Latest grout developments offer contractors more choices than ever
Innovations include color explosion, and improvements in crack and stain resistance
By Louis Iannaco
As evidenced by some very well-received product launches at the Total Solution Plus (TSP) 2015 conference in Savannah, Ga., last October, as well as several recent industry-wide developments, when it comes to grout, tile contractors now have more selections and offerings to choose from than ever before.
Whether it’s increased color choices, improved shrink, crack or stain resistance, today’s state-of-the-art technology has created better-performing products flooring professionals are excited about. They are especially jazzed about their ability to do things they’ve never been able to previously, with the promise of even more developments in the future.
“The new technology we’re seeing in grout is great,” said John Mourelatos, owner, Mourelatos Tile Pro, a National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) member based in Tucson, Ariz. “Things are moving in the right direction, offering superior quality grout to our clients based on their needs. There’s room for improvement, and I believe we’re in a transition period in defining what type of grout works best for the majority of tile installed.”
According to Ricky Cox, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Memphis Tile & Marble, Memphis, Tenn., the industry has struggled with grout for decades. “Sanded grout has come a long way, but still has a way to go. Even with additives, sand and cement aren’t perfect. The most exciting thing is manufacturers are at least trying to improve their products.”
Sam Bruce, president of NTCA Five Star Contractor Visalia Ceramic Tile, Visalia, Calif., agreed with Cox, and noted how manufacturers are working on the two biggest complaints customers have about grout: color consistency and stain resistance. “Historically, these have been the main issues contractors have had to face when servicing their customers.”
Logistical benefits; design advantages
Led by companies such as LATICRETE, MAPEI, TEC, Custom Building Products, Tex-Rite and others, improvements in grout are growing. Launched during TSP 2015 where it created quite a buzz was LATICRETE’S AnyColor™ grout, which features a partnership with Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore to coordinate the company’s PermaColor® Select grout technology to any paint color, with a two-week turnaround.
New or fairly new grout developments of interest to contractors include MAPEI’s Flexcolor™ CQ, Texrite’s flexible system, TEC’s InColor™ and Prism® from Custom Building Products.
“I really like PermaColor Select,” said Christopher Dalene, senior project manager of NTCA Five Star Contractor Dalene Flooring Carpet One, Hartford, Conn. “The idea that you have a grout priced competitively with the market, is shrink/crack resistant, fast setting (for those fast-paced construction projects), and has StoneTech® sealer technology built in, is huge.”
Dalene, who handles mainly commercial projects, added, the client benefits in the sealer and enhanced stain resistance, and “we benefit by saving the additional trip to the job, and moving to the next one. From a warehousing perspective, I like the idea of stocking pallets of base material and a cabinet of colorant. Your exposure to spoilage is reduced, and the footprint required is significantly smaller.”
While at TSP 2015, Dalene was very impressed with LATICRETE’S AnyColor launch. “To my knowledge, it’s an industry first,” he said. “I can see our brick-and-mortar store interior design team utilizing this to solve those sometimes-challenging grout color selection issues that arise from time to time. It also opens up a unique opportunity for the commercial design firms to further customize the selections they are making.”
For Tom Cravillion, owner, Cravillion Tile & Stone, a NTCA member in Plymouth, Wis., his go-to grout for most jobs is LATICRETE’S PermaColor premium. “Since switching to it, we’ve had no call backs for shading, cracking or color loss. I still like to use pre-mixed urethane for glass tile, LATICRETE SpectraLOCK® epoxy for porcelain.”
Martin Brookes, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Heritage Marble & Tile, Mill Valley, Calif., is a big fan of LATICRETE’S PermaColor. “It’s our go-to grout. It performs well and color stays true.”
Bruce is also impressed with PermaColor Select. While Visalia hasn’t used the product to know how it compares to other grouts from an installer’s view, from a logistics view, “It’s unmatched. When stocking, which we do, it would save lots of racking space, is easier to manage and organize and easier to stock and keep clean.
“Also,” he explained, “to have the ability to get a color that runs out of stock shipped next day or second day would be worth the price to complete a job on time because an 8-oz. packet is being shipped, not a 25-lb. bag.”
Easy cleaning, flexibility for the customer
With that said, Bruce admitted that Custom Building Products’ Prism is Visalia’s favorite grout to work with because of its color consistency. “Its application is like traditional sanded grout, easy to clean and wash without streaking, and it’s a great final product. Its hardness and density is something customers are happy with.”
For 2014 NTCA Tile Person of the Year and NTCA Five Star Contractor, Jan Hohn, co-owner, Hohn & Hohn Tile, Inc., St. Paul, Minn., the urethane/polymer resin grouts hitting the market from most of the setting materials manufacturers add value to grout. “Because of the characteristics and function of these products, one has much more flexibility in selecting one that will meet the needs of a particular project or client.”
Hohn’s favorites include basic grouts from TEC, Custom Building Products, MAPEI, and Ardex. “They are all good to work with. As far as TEC’s InColor, I like it because it’s easy to use and cleans up the best of all the single bucket grouts. As far as Custom’s Prism– for this type of a grout – it’s easy to use, easy to clean and can be tooled nicely in a reasonable amount of time.”
Hopes for the future
When it comes to what contractors would like to see in the future, as Hohn noted, it would be great if all the manufacturers would have all the colors of their grouts available in all the different types of grout they offer.
“Some do and some don’t,” she said. “That would provide more flexibility when choosing a grout. My clients and I choose grout based on color, not the manufacturer, so it would be great to have all the options of grout type available from all producers.”
According to Cravillion, it would be “brilliant” if manufacturers could make color in a bag to mix into thin set mortar to match whatever color grout you’re about to use. “Because we set mostly stone tile that needs to be sealed anyway, I don’t think we need sealer in the grout as an added expense.”
And while Mourelatos likes the direction premixed grout is headed, he’d just like to see a product that is “installer-friendly when it comes time to clean up, as well a product that is durable with some flexibility.”
Regarding TSP 2015, what had Cravillion most excited was the interaction and response from all in the tile industry – from installers to manufacturing and distribution personnel and shop owners. “Everyone has a focused view of what needs to be done to advance our industry – getting younger people engaged and excited about working with this product and what is to come in the future.”