One of the most common questions regarding the sealing of
tile and stone is whether it’s actually necessary. The idea of sealing
tile assemblies is often ignored completely, leading to stained or damaged
installations and unhappy customers. On the other hand, the benefits
of sealers can be oversold by manufacturers or distributors and are often
misunderstood by contractors and end users.
With the exception of glazed ceramic,
most porcelain tile and a select few natural
stones, sealer is highly recommended to
help preserve the beautiful appearance
of newly completed work, when properly
chosen and applied. Understanding the role
of sealers and managing expectations is
essential to ensuring their correct use and ultimate success.
WHY USE A SEALER
Cement grouts, unglazed ceramic tiles and
most natural stones have a high degree of
porosity, meaning these materials absorb
water along with any other substances
upon contact. While none is bullet-proof,
an intact sealer can help prevent staining from colorless minerals found in water, as well as
highly pigmented items like wine or coffee.
All sealers are designed to create a barrier
to contamination by blocking absorption. Of
course, sealers are available in different levels
of protection from economy to premium.
If the objective is to repel dirt and mud and prevent common water-based stains, then a general water
and stain repellent will work just fine.
However, if food or exposure to harsh chemical and cleaning agents is a concern, or the goal is to
provide the highest level of protection,
then a premium water and stain repellent is required.
WHILE NONE IS BULLET-PROOF, AN INTACT SEALER CAN HELP PREVENT STAINING FROM COLOURLESS MINERALS FOUND IN WATER, AS WELL AS HIGHLY PIGMENTED ITEMS LIKE WINE OR COFFEE.
SELECTING THE RIGHT TYPE
There are many different forms and types alll
of sealers but by their nature, most fall into one of two categories: penetrating/ or
impregnating or surface/topical. This is
determined by whether theyleaveacoating re
on the surface of the material being sealed.
The various sealers may or may not change the appearance of the tile or stone
and can be water or solvent-based. Some, such as many solvent-based sealers, may have odours and fumes that can require
special precautions and steps for safe usage. Testing tile and stone, both sealed and unsealed, with contaminants common
to the area of installation is also important to choosing the right sealer.
Application comes down to the Specific stone or other material plus the location of the
installation and likelihood of staining agents. Natural Stone that is
Outside and eposed to the elements, grout in a public location like a school or
transit station, andtileinarestaurant are
all examples of materials that are going
to come into contact with contaminants
on aregular basis.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s
recommendations for the number of
applications based on the tile or stones
absorption and overall square footage.
Highly porous tile or stone naturally
requires more coats to obtain the full
benefit of sealing. Otherwise, the sealer is
stretched too thin and adequate coverage
and over all stain resistance is not achieved.
Sealers will need to be reapplied over
time, with frequency depending on the installed material, its location
and usage conditions, and the type
of sealer originally employed. Highly
porous stone, exterior or highly
exposed positions, and topical (versus
penetrating) sealers may all require
more frequent reapplication.
The cleaning regimen and products
used will also affect the longevity of
the sealer. Harsh household or commercial cleansers can strip sealers and damage the assembly.
A pH neutral cleaner designed for tile, stone and grout should be used.
The end user should periodically test for water penetration during routine cleaning; if the surface
darkens, demonstrating water absorption, it is time to reseal.