Grout and adhesive can play a crucial role in the overall finish of a project and are instrumental in creating a seamless, top quality finish, but what should you look for in both products?
Fine or coarse grout?
Traditionally, grouts were split into two segments, fine or coarse, and this is how they've always been supplied to the trade. Generally, if you're tiling anything below a 5mm joint, you would use a fine grout. For anything over 5mm, you would opt for a coarse grout.
When you're dealing with thicker joints or tiles, the fine grout will just crumble whereas the coarse grout is grittier.
In recent times, industry leaders are working to eradicate this divide by creating innovative products which have just started emerging on the market. Italian based Kerakoll, one of the world's leading grout and adhesive manufacturers have just launched a new all-in-one range called Fugabella that is set to be hugely successful.
This product has a fine-grain finish that comes in a choice of 50 colours and promises superior flexibility on 0mm to 20mm grout joints. It is suitable for interior and exterior use and can even be used in swimming pools which is ideal for fitters who can work with one single product instead of having to take separate ones on site.
The extensive colour range means you can pick a shade that will match whatever style your client may have in mind and it's also bio-friendly meaning it's kinder to the environment than many of its competitors.
In terms of price point, Kerakoll used to be at the top end of the bracket as it's manufactured and shipped from Italy. However, they've since bought Tilemaster adhesive so they've now got a manufacturing plant in the UK which has made their products a lot more accessible to UK retailers.
Powder or ready mixed grout?
Almost all professional tradesmen will opt for powdered grout. The ready-made grout, although easier for DIY'ers, is very limited in terms of which surfaces and tiles it will stick to. You can get away with it for a ceramic splashback or quick fix up job but we would never advice using ready-mixed for a bigger job or for larger tiles.
What's best for high traffic areas?
With the combined kitchen-diner growing in popularity, many clients are looking for grouts which are hard wearing and easy to clean and maintain. Similarly, clients with children and pets can experience a higher level of traffic from outdoors, resulting in more dirt coming into contact with tiled floors.
We would recommend choosing a darker coloured grout for floors as it's far less likely to look grubby over time. This is by far the best scenario and it looks stunning when used with a variety of floor tiles from transitional stone, to decorative encaustic designs and porcelain. The contrast of a dark grout can also look stunning when used with lighter or white tile.
If you have a client who is looking for a fresh, bright white grout finish, the risk with a normal cement-based grout is that as soon as you mop the floor the dirty water will get into the cracks and will stain.
If this is this case, we recommend a product called Fugalite, which is a grout product that dries as hard as a tile. If you spill wine on a normal cement grout it would soak in and stain, but with Fugralite, the stains sit on the surface and don't penetrate, so if you want a light grout that's the way forward.
What about adhesive?
There are a wide range of adhesive manufacturers out there, but most professionals will stick with the brand they know and enjoy working with.
For all our jobs, we use a powdered, flexible adhesive which works really well on the extremely popular large format tiles we are seeing a lot of at the moment.
Some of the large format tiles can measure up to 2.5m so they've massive, heavy slabs which require a strong adhesive. Tile Master and Kerakoll adhesives are brilliant and one product will work for tiles of all sizes.
We do sell a cheap ready mix for small ceramics, because they set by air. If you get a big tile the air is never going to get behind it to dry, but with a small metro tile the air will get to it and it will dry fine.
In terms of price point, if you walked into a high street retailer and bought a tub of adhesive you could expect to pay anywhere between £30-50 but they will have a lot of different options. They also sell a range of combined adhesive and grout, but we would not recommend this as it is likely to crumble and lack sticking power.
The benefit of shopping with a specialist trade retailer is that our price point would be lower at around £20 but we do have a far more limited range. This is because we get plenty of feedback from professional tilers on how well the products work. We know everything from how well they mix up, to how easily they spread and how long it takes for them to go off, so we are confident that what we sell is top quality.
Slow set or fast set adhesive?
Dependent on the temperature where you're working, you can opt for a slow set or fast set adhesive. If you're fitting a bathroom in summer and it's 25 degrees, a slow set will work better as this will give you more time to work with it before it goes off. Alternatively, if it's the depths of winter at 5 degrees, a fast set will go off quicker.
What you'll find with Keracoll and other European manufacturers, is that most of their ranges are slow set as the working conditions are generally quite warm so this will give them a couple of hours before it dries.
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