Grout lines on a tiled countertop are sealed to prevent staining.
|Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic)||Time Taken: About 30 minutes|
Grout is a porous material: it will absorb most liquids. This makes grout extremely prone to staining, specifically in damp, high traffic areas like kitchen or bath countertops.
Once grout has been stained it is sometimes possible to clean it with a powerful acid based tile cleaner. Often, even these harsh chemicals cannot get rid of stains soaked in grout and the only solution is to remove the grout and replace it. This can be avoided by treating grout with a grout sealer.
Grout sealers are chemicals designed to cause surfaces to repel liquids like water or oil. This prevents grout staining because contaminants can no longer sip into the grout. For this reason, it is wise to seal grout in damp areas like showers: this makes it significantly more difficult for mildew to grow on grout lines.
There are various grout sealers on the market. They differ by:
- The type of solvent used: water or mineral spirits (this is similar to paint),
- The mode of operation: some sealers form protective coating on the grout while others penetrate the grout. Penetrating sealers resist surface abrasion significantly better than sealers which form a protective coating,
- Location of use: interior, exterior, damp areas like showers …,
- The kind of stains the sealer protects against: sealers typically protect against water based stains but there are sealers formulated for enhanced protection against oil / grease stains. These sealers are typically used in food preparation areas like kitchen countertops,
- The expected length of the protection. This can be as low as 6 months and as high as 15 years, depending on the traffic, the kind of cleaning agent used to clean surrounding tiles…,
- The appearance left: some sealers do not leave any visible finish, others make grout lines look shiny.
Tools and Materials for this project:
This specific sealer is a water based, penetrating, no sheen finish with an expected protection of up to 15 years. It is recommended for use in damp areas like showers or bathrooms.
At about $30 a pint, this grout sealer is not exactly cheap so I am trying to waste as little as possible. The sealer applicator allows me to apply just the right amount of sealer with great control. This reduces drips and ultimately saves money.
Left: The applicator is essentially a bottle with a little brush at the top, cut at an angle. The sealant is placed in the bottle and soaks the brush.
This applicator features a “flow control” cap: the more the cap is turned to the right, the more liquid flows to the brush. This is useful when sealing vertical grout lines, where the sealer tends to flow faster, drawn by gravity.
Right: After filling the bottle, I adjusted the flow and started to “paint” grout lines with the brush. I applied with long strokes, starting on one side of the grout line and finishing at the other side.
There was a very small amount of sealer applied on the tiles surrounding the grout lines. This will need to be wiped later.
On the picture, it is easy to see where the sealant was applied: the surface looks wet.
The manufacturer of this sealant recommend to wait at least two hours before doing a “water test” and seeing if another coat needs to be applied.
As indicated by the label on the sealer, I wiped all excess after about 5 minutes using a clean paper towel. There were a few spots where the sealer did puddle so I made sure to clean those too.
Once the sealer dries, I will apply a bead of caulk around the sink and the faucet. This will complete the countertop in this bathroom.