These days, a lot of people are trying to save money by doing some home improvement projects on their own. If you’re doing a project that involves bathroom tiles, that means you’re also dealing with grout. There is definitely a learning curve when you’re dealing with grout but the question that needs to be answered here involves grout sealer. Some experts claim that you should always use it and others claim that you shouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole (at least not as a DIY project).
Which belief is correct? It’s equally important to learn why you might want to consider using grout sealer in the first place by learning more about what it does, how it works and whether or not it’s actually consistent. Without any further delay, let’s get down to learning more about grout sealer so you can make your own choices when it comes to your future projects.
What is Grout Sealer?
In short, grout sealer is a chemical compound that is placed over the grout in order to prevent it from absorbing water. Why is it so important that you prevent the grout from absorbing water? Most grout has a tendency to absorb moisture readily and once it does, the mold and mildew process starts. Keep in mind, this isn’t always something that’s completely visible to the naked eye.
As a matter of fact, there are a number of cases where the grout might look completely normal on the surface, yet you have a problem that is bubbling just underneath. Since mold is dangerous to breathe whether you can see it or not, this is obviously not something that you want to have going on in your bathroom, kitchen or anywhere else. That’s precisely why you need a grout sealer. That being said, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to know about grout sealer before you actually start applying it yourself.
How Is Grout Sealer Sold?
At least you have some variety in this particular case. Grout sealer is sold in a number of different ways so that you can apply it differently. If you really want to spend a lot of time sealing your grout, you can brush it on. Keep in mind that if you’re using relatively small tiles you’re going to have several hours worth of work to do, so you might want to think about the method you choose beforehand.
Thankfully, you can also roll it on or in the most tedious cases, you can even spray your grout sealer on. Grout sealer dries clear but it;s important to remember that you should make every effort to keep it off the tiles. Obviously, this is something you will have to take into account if you decide to use the spray-on method.
Should You Always Use Grout Sealer?
In almost every case, the answer is a resounding yes. However, there is one important exception. If you’re using an epoxy grout, there is absolutely no need to follow it up with grout sealer. Why is this the case? Remember, grout sealer is used to do exactly what the name implies, seal the grout and prevent water and bacteria from getting into it. Epoxy grout is already water-resistant so it will repel the water naturally as opposed to absorbing it. Therefore, there is no need to add this extra step after you’ve already applied your grout. In every other case, it’s absolutely crucial to use grout sealer.
Does Grout Sealer Serve Any Other Purpose?
As it happens, grout sealer does indeed serve another purpose. While its primary purpose is to prevent mold, mildew and bacteria by repelling water, there is one other important aspect that should be considered here. It is a great way to prevent unsightly stains from getting on your grout. Nobody wants to go to the trouble of retiling their bathroom, only to have some type of stain show up on the grout that they can’t get rid of, no matter what they do.
If you seal the grout, you won’t have to worry about this because it essentially prevents the grout from absorbing anything that could potentially stain it. Otherwise, you’re sort of playing Russian roulette because grout tends to absorb virtually everything. Therefore, grout sealer doesn’t just protect your project, but it also keeps it looking its absolute best for years to come.
Can You Apply Grout Sealer Right Away?
The reason that so many people loathe the idea of applying grout sealer is because it can be incredibly tedious. Unless you’re spraying it on, it takes a long time to apply. Furthermore, you have to wait at least two to three days after you have finished the very last bit of grout so that all of it can cure properly before you apply the sealant. That’s right, the area that you have retiled is going to be in total disarray for a few days. It’s important to know this going into the project. Otherwise, you could be doing yourself a real disservice.
Why Does Your Grout Have to Be Completely Dry Before Applying Grout Sealer?
This one should be fairly self-explanatory but if you seal the grout too soon, you are essentially locking moisture inside with no way for it to get out. If moisture can’t get out, then everything behind it is going to mold sooner rather than later. As a direct result, it’s imperative that the grout be completely dry and cured before you apply the sealer. If you’re in a hurry, you can try to speed up the process by making sure that the room is well-ventilated and that you keep it as warm as possible. However, it’s still best to wait the aforementioned two to three days just to be sure that everything is truly dry.
