MAPEI’s Opticolor epoxy grout; LATICRETE’s SpectraLOCK PRO Premium Grout; and ProLite Tile & Stone Mortar from Custom Building Products.

Today’s installers have the benefit of many specialized grouts and mortars that make ceramic tile installation easier and better for the environment, while making the jobsite safer for both the installer and the homeowner. These latest “green” grouts and mortars offer the benefits of sustainably-sourced materials and low VOC emissions, while offering increased workability for faster and easier installation.

“Products that emit little to no VOC off-gassing and those that are anti-microbial offer the consumer the most environmentally friendly installation materials for tile and stone installations,” said Sean Boyle, dir. marketing & product mgmt. for LATICRETE International Inc.

“Eco-sustainable products manufactured from recyclable materials benefit everyone by keeping waste out of landfills,” noted Leigh Hightower, U.S. technical services manager for MAPEI. “The use of cement-based mortars and grouts means that installers are using materials that are naturally low in VOCs, which translates into better air quality.”

When specifying mortars, it is important to make sure that all products meet the latest ANSI standards, which has placed a thickness limit of 1/4” on thinset mortars. According to ANSI A118.1, A118.4 and A118.11 specifications, for installations where the mortar is more than 1/4” thick, the installers must now use a “medium-bed” mortar.

When using epoxy grouts, installers should make sure all products comply with state and federal air quality guidelines. For example, installations done in California must comply with the South Coast Air Management District (SCAMD) Rule #1158, which governs emissions from epoxy grout products.

In addition to being more sustainably produced and cleaner products, today’s green grouts and mortars offer other benefits, such as easier cleanup.

“One interesting advancement in the area of grouts is the use of unique aggregates in epoxy grouts that help with the cleaning process,” said Brian Pistulka, installation systems business manager for MAPEI. “These larger aggregates, unlike the fine pigments in earlier grouts, do not become embedded in non-glazed tiles, leading to a much easier clean-up at installation.”

Pistulka pointed out the company’s technology is designed for both better air quality and cleanup. “Ultraflex LFT was developed with MAPEI’s Low-Dust technology, which helps keep the jobsite cleaner and improves indoor air quality for the installers and the subsequent tenants of the property. Ultraflex LFT has also been tested for low VOCs, and the compliance certificate will soon be registered on the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) database.”

Some of the latest developments in grout and mortar technology include flexible mortars for suspended floors, installation products specifically for large-format tiles, and pre-mixed adhesives and grouts.

“Improvements in polymer technology have produced higher strength, more flexible thin set mortars,” said Karlee Nevares, assistant communications manager for Custom Building Products. “There have also been improvements that allow installation of larger tile on walls with less slippage, as well as improvements in stain resistance additives for grout.”

As environmental regulations concerning sustainability and indoor air quality continue to evolve, so will the installation products which must measure up to these new laws. Modern grout and mortar formulations continue to move away from Portland cement-based formulas, with their associated greenhouse gasses, and toward the use of recycled materials.

“There will be an increase in the need for grouts and mortars that meet the green regulations as more communities adopt the new regulations,” Nevares stated. “As more tile is introduced that meet the green regulations, installers will want green installation products that will add to the overall green value.”

“The overall trend for the entire tile and stone installation category is to produce products that contain recycled content, are low-VOC and also lightweight,” Boyle added. “There will be a continuation in the use of recycled content in products, possibly looking for other materials that replace cement or sand as the main ingredients.”

“Future trends will be seen in the continued expansion from associations to further define the ‘green process,’” Hightower said. “In the near future we will have ANSI 138.1, which is the basis for establishing eco-sustainability characteristics of manufacturers in the ceramic tile industry. This includes manufacturers of tiles and tile installation products.”