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How, When and Why To Seal Tile and Grout

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Whether you are repairing or replacing tile and grout, new or old, sealing them is the last and usually most overlooked step. What a lot of DIY'ers and homeowners don't realize, is that sealing your tile/grout is one of the most important things to ensure your tile floor, backsplash, countertop, or walls look great and last for a long time.

 

Any tile that is ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone needs to be periodically sealed. Even tiles that have a pre-existing sealer can eventually have that layer wear down over time. With some grouts, that can be even worse with it needing sealer. Failure to do this can lead to the grout chipping and coming off over a short amount of time.

 

Having proper sealer also ensures the tile/grout is easier to clean. That means any food stains come up without issues, for example. 

 

Vinyl tiles may be sealed, but require a different type. We at The Home Depot carry numerous tile sealers to meet your specific needs. An effective sealer will soak into the tile/grout surface, and not simply coat it, allowing it to perform its best.

 

In this post, I'll explain when, why, and how to check your tile and grout to see if they need to be sealed.


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WHEN

 

The key is to maintain your tile/grout investment by checking them about once a 1 year to see if they need sealer. You can do this a bit more frequently if they are in a high traffic area.

To see if your tile/grout need sealer (ex. you just moved into your new home and aren't sure), simply place a few drops of water onto the surface to see how fast or slow the water soaks into it. If the water soaks into the tile/grout within a minute, it's time to reseal. 

 

If the water remains beaded, then there is no need to reseal. For a wall, simply spray a bit of water on it to see how fast the water beads into it. The rule of thumb is to reseal high traffic floors at least once a year (sometimes more if its commercial), and 18 months for countertops and backsplashes.

 

Failure to reseal your tile periodically can lead to permanent staining on the tile and grout, leading to much larger problems...

 


 

HOW

 

 

Once you have determined if the tile/grout needs to be sealed, you can then choose what type of tile sealant you'd like to place on it. 

 

Only use a tile sealer that is rated for it and grout, and then decide if you want a sealer that has a sheen to it. Some types of these, also called tile enhancers, can give a glossy or matte sheen to the tiles, depending on what you prefer. It can also slightly change the color of the tiles, as evidenced below.


 

Be aware that if the sealer does not indicate a sheen to it, it will not change the color of the tile nor make it 'slippery'. What a tile rated sealer will do is to penetrate the surface, allowing it to protect the surface.

 

Application is very easy to do, simply work in a small manageable section, usually 3' x 3', and apply the sealer using a soft grouting sponge. Since all tile sealers The Home Depot sells are water-based, using gloves are optional to wear.


 

While some sealers have a brush tip for grout, its more effective and time-saving to seal both tile and grout all at once via the sponge.

 

Sealers usually dry within an hour and can be re coated if needed. This is important for high traffic or high moisture areas, like a tile shower floor. Most ready to use spray bottles of sealer can easily cover a tiled shower or medium sized tile floor, but be sure to read the coverage of the container of sealer you'd prefer for precise area that it can seal.

 

WHY

 

The number one reason grout is missing or loose between tiles is because the sealer wore down over time or none was ever used. Another issue is stained tile that could of been easily avoided with proper sealer.

 

Over time, any unsealed grout that has constant exposure to water (think tile shower surround) will have the moisture seep through the grout, allowing for expansion and contraction. Over a short amount of time, the grout can sometimes get loose and then start to loose it adhesion due to this.

 

The key is to ensure that proper sealer is periodically applied. Even for areas such as a tile backsplash that may not see a lot of dirt or usage, sealing tiles is crucial for the installation of it over time.

 

Another big reason some tiles need to be sealed even before the installation for certain types. For example, some porous natural tiles like travertine require you to seal the tiles before you install and grout them. This is because surface of the tile can easily absorb grout and mortar if it is unsealed, leaving it heavily stained.

 

Failure to seal natural stone tiles before installation can lead to stains that can't be easily removed due to the grout and/or mortar. To make clean-up easier for any tile install, sealing any natural stone tiles beforehand can greatly help everything go smoother. 

 

Man-made tiles like porcelain or ceramic tiles won't experience this, but pre-sealing does help if they have little or no existing sealant on them.

 

In closing, as long as you seal and maintain your tiles alongside the grout, you can enjoy them for a very long time to come. In terms of cleaning, use a cleaner that is rated to be used on tiles, and that it has no acid in it. 

 

To read more about basic sealant options we sell and cleaning options, click here.

 

 

And as always, let us know if you have any further questions regarding tile and grout!

 

Joseph

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Posted 2015-04-22T17:47:00+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL
 
 

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