Grout and Finishing Products Adapt
 
January 1st, 2006

By Jeffrey Steele

January-February 2006

In today’s tile industry, change comes rapidly. Makers of tile, setting materials and protectant products must adapt swiftly if they are to keep up with evolving consumer preferences.

No group is more aware of this challenge than the makers of grout and finishing products, who are continually striving to introduce new formulations expressly designed for today’s most popular surfaces—including glass, natural stone and large-format tile.

In this product review of grout and finishing materials, TileDealer examines both the tried-and-true, best selling products and the newest entries in the marketplace, spotlighting grouts and finishing materials from a half dozen of the leading companies in the industry.

Same-day Sealing

One of the better known companies in the field of sealers is Corona, Cal.-based Aqua Mix. The company’s founder, Manuel Magallanes, was the first to develop water-based sealers for tile, stone and grout, says Aqua Mix president and CEO Rick Baldini.

Aqua Mix makes scores of products, but is best known for three. The first is Sealer’s Choice Gold, a premium water-based sealer that is natural looking, doesn’t change the look of the stone, tile or grout and is a penetrating impregnator providing maximum stain protection.

The second is Enrich ’n Seal, a 100 percent polymer sealer and enhancer that uses PolyCure technology, and darkens and enhances the stone or tile to which it’s applied. And the third is Grout Colorant, a water-borne epoxy that not only restores or changes the color of sanded, cementitious or epoxy grout, but seals the grout joint, Baldini says.

Among the company’s newer products is Eff-Ex, a non-acidic efflorescence remover that not only removes efflorescence but prevents the reoccurrence of it. Another new product is called Same Day Grout Sealer, and is an aerosol grout sealer that can be used two hours after grouting.

“That’s a big deal,” Baldini says. “Most contractors don’t want to come back the next day. This is the first product that allows them to seal the same day they grout. And it’s convenient because they can stand up and seal their grout joints” using the aerosol spray.

One other new addition to the Aqua Mix line is Cleaning Wipes with Sealer’s Choice, which in addition to cleaning counters leave a little Sealer’s Choice behind. “Not only are you cleaning your counter, but rejuvenating and extending the life of the sealer,” Baldini reports.

When new really is better

Another well-known name in the industry is Custom Building Products, a Seal Beach, Cal., company that offers products of all kinds for tile installation, including surface preparation, setting materials, tile adhesives, grout, thin sets, sealers, cleaners and tools.

Custom has launched more new products in the last 12 months than in any previous year in its history, reports vice-president of marketing Norm Tracy. Newcomers include a lightweight thin set called MegaLite, a self-leveling product called LevelLite, and a tool line called Platinum Tools. One of the company’s most popular and effective products is Prism SureColor, a grout whose consistent color is ideal for today’s increasingly sophisticated and complex tile settings.

Imagine the installation of a countertop featuring a rustic stone like slate, with a wide grout joint, Tracy says. Once the countertop segues into a backsplash, it becomes marble, and features a quarter-inch grout joint. Along that marble is a stripe of mosaic glass tile used as an accent, and featuring a tighter grout joint. The tile setter grouting such an installation would have to use one grout for the tight joints, and another for the marble and slate sections. And the grouts used would cure at different rates, resulting in the problem of “shading.”

With Prism SureColor, there’s no shading. “It’s not reliant on what’s underneath,” Tracy explains. “It’s not reliant on whether the stone or tile is porous or non-porous, and it’s not reliant on whether it’s a narrow or wide grout joint. If you can just mix up one type of grout and go with that, it saves time and effort, and you don’t get callbacks due to shading. It’s good for the tile distributor, because if they carry this grout, they don’t have to carry sanded and non-sanded. They can carry one grout, and it’s good for both applications.”

Custom Building Products offers an exceptionally broad array of grout colors: 30 in Prism SureColor, and 48 in PolyBlend.

A leading manufacturer of specialty sealers, cleaners and polishers for tile, concrete and masonry surfaces is 43-year-old Irvine, Cal.-based Glaze ’N Seal. The company distributes its approximately 40 products through independent tile dealers, masonry yards and building material dealers or retailers. They in turn sell the products primarily to independent tile or masonry contractors and serious do-it-yourselfers, says Glaze ’N Seal president Bert Adams.

“We have a complete line of premium quality sealers, ranging from economical water repellent to very popular wet look film-forming sealers and state-of-the-art impregnators,” Adams says, adding his products are easy to use and resist oil and grease “better than most.”

On the issue of size, he doesn’t see much difference between large or small-format tile.

“In stone, the impregnator type sealers, both water based and solvent, are very versatile in that they can be used on almost any type of stone product surface,” he says.