Weather Makes a Difference
Another thing that you have to remember is that weather makes a difference in how quickly or slowly your grout is going to dry. If you live in an area that has relatively low humidity, it will tend to dry faster so you might be able to apply grout sealer in roughly 48 hours. On the other hand, living in an area where the humidity is high is going to slow the entire process, sometimes significantly.
If you decide to retile and grout your bathroom at the most humid time of year and you live in an area such as Louisiana, it might actually take longer than three days for everything to dry out. In a case like that, you can help the process by bringing in warmers along with a few fans to keep the air moving. Remember, make sure the room is well-ventilated. This can make things really tricky if you’re working in a bathroom that doesn’t have a window. In such a scenario, warmers and fans become more important than ever.
Check for Problems Before you Seal your Grout
Another important thing to remember is that you absolutely must check your grout for issues before you seal it, not after the fact. What should you be looking for? Check for cracks or areas that haven’t been filled in completely. If you find any, you can’t just seal over it. Instead, you have to go back, regrout the area in question, wait an additional two to three days for it to cure properly and then seal it. As you can see, it’s very important that you do a thorough job of grouting your tile before you seal it unless you want to be doing this process over and over again for the next several days.
What Happens if Grout Sealer Gets on the Tiles?
Ideally, you don’t want grout sealer to get on your tiles in any way, shape or form. This is especially true if you have a type of tile that is porous. A perfect example would be terracotta tiles that have not been glazed. There are also some other natural stone tiles that are porous. What happens if grout sealer accidentally gets on these tiles? For starters, you can’t get it off because of the porous nature of the tiles themselves.
Secondly, it’s entirely possible that the grout sealer could discolor the tiles, creating an absolute mess out of your project. Even when you’re using glazed tiles, it’s still best not to get the sealer on the tiles themselves. You don’t want to do sloppy work so instead of trying to rush through the job, take your time, slow down and keep the sealer on the grout.
Are There Different Types of Grout Sealer?
As a matter of fact, there are two different types of grout sealer. The first is a type that actually forms a membrane over the grout itself and the second penetrates it and prevents it from absorbing water. The former definitely has its place, but it’s not a good idea for bathrooms because it can sometimes cause additional mold and mildew problems, as water that’s trapped underneath the tiles themselves can’t escape.
If you’re using a penetrating grout sealer, the titles are largely unaffected in that particular respect. Therefore, if you get grout sealer on a tile accidentally, you don’t have to worry about mold and mildew occurring as a direct result. That’s not the case with the membrane forming grout sealer, something that is better left to projects that occur in well-ventilated rooms and don’t come into as much contact with water.
Should You Tackle Such a Project Yourself?
In short, the answer to this question is going to depend on whether or not you feel like you’re up to the task and if you have enough patience to put up with the process before deciding it’s time to take the entire lot of your tools and throw them across the room. Sealing grout is a very detailed process and it takes a long time to do it properly. If you’re willing to put in the time in the effort, there’s no reason to think that you can’t seal your own grout but it’s important to keep in mind the type of tile you’re using, the kind of sealer that you need and then to actively ensure you’re doing the job properly throughout. This is definitely not something that you want to get impatient with and start rushing through.
Understanding the Process
Of course, the most important thing is to have a clear understanding of the grout sealing process from beginning to end. In every case, the first thing you need to do is gather your tools. The last thing anyone wants to do is get ready to perform a task like this, only to realize that they don’t have something that they need. You definitely don’t want to be stopping in the middle of everything so you can run to the store and pick up more items.
That being said, what are the other steps involved? The very first step is to properly clean your grout. That’s right, you have to allow the grout to cure for two to three days and then clean it. If you’re using water in any capacity, keep in mind that an additional two to three days will be needed for it to cure a second time. Fortunately, you can use some chemical cleansers that are designed just for this purpose. From there, you can brush, roll or spray the grout sealer on, keeping it off the tiles as much as possible and ensuring an even coating throughout.
When you’re finally done sealing your grout, it’s best to get all of the tools out of the room, tidy up and then give your bathroom, kitchen or other area an additional couple of days just to make sure that everything is in good working order before you start using it. This is a project that someone can do well, even if they’ve never done it before. That being said, it is not something that can be rushed through.
This point can’t be stressed enough, so make sure that you give yourself time to complete it properly. Even more importantly, the whole process starts with knowing as much as you possibly can about grout sealer and having an innate understanding of how it works. Only then will you know why it’s so important to use it the right way.