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Old 08-15-2019, 08:22 AM   #1
EmilieN
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Grouting an Outdoor Mosaic in Pittsburgh, PA

I just finished a mosaic on the retaining wall in front of my house. I essentially spent all of my free time working on this project for most of the spring and summer (did the top last summer), so I would really like to make a good decision on grout. I would be heartbroken if it got ruined due to a bad grout decision, or installation issues. It would take forever to dig out the grout to redo, and possibly damage the mosaic.

The only grouts I have experience with are Polyblend, usually sanded, from Home Depot. I've been researching other grouts because the Polyblend, while it seems to hold up pretty well over time, discolors, the color is inconsistent, sometimes unpredictable, and it stains. I grouted the top of the wall less than a year ago, and the Oyster Grey grout I bought came out white, and already has some stains from dirt, etc.

I've been researching Prism and Fusion Pro from Home Depot, and it sounds like people on the internet have had major problems with these, and that they’re hard to work with and clean anything I missed at a later time.

I did a test panel with Prism, and though the color looks rich and consistent, I had a hard time getting the grout off the tiles, even right away, and the joints came out way too low because I cleaned it so much.

I'm inclined to stick with the Polyblend, just because I'm used to working with it, and hesitant to try a new grout on this project because any mistakes due to inexperience can ruin the mosaic, and that would be a major problem.

Also because it's the only grout I researched that can be submerged in water, like pools and saunas, and we often have long and hard rains in which the wall might as well be submerged, it gets so wet. Also this tells me that Polyblend is more durable and would last longer that the others.

My concern with sealing the Polyblend grout is that once there are small cracks and holes in the sealer, water and moisture will get trapped in the grout, and not evaporate because it's sealed, and with freezing and thawing, would destroy the mosaic.

Does anyone have experience with any other grouts that might work well in my situation? Any insights and sharing of experiences would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:45 AM   #2
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I would not waste time with a sealer. In your application, it will not do a thing.

I also would not use fusion or any other premix grout for an outdoor application like that.

Those are some HUGE gaps to fill with grout. Polyblend lists 1/2in as the max. How big are the biggest??
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Old 08-15-2019, 04:52 PM   #3
EmilieN
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Mostly less than 1/2 inch, but I just measured some of the gaps in the top corner and some are as big as an inch. Will that be a problem?
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:28 PM   #4
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I think that's more of a tuck pointing job with masonry mortar. But wait for a pro to comment. I just don't think tile grout is the right choice
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:48 PM   #5
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Welcome, Emilie.

I, too, think you'd be better off using a mortar mix or mixing your own grout using sand and Portland cement. When setting Saltillo tile with grout joints frequently 3/4" or wider, we always mixed sand and Portland cement in a ratio of 3 to 1 and if a color other than gray was desired, we'd use masonry colorants. You can actually get some sharper colors using white Portland, but with Saltillo we generally stayed with gray or brown tones.

You could add some Acryl 60 to your water for a good bit stronger grout if you want. You could also look into one of the Saltillo Tile Grouts on the market. I know MAPEI makes one, as does Custom Building Products and probably others. The site mix would be a whole lot less expensive, though.

I also agree with Mike about trying to seal the grout. That's just not gonna buy you anything in your application.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:40 PM   #6
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Beautiful!!! I always want cap stones to overhang 1.5" minimum on my real stone on block walls when there are freezing conditions. 1- no natural stone product can survive freezing water. just look at the Rockies
2 moisture will get in the spec mix or mortar you used . more can get behind from the top open like that. Then it freezes and thaws and can pop off stones. I dread to think about how many grout bags would have to be filled up with type s spec mix. And to think about smoothing out all that grout with various brick joiner tools . I cut various width plastic strips from 5 gal plant containers amd dry paint brushes of various sizes.
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Old 08-16-2019, 05:29 AM   #7
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I would continue with Prism in the same color you started with. It's a cement based grout also and will get harder than Polyblend. If the grout sets too fast on the tiles, make some shade or grout on a cloudy day. Grout will set much faster on hot tiles in the sun.
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Old 08-16-2019, 04:29 PM   #8
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Thank you all so much for taking time to answer my questions!

Does Saltillo grout only come in grey? I couldn’t find any colors.

