If you want to start a business but don’t know where to start, don’t worry–you are not alone.

In fact, given the new economic reality of our time, more people than ever before have found the “job” they thought was waiting for them doesn’t exist. Others have come to the conclusion that they would rather create work they love, constructed to fit with their own life goals. No matter what the motivation is to be your own boss, you can start today. Grout Logic’s unique product and built-in training makes an otherwise daunting task feel a lot less intimidating.

Here are 8 Tips to Get You Started:

Take a Stand for Yourself.

If you are dissatisfied with your current circumstances, admit that no one can fix them except for you. It doesn’t do any good to blame the economy, your boss, your spouse or your family. Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen.

Identify the Right Business for You.

Give yourself permission to explore. Be willing to look at different facets of yourself (your personality, social styles, age) and listen to your intuition. We tend to ignore intuition even though deep down we often know the truth. Ask yourself “What gives me energy even when I’m tired?”

How do you know what business is “right” for you? There are three common approaches to entrepreneurship:

Do What You Know: Have you been laid off or want a change? Look at work you have done for others in the past and think about how you could package those skills and offer them as your own services or products.

Do What Others Do: Learn about other businesses that interest you. Once you have identified a business you like, emulate it.

Solve a Common Problem: Is there a gap in the market? Is there a service or product you would like to bring to market? (Note: This is the highest-risk of the three approaches.) If you choose to do this, make sure that you become a student and gain knowledge first before you spend any money.

Business Planning Improves Your Chances for Success.

Most people don’t plan, but it will help you get to market faster. A business plan will help you gain clarity, focus and confidence. A plan does not need to be more than one page. As you write down your goals, strategies and action steps, your business becomes real.

Ask yourself the following questions:

 – What am I building?

– Who will I serve?

– What is the promise I am making to my customers/clients and to myself?

– What are my objectives, strategies and action plans (steps) to achieve my goals?

Know Your Target Audience Before You Spend a Penny.

Before you spend money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends? (And don’t say. “Everyone in America will want my product.” Trust me–they won’t.) What is the size of your target market? Who are your customers? Is your product or service relevant to their everyday life? Why do they need it?

There is industry research available that you can uncover for free. Read industry articles with data (Google the relevant industry associations) and read Census data to learn more. However, the most important way to get this information is to ask your target market/customers directly and then listen.

Understand Your Personal Finances and Choose the Right Kind of Money You Need for Your Business.

As an entrepreneur, your personal life and business life are interconnected. You are likely to be your first–and possibly only–investor. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your personal finances, and the ability to track them, is an essential first step before seeking outside funding for your business. This is why I recommend setting up your personal accounts in a money management system such as Mint.com to simplify this process.

As you are creating your business plan, you will need to consider what type of business you are building–a lifestyle business (smaller amount of startup funds), a franchise (moderate investment depending on the franchise), or a high-tech business (will require significant capital investment). Depending on where you fall on the continuum, you will need a different amount of money to launch and grow your business, and it does matter what kind of money you accept.

Build a Support Network.

You’ve made the internal commitment to your business. Now you need to cultivate a network of supporters, advisors, partners, allies and vendors. If you believe in your business, others will, too.

Network locally, nationally & via social networks. Join networks like NAPW.com, your local chamber of commerce, or other relevant business groups. Here are some networking basics:

– When attending networking events, ask others what they do and think about how you can help them. The key is to listen more than tout yourself.

– No matter what group you join, be generous, help others and make introductions without charging them.

– By becoming a generous leader, you will be the first person that comes to mind when someone you’ve helped needs your service or hears of someone else who needs your service.

Sell By Creating Value.

Even though we purchase products and services every day, people don’t want to be “sold.” Focus on serving others. The more people you serve, the more money you will make. When considering your customers or clients, ask yourself:

– What can I give them?

– How can I make them successful in their own pursuits?

– This approach can help lead you to new ways to hone your product or service and deliver more value, which your customers will appreciate.

Get the Word Out.

Be willing to say who you are and what you do with conviction and without apology. Embrace and use the most effective online tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) available to broadcast your news. Use social networks as “pointer” sites; i.e., to point to anything you think will be of interest to your fans and followers.

Even though social networks are essential today (you must use them!), don’t underestimate the power of other methods to get the word out: e.g., word-of-mouth marketing, website and internet marketing tools, public relations, blog posts, columns and articles, speeches, e-mail, newsletters, and the old-fashioned but still essential telephone.

If you take these steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your own boss. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. If you want to “be your own boss” but you still feel stuck, reach out and connect with other entrepreneurs in a variety of ways. You may be surprised by the invaluable contacts that are right at your fingertips.

