YEP, WE’RE STILLLLLL TALKIN’ TILE. SPECS, SEALER, GROUT – DID WE LOSE YOU AT GROUT?
HEY, COME BACK. GROUT’S COOL. WELL, NOT COOL-COOL, BUT Y’KNOW – IMPORTANT.
It’s time for our Tile Talk Part 2: maintenance and other minutia. Upkeep’s a bummer, but also a reality. Before you go all ostrich on us and bury your head in the sand, ignoring the recommended maintenance drill – think hard about how much tile care-giving you want to be doing once the house is done. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re the type who would actually religiously re-seal that encaustic tile every six months if that’s not how you roll. But if you’re one of those freaky-committed New Years’ Resolution keepers, you may very well be a candidate for delicate tile that takes more TLC. Here are a few things to noodle before making the final call.
Natural stone is lovely. It’s also porous and on the higher-maintenance side with the potential to disappoint long-term. So unless you’re truly a sealer-applying fool, use it selectively in places that don’t get a ton of traffic. We like ourselves a blend of polished and honed finishes on natural stone (shown above). But honed is often the way to go on kitchen or bathroom counters and floors since it helps camouflage etching from spills. (And there will be spills. Guar-an-teed.)[expander_maker id="1" more="Read more" less="Read less"]
Possibly the highest maintenance tile of all: cement encaustic. It’s gorgeous and Insta-everywhere, but it takes about seven coats of sealer up front, then constant re-sealing twice a year forever-and-ever-amen. But if you’re game for the upkeep, or willing to embrace the patina of the worn, lived-in look, let’s do it!
Couple of side notes: Encaustic tile is thicker than other tiles, so remodels may require a reducer piece to even out the transition to any adjacent rooms. Or you can go with thinner porcelain versions that can lay right in sans reducer, with a similar look to encaustic. Plus porcelain will stand up better to daily wear and tear. (Talkin’ to you, dog-people.)
Moving on to grout. Sounds like such a yawner, but it plays a surprisingly big part in the grand design scheme. We generally go with tighter joints since tile wipes clean and grout requires some scrubbing (so less is best). And in terms of look, the color is critical – going lighter or darker can totally change the overall effect. You can match tones so it disappears, or go with some contrast to make the tile pattern pop. Pick up sample strips to hold up next to the tile so you can see how it looks in the space with your lighting. What looked spot-on in the store may not be quite right in real life.
[Grout secret revealed!] There’s this little thing called boosted/power grout. We. Are. Obsessed. It costs a little more so it’s NEVER in the builder specs. ADD IT. Seriously. It’s magical and you will thank us profusely later, (probably just silently to yourself, but still). TEC, LATICRETE, MAPEI and Custom Building Products all make a grout boost that’s stain and mildew resistant so it literally wipes clean sans scrubbing. It almost doubles the grout price up front, but you’ll save in the end by not having to re-grout. There’s also a slight learning curve for installers, since many haven’t used it before. It dries super fast, so they can’t mix it up then go eat a sammich. It’s got to be installed pronto.
Finishing details seem like a notch below minutia, but worthy of noting nonetheless. We recommend walking the house with your installer to chat through how the edges will work based on the tile you selected. For instance, not all subway tiles come with a bullnose option on the short side, so sometimes designers run a vertical row up the side to finish it off. We don’t love that look, so we go with Schluter strips (which we say repeatedly in our best fake German accent just because). It gives the install a clean metal edge – super subtle if you match the color, so the tile remains the star.
Underfloor heating is THE BEST. Everyone with freezy-feet says so. (We concur.) It’s a simple add and you’ll pat yourself on the back daily for making that call early enough in the process to make it happen. The electrical part is a little trickier in a remodel, but doable. Maybe it’s just their toes talking, but homeowners who add radiant heat to the whole first floor claim they can set the thermostat lower in the winter, and the house still feels warm. (Do it!)
Take this quick quiz and we’ll award you your Tile Master certificate.
Kidding. No quiz. Or certificate. But compliments of our Tile 2-Parter, you are officially equipped for expert tile selecting. Go forth and conquer!
Until next time... thanks for reading!
Tile Part 2: If you’re not down with a whole lotta tile TLC, read and heed.
Photos by Picture Perfect House and Joe Kwon Photography (you should follow both of them!) [/expander_maker]