Prism spec sheet says “Use to fill joint widths up to 1/2”, like Polyblend. Would it be better for bigger grout joints than polyblend?

If I use Prism and some of the grout lines are too low, can I add more grout a few days after it’s dry? After several months or years? Is it easy to repair? Does new grout stick to old grout, and bond permanently ?

Prism spec sheet says: “Not for use in movement joints or changes of plane in the tile installation. In these areas, use an appropriate caulk or sealant such as Commercial 100% Silicone Caulk or Polyblend® Ceramic Tile Caulk.”

Should I use caulk on the top corner? I guess that would solve the problem of grout lines bigger than 1/2 inch, because they’re all on the top corner? But caulk is so hard to work with and I’m likely to screw it up.

Some reviewers said that Prism grout didn’t cure properly, and was still soft several days later. Is that user error? Expired grout? Other reasons?

I’m wondering if I can hire a tiling contractor who’s experienced with Prism grout, because I’m not so comfortable using it for the first time on this mosaic. I really don’t want to screw it up, like some of the Prism reviewers on the internet. Any suggestions for finding someone who’s really experienced with Prism grout (if that’s the one I go with ), and very detail oriented? I would work along side with him, and grout around the pebbles myself.
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Old 08-16-2019, 05:50 PM   #9
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Hi Emilie, Yes, as far as I know, the Saltillo grout only comes in gray.

You don't have many joints that are 3/4, I'd take my chance with the Prism. Mix the grout a little stiffer for those areas. Get the joints full enough the first time around. You can add more grout as you are washing if it looks too low. But, once it sets you don't want to add more grout.

I wouldn't caulk anything on that wall. It would be a maintenance headache.

I've used a lot of Prism and have never had any problems. I find it to be very easy to work with.

When you find your contractor, be sure and tell him you plan to help. I wouldn't expect his price to be cheaper.
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Old 08-16-2019, 06:56 PM   #10
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As mentioned before, Saltillo can be colored with cement colors. TO get consistent color, you need to measure carefully, as changes in ratio of the dry components and water will affect it.
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:02 AM   #11
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Prism is quite easy to work with, and quite nice grout. But if it were my wall (which is beautiful), I wouldn't use it for this project. The color is too consistent and too stain resistant. The wall will age but the grout will stay clean looking. I'd do the sand + cement suggestion.
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:01 PM   #12
EmilieN
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Thank you all for your good advice and your kind words.

I re-did some of the areas with the big gaps, and filled some in with more ProLite mortar, so hopefully the big grout lines are less of a consideration.

"But if it were my wall (which is beautiful), I wouldn't use it for this project. The color is too consistent and too stain resistant. The wall will age but the grout will stay clean looking. I'd do the sand + cement suggestion."

Clifton, this is a good point and a valid concern. I am feeling like Prism (I would use Antique White) might be a bit too bright for this project, and may not work aesthetically with the white Polyblend on top.

Mixing sand and cement, and trying to stay consistent with color, amount of water, etc would be too complicated for me, with too much room for errors. I don' have any experience with making my own grout, so this would not be a good project to learn on. Also, I don't know if I'd be able to get a light color, similar to Antique White. Do you think sanded Polyblend would also alleviate this concern and be a good choice? Or another sanded grout?

If I did go with Prism, would the transition from the top with Polyblend white be too glaring? Should I take the time to fill more of the gaps with ProLite?
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Old 08-19-2019, 01:31 PM   #13
speed51133
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you can buy bags of masonry grout at home depot.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Quikrete...8500/100318529
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Old 08-19-2019, 08:11 PM   #14
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Regardless of what you use, I would not grout the joint against the sidewalk or steps. Any movement would crack the grout and possibly put pressure against the tiles breaking them loose.
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Old 08-22-2019, 01:13 PM   #15
EmilieN
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I'm still researching grouts, because I'm wondering if I have a better option. I stumbled upon TEC Power grout, which looks promising.

Does anyone have experience with this grout? Does it have advantages over Prism, or would the results be about the same, in my situation?

Looks like Lowes no longer carries it, and neither do any of the other local flooring stores. Any idea why? Is there something wrong with it?

I'd have to order it, and wouldn't have the luxury to buy more than I need to be sure I have enough, then return the rest, like I do with home depot. It would be more trouble and expense, so I'm wondering if it would be worth it?
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