Anyone that uses stone or tile likely needs grout. Grout is an important element for DIY tile floor installation. Anyone needs to choose the right kind, as groutless tile installation always looks incomplete.
Timing is also an important part of installing grout and can make a huge difference for work that appears and performs well over time, compared to work that quickly turns shabby looking. Thinset mortar should be allowed to be properly set before using grout.
Thinset mortar is a mix of sand, cement, and other materials. It is typically available in 25 or 50 lbs. bags in a dry form mixed with a moisturizing agent. The word “mastic” pertains to premixed mortar made for a variety of purposes in construction.
Besides cement, thinset mortars may have combinations of polymers and other compounds. There are mortar blends with elements that make curing faster, allowing the grout to be applied in three hours. This, however, is an exception as it takes a bit longer for most mortars to dry.
Mastic intended for ceramic tiles has polymers as the bonding agent instead of cement. Since it is purchased in ready-to-use form, mastic is generally easier to work with and tidy up. One of its caveats is that it is not ideal for applications exposed to water or heat, such as steam rooms, radiant floors, or outdoors. (Read How To Clean White Painted Doors)
What Is Grout?
In simplest terms, grout is a material that is applied as a filler for the spaces between adjoining tiles. It is typically used when the tile being installed becomes set. The majority of groups are composed of a powder mix made of lime, cement, color pigment, or sand. When combined with water, grout becomes hard after a curing period.
It is usually applied by injecting the material into spaces, cracks, or cavities between tiles. Grout joint size will vary depending on how the tiles are spaced. During any tiling process, grout can be applied once the thinset mortar makes a good adhesion of tiles to floors, countertops, backsplashes, and walls.
During the curing period, newly set tiles should not be walked on or disturbed by a heavyweight. Subjecting uncured tiles to such will result in issues like misalignment of tiles just laid. Such a problem, once the thinset mortar sets, would be hard to remedy.
This underscores the importance of allowing thinset mortar to dry before grouting. The drying period is affected by thinset consistency; the amount applied down before tiling, temperature, and humidity.
Consistency of Thinset Mortar
Always follow the instructions provided when preparing the thinset. Properly prepared, it should neither be runny or soup-like and also not clay-like. Thinset mortar should hold its ridges as it is applied with a serrated trowel while making it easy to spread.
Allow For Curing When Installing Tile Floor
Curing is essential, so be patient. Putting grout, albeit very carefully, will prevent the thinset from curing well since it would seal off the air. To get the most from its adhering properties, the thinset must dry thoroughly. Otherwise, tiles could come off the walls or dislodge from the floor.
How Long Before Grouting – The Sweet Spot is 24 to 48 Hours
How long should you let tileset before grouting? The common consensus is that one should allow at least 24 hours before applying grout. One could observe that the edges of the thinset or the thinset visible through the grout lines appear dry.
Do not be misled by this, especially in bathroom tile grout and shower tile grout where it may be moist. Can you walk on the tile before grouting? Yes, one can provide the mortar has set, but otherwise, it is best to avoid any tiled area that has not thoroughly dried.
The thinset mortar beneath the tiles is not getting the same air as the exposed parts and is presumably not totally set. Akin to concrete, the mortar needs curing to work. When properly done, the tile will be strong and last for many years. Even though mortar looks good and dry on the outside edges and spaces, it may not have totally dried under the tile surface.
How long does the thinset take to dry? Drying time will fluctuate based on room temperature, humidity, and the amount of moisture present when the thinset was used. To reiterate, give mortar around 24 to 48 hours before grouting.
Also, be cognizant of ideally applying mortar when the atmospheric temperature is around 50 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Under perfect conditions, room temperature should not exceed those limits for at least 72 hours after application. A well-ventilated work area is also recommended.
Curing and Setting
Cement-based products should be allowed to set or dry, to be durable enough to last many years. Such materials should also be cured. Curing typically takes place while the product is also drying.
Curing means chemical changes happen within the product as it is used on tiles or other materials. Curing starts when one adds water to the dry mortar, all the way to the point that it becomes scorched. For something to cure properly, the mortar has to have some amount of moisture.
Proper and Safe Use
Once again, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper preparation. For safety, always wear a mask to prevent inhaling toxins. Be cautious not to breathe in the powdery substance, especially when getting the dry product out of a container.
Also, use chemical-resistant gloves and goggles when working with mortar. All cement-based products can cause skin irritation or burns. Overexposure can irritate and can increase sensitivity. (Read 7 Must-Have Tools for Gardeners)
Grout likewise has elements of cement and has to cure before sealing properly. Give the grout approximately three days to cure, misting it a few times during the day. If one is patient and follows all the prescribed steps, the results will be advantageous.
The Benefits of Properly Applied Grout
Beauty – Grout gives your floor a polished and professional look.
Tidy Appearance – It aids in keeping debris and dirt from lodging in between gaps.
Durability – Grout definitely adds to the strength and rigidity of tiles as they fill in the spaces.
Always also keep in mind that it is vital to use the right grout for your specific needs. Consult your local hardware for the options available to you.