The tiling process is not finished when the tiles have been fixed on the wall or floor. After they have been fixed in place with adhesive, with spacers in between them to ensure that the correct gap between them is maintained, grouting needs to be added to the whole section of tiling to finish off the task.

Forms of grouting

Although grout can be bought in a ready mix form, in most cases the best recommendation is to buy it in powdered form that is then mixed with water before you begin the actual job of grouting the tiling. In addition, although waterproof grouting might not be necessary in areas where there is no immediate risk of water seepage, this type is widely considered to give the best results. In places such as bathrooms and kitchens, for example, waterproof grouting is essential in order to protect against the effect of water in such environments.

Effects of grouting

There are several reasons why grouting is an important finishing touch on a tiling project. One of these is its appearance, which can give extra definition and a stylish look to the tiles. More importantly, however, grouting serves a vital function as a water barrier, providing protection against seepage and moisture that could otherwise get into the tiling, under the tiles themselves and cause extensive damage, both to the tiles and to the wall or floor, where damp is likely to accumulate and spread.

Keeping grouting effective

Good grouting can have several positive effects on tiling, but equally, poorly completed grouting can have a negative effect on the look and durability of tiles, whether on walls or floors. For this reason, it is worth spending some time getting the grouting mixture right and applying it thoroughly in the grout lines and along the edges of the tiling. The grout mix should be applied and finished so that the surface is as even as possible, as rough grout can attract moisture and encourage the growth of black mould, which makes the tiling look poor and risks damaging the tiling and wall or floor surface beneath. A grout finishing tool like the Multi-tool is useful for this job. The grout should also be applied in sufficient quantities, as an inadequate depth of grout may lead to it breaking down. It is worth bearing in mind that as grouting gets old it may not be necessary to remove the whole area of tiling to which it has been applied. In many cases, if tiles are not otherwise damaged, removing old grout and applying a fresh mix can reinvigorate the look of a section of tiling. This can be an extremely cost-effective way of tackling an area of tiling in a bathroom or kitchen when it needs freshening up.

Application of grout

Grout should only be applied after the tiling adhesive has properly dried, in accordance with instructions provided by the manufacturer of the product. Although times for drying vary, the adhesive typically requires at least 12 hours before grouting can commence. The grout is initially applied across the whole tiling surface and as with the tiling process, it is advisable to work on small sections of about a square metre of tiling at each stage. In this way, the grout mixture is not left on any tile for so long that it becomes difficult to remove after it has set. When the tiling is dry, the first step is to remove the spacers from between the tiles and to wipe them clear of any adhesive that still remains on the surface, as this can interfere with the look and effectiveness of the finished tiling. Bear in mind that the grout lines should be fully cleared of adhesive, tile debris, spacers and so on, so that a full depth of grout can be applied. Again, the Multi-tool is perfect for this job.

When the prepared grouting mixture is sufficiently smooth, take an amount of it, about the size of a golf ball and spread it over the whole surface of the tile, using a grout spreader. If you do not have a grout spreader, a squeegee or rubber float can be used in its place. Work the grout well into the grout lines and gaps, so that it is properly compressed to form a watertight seal. As you work through the small area of tiling to which grout is being applied, use a damp sponge to clean off the excess from the tile’s surface before it has a chance to dry. To avoid removing grout from the grout lines while you are doing this, the sponge should be drawn across the tiles at right angles to the grout lines. Next, check that the grouting has been finished smoothly before moving on to the next small section of tiling and applying fresh grouting mixture. If necessary, in particularly wide grout lines, a dowel rod can be used to smooth the grout in the grout line, without removing any of it.

Additional sealant

While grouting is frequently a good enough sealant against moisture, additional sealant will be required in some circumstances. Particularly in kitchens, bathrooms and other areas with running water or water pipes, the extra sealant can be applied, for example, in the gaps between the tiling and any work surfaces, window ledges, wash basins, pipework, and so on.  In addition, tiles made of some natural stone materials may also require additional sealant before they are laid, in order to ensure a good level of moisture resistance.

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