Should you Care about Grout for your Bathroom Design?

When planning a bathroom remodeling project, which items top your list of products to investigate with your bathroom design expert?  Perhaps you are looking for a specific shower, vanity, or tile?  Selecting grout probably did not make the top of your list.  While it may not be the most exciting part of a bathroom renovation, it is important to understand that all grout is not created equal.  Selecting the correct grout for your tile installation can make a huge difference in the finished product and ongoing maintenance of your new space.

What is grout?

Grout is a very important component in any tile installation, as it helps hold the assembly tile in place, seals gaps between tiles, and helps to maintain a watertight surface.  Grout is decorative but it is also part of the structural assembly of the tile design.  It becomes part of a finished surface that must be able to withstand moisture, abrasion, impact, and dirt. 

We now know grout is important, but grout is grout, right?  No! There are different types of grout in a range of prices, and it does make a difference what type you use.  People only notice grout when it fails but using the right grout the first time is critical if you want your newly tiled surface to last!

What are the main types of grout?

Grout types differ based on the type of tile and width of joints, as well as the ease of installation, ongoing maintenance, and price: 

  • Unsanded grout is used for narrow tile joints (1/8” or less).
  • Sanded grout is for wider tile joints (greater than 1/8”).  The sand added helps bulk up the grout and keep it from shrinking in wider joints. 

Both sanded and unsanded standard grout types require a sealer to be applied.

  • Epoxy grout, made up of resin and hardener, is required for surfaces prone to grease and dirt, and is mainly used in commercial tile installations.  It is harder to install than standard grout types since it requires several items to be mixed, has a short working time, and then cannot be reused.
  • Urethane grout is a pre-mixed, sanded grout that is virtually maintenance free and much easier to install than epoxy grout.  The container can be resealed allowing the product to be reused again, so there is almost no wasted product.  Once installed the grout has to cure for up to seven days without exposure to water, which can be impractical.
  • Glass bead grout is a urethane grout that contains micro glass beads, which allows light to pass through and gives it a translucent feel.  It has all the benefits of urethane grout, but cures faster in approximately three days. 

These three grouts do not require a sealer.  They are all more expensive than standard grout, but are impervious to most chemicals, stains, and moisture.  While they still get dirty, the grout will clean up easier, helping you maintain your bathroom design over time.

To Seal or Not to Seal?

Standard grout is cement based and therefore porous, allowing liquid, grease and dirt to seep in.  Over time it deteriorates the grout material and lets bacteria form in and underneath the grout.  This is as unpleasant as it sounds, and can be extremely difficult to clean.  Sealing grout after it dries helps protect it from the elements and keep dirt and bacteria from taking hold. 

There are two main types of sealer:

  • Penetrating grout sealer seeps into the grout, has no shine, and does not alter the grout color;
  • Non-penetrating, or membrane forming, grout sealer forms a barrier on the surface to help repel water and stains, but it can turn cloudy and is prone to peeling.

It is important to clean and re-seal high traffic areas over time.

Grout Color Choices?

Grout is a very practical element of a bathroom renovation, but the type and color greatly impacts the style of the room by cohesively pulling together the tile design.  The main color choices include:

  • A contrasting color, such as white grout with a dark tile;
  • A harmonizing color, using the same color grout and tile, like the design below left; or
  • A neutral color, like white, cream, or gray, like the bathroom design pictured below right.

 

Neutral is usually a preferable choice unless you are set on a particular look.  If you are going for a bold color, try out the design on some plywood first and be sure to look at it in different lighting.  Trial your selection and make the right choice the first time!

Make sure you discuss which grout is right for you with your bathroom remodeling expert, or contact us to find out more.