When it comes to sealing the grout on your brand new tile installation, the professionals seem to be divided. While most come down on the side of sealing, others counsel against it. For tile projects that will never see a drop of water, wine, oil or any other liquid, why go to the trouble of sealing the grout? But for those places where water, other liquids and extreme humidity will interact with your tile, sealing absolutely should top off your installation project.
The argument against sealing goes something like this: You will never keep all moisture out of your floor, wall, stall, etc. Water trapped behind the tile will grow mold if it has no means of escape. Grout sealers prevent moisture from escaping, ergo, don’t seal.
On the other hand, the competing wisdom says that a good grout sealer will, in fact, prevent moisture penetration or will seal for color and against stains but still allow moisture movement. Aesthetics matter, so you’ll keep stains away, at the very least, with a good sealer.
So What Should You Do?
We think sealing non-epoxy or plasticized grout is the only way to go for any tile surface that will become wet and will be cleaned from time to time. For installations where it will see a lot of water and potential spills (kitchen and baths), sealing is a foregone conclusion. Here’s why:
- Cementitious grout is porous. Like all cement, it’s thirsty. So, yes, liquids will penetrate and not only permit mold and mildew growth, but create stains.
- Cement reacts to certain chemicals. Acids, in particular, eat away at the calcium bicarbonate in the cement, the basic component of traditional grout. Cleaning chemicals will take a toll on your grout.
- Surface and subsurface sealers prevent chemical reactions. This barrier allows you to clean the grout without dissolving or staining it.
Different Types of Grout Sealers
Penetrating: These seals soak into the grout and coat the inside of the pores. Because you aren’t preventing liquid penetration, moisture can still seep in but also escape.
Non-penetrating: A non-penetrating surface sealer does prevent liquids from migrating past the seal. Assuming the tiles themselves aren’t shuttling moisture to the substrate, a surface seal will help keep away the mold and mildew.
Impregnating: An impregnating sealer soaks in and fills the voids in the cement. These keep moisture and stains out of the tile joints, resisting permanent discoloring and deterioration.
The Best of All Possibilities
All of these standard grout sealers require re-application from time to time, usually once per year. However, one product in a line that Mees Distributors endorses and carries, the VanHearron line, actually provides an integrated, permanent seal within the grout, thus eliminating any need for post-installation sealing.
VanHearron’s GroutOnce!, contains low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it environmentally friendly. You mix it with your cement grout in place of the water. As the cement hydrates with GroutOnce!, a strong, permanent water barrier forms, making it water-repellent, not just water-resistant. Thus, GroutOnce! resists mold, mildew and stains for the life of the grout. Because of its extra strength, it also resists cracking.
Because clean up, workability and dry time remain the same with GroutOnce!, you apply it as you would regular grout. You have no special requirements to make your application more difficult. You truly buy the best of all possible worlds with GroutOnce!
To learn more about GroutOnce!, other great VanHearron products and our tile offerings, please visit one of our Mees Distributors convenient showrooms today. Our friendly, professional staff is always happy to help you.