• Tile Sealers
- John P. Bridge
I have explained the process for sealing ceramic tile showers in a separate article. Here we’ll cover sealing tile floors.
For the most part, what we’ll actually be talking about is sealing the grout in ceramic tile floors. Floor tiles are made by various processes, but most of the ceramic floor tiles used today are made from porcelain. Tiles made in this manner, as well as some produced by other means, are dense to the point that they are “vitreous,” which means waterproof for all practical purposes. This means that they will not accept any sealer. What we are faced with, then, is the proposition of having to seal the grout joints while keeping the sealer away from the tiles. If sealer is allowed to dry on the surface of tiles, it will leave a gummy mess.
Before we continue, allow me to turn you on to my philosophy on floor tile grout colors. Floor tile grout is made with portland cement mixed with silica sand to give it strength. A coloring pigment is then usually added. Floors get dirty no matter how meticulous you might be in cleaning, and since the grout has a surface texture resembling fine sand paper, dirt tends to rub in instead of rubbing off during the cleaning process. So even though sealing the grout will help with stains from liquids, no amount of sealer is going to change the surface texture of the grout. The grout is going to get dirty. Face it.
So here it comes. Grout your floors with a grout that most resembles the color of dirt, which is gray. Medium gray is best. Many of my customers accept my advice, but others tell me to go fly a kite. I end up doing what I’m told, but I always bring the matter up.
Sealer technology has come a long way is is being improved constantly. Some sealers are now purported to last up to fifteen years. I don’t know how true that is, but certainly, several years longevity is attainable. Get your sealer from a tile supply dealer and you will have experienced people to advise you on its use. You can also get excellent advice on the John Bridge Tile Forums.
First, read the directions supplied with the product. You can either brush sealer on the grout joints, or you can purchase applicators that will do it. Keep clean rags or white paper towels handy to wipe sealer off the edges of the tiles as you go. You must completely saturate the tile joints, so don’t be skimpy with the product. If your floor is large, plan on doing the work in easily handled segments. It doesn’t all have to be done at the same time.
But whatever you do, don’t do what I do. I’ve been painting the interior of my house for nearly four years now, and I’ve got one small room completely painted. Some, but not all, of the trim in an adjacent room has also been painted. Oh, and I knocked out the inside of the front door. I’m telling you, it’s pathetic. If you’re inclined to dog along like me, perhaps you’d better hire someone to seal your floor.
Let the sealer dry overnight and you’re in business. How long it lasts will, again, be determined by the quality of the sealer. Try to get the best one you can (and I’ve told you where to get the best one above). :-)
Some older tiles will accept sealers. The colorful Italian tiles that were popular up until about fifteen years ago come to mind. If you have absorbent tiles, you can simply roll the sealer onto tile and grout with a paint roller, cutting in around the edges with a brush in order to keep the product off woodwork. Glazed Mexican tiles, those made with softer clay, will also accept sealers.
Saltillo and real terracotta tiles will always be sealed. Saltillo tiles are covered in another article.