Has a small business for sale caught your eye?

If you know how to buy a small business, buying an existing business can be a great opportunity to get into business without going through the process of starting from scratch. If you buy a turnkey operation, you can skip the startup phase entirely and begin operations as soon as the sale is complete; everything is already set up and ready to go.

But unfortunately, businesses for sale are like used cars; there are lots of them out there, but some of them are lemons. To avoid getting stuck with a bad bargain, you need to fully investigate the business you’re thinking of buying. Here’s how you can tell if that small business for sale is a good deal or a clunker.

1) Find Out if it Has Been in an Accident

In other words, before you buy a business, discover the real reason the small business is for sale. Don’t just take the seller’s word for this. Sure, people do retire or become ill, but the real reason may be anything from a big-box retailer moving into town through losing a lucrative, traffic-driving contract such as being a postal outlet.

Discover the true reason(s) the business is for sale by talking to people who are familiar with the history of the business you’re thinking of buying, such as local realtors, other business people and suppliers.

2) Find Out What’s Included in the Asking Price

Find out what’s actually for sale and what method of business valuation is being used. If you buy a small business, what assets are you actually getting? People selling businesses usually have a spec sheet prepared, listing the assets involved and offering an estimate of their value. Ask for details if anything is unclear. And be sure to find out if the assets listed are free and clear of debts and liens; you don’t want to buy other people’s problems.

Pay special attention to any intangible assets that may be listed, such as goodwill. Sellers tend to inflate the value of this, thinking perhaps of the potential future value of their reputation and established customer base.

3) Look Under the Hood

Remember the old joke about the guy who bought the good looking car only to discover he couldn’t drive it away because it had no engine? It’s only funny when it happens to someone else. Make sure you do your due diligence before you buy a small business.

Study the business’s past performance. Ask for and examine the last three years of the business’s financial statements. You will also want to know who prepared this financial data; were they prepared by the management of the business, for instance, or by an accountant?

If by an accountant, documents should accompany the financial statements that will explain the depth of the accountant’s review. An Auditor’s Report certifies that a full review has been conducted, while a Review Engagement Report will present the findings of a limited review of the business. A Notice to Reader signifies that the accountant prepared the financial statements based on information provided by the business without conducting any checks.

Don’t like what you’re seeing or just not seeing enough of it? Ask the seller for permission to see the actual business records and get your own audit done.

4) Find Out What it’s Actually Worth

Find out what you should actually pay for the business. When you’re buying a used car, this is a simple matter of comparison shopping, but business valuation is considerably more complicated. It’s common to use several different methods of business valuation to arrive at a price. When preparing the asset list (spec sheet), for instance, the seller could have used:

Book Value (based on the company’s balance sheet)

Modified Book Value (book value adjusted to reflect the current market value of the assets)

Replacement Value (based on what it would cost to replace the asset)

Liquidation Value (based on what the asset would bring in if the business was liquidated)

He may also have incorporated some Earning Value methods into the business valuation process to arrive at his final asking price.

So before you buy a small business you want to know how the seller arrived at his estimate of the business’s value and arrive at your own estimate of how much the business is worth. The important point is that a business is not worth x amount of dollars just because the seller says so.

Remember that the real value of the business depends upon the income that the business generates. Examining the business’s financial records should have given you an accurate picture of the business’s gross revenues, costs and profit. You want to buy a business based on the return on investment, not on the stated price. In other words, what you are really buying is the annual profit.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what the business you want to buy is actually worth, seek advice from a professional business valuator.

5) Take it for a Spin.

Before you buy a business, get an inside perspective by asking the seller’s permission to sit in on the business for several days. If he or she is agreeable, this can be a great way to find out how the business you want to buy truly operates. (If he or she doesn’t agree to this, it’s not necessarily a bad sign. He may still be thinking of you as a “looky-lou”, as you haven’t made an offer yet.)

6) Investigate Your Financing Alternatives

Just as when you buy a car, you need to see if you can truly afford the business you want to buy. If you don’t have the cash in your pocket, this is the time to see who’s interested in financing the business you’re buying and how much that financing help will cost. The usual small business financing sources are friends, family and traditional lending institutions (such as banks and credit unions).

You may find that said traditional lending institutions are friendlier than usual, as financing an established business is generally considered to be less risky than financing a start up.

You may also want to consider asking the seller to finance part of your purchase of his business. One common arrangement is for the seller to carry a promissory note for part of the purchase price. (Note that if you’re going to approach the seller for financing, you have to make the option attractive to him. You may need to offer a rate of interest above the going rate, for instance.)

