Tag Archives: durabililty

Step 10: Bathroom wall grouting

I alluded in the floor grouting post that using epoxy grout over cementitious grout is a big investment. But it comes with benefits. Its stain resistance, hardness, and durability make epoxy grout an excellent choice for wet area applications such as kitchen counters, backsplashes, floors, and other heavy-traffic areas.

We used the epoxy grout for the bathroom floor, and I intended to also use it for the walls – at least some of them.

Because the epoxy grout is such an investment, we decided to limit its application to wet areas, i.e. those walls that are most frequently exposed to water, specifically the shower stall and the sink backsplash.

Here are a couple of tips we can share if you decide to use epoxy grout:

Purchase small batches. The risk of running out of time with a small batch is less than with a larger batch. And you can always complete the job in sections.

Or, if you do purchase a large batch like I did, have enough helping hands to get the job done in time (Thank you Rubani and Cathy!). And if you run out of material, you can get an additional small batch to finish the job, just like we did.

Before finishing the job with a final batch, let everything cure for a day or so and go over your job with a fine tooth comb looking for imperfections. Mark them and touch them up with the final batch.

This is more of an issue on vertical applications (wall grouting) than floor grouting. You are working fast and unlike with floor grouting, you don’t always get a good look at the grout lines, which makes small imperfections almost inevitable.

Put protective covers on the floor (we used cardboard) to catch the inevitable dropped blobs of grout. This way you don’t tread them into the tiled floor and you will have less to clean up, which saves you precious time.

Invest in a couple of good rubber floats. These are specified for epoxy grout and assure a speedy installation.

Make sure you familiarize yourself thoroughly with the clean up instructions and have all the clean up equipment ready before you start mixing the components. If you don’t get the clean up done within the specified working time window, you may be left with a permanent haze from the epoxy residue on your tiles.

And with this last step I can conclude the series of blog posts on bathroom remodeling that started with “The risky bathroom”. I hope you enjoyed the read and found  some useful information.

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Step 8: Bathroom floor grouting

Keeping grout lines in the wet areas of your tiled bathroom clean is a never ending chore. And corners are the worst. But we solved that problem by using easy-to-clean corner profiles.

We still have all the other grout lines to contend with, which got me thinking about the installation details, subsequent maintenance, and longevity aspects.

The most common product used these days is cementitious grout. It is economic and easy to install. But it is porous, and needs sealing after the installation. And in most cases, it is recommended to re-seal the grout lines at certain time intervals. Even once sealed, cementitious grout is apparently still prone to staining.

My research on solving that problem led me to something called epoxy grout.

According to the product literature, it “never needs sealing” and is “tough, durable, and crack resistant.” The Tile Council of North America describes epoxy grout as “nearly stain proof” and often with a bond strength that “is stronger than the tile itself.”

It appeared that I could solve durability and maintenance issues by switching from cementitious to epoxy grout.

But as always, there is a catch:

Epoxy grout is not cheap. Compared to cementitious grout, it is a big investment. And on the installation side, you need to know what you are doing, and you need to be über prepared.

As with many epoxys, there are two resin-like components that are mixed together and start to react (cross-link). The speed at which the cross-linking, or curing, takes place varies by product and temperature. The warmer the working environment, the shorter the curing time.

For the Spectralock-Pro Premium Grout that we used, the working time at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is 80 minutes. In other words, from the time of mixing the components we had about 80 minutes for the installation. The curing process is basically irreversible, which means you have no choice but to finish on time or end up with a permanently unfinished job.

For us it was worth taking on this challenge in return for a more durable, robust, and easy to maintain grouting solution.

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Step 6: Bathroom corner profiles

Let’s keep moving along! And sometimes, your bathroom floor and walls like to do the same thing. Those movements are minute, but nevertheless significant.

Vertical and horizontal planes in a building are subject to small movements, between cooling and heating seasons. This is particularly true for old buildings. Cracks in your old plaster wall are often the evidence of such movements.

The greatest stress from those seasonal movements often occurs at the plane change, i.e. from floor to wall, or at a wall corner. This may be evident by cracked grout lines along the corners in the bathroom environment. This in turn can lead to durability issues because water can now infiltrate behind the tiles.

Rather than fighting the cracked grout lines, or the fact that there may be some seasonal movement, we have taken a flexible approach – literally!

We have used the corner profile by the bathroom product company Schluter. These profiles get mortared into the corners, but have some flexibility to them thanks to their concave profile. They basically absorb the small movements that otherwise would lead to cracked grout lines.

Another common and more economic approach is to use silicone caulk along all plane changes. The caulk would perform the same function as the corner profiles, i.e. absorbing small movements. But the caulked corners also have the tendency to get grimy over time. And once mold or mildew sets in, it may become difficult to clean them.

What I like about the corner profiles is that they are super easy to clean. We’ve had them now for a number of years in our 1st floor bathroom, where they have done a splendid job of absorbing movement and keeping the job of cleaning easy.

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Step 5: Bathroom waterproofing walls

The principles behind waterproofing some of the walls in the bathroom are the same as those for waterproofing the bathroom floor. Rather than repeating them, I would like to direct you to the recent post: Bathroom waterproofing.

That said, there are a couple of subtleties that are worthwhile pointing out.

A good strategy to manage accidental and incidental water spills in your bathroom is to use water resistant materials and waterproofing in all wet areas. Here is what I said about wet areas earlier: “Think of wet areas as everything that is tiled.”

The entire bathroom floor is part of the wet area. It will all be tiled and has a waterproofing membrane. I used a bathtub analogy earlier: “Because of the amount of water a bathroom handles, we should treat it like a big bathtub”.

Waterproofing the floor makes for a very shallow bathtub, and doesn’t address the other vertical surfaces (walls) in the various wet areas of the bathroom. We need to raise the rim of our tub. But what are those other wet areas?

Two out of the three water sources in the bathroom are the sink and the toilet.

The walls surrounding both the sink and toilet are part of the wet area.

They should be furnished with cement board and waterproofing up to a safe splash height of around 44 to 48 inches.

The third water source is our barrier free – or – walk-in shower. This area will not just receive incidental or accidental spills–it will be exposed to water on a daily basis.

The walls surrounding the walk-in shower on three sides are furnished with cement board and will receive waterproofing.

Even though we plan to put a cabinet beside the shower, and protect it with a shower curtain, we decided to extend the waterproofing behind the cabinet just in case it may be removed sometime in the future.

The one lesson I took away from this exercise is that it is a excellent idea to have a time lapse camera going so you get to learn how your wife really feels about waterproofing the bathroom with you! 😉

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Step 4: Bathroom taping and mudding

The wall board in the bathroom is up and ready for taping and mudding. But it isn’t drywall or gypsum board. It is water-resistant cement board.

Using the typical paper tape and mud used in drywall applications won’t work. Neither of these are water resistant and as such are unsuitable for wet areas. Instead, the use of an alkaline-resistant mesh tape and thinset mortar is recommended. Both are water resistant, compatible with the cement board, and add to the durability of the system.

Why bother to use mesh tape and thinset to mud all the cement board joints if everything gets tiled anyway?

The taping and mudding bonds the individual cement boards together to create a monolithic face. In other words, the mesh tape and thinset help to cut down on movement between the boards, which is crucial to prevent cracking in the grout lines and wall tiles.

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