traffic and high moisture, which is no easy feat. To properly appreciate and clean your floors, you need to understand some of the fundamentals about them, so let's delve into the most popular types.
A luxury choice, natural stone tiles like marble or granite are stunning with unique patterns, deep shine, and a pleasant cool-to-the-touch feel. The challenge is stone can be porous and susceptible to staining and dulling.
Marble, travertine, and to a lesser degree, granite add an extra layer of trouble to the natural stones challenge list. They can be dissolved by traditional acid-based bathroom cleaners, some hair care products, and even tart beverages. This is especially problematic in areas with hard water, as it drastically limits the products you can use to fight hard water, which is most easily removed with acid, leaving you only with abrasives, detergents, and elbow grease!
Made from clay and then kiln-fired, ceramic tiles are durable, water-resistant, and relatively easy to maintain, making them a favorite for many homeowners. The challenge for ceramics is not only their limited and dated appearance but they can also be slippery and prone to cracking if not perfectly installed. Also, most popular ceramic tiles tend to be smaller in size, so they create even more grout to maintain.
A type of ceramic tile that's fired at higher temperatures, porcelain is denser, less porous, and more water-resistant than standard ceramic. Its durability makes it ideal for high-traffic areas. Again, like regular ceramic, it can tend to be dated in appearance and small, thus increasing grout to maintain. Also, the lack of porousness and improved water resistance actually drives more dirt into the grout lines even faster!
Known for their glossy finish and the ability to reflect light, mirror tiles can make spaces appear brighter and larger. They're stain-resistant but can be more slippery and fragile than other tile types. Their slippery, fragile nature usually makes them too high a risk to cover a full bathroom floor, but they may be used as accents, especially in mosaics.
Made from red clay, terracotta tiles offer a warm, earthy appearance. Their association with quick serve foodservice nearly doomed them for a while popularity-wise, but different tile cuts and styling have helped them make a comeback. They're the most porous clay tile option, making sealing essential to protect them from stains and moisture.
A popular choice for its affordability and durability, vinyl tiles offer the appearance of natural materials like stone without the associated cost. They're water-resistant, easy to install, and lack grout lines to maintain. Unfortunately, vinyl tiles are notorious for not sticking well and allowing gaps between tiles that can allow moisture to seep through to the subfloor, so they are not an ideal long-term bathroom flooring solution. Sheet vinyl avoids some of the concerns but can be less aesthetically pleasing than the real tile floors it is mimicking.
Properly identifying what type of tile you have or want to install is crucial, as it directly impacts the care routine and potential issues you might face, as well as the cleaning chemicals you should use.
This grout type is infused with pigment, enabling homeowners to match or contrast their tiles. However, its color might fade with harsh cleaning agents. Also, if the grout is too light in color, it can make the dirtier spots even more obvious, but if it is too dark, it can hide poor maintenance till the floors are absolutely unsanitary, so there is no clear winner.
Durable and less porous than traditional options, this grout has acrylic compounds, making it resistant to moisture and stains. The challenge with this option is that it takes far more product and time for the grout to be installed, so this tends to increase the cost of the floor selected dramatically.
Among the most durable grouts available, epoxy grout is made from resin and filler powder, making it highly resistant to stains and chemicals. It's ideal for areas with heavy moisture, like showers.
Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout
Sanded grout contains fine sand and is used for wider grout joints, providing added strength. In contrast, unsanded grout is smoother and used for narrower joints, often seen between wall tiles.
Your choice of tile and grout will often come down to aesthetics, budget, and maintenance preference. Each has its merits and challenges, but with the right care, any choice can shine for years.