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This article discusses the use of sealers on ceramic and stone tiles used in kitchens and bathrooms. We describe the strength but also the water absorption properties of ceramic tiles as well as the risks of water penetration into a floor, subfloor and even building structure at tile grout joints. We include a table of the water resistant properties of each type of ceramic tile.
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Our page top photo shows a ceramic tile bathroom floor installed in the Lotus Club, New York City. At left we illustrate a Mexican clay tile installation in process in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. There was much debate about whether or not we should use a sealer on this tile exposed to the weather.
This article series discusses current best design practices for kitchens and bathrooms, including layout, clearances, work space, and accessible kitchen and bathroom layout, clearances, turning space, grab bars, controls, etc. We include advice on choosing and installing kitchen countertops, cabinets, and kitchen or bathroom flooring, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures and fixture controls such as faucets. A list of kitchen and bath product manufactures and sources is included. This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.
The body of a ceramic tile, also called the bisque, is made by heating a mixture of clay and other additives in a kiln. In general, the longer the clay is fired and the higher the temperature, the denser and stronger the tile will be and the more impervious to water absorption.
Nonporous tiles that absorb little water will perform better in wet applications than porous tiles. The tile bisques manufactured according to ANSI standards are rated from nonvitreous to impervious (see Table 6-4).
[Click any image or table to see an enlarged version with additional detail, commentary & source citation.]
A wide variety of proprietary sealers are available to protect natural stone against staining from grout, dirt, foods, and household products. In addition, some sealers help conceal minor scratches and increase slip resistance.
Some products require regular reapplication and may cause a surface buildup unless stripped. Penetrating oil-type sealers may change the color of some types of stone and can even trap dirt in the finish.
For best results, follow recommendations of the stone supplier and use products with an established track record.
While latex or acrylic additives help protect the grout from staining, sealing the grout after it cures provides the best protection. There are a wide variety of products on the market.
Consult the directions regarding when and how often to apply. Many require reapplication annually or more often, depending on the specific use.
Regardless, to keep grout from darkening and staining, it will need regular cleaning with a grout cleaner or mild detergent.
Avoid oil-based soaps as they tend to
Bonsal American www.bonsal.com Setting compounds, grouts, preformed shower pans, curbs, and niches. Also, distributor of backerboards, isolation membranes, and other tile-setting products
Color Caulk, div. of Roanoke Companies Group www.colorcaulk.com Color-matched caulking
Custom Building Products www.custombuildingproducts.com Elastomeric and liquid-applied membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, and grouts
Laticrete International www.laticrete.com Trowel-on membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, grouts, and sealants
Noble Company www.noblecompany.com CPE sheet membranes, trowel-on membranes, clamping ring drains, and preformed slopes, niches, and curbs
Mapei www.mapei.com Trowel-on and sheet membranes, self-leveling underlayments, setting compounds, grouts, and color-matched sanded caulks
Custom Building Products www.custombuildingproducts.com Wonderboard cement backerboard, Easyboard cement and polystyrene lightweight backerboard, and Rhinoboard fiber-cement backerboard
Georgia-Pacific Gypsum www.gp.com/build Denshield gypboard backer with glass-matt facing
James Hardie Building Products www.jameshardie.com Fiber-cement backerboard
National Gypsum www.nationalgypsum.com Permabase lightweight cement and polystyrene backerboard
Schluter Systems www.schluter.com Kerdi tile membrane goes directly over drywall or other substrates
T. Clear Corp./Fin Pan Inc. www.finpan.com Util-A-Crete lightweight concrete backerboard
U.S. Gypsum www.usg.com Durock cement backerboard
W. R. Bonsal www.bonsal.com Extruded polystyrene backerboard with fiberglassreinforced cement facing
-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.
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