7) Make an Offer

Assuming that the process hasn’t broken down at some point before this and you do want to buy the business, it’s time to make an offer and start negotiating. (See 5 Ways to Negotiate More Effectively.) You make an offer and the seller makes a counter-offer. The two of you will go through a process that will hopefully see you meeting on middle ground.

Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to accompany your offer to buy a business with a non-refundable deposit; sellers are typically only interested in dealing with serious buyers. The usual rules apply. Always be prepared to walk away and don’t get so caught up in the process that you get pulled past the price you’re prepared to actually pay.

8) Get a Purchase/Sale Agreement Drawn Up

Once you and the seller have reached the point of agreement on terms, the details need to be specified in a contract. Because the contract needs to itemize every aspect of the sale, it should be drawn up by a lawyer.

How to Buy a Small Business in One Word: Carefully

Don’t be afraid to buy a business that someone else has started and grown. Buying a business can truly be the opportunity to own and operate the successful business you’ve been dreaming of – as long as you resist the temptation to get drawn in by a shiny paint job and do more than just kick the tires before you make an offer.

Grouting Tile

The Grout Logic Process

For some installers, grouting tile is one of the best parts of a project. For starters, it’s the last step in the installation process, so you know you’re almost done. Secondly, filling the joints with grout can add a second dimension to the flooring, pulling the look together. But, more than anything, grout is a vital structural element that secures the tiles together. Simply put, it can make the difference between a tile installation project that will last for decades and one that will show signs of trouble after the very first weeks.

But, if you’ve ever struggled with getting the right thickness of the grouting mix or had grout turn rock hard before you managed to get it off the tile, then you know that this last step is also one of the most challenging. Make one mistake, and you’ll ruin all of your hard work to this point.

This comprehensive guide about grouting tile will help you avoid any problems and get the best results with minimum efforts. We’ll talk about how to mix grout, what consistency should grout be, and how to apply it and remove it so that you get the best results every time.

The Purpose of Laying Joints

Besides the aesthetic functions, laying joints with grout also plays a crucial role in absorbing tensile and stress. From a mechanical point of view, grouting tile can prevent the deformation or instability of the structural supports, keep the cement from retracting, and protect the tiles from humidity or temperature changes.

All the movement and impact that tiles withstand causes stress to accumulate at the edges of the slabs. The grout serves as the first level of protection, reducing the tension by spreading it between tiles.

Grouting Tile – The Purpose of Laying Joints

As mentioned already, another reason for laying joints is to protect tiles from humidity or temperature changes. In cold geographic areas, vapor diffusion can lead to condensation. Even in warm areas, in the case of bathroom tiles, due to the constant exposure to moisture and temperature changes, grout can absorb a significant amount of water if it’s not applied properly.

When grout constantly exposes to water and warm temperatures, it creates a breeding ground for bacteria. That can affect the bonding between the tile and mortar, as well as the structure of the grout. As water moves freely through the grout to the base of the tile, it can cause cracking in the grout, advancing the structural decline of the entire assembly.

Another crucial function of the grout is to hide the small dimensional variations of the tiles.

No one doubts the fact that grouting tile plays a major role in the installation process. The question is, how to grout tile so that you get the best results every time?

It all starts with working with the right type of grout for the task at hand.

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

Sanded Grout: Pros & Cons

When it comes to grouting tile, sanded grout is the favorite option for most installers. That’s because unsanded (also known as non-sanded) grout tends to shrink when mixed with cement. Due to the ratio of aggregate material to cement in sanded grout, this material has a thicker consistency and is more durable and resistant than unsanded grout.

On the downside, however, the harsh aggregate material presented in sanded grout can damage soft materials like granite, limestone or marble. This type of grout can act like sandpaper, scratching the smooth surface of soft stones. For this reason, it’s best to use an epoxy-based non-sanded grout. This type of grouting material uses an advanced chemical compound which consists of a base and an activator. When you add the activator to the base, the chemical reaction will result in a grout that is smooth and extremely powerful.

The problem with epoxy-based non-sanded grout is that it can be difficult to work with since it has a rather short curing time. If you don’t manage to apply it over the entire work area before it cures, it will harden, and you will have a difficult time applying it. That’s why it’s important to have the right tools for mixing grout.

Unsanded Grout: Pros & Cons

In spite of its tendency to shrink, non-sanded grout is ideal for vertical surfaces. Since it has no sand or aggregate added to it, this type of grout is extremely sticky. As a result, it will spread easily over vertical surfaces and will stick there without causing you any additional problems.

Although non-sanded grout is not recommended for applications where the tile would have to withstand a lot of foot pressure, when it comes to vertical surfaces, durability doesn’t represent a problem anymore.

