Grouts, Caulks, and Sealers
Grouts, caulks, and sealers complete a tile installation. The use of each product will vary with the kind of tile installed.
Grout does more than just fill the joints between ceramic or stone tiles, it also strengthens the entire surface, increases flexibility, helps prevent water damage to the subsurface, and contributes to the design of the installation.
Grout is sold already premixed, or you can mix your own. Premixed grout offers increased convenience but is slightly weaker. If the powdered grout you purchase does not contain a dry polymer, mix it with a latex additive instead of water for increased flexibility, strength, color retention, and mildew and stain resistance. Sanded and unsanded grouts come in a wide selection of colors, making it easy to match your tile.
Caulk is a flexible material used to fill joints that require maximum flexibility -- expansion joints, those around sinks and plumbing fixtures, and inside corners.
Caulks come in two kinds of dispensers -- tubes for use with a caulk gun or in squeezable tubes. Both sanded and unsanded mixtures are available in many colors. Always use silicone caulk; latex caulk is not as durable and changes color over time.
Sealer prevents liquid and stains from penetrating tiles and joints. A penetrating sealer works its way into the surface of the material. A topical sealer remains on the surface of the tile in a thin layer and, depending on the product, can alter the appearance of the surface.
To seal joints, use an applicator designed specifically for this purpose. Use a mop or sealer applicator to seal the surface of unglazed tiles. Use a roller or brush for parquet.
Sizing the joints
Certain kinds of tile generally look best with grout joints of a specific width.
- Glazed tiles: 3/16 to 3/8 inch
- Porcelain tiles: 1/8 to 1/4 inch
- Terra-cotta tiles: 3/4 inch
- Cement-bodied tiles: 3/8 to 1/2 inch
- Granite, marble stone tiles: 1/16 inch
- Slate tiles: 3/8 to 1/2 inch
Use these dimensions as a guide. You can vary the size to suit the aesthetics of your installation and to make tiles fit evenly across the room, but larger joints are more likely to crack. Irregular tiles such as saltillo and other handmade pavers usually need large joints to make their edges look even and aligned with one another.
- Tile Design Principles & Ideas: Color, Patterns & Texture
- Planning Your Tile Installation
- Preparing Surfaces for Tiling
- Mastering Tile Installation Techniques
- Tiling Floors, Walls & Countertops
- Tiling Special Spaces
- Tiling Decorative Accents
- Tiling Bathrooms: How to Tile Bathroom Features
- Tiling Outdoor Projects
- Installing Resilient & Parquet Tile
- Installing Laminate, Cork & Carpet Tiles
- Tile Repair & Maintenance