Grout is a very common household substance, but homeowners often overlook it when they consider home maintenance and tile projects. Typically, where there are tiles, there is at least some grout. With stone tiles the grout lines may be small and difficult to see, while with ceramic tiles the grout may be a large part of the overall tile appearance, but either way grout can benefit from periodic cleaning and sealing.
Grout is simply a putty-like mortar that is laid down between tiles. It keeps the tiles bonded together, but also keeps them from rubbing against each other and crack or wearing nearby tiles down. There are two types of grout: sanded and unsanded. Unsanded grouts are used only with stone tiles, but both versions can benefit from sealing when they are first installed, and later seals as the first layer begins to wear down.
The grout seal helps protect the grout against the same problems that the tiles themselves encounter. Ceramic tiles have glazes, plastic tiles have waxes, and stone tiles have sealants of their own, but homeowners may forget to make sure the grout lines are sealed as well. Grout, like stone, has tiny pores which are covered up with the sealant is applied, making the grout smoother and allowing it to last longer.
With the grout pores blocked grout becomes much less absorbent. This means that if a liquid is spilled on the grout, it will not immediately soak into the grout or seep into the edges of the tile. This gives homeowners extra time to clean the spill up, and even more importantly, keeps the grout from becoming discolored. Likewise, some grouts stain over time because of age and exposure to light: a seal helps the grout retain its original color.
Sealed grout is much easier to clean than unsealed grout. Homeowners must use specialized cleaners that soak into the grout and bleach it when cleaning unsealed grout lines. Sealed grout keeps dirt and liquid on the surface, where they can be wiped away with a rag. Not only will there be fewer stains with sealed grout lines, but the stains will be easier to take care of.
Unsealed grout tends to wear away more quickly than sealed grout. This means that the grout will crack or disintegrate more quickly. Homeowners will need to gouge it out and replace it more often than sealed grout, leading to higher maintenance costs in the long term.
- Photo Credit Boden image by Milosz Bartoszczuk from Fotolia.com
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