Another great benefit of using unsanded grout for vertical surfaces is how easy it is to work with it. It spreads easily and evenly, allowing you to focus on placing the tiles in the right spot rather than trying to correct errors.

How to Prepare the Grouting Material

When you know how to grout tile correctly, the joints between the slabs are uniform in texture and color, with no cracks or residue. But, when the tile is installed over a thick mortar bed, the mixture could provide a sufficient amount of minerals to cause efflorescence. These problems can affect the grout life and require intense maintenance.

Grouting Tile – Preparing grouting material

To ensure proper grout application, you must pay close attention to the preparation of the material.

If you use RG materials for grouting tile, then you need to know that the temperature range for handling and application is rather limited. How long does grout take to dry? Well, it depends on the material’s condition.

If the condition is below or above the recommended temperature range, then you might have a difficult time working with it.

Be careful not to add any bonding agents to the grout material and, with CG materials, to use manufacturer’s recommended quantity of water. Although they can add extra adhesive strength to the grout, bonding agents can also cause discoloration.

Grouting Tile: How to Apply the Material

Any person with an internet connection can learn how to apply grout in under an hour. Or, so they think. Proper grout application requires years of experience learning the ins and outs of each material.

First of all, you need to ensure that the installation joints are clear of any excessive adhesive materials. If you are using RG materials, then you should make sure that the flanks and the bottom seal are dry. The presence of water can affect the curing reaction and prevent tiles from adhering to the subfloor.

Grouting Tile – Applying Grout

Now, that you’ve ensured that everything is in order, the grouting tile process can begin. You can use whichever technique fits you best. Most installers find that spreading the grout diagonally is the most efficient way to apply grout. This technique ensures that the grout gets into the joints and prevents it from popping out as you apply it. If you’re applying grout over a vertical surface, then spreading it diagonally can mean that there’s less mess to clean after you finish.

Of course, the right grouting tools can make a world of difference in how easy it is to apply the grout. Choose a mortar applicator that is lightweight and allows for an easy, quick, and clean application of the grout material.

How to Remove Grout

Here’s the part that most tile installers dread: removing grout.

It should go without saying that no tile installation project is finished without grout removal. The residue left from grout application can make tiles look dusky and ruin their overall appearance. Be one minute too late with removal, and it would be nearly impossible to do a proper grout repair.

So, even though this task is tedious and time-consuming, it needs to be done. So, get a sponge and water, get down on all fours, and start scrubbing. The sooner you get started, the faster you’ll finish.

Sure, no one says that you can’t cheat a little. A grout removal tool, such as a grout scraper can make this task a bit easier to endure.

If you need to remove old grout, then don’t waste a few days hand-scrapping it. Use a reciprocating saw or an oscillating tool to remove grout in as little as one afternoon. Be careful, though, not to chip the tiles.

Who Is the Ideal Grout Logic Distributorship Owner?

Every Grout Logic distributorship owner takes a different journey to get where they are. Our owners come from all kinds of backgrounds – from construction to finance to restaurants.

As Grout Logic continues to grow nationally, we’re not looking for cookie-cutter owners. We don’t require a background in grout cleaning, restoration or business ownership. What we do look for is a spark, a passion for people and a desire to succeed.

The ideal Grout Logic owner is someone who embodies Grout Logic’s core values: Passion, purpose, and community. Our owners don’t look the same or think the same, but together, they build a brand that’s bringing a superior and sought after service to customers in their territory or territories.

Passion

The ideal Grout Logic territory owner is passionate about business. As Grout Logic’s owner Jay Broadwell points out, you don’t have to be a grout cleaning master to be a successful distributorship owner and succeed at growing your company. Just a desire to get ahead and a passion for people. The rest will come naturally.

There’s a lot to love about Grout Logic and its products – our focus on quality, right to use to exclusive materials, and accessibility, to name a few.

Purpose

If we boil the spirit of Grout Logic down to one word (a difficult task, we assure you), it would be “purpose.”

To us, having purpose means taking pride in helping others. Our owners take pride in the quality of their services, their excellent products, and the exclusivity of our capabilities. It brings them joy to have happy customers.

Purpose also means confidence. We want our territory owners to have confidence in their exclusive access to our product and be assured that while they have the freedom to operate independently; we will always be here to help.

At Grout Logic, our process is not just a quick fix. It is tried and true perfection. Perfect grout, permanently.

Community

There are already dozens of Grout Logic territories across over 30 states. Ownership of a territory guarantees that you and your business have the exclusive ability to operate within your area. This also comes with a reputation of professionalism, excellence, and positive service experiences. The Grout Logic brand is known for these attributes, and we want to take that dynamic with us as we help others expand it into new places.

