Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Grout StoneImpressions Tiles

This question comes up so frequently, it is worth repeating this blog entry from October 2009.

One of the questions that we get asked most often is "How do I grout my StoneImpressions decorative tile mural or pattern?"

The short answer is this:
"Grouting is a matter of personal preference.  You should always talk to your installer to discuss how your tiles will be grouted.  And make sure your installer reads our Installation Instructions before starting your job."

And now you are thinking, "Okay, thanks for nothing. That answer doesn't help me at all!"  The long answer is what you need - so sit back, grab a drink and get ready to read for a while.  It isn't really so complicated but there are certain things you should know about the different options for grouting and how each will affect the look of your StoneImpressions decorative tile.

Grouting - Ceramic vs. Natural Stone

In general, grouting is usually done by smearing grout all over the tiles to get it in every joint and space between the tiles.  When you grout ceramic tile, the only place the grout can go is in the spaces between the tiles.  The ceramic tiles themselves have a smooth surface and do not have holes in the tile where the grout will fill in.

It is a different story for our natural stone tiles.  Depending on which type of stone you choose, these tiles can have naturally occurring holes, cracks and crevices.  When you smear the grout all over these tiles, it will not only fill in all the joints and spaces between the tiles, but every hole, crack, and crevice too.  With that in mind, let's talk about some options for how to grout our decorative tiles.

Option #1 - Smear Method
Spread grout over the entire image just like you do for any other tile.

This will fill the natural holes in the stone and can cause the image to become randomly spotted with grout.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are two points to keep in mind for this option:

1. What kind of stone are you using?  
Our Light Travertine has a lot of natural holes and pits in it.  It has a more rustic and aged look to it.  Grouting the Light Travertine using the Smear Method will result in many spots of grout.  But if you like the more rustic look, this might not be a problem for you.  On the other hand, our Tumbled Botticino and Tumbled Durango tiles do not have many natural holes or pits.  They do have some pitting, but not much compared to the Light Travertine.  When you grout the Botticino by spreading the grout all over, there may be some spotting, but usually not very much.  You can see the different stone types that we offer on our Materials page.

2. What kind of design is on your StoneImpressions tile?
If the design that you have chosen has a lot of dark colors, the light colored grout in the holes and pits will be very apparent.  If your design is a lighter color, the grout in the holes will not be as obvious.

light travertine wine mural with dark ink
This is a mural with dark colors on Light Travertine.  Notice the many holes and pits.  If you smear grout all over this mural, you will see grout spots in the dark areas - especially on the wine bottles and the grapes.

light travertine lemons mural with light ink
This mural is also on Light Travertine, but the colors are much lighter.  The grout will again fill all of the natural holes and pits, but the spotting will not appear as prominently.

durango mural with dark ink

This mural has dark ink, but it is printed on the smoother Tumbled Durango stone.  When you spread grout all over this mural, it might fill in some smaller holes, but not many. 

The same is true with our accents and listellos.  The listello shown below is on Light Travertine and has many holes and pits.  But the ink is a very light color, so grout filling in the hole might no be a problem for you.

light travertine listello with light ink

Option #2: Grout Bag Method
Use a grout bag to fill only the grid lines of the mural.

A grout bag is just like a pastry bag that is used to decorate cakes.  You fill it with grout and then squeeze the grout through a tip which allows you to put the grout only where you need it.  

You use the grout bag to grout only the joints and spaces between the tiles.  That way you avoid getting grout filling in every hole and crevice in the natural tile.  This can be more time consuming than the Smear Method.  If your installer uses the grout bag for a single mural, then it is probably no big deal.   If you expect your installer to use a grout bag on twenty or fifty square feet of tile - you should also expect to pay them for the extra time it will take.

This method gives you the best of both worlds.  You get the sealing and protection that the grout provides, and you avoid spots of grout showing up throughout the design and detracting from the overall look.  In many cases, this would be the ideal way to grout your decorative natural stone tile.

More information about how to use a grout bag.

Option #3: No grout at all.

You can place the tiles right up next to each other and skip the grout.  This is the best way to keep the design of a mural intact - it displays the image without spaces in between that can interrupt the design or pattern.  This option will result in some gaps between the tiles depending on what type of stone you are using.  Stone with very tumbled edges will leave gaps where the four corners of the tile meet.  Like this:

example of tumbled botticino marble tile in 6x6 size
The gaps are not gigantic, but they are there.  Click on the picture above to see a close up view.

If you are using stone with a straighter edge, like our Micro-bevel Durango, you will not have many gaps. See picture below:
example of micro-bevel durango tile in 6x6 size

Leaving the gaps and spaces without grout could create difficulty in the future, because dirt, dust and moisture can accumulate in those holes.  This is one of the main reasons that people use grout in the first place.  It seals the spaces in between the tiles to prevent any accumulation of dirt and moisture which can eventually damage the wall behind the tile.  You should consider where the tile is located to decide whether you want to use this method.  If you are installing in a room in your house where you don't expect much moisture, this method might work for you.  You could also try using the grout bag to apply grout only to the bigger gaps between the corners of the tumbled tiles.  That will give you some protection.

If you are thinking about the no grout method you should definitely talk to your installer first.  There are many things to consider and a knowledgeable tile installer will know what questions to ask to determine the best course of action for you.

Grouting wrap-up

We hope this information will help you in deciding how to grout your StoneImpressions tile.  And perhaps you can understand why there is not just one simple answer to fit everyone.  Your taste, your stone choice, your installation location and your mural or pattern design will all be factors to consider when determining how to grout.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any grouting tips for us or additional questions that you'd like us to answer.

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