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Let’s face reality — a homeowner almost never enters a tile store for the sole purpose of picking out grout for their home. Instead, they are largely concerned with the more obvious parts of the system such as tile type, size, and overall look. However, grout should be a top consideration, as many homeowners complain about their grungy-looking grout or know someone who does. While a tile surface can look amazing for many years or even decades, poorly-selected grout that isn’t properly maintained can start to ruin the appearance of the floor shortly after a quality installation.
Luckily, installers can take some proactive steps to help make homeowners happy with their installations at project completion and for many years to come.
Here are some tips:
Understand grout types
If the homeowner hasn’t conducted their own research, they may be directed to select a grout color without considering other performance characteristics. If they unknowingly select a traditional cementitious grout, they could be missing out on decades worth of formula advancements. Although many installers are familiar and comfortable using traditional cement grout, it will likely lack the features that discerning homeowners expect.
Over the last decade, a new category of high-performance grouts provides an educated homeowner with expanded possibilities to protect their tile investment. TEC Power Grout is one example of this new technology, with a nod to traditional grouts. Advanced grouts can be stain-proof, color consistent, easy to maintain, and install. The homeowner who selects a high-performance grout will appreciate the following benefits:
- Stain resistance – never needs sealing
- Color uniformity and zero efflorescence
- Crack and shrink resistance
- Mold and mildew resistance
Helping the homeowner become aware of the options will help them make an informed decision and will result in a more satisfied customer.
Achieve accurate color
When selecting a traditional cement-based grout, it is a common belief that “the grout may dry a little lighter than the chart.” Often, store salespeople will encourage homeowners to select a shade or two darker to achieve the right look. However, color is generally more accurate with advanced grouts because they resist lightening on the grout surface caused by efflorescence.
If the homeowner selects an advanced-performance grout, don’t overcompensate for color or they may end up with a darker color than they intended.
Select the right method of stain protection
Homeowners are often interested to know how long the grout color and appearance will last. This can be a tricky question to answer due to the non-porous nature of traditional grouts. A liquid stain agent will soak through the pores, making cleaning difficult. This is especially true if the stain remains on the grout for a significant time. Like liquids, dirt and grime will also find the pores of the traditional grout, making any cleanup procedure challenging.
To prevent stains, the tile salesperson may recommend applying a sealer after the traditional grout cures. This will lock in the color, make the grout stain resistant and easier to clean. However, sealers will eventually wear away, especially in high-traffic areas, and will need to be reapplied on a routine basis.
An additive, like TEC Grout Boost can be recommended to be mixed with the traditional grout in place of water to make the grout stain-proof. The additive also helps the grout overcome some of the installation and environmental variables, lessening the risk of a dissatisfied homeowner and reducing callbacks for installers.
When high-performance grout is used in the tile installation, the homeowner will be left with a non-porous grout that will look great and last longer than their traditional grout predecessors with no sealing required.
Install using best practices
Like traditional grout, high-performance grout is mixed with water and should be installed to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Be sure the grout is within its shelf life and pay attention to slight variations in mix and slake times.
It’s especially important with high-performance grout to avoid inconsistent practices such as mixing partial bags, not measuring mixing water, allowing variances in slake time, and leaving water on the grout joints after the cleaning process. Any one of these variables may throw the color shade off slightly, but combining three or four together can increase the chances of color complaints significantly. Controlling environmental variables like water quality, temperature, air movement, and humidity also increases success.
Care and maintain grout properly
When the installation is complete, it is important that the homeowner understands how to properly care for their new floor, including the grout. While high performance grout is stain-resistant, it still needs to be regularly cleaned. Cleaners that are pH neutral should be used for regular cleaning. Desperate homeowners often turn to harsh cleaning products or products not recommended for traditional grout. This process may or may not clean the grout and might even damage the grout in the process so be sure to follow proper cleaning procedures.
The bottom line is that education is the key to transforming how grout is perceived. Most homeowners will select high-performance grout when given the knowledge and opportunity. Installers who learn to adjust to new technologies benefit from a reduction in callbacks, increased profits, and happy homeowners eager to make referrals.
Article written by Chris Kain.