As in most home services, word of mouth and recommendations from previous customers is the name of the game. We encourage all territory owners to build relationships with both their customers and their colleagues. Learn their names, ask about their families, and go the extra mile to make them feel special. They are not just another nameless customer, they are our customer.

These relationship skills are important for interacting with customers, but also for interacting with company leadership and other businesses in your area. Grout Logic looks for distributorship owners with integrity and strong communication skills. This makes it easier to navigate the challenges and opportunities of business ownership as a team. Our training process is immersive by design. We want you to have all of the tools you need to grow your business and carry on the Grout Logic name with pride.

Are there hard skills that come in handy as a Grout Logic owner? Of course. Prior business management experience is great, as well as a background in construction or restoration industry. However, our main concern is reaching people with passions, personality, and goals.

As we continue to grow across our beautiful country, we’re excited to continue building strong communities and leaving our customers 100% satisfied with their beautiful floors, with the help of a network of passionate, talented business owners. If owning your territory’s go-to grout restoration company sounds like a dream job, contact us today!

 

 

 

Grout Cleaning Industry Sends Strong Signals for Business Growth

With climbing demand and new industry innovations and trends, it’s an exciting time to break into the lucrative and evolving grout cleaning segment.

After much marked growth over the past few years, entrepreneurs and customers alike are becoming more and more aware of our proprietary process and products.

In recent years, customers have been developing more and more awareness about grout and how its quality and cleanliness affects the overall appearance of their floors, prompting an increase in business and innovation. This doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.

What many new customers don’t know is that restoring their floors to like-new quality is as simple as grout cleaning, etching, and color-sealing. Most folks assume that they need to re-do their entire floors, when in reality it is a much simpler and affordable process.

Additionally, commercial businesses almost exclusively have some type of tile flooring, and where there is tile, there is dirty grout; this indicates that grout cleaning has an ongoing market for business in the commercial sector.

Why Does Grout Get So Dirty?

If you have tile in your kitchen, bathroom, or any other part of your home, then you have probably wondered why your grout gets dirty so easily. You have also probably wondered how to remove this dirt in order to make your grout and tile look new again. It is important to understand what grout is before finding a cleaning remedy.

Understanding Grout

Grout is a fluid form of concrete used to fill gaps. Grout is generally a mixture of water, cement, and sand, and is employed in pressure grouting, embedding rebar in masonry walls, connecting sections of pre-cast concrete, filling voids, and sealing joints such as those between tiles. Some common uses for grout in the household include: filling in tiles of shower floors and kitchen tiles. It is often color sealed when it has to be kept visible, and sometimes includes fine gravel when being used to fill large spaces (such as the cores of concrete blocks). Unlike other structural pastes such as plaster or joint compound, correctly mixed and applied grout forms a waterproof seal.

Although both grout and its close relative mortar are applied as a thick emulsion and harden over time, grout is distinguished by its high viscosity and lack of lime (added to mortar for pliability); grout is thin so it flows readily into gaps, while mortar is thick enough to support not only its own weight, but also that of masonry placed above it.

Although ungrouted mosaics do exist, most have grout between the tiles. Tiling grout is also cement-based, and comes in sanded as well as unsanded varieties. The sanded variety contains finely ground silica sand; unsanded is finer and produces a non-gritty final surface.

Grout is a material that is applied between tiles in order to fill the spaces and hold the tiles together. It is a rough and porous material, which allows dirt and grime to adhere to it very easily. Furthermore, liquid substances can penetrate deep within the grout causing it to look discolored. This is evident with tile flooring.

One of the most common causes for discolored grout is dirty mop water. Rather than cleaning the tile, mop water spreads the dirt from the tile into the grout. Since the grout is the lowest part of the floor, the dirt and grime from the mop water settles into the grout. This can be very frustrating because your floors will look dirty, despite your many efforts to keep them clean. In addition, dirty grout is a source of bacteria, mold, and mildew.

Making Your Grout Look New Again

Once the grout is stained, it is very hard to remove the stains and restore the grout to its original color. It is important to use the proper cleaning methods when trying to clean your grout. Tile and grout cleaning services are an excellent way to ensure that your grout will be cleaned and restored to its original look. Professional grout cleaning is oftentimes necessary in order to effectively extract all of the dirt and stains from your grout. We can also apply a color seal to your grout to help reduce the amount of dirt that penetrates into the grout. This will help to retain the original look and color of the grout.

