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Lesser Known Aspects of Tile and Grout Discussed In Detail

Updated on January 4, 2017
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Jason Mackenzie is the proprietor of Perth Home Cleaners, a reputed and reliable firm that specializes in cleaning carpets and rugs.

Tile and Grout

Where there is a tile, there is also grout.
Where there is a tile, there is also grout.

Tile and Grout - A Life-long Relationship

Tiling accrues multiple benefits in the long run like style, durability and cleanliness. That said, there is another factor that has made a significant contribution to the growing popularity of tiles and it is that of versatility.

Gone are the days when tiles were limited to kitchen and bathrooms. Nowadays it is a fad to have tiles in living rooms, foyers, hallways and even countertops owing to their durability, ease of maintenance and style, not to mention their high aesthetic appeal. With tiles, you can exercise your creativity and choose material, colours and designs as per the décor and purpose of the room.

However, you might as well take note of the fact that tiling also involves formation of grout and both have an important role to play in creating the overall impression. Therefore, as a home owner, you must pay equal attention to cleaning of tile and grout rather than focusing only on one.

What is Mortar?

Irrespective of the type, all tiles are laid on a layer of mortar which basically comprises of mud and is meant to act as a foundation. For the tiling to be stable and long-lasting, mortar should be free from bubbles. It should also be loose enough to facilitate breathing so that there is no shifting of tiles due to settlement of tiny particles over a period of time.

Types of Tiles

As one of the oldest forms of flooring in the world, tiling has evolved over the decades with the result that today there are several different types to choose from, like ceramic, porcelain, limestone and so on. With so many options, it is but natural for a home owner to feel overwhelmed and confused while picking tiles for his home.

To this effect, following is a brief overview of some of the common types compiled with the intention of rendering the decision making process easier for you -

Ceramic

Regarded as being the softest material, ceramic is a popular choice among home owners courtesy of its versatility. Because it is made by baking a mixture of clay and water, it is particularly prone to cracks, chips and scratches. Also, owing to high absorbency of its components, it is more likely to get stained than other types of tiles.

On the flip side, ceramic tiles come in a wide array of colours and patterns and hence there is something for everyone in this segment.

Porcelain

Although this type of tile is also based on clay, it is comparatively much denser than a ceramic tile and hence more durable. Porcelain tiles are also resistant to stains, scratches and chips and that is why it is regarded as being most well-suited for high-traffic areas. Owing to their inherent characteristics, porcelain tiles need less maintenance as compared to their ceramic counterparts and this rule is just as applicable to their grout.

Porcelain tiles could be thorough-bodied or glazed and while the former is an ideal option for a commercial location, the latter is often the first choice of residential dwellers.

Vinyl

Economical and convenient, vinyl tiles are the easiest to install and can even be stuck and peeled if the surface permits. For home owners who are short on budget, these are perfect as long as they are not applied to areas that require hard tiling.

Glass

These are most effective on floors and walls wherein reflection forms an important part of the ambiance. Courtesy of their glossy finish and flat surface, they can add glamour to an otherwise normal counter-top and provide a distinct outline to mosaic patterns. However, glass tiles require high maintenance since even a tiny smear or a single chip can spoil the entire back-splash effect that they are meant to provide.

Natural Stone

Granite, marble, limestone and slate are some of the common varieties of natural stone that are used for tiling floors, walls and counter-tops after having been cut as per the requisite dimensions.

Travertine is an exotic type of natural stone tile which is characterized by consistent patterns and does not demand much maintenance. Home owners prefer this type of tile since it has been known to have a positive impact on the resale value of a property owing to its durability and aesthetic appeal.

Metal

Latest in this category are metal tiles that lend a contemporary touch to any décor and require minimal maintenance. While these are a good match for stainless steel utensils, they come in copper and bronze finishes too, thus enabling the user to add a touch of color to an otherwise sterile décor.

Fact-file on Spacers

  • The purpose of spacers is to ensure that tiles appear proportionate.
  • Traditional sizes for tile spacers range between 1/4th inch and 1/16th inch.
  • Commonly chosen spacers measure 1/4th inch or 3/8th inch.
  • ½, 3/4th and 1/8thare some of the other sizes that are used.
  • There is no hard and fast rule as regards the size of spacers that should be used during tiling.

Spacing between Tiles

No matter which type of tile you choose, what is essential is to ensure that the tiles are laid evenly in straight line formation with uniform spacing between them. To this effect, the importance of spacing cannot be stressed enough because it has a direct bearing on the final outcome. Not only should you determine the amount of space between your tiles but also the grid along which the tiles should be laid.

There are several factors that need to be taken into account while determining the space between tiles and primary among them is the size of the individual tile. Once you have ascertained the dimensions of the tiles, the next step is to gauge the spacing between them so that the need to cut or resize is minimal. As a result, it would be easier to lay down tiles without requiring too many small pieces or fillers along the edges and across the layout.

