Grout has been used by engineers and builders for over two centuries now. It is most commonly known as a thick fluid that can be used to bond, fill, or seal joints and gaps between building materials. Using grout is the most traditional way to tile floors, walls, and backsplash cabinets in kitchens, but you also have the option to forgo grout and use a type of groutless tile.
A groutless tile is a form of tile that does not need to be grouted. These tiles often come in the form of peel-and-stick or borderless tiles, wherein no grout needs to be used to enable them to be placed together.
In the rest of this article, I will describe in-depth what tile grout is, the history of the sealant, what it is often used for, and whether or not it is necessary to use grout to place tiles.
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Depending on where the grout is to be used, grout comes in many different forms, is mixed with different materials, and often has very different maintenance needs.
Tile grout is a very dense solution that acts as a sticking agent between tiles. It is used to seal gaps between tiles and effectively keep them in place for a long time. Tile grout is the most effective solution to providing longevity to tiling.
Originally, grout was used in the early 1800s as a hole sealant in France and is now used for tiling and many other things, such as sinkholes, soil nailing, geotechnical drilling, and sewer systems.
There are four main types of tile grout commonly used today. I will go into detail about these four types of grout below.
- Sanded Grout. This is frequently used if the gaps between tiles are more prominent. Similar to the texture of peanut butter, the sand helps to close the gaps between tiles effectively.
- Unsanded Grout. This type of grout is used if the gaps between tiles are much smaller. This grout mixture is a bit like sanded grout, but its texture is more like cement. Unsanded grout is used on all sorts of surfaces, such as counters and wall fittings.
- TEC Power Grout. This is the newest grout technology, and it is used for minimal gaps between tiles. It is mixed with a water solution and is fixed very quickly. Its high-tech characteristics make it resistant to mold, and it can also be submerged in water, making it an excellent option for bathroom tiling.
- Epoxy Grout. Epoxy grout is not absorbent like other types of grout. While it is one of the more expensive types of grout to use and is very quick-setting, it is ultra-resistant to mold and lasts a very long time. It is often used for outdoor tiling areas.
All types of grout tend to end their processes in the same way, and once they dry, they provide a long-lasting and smooth tiling finish.
Grout comes in many different colors, so depending on the color of your tile, there are many ways to make the grout stand out or subtle for a neutral finish.
Do You Need to Grout Tiles?
Traditionally, grout is paramount for long-lasting tiling and is recommended by almost every home decorator. When installing stone, grout is favored by most people, as it is the most effective way to ensure an even finish.
Some guides suggest that tile grout is an absolute necessity, as it acts as a layer of moisture control between tiles, prevents the tiling from cracking and moving over time, and improves the finished look by maintaining equal distances between the tiles.
Your tiles will naturally move over time due to foot traffic or gravitational forces that will affect their position. Without grout, the tiles are prone to chipping easily, and they won’t last as long as they would have done if they had been grouted.
About Groutless Tiles
There are instances wherein you don’t have to use grout, and sometimes it is preferable (depending on the circumstances) to forgo it altogether.
There are also a few problems with grouting, such as the chance that the grout will crack before it is set. It also takes much longer to lay tiles with grout, as the grout coating needs to be washed off four or five times during the process.
Additionally, suppose the grout has been installed in a warm room. In that case, it may dry too quickly: this can make small holes in the porous material that eventually can contribute to bacterial growth.
The Pros and Cons of Groutless Tiles
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of groutless tiles:
Here are some of the pros of groutless tiles:
- Grout is permeable and can begin its lifespan very clean; however, over time, it can collect dirt in the crevices, making it very hard to maintain. Groutless tiles will not have this same problem.
- Groutless tiles are, in general, very low maintenance. Although they may not last as long as grouted tiles, they will not need the same amount of care and attention over time.
- Using tiles to mimic wooden floors, having groutless tiling will make it look more authentic.
- If you happen to use wall panels that are not grouted, it is much better for the environment than grouted tiling.
The cons of groutless tiles include:
- Grout lends a better finish to tiling, so groutless tiles might tend to appear messier overall.
- Groutless tiles are more prone to bacteria getting beneath the tile itself, while grout prevents this from happening.
- Groutless tiles inevitably do not last as long as grouted tiles.
- If there are differences between the shape or size of your tiles, grout masks this very well; however, groutless tiles are more difficult to align, and these differences will be made slightly more apparent.
- Over time, groutless tiles will shift and move against each other, making them more prone to rubbing against one another and eventually cracking.
There are many sorts of tiles that do not need to be grouted. This includes Mother of Pearl tiles, Peel-and-Stick tiles, borderless tiles (or cliks), and rectified tiles.
Multipanel walls and Spapanel are also fantastic groutless alternatives.
To start with, Mother of Pearl tiles are fantastic designs that use a non-slip backing with mesh inserts instead of grouting. They can be used as backsplash above kitchen counters.
Mother of Pearl tiles can be installed in kitchens and hallways. However, they are not recommended for use in bathrooms, as they are not waterproof, and contact with water will cause a dimming of the finish over time.
There are a few different designs to choose from, and they come in various shapes and sizes, depending on your needs.
Peel-and-Stick tiles are also beneficial if you are looking for tiles that don’t need to be grouted. They are straightforward to install, and you don’t need any special equipment for fittings. Peel-and-Stick tiles come equipped with a paper backing that can be peeled off and placed directly on walls or counters.
Borderless tiles, also known as seamless tiles or ‘cliks,’ are held in their place by a net that protects the front of the tiles, then covered again by polyethylene.
