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Grouting tiles

Mind that gap - use tile grout to give that perfect finish to your paving

Just the job for a night on the tiles!

Grouting tiles is not just an aesthetic treatment, it is an essential part of the tiling process. The function of the grout is to fill the interstices between the porcelain tiles - interstices normally created by the placing of a plastic 'cross' between any group of four tiles. Control of the width of the grout is dictated by the size of the cross used and this needs careful consideration before the tiles are laid. Usually this gap is anything between 3 to 6 mm with the choice depending upon how much emphasis you wish to give to the outline of the tiles.

Having decided on the width of grout, it is necessary to choose its colour. Mapei, one of the main manufacturers of tile grout, offer a wide range of colours so you must choose whether you wish to complement or contrast the colour of your tiles. We prefer to harmonise - ie have a light-coloured grout (such as beige) alongside terracotta coloured tiles but others will prefer black (to make the tiles stand out starkly) or dark-red which will make the whole tiled area appear homogenous. When grouting tiles, it's all a question of taste.

Before grouting tiles, it is essential to clear the work area of loose material so use an old screwdriver to scrape in the interstices and a powerful vacuum cleaner to pick up all the detritus. Laying grout over such material will weaken the bond between it and the tiles and eventually allow weeds to gain hold and weather damage to occur.

Tile grout is a powder mixed with water by a paddle - a simple attachment which goes on the end of any electric drill although it requires a powerful drill - say 800 watts or more. Mix the powder in a bucket - enough for a few square metres and spread it generously over the surface of the tiles pushing it into the spaces.

Allow the grout to dry for a few minutes then immediately start wiping away the surplus with a wet sponge and a bucket of water. Grouting tiles is a very labour-intensive process and one which cannot be delayed or shortcut. It will probably be necessary to make several passes of the tiles to ensure that all of the superfluous grout has been washed away. If this is not done, the colour and surface texture of the tiles will be marred.

Our contractor tried to cut a corner by using inexperienced labour to grout the tiles on the north wall of our house. He didn't bother telling the labourer that the grout needed to be cleaned off every few square metres so, when we arrived home late on a Saturday evening, we were greeted to a 'cassino' (mess) with most of his workforce frantically scrubbing the tiles to remove grout which had been allowed to set on the tiles.

I tried getting them to rub in sand (rather than just water which was proving useless) but that only improved the effectiveness marginally and it was rapidly getting dark. Then I (reluctantly) suggested using weak Hydrochloric acid which we managed to get delivered by our local ironmonger after they'd closed because my wife had made a note of his mobile number.

The acid hissed as it was splashed on the tiles and I was in a constant state of concern because only one of the labourers had been issued with either gloves or wore glasses. I watched one young lad repeatedly dip his hand into the acid refusing any protective gear from us or even cream when he had finished.

Well, that was our experience of grouting tiles!

Tile Grouting

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All material copyright of Clive West and Damaris West 2007 - 2018 and not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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