Tile floors withstand an enormous amount of traffic within a home. Every time someone walks on a tile floor with shoes on, they are transferring dirt and germs to the tile and grout. Therefore, it can be quite a daunting task to keep your floors looking clean. Nonetheless, your floor is one of the first things a visitor will notice when they enter your home. With the help of a professional, you can achieve the look of sparkling clean floors and feel confident that your home will be healthy and radiant.

So You’re Re-doing Your Tile Floor… What About the Grout?

You’ve picked your tile, your fixtures, the paint color and likely a host of other materials, but what about grout? Grout plays a starring role in maintenance and the longevity of your tile and also can be a major component of the design if you go for a contrasting color. Whether you’re choosing between grout types, sealer, or the color, we are here to cover all the bases and help you make the right grout choice for your tile installation.

What types of grout are there?

Grout type will play a huge role in your tile’s lifespan, and different grout types will be appropriate for different applications, so let’s go over all of your options:

Epoxy:  Epoxy grouts are the most durable of all grout choices because they are resistant to stains and water damage, and will hold up against harsh cleaners.  Epoxy grout is a great choice where moisture and food will be present, such as in bathroom installations and kitchen backsplashes.  Epoxy grout has two parts, the base and the activator, when combined a chemical reaction begins which means you have limited time to finish grouting before it sets and becomes too hard to work with.  This is why we recommend hiring a professional tile installer when working with epoxy grout. Epoxy grout is also the most expensive grout choice, however it doesn’t need a sealer, which will save time and money in the long run.

Sanded: Sanded grout is a cement-based grout where sand is literally added to the mix.  The sand creates a bond within the grout making it resistant to cracking and shrinking, and will also help with slip resistance in wet areas.  Sanded grout is most suitable in installations with grout lines wider than 1/8th of an inch, like our Glass tile, to help prevent shrinkage and cracking.

Non-Sanded: Non-sanded grout is a cement-based grout used for smaller grout joints with spacing between 1/16th and 1/8th of an inch.   If used in larger grout joints a non-sanded grout may crack because of too much shrinkage and because of the lack of sand which creates a bonding effect.  Non-sanded grout is easier to work with on vertical walls because of it’s “sticky” property, and will stay put during application.

When and why should you seal your grout?

Sealing your grout is a must, especially in moisture prone areas and when working with a light-colored grout. The only type of grout that doesn’t need sealer is epoxy grout, which is inherently pre-sealed. Grout sealers typically come in two forms, spray on sealers, and applicator sealers. Applicator sealers are applied directly to the grout with a roller ball or a brush. Not as much and precision is necessary with spray on sealers, however they require more clean up time later on. 

Which grout color should you choose?

Selecting a grout color can feel stressful, there are a lot of options, and the color of your grout can significantly affect your overall design.  Grout color also has a huge impact on tile maintenance, for example, a darker grout will hide stains but can be prone to fading, and can stain lighter colored tiles (we suggest testing a small area first if you go this route), while a lighter grout will show stains and will be hard to keep clean.  Color is everything, so be sure to take your time.

There are three main directions you can go with grout color:

You can match your grout color to your tile: If you want your tile to be the center of attention, we suggest matching your grout color (or just get as close to it in tone if you have chosen a bright color). This will prevent the eye from being distracted from the pattern found within the grout line.

You can select a contrasting grout color: A contrasting grout joint will highlight the pattern found in the layout.

You can go neutral:  A neutral grout is always a pretty safe bet, neutrals go with everything and it is hard to go wrong. Pattern will be more noticeable than a matching grout but not a main feature as seen with contrasting grout installations.

What size grout line is best?

The size of grout lines for tile is something that comes up with just about every tile installation, and is a question we are asked almost every day. When it comes to size you should keep in mind that the tighter the grout joint, the more variation from tile to tile will show, which can cause an installation to look sloppy, this is why your tile installer may suggest a larger grout line for a straighter, more professional looking installation. It is an aesthetic decision whether to go slightly larger or tighter.

Below are a few things for you to consider when it comes to grout line size:

The amount a variation in size from tile to tile:  Because we make everything by hand and everything is high fired there is a considerable amount of variation in size and thickness from tile to tile.  With handmade tile we always recommend larger grout joints to account for these irregularities.

The characteristic of the edge of the tile:  Each of our product lines have different edge characteristics which help determine which grout size you should use. While our Glass tiles have a rounded, pillowed edge our EDGE product line has a precise, rectified edge and our recyled tile is in between with a slightly cushioned edge.

Tile size:  The size of your tile should be considered when choosing a grout size. In general there is more size variation in large sized handmade tiles so they need a bigger grout joint.