Borderless tiles have many benefits. They are hard-wearing and last a long time, and are made with chip-resistant and scratch-proof materials. Easy to maintain and easy to configure, they might seem like an excellent alternative to tiles that need to be grouted.
However, these seamless tiles are not suitable for high-use areas, like pathways or hallways, and there are not many types of designs for seamless tiles, so you may be limited by your options if you decide to use them.
Rectified tiles have been manufactured to reduce the chance of your tiles being misaligned. The process requires the tiles to be made at specific angles that result in a slightly more professional finish than other ungrouted tiles.
This rectification procedure creates almost identical tiles, so you need not worry about the finished product being uneven.
These tiles are (generally speaking) either made of ceramic or porcelain.
You can use rectified tiles on both walls and floors, indoors and outdoors, and can be used in any commercial or residential setting.
Multipanel wall panels are much better for the environment than grouted panels and can be a fantastic alternative if the most important thing to you is the finished product.
These wall panels are very aesthetic and last a long time, considering that they function similarly to Peel-and-Stick. They may not be the most cost-effective tiling solution, but they certainly look appealing.
Spapanels are a branded alternative to grouted tiles. They are very useful because they work well in both wet and dry environments, so you can use them in hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms alike.
Spapanels are a lot cheaper than grouted tiling, and they are very low maintenance. The manufacturing procedure locks them with waterproofing materials to ensure a long-lasting and professional finish.
These tiles are primarily used in newer buildings.
As you can see, there are many different alternatives to grouted tiles, and each has its own benefits and can be used in various areas of your house. Just be sure to choose the right one for your building needs, and do your research before committing to a particular type.
If you need a solution to groutless tiles, but dislike the look and texture of grout, then there are many things you can do to make grout look more aesthetic in your house.
You can apply grout in a thin layer between your tiles so that the finish is almost invisible.
For example, suppose you use larger, squarer tiles. In that case, you can fit them together neatly and only apply a very thin coating of grout to ensure that not only are the tiles wedged together correctly but that the grout isn’t a prominent part of the tiling display.
Grout comes in all different colors and textures, as the grout itself can absorb other pigments. Knowing this, choosing the right one for you should not be too difficult.
You have many options: you can use the same color grouting as your tile to provide you with a more seamless and blended finish.
Alternatively, if you want your grouting to stand out, you can use it as a highlighter; using a contrasting color, you can make your tiles look more distinct and aesthetic.
If you genuinely dislike the look of grout, you can use color to make it almost invisible. Using a neutral color that merges closely with the color of your tile, there are ways to make it look as though no grout has been used at all.
The method of installation you use very much depends on the type of groutless tiles you choose.
For the purposes of this article, I will explain how to install Mother of Pearl tiles and Rectified tiles.
How to Install Mother of Pearl Tiles
To properly install Mother of Pearl tiles, you will need the following equipment:
- Measuring tape
- Mesh supports
- Hand trowel
- Glass tile nipper, or a tile wet saw
- White caulk
- Once you have decided the area in which to install your tiles, measure out the site’s square footage. Add about 10% to the square footage of your tiles to ensure that you have enough to cover the entire area you intended.
- Once you have done this, clean the area where you intend to place the tiles, then gently sand it down. Make sure that the site is completely smooth before you begin to place your tiles.
- Cut the mesh supports to the correct size, considering any wall outlets or light switches present in the area. In a thin layer, apply the adhesive to the area using a trowel, lightly guiding the trowel over the area at an angle, making sure that you get the bonding glue as close to the shape of the area as possible.
- Next, put your tiles one by one on the area and hold them down gently until you can remove your hand without the tiles falling off. Once all the tiles are neatly placed on the area, use a glass nipper or a wet saw to trim the edges of your tiles into the shape you desire.
- Allow the area to dry completely. When the drying process has finished, place your seal over the area to protect your tiles from bacteria or dirt. The final step is to thinly brush some white caulk onto the ends of your tiles to ensure a smooth and professional finish.
As you can see, installing these tiles is a straightforward process, and you do not necessarily need a professional for the installation process.
How to Install Rectified Tiles
Installing rectified tiles for flooring is a very straightforward procedure, and it should not take too long to finish.
Although the drying time is slightly longer than that needed for Mother of Pearl tiles, the manual installment process is a lot shorter and can quickly be done with a DIY method at home.
To properly install Rectified tiles, you will need the following equipment:
- Tile wet saw
- Rectified tiles
- Thinset mortar
- Rubber Mallet
- Small hand trowel
- Mark out and measure the area of flooring you wish to lay your rectified tiles. Using a straightedge ruler, mark out points of your tile that will need to be cut. Use the tile wet saw to cut your tiles evenly, ensuring that each tile is measured so that the edges touch each other.
- Using your hand trowel at a 45-degree angle, smear the thinset mortar paste evenly over the area you wish to lay your tiles—Mark several points with the corner of the trowel to ensure that it is uniform.
- Working quickly to ensure that the mortar doesn’t dry before you lay your tiles. Then, press each tile one by one into the thinset mortar in the design you choose.
- Using the rubber mallet, lightly tap on each tile to ensure that they are securely in place. The tiles should be evenly distributed and level with each other. If any tiles are sticking out, use the rubber mallet to make them level.Let this dry for at least 24 hours without touching it.
So there you have it: laying rectified tiles is probably the easiest way to lay tiles if you do not want to hire a professional or use grout.
Groutless tiles are a great alternative option if you prefer not to use grouting in the installation process.
Since there are many different options to choose from depending upon the area you wish to tile, it is easy to find a solution for any budget or design.
Before deciding upon a design or installation method at home, make sure to do your research on the different types of tile first and choose a method that suits your circumstances.