Likewise, in case of an uneven floor, space between tiles should be reduced as much as possible so that the grout remains in its place and you do not have to re-grout within short intervals. Tile spacers are tools that enable you to adjudge the space between tiles and ensure that they are aligned correctly as per the pattern or design. Spacers also come in a variety of sizes and it is imperative on your part to identify one that would be best suited for your project.

Types of Tile Spacers

Like tiles, spacers are also available in a variety of options ranging from a traditional plastic cross to a spacer with a knob on top to facilitate ease of placement and removal. Because spacers can be washed, it is possible to reuse them over and over again for every tiling project.

Why Is Tile Spacing Important?

If you have opted for tiling with the intention of acquiring trendy interiors, then it is all the more important that the task should be handled with care and proficiency. Paying attention to spacing between the tiles is one way of accomplishing this objective given the fall-out that it has on related aspects like size of tiles to be used, number of tiles required and their alignment.

While spacing between tiles might seem insignificant at first, no home owner should make the mistake of ignoring it owing to the following reasons –

  • It is only after having ascertained the space between tiles that you must start cutting as per specific dimensions. This would serve to avoid excessive cutting and enable you to curb wastage.
  • Spacing would enable you to ensure that your tiles follow a certain grid and this in turn would automatically lead to a symmetrical outcome.
  • Courtesy of using spacers throughout the area, the resulting grout will also be consistent in terms of width, thus imparting a neat look even in the corners.

Application of spacers would ensure that your tiles would fall in straight line and there would be no requirement of fillers even along the edges of the room.

Using Tile Spacers

Using tile spacers as part of the project can make a lot of difference.
Using tile spacers as part of the project can make a lot of difference.

Tools for Cleaning Grout

No matter which type of tile you use, inclusion of grout is a must although what might vary is the way in which it is applied.

Grout is obtained by adding cement to a mixture of water and sand and it is regarded as being the perfect material to hold tiles together and fill the void between them. Usually the level of grout is slightly lower than that of tiles and this explains why it is prone to collect dirt and grime. While it is possible to add a layer of protection to the grout by incorporating a sealer, the shield is effective only for a short duration.

Over a period of time, grout appears as a crisscross of dark lines courtesy of stains, spills and dust having gathered in the crevices and this in turn shrouds the tile floor in dullness. Imperative that it is to clean tile and grout regularly, you would do well to be aware of appropriate tools for the exercise to be truly effective and the results to be long-lasting. To this effect, enumerated as follows are brushes that can come in handy for cleaning grout -

Small Grout Brush

Designed to be larger and wider than a normal toothbrush, it is particularly useful in scrubbing out dirt from narrow lines and corners that may otherwise seem inaccessible. Unlike a toothbrush, the small grout brush comes with stiff bristles that may be curved or U-shaped and hence are well-suited to remove not just dirt but grime and stubborn oil stains too.

Given that every house has its share of tricky twists, turns and corners, including this brush in your grout cleaning arsenal is a must.

Triangle-shaped Grout Brush

Slightly bigger than the small grout brush, there are three faces to this brush wherein two serve as grips for holding and the third features stiff bristles. What renders them truly convenient is the provision for attaching handles to grips which means that you can use them to scrub grout without going down on your hands and feet. This would also serve to enhance their reach although some far-flung corners might still be inaccessible.

Power Brush

This grout-cleaning brush is not just the most flexible but is also regarded as being the most efficient. Flexibility of this brush is attributed to the provision of attachments, like sponge, scouring pad, roller brush and so on, as also the adjustment mechanism of its handles owing to which the pole can be lengthened or shortened as per the requirement. Source of power in this grout-cleaning brush is a battery which lasts for about 30 minutes at a stretch after which it would need to be recharged or replaced.

Professional Grout-cleaning Brush

At first glance these might resemble mops and brooms but closer examination would reveal thinner and narrower heads which render this brush perfect for cleaning grout under tables and chairs not to mention behind fixtures like a toilet seat or a cabinet.

Some of the options offered under this category include a brush with V-shaped bristles for extracting stubborn grime and grease and a two-sided brush wherein one side is designed to clean grout and the other side is meant for cleaning tiles.

Cleaning Grout Using A Power Tool

Final Word

Any decision that you take pertaining to the interior of your home should conform to contemporary benchmarks and tile and grout are no exception to this rule. In such a situation, knowledge regarding types of tiles and how to clean grout would go a long way in ensuring that your investment yields long-term returns.

Spacing is an aspect of tiling that many home owners make the mistake of overlooking often to regret later when the tiles have been wrongly laid or appear clumsy due to many fillers. Learning about spacing and the difference that it can make should be a priority for every home owner since it can accrue multiple benefits in terms of time, material and expenses.

These are aspects of tile and grout which may not be apparent immediately but their cognizance could prove to be instrumental in defining the success of the project.

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      Jason Mackenzie 6 months ago from Perth WA 6000

      Thanks Shelley!! Truly appreciate!!!

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      shelley.cruz@att.net 6 months ago

      Great Article. Very helpful. I am sending it to my husband who is often fixing, sealing, cleaning the grout in our tiles!