Where the tile is being installed:  Where you are installing your tile should also be considered when choosing your grout size.  For example, floor installations should consider using larger grout lines for more traction.  Also, grout size should be considered when there is a differences in the angle of a surface. If your surface is not level, the grout will slope from one tile to another.  You should also keep in mind that when tiling over a corner, your grout grout joint will open up and when tiling into a recess, the top of the grout joint will narrow.

The style you are hoping to achieve: The size of the grout joint can dramatically change the way your overall tile installation looks, this is where personal preference comes into play.  Some may prefer very minimal grout lines, while others like there grout lines to stand out and become part of the design.

A History of Tile Floors

With a tradition that dates to ancient civilizations, *ceramic tile flooring can be found in a variety of settings in diverse cultures and structures, including residential buildings ranging from large apartment buildings to small private houses, institutional buildings such as government offices and schools, and religious buildings such as cathedrals and mosques. Historically, its widespread use may be attributed to the fact that a readily available natural material—clay—could be converted by a relatively simple manufacturing process—baking or firing—into a very durable, long-lasting and attractive floor tile that is easy to maintain. Ceramic floor tiles exhibit a versatility of colored glazes and decoration, and they range from the plainest terra cotta tiles to highly decorated individual ceramic tiles and elaborately patterned tile floors. Their modularity, as standardized units, make them easy to fit into different sized spaces which also explains much of the popularity of ceramic floor tiles throughout history.

*Ceramic: Any product manufactured from a nonmetallic mineral (such as clay), by firing at high temperatures.

The Tile-Making Process

Clay is an earthen material, moldable or plastic when wet, non-plastic when dry, and permanently hard when baked or fired. It is widely distributed geographically, and often found mixed with sand in soils of a loam type-a mixture of clay, silt and sand. Relatively pure clay is not usually a surface deposit, although, in some cases, it may be exposed by erosion. Clay types vary throughout the world, and even within a region. Each type of clay possesses a unique combination of special properties such as plasticity, hardness and lightness, as well as color and texture, which makes some clays better suited for one kind of ceramic than another. The correct clay mixture needed for a particular purpose can be created by blending clays and adding other materials, but using the wrong type of clay can result in expensive production problems such as crazing (the formation of tiny cracks in a tile glaze) or warping of the tile itself. Traditionally, chalky clays have been preferred for many kinds of ceramic tiles, in part because they produce, when fired, a white body which is desirable for decorating. Other materials can be added, including grog (or ground-up fired clay) that helps aerate the clay and prevents warping, speeds firing and reduces shrinking, or calcined flint, to harden it.

There are several methods used for making ceramic tiles: extrusion; compaction or dust-pressing; cutting from a sheet of clay; or molded in a wooden or metal frame. Quarry tiles are extruded, but most ceramic floor tiles, including traditional encaustic, geometric and ceramic “mosaic” tiles are made from refined and blended ceramic powders using the compaction method, known as dust-pressing. Encaustic tiles, which were made by dust-pressing, are unique in that their designs are literally “inlaid”into the tile body, rather than surface-applied. Once formed, tiles are dried slowly and evenly to avoid warpage, then fired in a special kiln that controls high, even heat at temperatures up to 1200°C (or approximately 2500°F) for 30-40 hours. Higher temperatures produce denser tiles with harder glazes. Most ceramic tiles require only one firing to achieve low porosity and become vitrified or grass-like, but some, especially highly decorated tiles, are fired more than once. Non-vitreous and semi-vitreous tiles are fired at lower temperatures and are much more porous.

Historical Background

Historically, the use of ceramic floor tiles goes back to the fourth millennium B.C. in the Near and Far East. The Romans introduced tile-making in Western Europe as they occupied territories. However, that art was eventually forgotten in Europe for centuries until the 12th century when Cistercian monks developed a method of making encaustic floor tiles with inlaid patterns for cathedral and church floors. But, this skill was again lost in the 16th century following the Reformation. Except for finely decorated wall tiles made in Turkey and the Middle East, and Delft tiles made in Holland in the 17th century, ceramic floor tiles were not made again in Europe until almost the mid-19th century.

The modern tile industry was advanced by Herbert Minton in 1843 when he revived the lost art of encaustic tile-making in England. The industry was further revolutionized in the 1840s by the “dust-pressing” method which consisted of compressing nearly dry clay between two metal dies. Dust-pressing replaced tile-making by hand with wet clay, and facilitated mechanization of the tile-making industry.

Throughout the rest of the 19th century, dust-pressing enabled faster and cheaper production of better quality floor tiles in a greater range of colors and designs. In the 1850s encaustic tiles were selected for such important structures as the new Palace at Westminster in London, and Queen Victoria’s Royal Residence on the Isle of Wight. By the latter part of the 19th century, despite the fact that encaustic tiles were still quite expensive, they had become a common flooring material in many kinds of buildings.

