What lies between?

The low-down on grouting, those fine lines that hold your tiles together.

Photograph: courtesy FCML Projects & Samir Ceramics; Horn porcelain tiles from Rex

What is a grout?
Grout is a type of mortar used to fill joints, cracks and cavities in tiles, masonry, and brickwork. It typically consists of water, cement and sand; or cement and water. It is used in semi-liquid form and pumped, spread or poured into cavities and allowed to harden thus creating a tight, water-resistant seal.

Types of grout
White cement-based
Though one of the oldest materials in grouting, white cement still rules the roost. Birla White cement is the most popularly used brand in this segment.

Coloured grout
This is derived by adding colour to the white-cement grout. They are a welcome change as white grouting forms a visually dominant grid that distracts from the distinctive colour of a tiling scheme.

Epoxy-based
This grout is strong and water-resistant. It is available in two forms:
100 per cent epoxy resin or modified epoxy emulsion. Epoxy grout is generally more expensive than other types of grout and can be difficult to find. However, it is considered highly effective in instances where a high level of water and stain resistance is desired. The popular brand in this segment is Laticrete — which is available in 40 colours.

The Process

1. Grouting is done 24 hours after you have affixed the tiles in a pattern on the cement bed.

2a to 2d. To create a grouting mix, all you need is water and white-cement powder. Use a sheet of old ply or laminate (as seen here) for making the mixture. Two additional pieces of laminate will be required to mix the grout. Getting the right ratio of cement to water (1 kg cement : 350 ml water) is important to arrive at the right consistency. Mix the cement and water together well.

3a to 3c. Here, the grouting process uses a white-cement filler. Alternatively, you can use coloured cement grout to match the colour of the tile, or go for Laticrete’s epoxy grout for greater strength. Epoxy grouts consist of three components which are mixed to form a paste: hardener, resin and coloured filler powder.

4a & 4b. Slowly apply the grout mix between the tiles and smoothen it out. Continue this process till you have fixed all the tiles. Let the grout to dry for 10 minutes. Gently wipe away any grout left on the tile surfaces with a damp cloth. Allow the grout to dry for an hour. After the grout has set, clean the tiles once more with a wet sponge.

Re-grouting
1. Scraping out the old grout is the most tedious part of re-grouting tile.
2. Can-openers, dividers, paper cutters and saw blades are tried-and-tested grout-removal tools. These tools work because they stay sharp for a long time. But remember, they cut ceramic tile just as well as they remove grout… so work slowly until you get the hang of the tools.
3. Use water mixed with a small amount of acid is used to remove dirt and grit from the tile surface.
4. Now, get the grouting mixture of your choice ready and use the technique demonstrated earlier to regrout the tiles.

Pay Attention!
1. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s directions, when using grit for any project.
2. Do not use your hands to blend the grout mixture as this leads to inconsistent colour and strength.
3. Use a respirator while working with epoxy grout as inhaling the dust particles of any type of grout can lead to health problems. Also consider wearing gloves and safety glasses to avoid irritation to the skin and eyes.
4. Do not pour the residue down a drain. Doing so could lead to serious drain damage. It is wiser to allow the mixture to sit long enough for the solids and liquids to separate. Once this separation has occurred, you can pour the water off and simply throw the solid residue in the trash.
5. Always ensure that mixing containers and tools are clean and free of previous grout mixes.
6. Always mix the grout with clean water, free of contaminants such as salt, etc.
7. Do not mix different types of grout, or grouts manufactured by different companies together; and do not mix grout with other substances like cement, lime, etc.