As the tile-setting business continues to grow, basic knowledge about different types of grout is critical to do the job right the first time. “When you get a job done right with the correct product and technique, you reap the benefits of a successful installation,” said Tom Plaskota, TEC technical manager, who gave presentation talk on grout technology and installation considerations at The International Surface Event in Las Vegas.

Article Index:

Grout as we know it today began with cement-based grout. “In the 40s, furan grout and epoxy emulsion grouts were introduced with benefits beyond cement-based grouts,” Plaskota said. Furan provided chemical resistant, while epoxy emulsion grouts act as both setting mortar and the grout. Fast forward to today where tile setters have a variety of grouts to choose from, including cement-based grouts, epoxy grouts, advanced performance modified grouts and premixed grouts, and each one has its own distinct advantages. Learning about the types of grout, their installation requirements, the technology available and the installation techniques needed will help ensure a successful job. Knowing which grout is the right one for each job is important because not choosing the correct one may contribute to an installation failure.

Cement-based grout

Cement-based grouts come in sanded and unsanded versions. Portland-based cement product is mixed with water with electric drill. These grouts require slaking, and after application, they require cleanup with sponge and water. This lower-cost grout option typically requires separate grout additive or sealer for grout to achieve stain resistance and durability.

Sanded grouts are used for grout joints measuring 1/8” or wider. Plaskota said setters should be careful using sanded grouts on tiles with sensitive surfaces, such as glazed ceramics, glass, metal, marble, polished stone and agglomerate tiles, because they can cause damage to the surfaces. If you’re unsure, the best way to figure out if the grout is safe is to test the tile and the grout in a small area. If tile scratching or damage occurs, opt for an unsanded grout.

Unsanded grout is used for grout joints up to 1/8” wide. Installers can’t use unsanded grouts on joints larger because grout might shrink and cause cracking. They are ideal for indoor applications such as kitchens, bathroom floors and walls, offices and retail stores.

Modern-day technology offers a lot of flexibility to add a grout additive to cement-based grout, which can help provide durability, stain resistance and mold and mildew resistance. By using grout additives in place of water, it can sometimes allow cement grouts to be used in exterior environments, high-traffic areas and submerged areas.

Epoxy grout

Epoxy grout is the most effective barrier for exposure to harsh chemicals and is extremely durable, but it requires careful practice because of its fast cure time and the consistency can’t be easily adjusted. Made of epoxy resin and hardener portions, epoxy grouts often include coarse silica filler, and these grouts provide chemical resistance, high bond strength, durability, stain resistance and color consistency.

These grouts, which come at a premium price, require different installation techniques and cleanup than cement grout, along with unique tools. Plaskota recommends using epoxy grouts in environments that are exposed to harsh acids and cleaners, such as commercial kitchens, hospital operating and emergency rooms and laboratories.

Advanced-Performance Modified Grouts

“Advanced-performance modified grouts have the durability of epoxy grout with the ease of application and cleanup of cement-based grouts,” Plaskota said.

These grouts are mixed with water with electric drill, and no additional grout additive needed. They are also easy to apply and cleanup with water. While typically more costly than cement grouts, they are less costly than epoxy. Advanced-performance modified grouts are ideal for demanding environments where color consistency and durability are important, such as high-traffic residential and commercial floors and walls, exterior floors and walls, submerged areas and jobs that are on a fast timeline.

Plaskota recommends that installers read product labels carefully before using because brands of advanced-performance modified grouts vary in efflorescence resistance, color consistency, stain resistance and strength (with a range from 3,000-9,000 PSI).

Premixed Grouts

“Premixed grouts should be used in areas where color consistency is key,” Plaskota said. “You can work quickly and reuse product for future jobs.” These single-component grouts are polymer resin or urethane based, easy to use and have stain, crack and shrink resistance built into them. Most premixed grouts are efflorescence free and color consistent. You will pay a premium price for these added benefits.

A major time saver, premixed grouts come ready to use: just open the pail, hand stir and start grouting. They save mixing and slaking time. Plus, you can reuse any remaining product for touch-ups later, if stored correctly. Premixed grouts are ideal for areas where color consistency is important, such as residential countertops, backsplashes, and walls and floors in kitchens and baths. Some can be used in exterior applications, high-traffic areas, submerged areas such as pools and fountains; just read the product label carefully before using to understand the suitability for your project.

Here are some of the advancements happening in grout today:

Bostik Hydroment Vivid

Bostik Hydroment Vivid
Bostik’s Hydroment Vivid, a rapid curing, premium grade, cement-based grout is intended for the most demanding kitchen and bath projects. Hydroment Vivid offers consistent color technology with enhanced stain and superior efflorescence protection. It is fiber reinforced for increased crack resistance and non-sag properties, and its rapid-curing trait makes it ready for foot traffic in just four hours. Additionally, Hydroment Vivid exceeds requirements of ANSI A118.7 and contains Bostik’s patented Blockade Antimicrobial Protection.

Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA

Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA
Mapei has unveiled Ultracolor Plus FA, a rapid-setting grout with fine aggregate that is designed as an all-in-one replacement for both sanded and unsanded grout. It can be used for joint widths from 1/16” to 3/4”. Ultracolor Plus FA is specially formulated with MAPEI’s High-Hydrated Cement Technology to eliminate color consistency and efflorescence issues.

Aqua Mix Cement Grout Haze Remover

Aqua Mix Grout Haze Removers
Custom has introduced Aqua Mix Cement Grout Haze Remover and Aqua Mix Non-Cement Grout Haze Remover to help installers avoid or address costly and time consuming call backs associated with grout residue on tile and stone. Aqua Mix Cement Grout Haze Remover is used to clean cementitious grout residue, as well as hard water stains, rust stains, efflorescence and lime deposits on natural stone, ceramic, porcelain and other acid-resistant tiles. A companion product, Aqua Mix Non-Cement Grout Haze Remover, is ideal for cleaning non-cementitious grout haze including single component, pre-mixed, urethane and light epoxy from natural stone and standard tile.

Laticrete grouts and mortars

Laticrete Doubles Shelf Life of Select Grouts & Mortars
Nearly 20 of Laticrete’s bagged cement-based mortars and grouts now boast a two-year shelf life, thanks to advancements in the company’s plastic packaging that protects the material from water and air moisture. This allows distributors and contractors to store the products for an extended time, reducing disposal costs for unused, expired inventory.

Grout Express

Grout Express
Grout Express uses disposable scrubbing pads for cleaner grout. Brushes can track and spread germs and dirt to other areas, but with disposable pads, after cleaning an area you can change the pad to clean tile grout in another room, the company said. Dirty grout can not only stain flooring; often, it is crawling with dust, bacteria, mold and pet dander. Grout Express’ cleaning device uses adjustable cleaning pads that can clean multiple grout lines at once. Convenient and easy to use, it can be used as a hand-held tool or with the extended pole to make grout cleaning easy.

Tec InColor Advanced Performance Grout

Tec InColor Advanced Performance Grout
Tec has added 15 colors to its InColor Advanced Performance Tile Grout line—a ready-to-use, high performance grout ideal for interior and exterior installations, whether commercial or residential. InColor is easy to clean; mold-, mildew- and crack-resistant; requires no sealing and is color consistent. In addition, InColor is chemical-resistant and stainproof against most common stains when cleaned immediately. InColor is now available in 32 color offerings.