Saturday, 26 January 2013

Epoxy on thee

Dear Joe,

I am tiling my shower area and bathroom floor.  I have chosen the tile and the grout colour but am confused as to what kind of grout I should be using for the job.  Is there much of a difference between the different kinds, I imagine there is since there is a great price difference.  Is it true with grout you get what you pay for, as they say?

Thank you for your assistance,



Thank you for the great question Rudy, 

Well it is true, to be perfectly honest.  But the quality of which you speak is a double edged sword.  Let me flesh that out a little bit for you.  I am assuming that the great disparity in price is between what we’ll call traditional grout, which is a cement based grout, mixed with water, and epoxy grout, which is a resin based grout consisting of two parts, the grout base and the hardener.  The former is a product that every DIYer is familiar with and most pros can install with their eyes closed, whereas the latter is a product that, I’m sure, was created to haunt the dreams of even the most savvy tile installers.  Epoxy grout is, to be fair, a far, far superior product.  Its chemical hardening results in a bond and durability that is impossible to match with cement based products.  It is a product that does not require sealing or any periodic maintenance of any kind, and offers durability, too, that is unmatched by any other product.  Now, the other edge to that sword is:  Since you are dealing with a high speed chemical reaction, this grout is very, very, very unforgiving.  It requires impeccable planning, two skilled installers, and a lot of elbow grease.  The open time for a pot of this grout is about 15 minutes or so, during which time the product must be applied, dressed, and wiped clean of all residue, and since it is not a water  based product, it creates a lot of smearing which must be carefully removed before it hardens and becomes completely irremovable.  At this point the only way it can be cleaned is with a chisel or grinder.

Suffice it to say, though epoxy grout is a superior solution to the old dirty grout problem, 99% or more of installations are quite sufficiently completed using traditional grout.  As a do it yourselfer, I would advise you give epoxy grout a wide berth.  If you chose to hire it out, then make sure the installer you chose has some experience with the product.  If they don’t, you don’t want your project to be their experiment.  There is a very steep learning curve here and the results can be disasterous if enough care isn’t taken.  Ask yourself if the risks and increased cost justify the results.  Whichever you chose, if you have never done either before, don’t let the finished project be your test area.  Do up a small test piece and play around with that until you have the timing right and now the steps involved in doing a great job.

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