Grout is everywhere. It’s a product found indoors and outdoors. Chances are good you have grout somewhere in your house, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, the living room, dining room, or maybe outside around a swimming pool. Grout is a product used in tile and mosaic installations. You may have had tile work done yourself, or maybe you moved into a home that already had extensive tile work. Whatever the case, there is grout in your house. Most people don’t even think about grout beyond its intended purpose, which is to help secure tiles. Beyond its functional purpose, some homeowners even consider the aesthetic value of grout. What many homeowners may not realize, however, is that not all grouts are created equal. In fact, most grout products on the market contain chemical additives that can present hazards hidden in plain sight.
There are many types of grout, but the mainstay in the contractor and tile industry is cement grout. It has been for generations, but why? Is cement grout better than other types of grout? Cement grout is a powder concoction that contains cement, lime, color pigments, and sometimes silica. Cement grout has been a popular, and even standard, choice for tile projects for decades, but with so many options today, there are better choices. Many old-school contractors prefer staying with a product they have been using their entire careers. Unfortunately, there are extensive problems with cement-based grout that make it a poor choice for tile work, particularly in the health issues associated with sanded cement grout and the issues with the stability of cement grout.
Cement grout is porous. Even with improvements that have been made to cement-based grout over the years, the porous nature of cement grout is still an issue. This makes it vulnerable to cracking, peeling, and to absorbing moisture. These features are in conflict with what grout is supposed to do as a product. Add to these issues the fact that many commercial cement-based grouts contain silica, which is harmful when breathed in. Cement grout frequently includes chemicals meant to retard the growth of mold and mildew as well, which can create environmental and health risks. Unfortunately, none of these problems has stopped the use of cement grout by many contractors and homeowners.
Is Urethane Grout a Good Alternative to Cement Grout?
Much has been said about the ready-to-use grout as a substitute for cement grout. Many consider it easier to use because everything is pre-mixed. Keep in mind, however, that these types of grout are not a good solution for spaces where there will be a lot of moisture and in particular, is not a great solution for showers, steam rooms, or exterior applications like pools, spas, etc. One of the things to look out for with these grouts is shrinkage, which can cause grout to pull away from tile and allow moisture penetration when you are doing tile work in wet environments. In addition, these ready-to-use grouts can have extensive curing times and be very sensitive to moisture and humidity during the curing process. It’s about as long as cement grout, but in humid conditions, the cure time can be longer.
Many ready to use grouts are acrylics, some are urethanes. Some of them are based on glue formulations, making them difficult to work with on many of today’s dry glazes like wood look or real stone tiles. They can be sticky and require pre-sealing or wetting the surface ahead of application. Almost all require chemicals to remove stubborn haze after application. Acrylics are also known to be a food source for mold, and to offset this, they typically contain pesticides to retard mold growth. These pesticides dissipate over time, leaving the grout susceptible to mold and bacterial growth.
Many of these grouts are more expensive than cement grout, but since they may have some of the benefits of an epoxy grout, it is a better choice than cement grout in most cases. In the end though, you pay a lot more for something that can be a little easier to apply than cement, but in the long term, these ready-to-use grouts are not the best choice when evaluating the available options in quality grouts. And since grout is the least expensive part of the tile project, but has the greatest final effect on fashion, function and upkeep over the long term, it’s simple to ask, why would anyone consider skimping on the least expensive but most impactful portion of the tile project?
Epoxy grouts are superior for tile work. Epoxy grouts are comprised of epoxy resins and a aggregate. The advantages are numerous. Epoxy grout is extremely hard and lasts much longer than cement-based grout. It has none of the characteristics of cement grout, so there’s no need to worry about cracking and peeling. It is also impervious to stains and is great for keeping out moisture, which makes it the perfect choice for any tile project where there is moisture, particularly in showers, kitchens, or outside where your tiles will be subjected to the forces of nature. The problem is, many epoxy grouts have additives that are corrosive and can cause environmental harm if not disposed of properly. Fortunately, The Tile Doctor distributes Starlike Grout, the one epoxy grout that is simple to apply and is classified as an irritant, meaning it has none of the harmful additives other epoxy grouts have.
Health Risks associated with Grout Products
Grout can pose serious health risks both immediate and long term. Cement-based grout is particularly harmful. Cement grout, which contains cement, aggregates, limestone, and frequently silica, is a health hazard. Inhalation and skin contact are two of the ways you can be affected by this type of product because the dust it produces causes eye irritation. Today we are learning long-term and repeated exposure, such as the kind associated with contractors who make a living working with grout, can produce even more severe health issues. Scarring of the lungs through prolonged and repeated inhalation of the silica found in some grout is not uncommon. This exposure could eventually lead to lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mixing unsafe grout products that contain silica can produce dust that may lead to a condition known as Siliocosis, which can be fatal in the long term.
There are risks for the homeowner as well. Grout is used in many places where there is moisture. Black mold grows and clings to grout and is often overlooked in the deep-cleaning process, leaving behind the harmful mold spores that can pose serious health risks to adults, children, and pets. Regular or infrequent cleaning is not enough to eliminate these risks, and without education, many homeowners don’t realize they may not be properly maintaining the grout in their homes. Homeowners who purchase homes where tile work has already been done may not even know how long the tile has been in place or how well previous homeowners maintained the grout.
Environmentally-Safe Grout Products
With so many newly-discovered concerns with many grout products, whether it’s a health concern for people and pets, an issue with the integrity of the product, or an environmental concern, what is the best grout to use for tile projects?
What if you could find a high-quality grout that doesn’t contain corrosives, pesticides, harmful aggregates, and fillers? That would be the ideal solution for any tile project. The Tile Doctor offers just that. We are the exclusive U.S. distributor for Litokol grouting products. Litokol grout products are exceptional in quality and safe for people, animals, and the environment. Litokol products are safe without sacrificing product quality, so when you use Litokol grout products, you are making the best choice for high-quality performance while being a part of the movement that puts environmental safety and the safety of people first.
Our products include Starlike grout that comes in a multitude of colors and textures, giving you the widest possible range of artistic freedom. Starlike boutique grouts collections bring you over 159+ colors and finishes including the Starlike Classic Grout Collection, featuring a range of subtle classic colors, the Starlike Glamour Grout Colors collection, which offers flashier, hotter colors, the Starlike Metallic Grout Collection, which allows you to utilize the look of metal and the Starlike Crystal Glass Grout Jewels collection with beautiful jewel colors. There’s also Starlike Crystal Glass Grout, which is ideal for glass tile projects. Starlike Crystal Glass Tile Grout is made up of small and hollow glass beads that reflect and refract light, which allows the grout to take on the color effects of the tile itself and eliminates the need for colored grout. It’s the perfect way to showcase your glass tile work.
The Tile Doctor also offers Express Finish ® products that include PH neutral, environmentally-safe cleaners, degreasers, floor restore and floor strippers, and products for removing calcium and lime. These products are particularly useful when you move into a home with inferior grout or grout that has been poorly maintained. Eliminate the need for expensive re-grouting with our Express Finish products and make the most of the tile work already in place.
The best way to ensure your tile projects are durable, aesthetically pleasing, and safe for people, pets, and the environment is to use Litokol Starlike epoxy grout products. Litokol grout products are the highest quality grout products in the United States. Starlike grout will stand up to time and the elements and give you a lifetime of beauty, elegance, and functionality without jeopardizing the health of your family or the environment. For more information on how The Tile Doctor can make all you tile projects shine, call us a 1-877-TileDoc(845-3362) and find out what grout should be.
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