Grouting, Caulking, Sealing

This story covers finishing a ceramic tile installation by grouting, caulking, and sealing.

Intro

Grouting, caulking, and sealing are not difficult tasks, but they do take time. Don't rush these activities--they affect both the final appearance of your tiling project and its longevity.

Bring all materials into the room to acclimate them to its temperature, preferably between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the surface by removing spacers and cleaning excess mortar from the joints and surface. Lightly mist the edges of nonvitreous tile with water so they won't take too much moisture from the grout. Vitreous tiles do not require misting.

Use a margin trowel to mix grout in clean containers, following the manufacturer's instructions, adding powder to liquid a little at a time. Let it set for 10 minutes and restir it to loosen its texture. Grout should be wet enough to spread, but not runny.

Checklist

Time
From 15 to 30 minutes to mix, float, and clean a 4-foot-square section (varies with tile size). About five minutes to caulk a 10-foot joint, 45 minutes to seal a 15x20-foot floor, longer if applying sealer to joints only.

Tools
Utility knife or grout knife, grout float, nylon scrubber, margin trowel, grout bag (optional), applicator or mop for sealer, caulk gun

Skills
Spreading grout with float, using caulk gun

Prep
Install all tile and let mortar cure

Materials
Grout, bucket and water, rags, sponge, sealer, caulk

Grouting Tile: Step 1

Remove spacers if you have not done so already. Inspect the joints for any remaining mortar and scrape it out with a utility knife or grout knife. Remove any remaining hardened mortar from the tile surface with a nylon (not metal) scrubber.

Grouting Tile: Step 2

Mix the grout to the consistency recommended by the manufacturer; dump or scoop out a small pile with a margin trowel. Working in 10-square-foot sections, pack the grout into the joints with a grout float. Hold the float at about a 30- to 45-degree angle; work it in both directions.

Grouting Tile: Step 3

Once you have grouted a section, hold the float almost perpendicular to the tile and scrape the excess off the tile surface. Work the float diagonally to the joints to avoid lifting the grout. If you remove grout, replace it in the joint and rescrape the surface. Let the grout set.

Grouting Tile: Step 4

When a just-damp sponge won't lift grout from the joint, you can start cleaning. Wring out excess water from a damp sponge and rub the surface in a circular motion. Rinse and wring out the sponge often. Repeat parallel to the joints to make them neat and once more to finish cleaning.

Grouting Tile: Step 5

Let the surface dry about 15 minutes, then remove the grout haze from the surface with a dry clean rag. Avoid terry cloth material; it can lift out uncured grout. Tile with a matte finish may require another cleaning with fresh water and a clean sponge.


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