Tile and grout certainly aren’t the cheapest flooring materials, but with proper care, they can provide a sustainable surface with an extremely long lifecycle. Properly treating that surface – whether that means sealing grout lines, the tile themselves or both – is a critical factor in how much longevity a surface will have.
Unsealed tile and grout are naturally porous, containing tiny voids and pinholes that can allow moisture to penetrate the surface. How quickly that happens depends on the type of material. As temperatures change, moisture trapped within tile can cause it to expand and contract. Joints filled with grout, which is much more porous than tile, allow those tiles to expand into the grout since the grout will compress to a degree. This helps prevent tile surfaces from buckling or cracking. Yet, the porosity of grout – and even unsealed tile – can create problems of its own.
Over time, dirt and contaminants can become trapped or embedded in grout and tile, causing slippery, unsafe surfaces. Dirty grout joints in high-moisture areas are also the perfect place to breed bacteria. Wastewater and contaminants eventually work their way into grout lines, causing discoloration and odor. This is why sealing is so important. The appropriate treatment can be determined by a tile and grout restoration professional, but a sealed surface is a crucial element of having a successful maintenance plan that delivers attractive, sanitary surfaces without excessive labor.
A Cycle of Damage
When surfaces are not sealed or if protective sealants and coatings fail, janitorial staff will often attempt to combat staining and foul smells with harsher chemicals, more frequent cleaning and abrasive brushes and machines. But this, in turn, tends to accelerate the problem, creating more holes or voids in the grout lines in which bacteria and contaminants become trapped.
When this happens, even deep scrubbing by custodial staff will not produce satisfying results. Even if the grout appears cleaner, this is only temporary. The surface soils quickly again because harsh chemicals and agitation have eroded the grout, contributing to the ongoing problem. As Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine states, “Although routine cleaning methods can reduce soil accumulation, once the floor has reached soil overload you will need to perform restorative maintenance.”
A Fresh Start
When grout becomes damaged, whether from an accident or normal wear and tear, it can critically affect the appearance of a space. In the past, a “ruined” floor could be cause for rip-out and replacement, but today’s market offers a variety of solutions that are far less intrusive and much more affordable. A tile and grout restoration company is often a great alternative to trashing a worn tile and grout surface. This can significantly reduce costs without disrupting business, and deliver a sustainable solution while allowing the customers to redesign spaces with a variety of new colors, textures and materials.