Meeting the needs of Large format Installation

Another household name in grouts and finishers is Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based MAPEI Americas. According to Mike Micalizzi, manager of the MAPEI Technical Services Department, the biggest installation challenge these days is placement of large-format tiles.

One of the hurdles installers face is installing such tiles over new or green concrete slabs, which have higher moisture content and expected shrinkage. Another challenge is installing the tiles over slabs that are cracked. Exacerbating the issue is the substantial surge in fast-track building over the past five years, which increases moisture and shrinkage concerns, Micalizzi says.

“MAPEI has worked to meet these challenges on two fronts,” he adds. “First, we have developed medium-bed mortars that allow better contact with the tiles, and offer more leveling capabilities that prevent lippage and provide support. On the moisture issue, MAPEI has developed Planiseal MRB, a moisture reduction barrier that can be rolled on to allow for proper moisture content prior to installing vinyl or wood products.”

To help alleviate problems of moisture and shrinkage, Micalizzi urges tile setters to avoid taking shortcuts in pre-installation substrate preparation. He points out installers frequently find themselves pressured by contractors, because theirs is one of the final jobs on the site before completion. “If they don’t give in to these pressures, and provide proper substrate preparation, they will minimize their tile setting time, and reduce risk of callbacks,” he notes.

Clean, Protect and Maintain

Founded in 1939, Lawrence, Kan.-based PROSOCO focuses all its energies on manufacturing products that clean, protect or maintain concrete, brick and stone. A number of its more than one hundred standard products are designed to address today’s key industry trends.

“The growth in the industry has been in the stone end of the business, and use of stone has become very prolific in areas like kitchen countertops and paving installations,” says director of marketing Scott Buscher. “That makes them far more subject to difficult staining elements, such as highly acidic wine and juice stains, as well as oil and greases. Because the growth has been so great in natural stone products, the protection and maintenance needs are much more in focus.”

PROSOCO’S Stand Off SLX 100 is an ideal way to protect an investment in today’s most popular natural stone surface, granite. A fluorinated product with characteristics similar to those of Teflon, Stand Off SLX 100 is capable of penetrating surfaces as dense as polished granite, will not change the appearance of the surface after treatment, and protects the surface not only from water-based staining materials but oil and food-based staining materials.

Right behind granite in popularity are marble and limestone, in a variety of finishes from polished to honed. The PROSOCO product most appropriate and effective on those surfaces is Stand Off Limestone & Marble Protector, Buscher says. “Chemically and geologically, marble and limestone are different from granite and require a different approach from a chemical formulation standpoint to offer the same degree of water, oil and food stain resistance,” he says. “Limestone & Marble Protector is formulated to provide that kind of protection.”

Successful Color Matches

The TEC brand of AccuColor grouts is known in the industry for providing highly color-accurate results, reports brand manager Rachel Gibbons of Arlington, Heights, Ill.’s TEC Brands.

That means the color of the installed grout matches the sample used to select the color. The amount of water used during mixing and clean-up of Portland cement grout, as well as variations in tile type, joint size and curing conditions, typically have an impact on the installed color. All AccuColor grouts chemically control the curing process, helping to neutralize the factors that create inconsistent grout color. AccuColor grouts are available in 32 colors.

AccuColor premium sanded grout is a polymer-enhanced grout that provides highly wear-resistant, color-consistent tile joints from 1/8-inch to ½-inch wide. It is used primarily in floor tile applications, or for walls and countertops with wider joints.

AccuColor premium unsanded grout is polymer-enhanced and designed for grouting small joints up to 1/8-inch wide. It is recommended for grouting marble and other materials where sanded grouts could scratch delicate tile surfaces.

100 Percent Solids Epoxy Mortar and Grout is a dual-purpose, three-part epoxy system for interior floors and countertops. Used as a grout, this system is recommended wherever complete stain or chemical resistance is required. Used as a mortar, it is designed for installing green marble and other moisture sensitive stone over a wide variety of surfaces.

“As premium products, grouts from TEC brands are engineered to deliver consistent color and overall strength,” Gibbons notes. “Our flagship grout brand, AccuColor, is designed for use across a variety of applications, delivering strong, smooth joints with minimal shrinkage and ease of installation.”

 

SOURCES:

Bert Adams – President
Glaze ’N Seal
Irvine , CA
949-250-9104

Rick Baldini – President and CEO
Aqua Mix
Corona , CA
951-256-3059

Scott Buscher – Director of Marketing
PROSOCO
Lawrence , KS
785-830-7302

Diane Choate – Communications Supervisor
MAPEI Corp.
Deerfield Beach , FL 33442
954-246-8799

Rachel Gibbons – Brand Manager
TEC Brands
Arlington Hts., IL
847-776-4355

Norm Tracy – Vice-President of Marketing
Custom Building Products
Seal Beach , CA
562-598-8808

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