In today’s modern homes, lucky are homeowners who are able to preserve the natural charm and elegance of their respective homes. No matter how small or simple the design and built may be, homes are a reflection of the homeowner’s innate personalities. This is one reason why home management is such a valuable endeavor in every American household.
From renovation activities to simple restoration jobs to major reconstruction and design changes in one’s home, American homeowners have learned to increase the value of their real estate properties. They do this by initiating measures that either highlight the natural beauty of a home or make the necessary changes to make it more appealing. Doing so increases its overall resale value, not to mention the accolades one can potentially get from the neighborhood.
Tiles of our Lives
Among homes that need careful reconstructive or restoration planning are those whose floors and walls are made of tiles. Tiles are finishing materials that are used to cover floors, walls, ceilings, showers, and even tabletops. These materials are often made of ceramic but can also be made of polished stone, hardened clay, metal, wood, and even glass. Truly, a modern home cannot exist without some form of tile that serves to cover any of the many places inside of it.
The modern day tiles we often see on the floors of modern homes are commonly made of ceramic, stone, or porcelain. However, because of advances in technology as well as the science involved in the development of more durable tiles, glass tiles have seen an increase in usage over the past few years. The beauty of using ceramic tiles is that they can be painted and glazed to make them more visually appealing and at the same time give them a certain substantive value.
Natural stone tiles will usually require a more thorough planning especially in its installation and application of finishing touches. Considering that stone tiles come in different size, shape, and shades of different color, meticulous planning is needed to create a stunning piece of floor work.
The Art of Tile-Laying
In the business of tile-laying, it is important to have a firm grasp of creative design, especially in the use of stone tiles and other irregularly shaped and structured floor coverings. One needs to understand the basics of laying tiles one after the other so that the whole tapestry is a reflection of the homeowner’s desire to make a single piece of tile.
In the tile-laying standards of yesteryears, floor tiles were normally set into mortar that was composed of sand and cement with the addition of a latex additive. The latex additive served to provide additional adhesion for the floor tile so that it will not be accidentally removed from its place. Nowadays, the technology has seen the use of sanded or unsanded floor grout.
Grout is a construction material that is used to connect sections of precast concrete, fill and seal the gaps and spaces between adjoining structures such as those found in floor tiles, and embed rebars in masonry walls. It is normally composed of cement, sand, and water and, to a certain extent, fine gravel.
Tiling grout can be of three different types, namely, cement based, epoxy, and furan resin grout. Cement based tiling grout are often the easiest to work with as they can be available pre-mixed or in powder form. This type of grout, however, is a lot weaker than the other types of tiling grout.
Furan resin grout, on the other hand, offers better adhesion for tiles than cement-based grout. The main downside is in the complexity of its application wherein one needs to pre-treat the surface with wax and removing excess grout through steam cleaning even before its application.
Epoxy grout is the most effective of the three, and is also the most expensive. This kind of grout is water and stain-resistant such that they are often used in covering kitchen countertops.
To Seal or Not to Seal
In today’s modern living, some authorities suggest the sealing of the tile and grout with some form of a sealant in order to prevent the seepage of water and moisture into the grains of the tile and grout. This practice has been in use among several professional companies that offer a variety of cleaning and restoration services.
It is believed that grout sealants actually protect the tile from wear and tear and give it a longer shelf life. These products act as a shield or barrier between the delicate matrix of the grout.
There is some sense of credibility to all this talk, more often stemming from the very reason why grout is applied in the first place. We have to understand that grout is applied to fill the gap and seal this opening or space between two adjoining tiles. With this primary reason, the purpose of the grout is to bridge the two tiles together. At the same time, it covers the space between the tiles which can be just loose soil or even the unfinished concrete surface of the floor or wall where the tiles are laid.
Now, the moment the grout starts to break up, such as during extreme weather conditions where grout can easily crack, dirt, grime, grease, and even water can seep and embed into the grout itself. This weakens the adhesive properties of the grout leading to a loosening of the individual tiles.
The water, grime, grease, and dirt that has found its way into the tile and grout matrix can begin to dissolve the natural chemical composition of the tile and grout. The result is the discoloration of the tile and grout, often to certain degrees such that they become short of an eye sore.
So, the question of whether to seal or not to seal grout and tiles is more often a question of practicality. For homeowners who may want to preserve the natural beauty and luster of their floor tiles and the grout with which the tiles are adhered to, the application of a tile and grout sealant may well be the most practical thing to do.
However, it should not be misconstrued that the application of a tile and grout sealant is the cure-all for the preservation of tile and grout in tip-top shape. It does not also mean that regular cleaning should already be curtailed simply because the tile and grout has a protective barrier of their own.
With a tile and grout sealant applied to the surface, tiles and grout should be a lot easier to clean. There will be minimal scrubbing of the surface and no need to use harsh industrial strength cleaners to remove stains and unwanted discolorations from the surface of the tiles.
You see, what the sealant does, aside from protecting the structures underneath, is that it also provides a thin film of slick surface which is impermeable to water, grease, grime, and dirt. Such debris will often just ‘float’ or ‘skim’ on the surface of this very thin film so that a single and swift wiping action can literally remove the debris away.
The economics of tile and grout cleaning is greatly improved if the floor tile and grout surfaces have been applied with sealant. This roughly translates to the following benefits for the average homeowner.
1. No need for thorough, day-long cleaning and restoration because the surfaces of tiles and grout can be wiped clean in an instant. This is made possible by the thin film of slick coating produced by the tile and grout sealant.
2. No need to purchase large and bulky electronic cleaning appliances such as floor polishers, vacuum cleaners, and other similar devices because a clean piece of used clothing, rag, or any other kind of fabric is enough to clean the surface.
3. As cleaning will only entail very minimal use of electricity, you can save on your power consumption by not using bulky and energy-inefficient appliances. These savings can also be further enhanced by the savings you will generate from not calling for professional cleaning and restoration services. As you all know, such professional companies charge a substantial amount of money for their services.
4. Because you will not spend all day cleaning and polishing floor tiles and grout, you can spend the extra time on more productive and quality activities. You can go fishing with your son, play ball in the park, or just enjoy one lazy weekend afternoon by the lake. Whatever you do, you can do with all the time savings you get from shaving time off cleaning tiles and grout.
5. Lastly, and more importantly, by using grout and tile sealants you will be able to preserve the natural beauty and luster of your floor tiles a lot longer. This, in essence, increases the value of your home and will also be the envy of your neighbours and friends.
By this time, it is already clear that sealing tiles and grout will greatly aid in their regular cleaning. For homeowners who need to find practical ways to efficiently manage their properties, the application of tile and grout sealant will definitely be a must.