Development of the Tile Industry in America

Although plain, undecorated ceramic tiles were traditionally a common flooring material in many parts of the Americas, especially in Latin and South America, ceramic floor and roof tiles were probably not made in the North American Colonies until the late-16th or early-17th century. It was, however, in the Victorian era that ceramic tile flooring first became so prevalent in the United States. The production of decorative tiles in America began about 1870 and flourished until about 1930.

Like so many architectural fashions of the day, the popularity of ceramic tile floors in America was greatly influenced by the noted architect and critic, Andrew Jackson Downing. In his book The Architecture of Country Houses, published in 1850, Downing recommended encaustic floor tiles for residential use because of their practicality, especially in vestibules and entrance halls.

The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, with its European and even a few American exhibits of decorative floor tile, was a major factor in popularizing ceramic tile floors in the U.S. Initially, most ceramic tiles-other than purely utilitarian floor tiles-were imported from England, and their relatively high cost meant that only wealthy Americans could afford them. However, when English tile companies realized the potential for profitable export, they soon established agents in major U.S. cities to handle their American business. The English near monopoly actually stimulated the growth of the U.S. tile industry in the 1870s resulting in sharply decreased English imports by 1890.

The location of potteries and ceramic tile factories is dependent upon the ready availability of suitable ball clay (clay that balled or held together), kaolin (a white clay used as a filler or extender), and feldspar (a crystalline mineral), and an accessible market. Since the cost of shipping the manufactured products tended to restrict profitable sales to limited areas, this usually determined whether a factory would succeed. Although the United States Pottery in Bennington, Vermont, is known to have made encaustic tiles as early as 1853, the Pittsburgh Encaustic Tile Company (later the Star Encaustic Tiling Company), was the first successful American tile company, and is generally considered the first to manufacture ceramic tile in the U.S. on a commercial basis beginning in 1876.

At least 25 ceramic tile companies were founded in the United States between 1876 and 1894. In the East, several notable tile firms that were established in this period flourished in the Boston area, such as the Chelsea Keramic Art Works, the Low Art Tile Works, and the Grueby Faience Company. Other East Coast companies organized in the late-19th and early-20th century included the International Tile & Trim Company, in Brooklyn, New York; the Trent Tile Company, Providential Tile Company, Mueller Mosaic Tile Company, and the Maywood Tile Company, all in New Jersey; and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

Many factories were also established in the Midwest-in Indiana, Michigan, and, especially, in Ohio. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the town of Zanesville, Ohio, was the largest center for pottery and tile-making in the world. Some of the factories in Zanesville included: Ohio Encaustic Tile Company; Mosaic Tile Company; Zanesville Majolica Company; and J.B. Owens Pottery, later to become the Empire Floor and Wall Tile Company. The American Encaustic Tiling Company, established in 1876, was one of the first, and most successful manufacturers in Zanesville. In the early 1930s it was the largest tile company in the world, producing large quantities of floor tile, plain and ornamental wall tile, and art tile until it closed about 1935, as a result of the Depression. The United States Encaustic Tile Company, Indianapolis, Indiana; Rookwood Pottery, Cincinnati, Ohio; Cambridge Art Tile Works, Covington, Kentucky; and Pewabic Pottery, Detroit, Michigan, were some of the other well-known potteries in the Midwest.

Around the turn of the century, the industry began to expand as tilemakers moved West and established potteries there. Joseph Kirkham started the ceramic tile industry on the West Coast in 1900 when he set up the Pacific Art Tile Company in Tropico, California, after his company in Ohio was destroyed by fire. In 1904 the company became the Western Art Tile Company, surviving for five years until it went out of business in 1909. During the early-20th century, other companies were founded in Southern California, in and around Los Angeles. Batchelder& Brown, in particular, of Pasadena (later Batchelder-Wilson in Los Angeles), was well-known for its Arts and Crafts-style tiles in the teens and 1920s. By the early 1940s California had become one of the leading producers of tile, especially faience, in the U.S.

Ceramic engineers, potters and artists not only moved frequently from one pottery to another, but often struck out on their own and established new factories when dissatisfied with a former employer. Also, it was not uncommon for one company to reuse a defunct factory or purchase another pottery business, change the name and increase the product line. As a result, many of the companies in existence today are descendants of the early pioneering firms.

Changes in the Tile Industry

The majority of ceramic floor tile made in the U.S. before 1890 was encaustic, but various factories gradually began to develop and produce other kinds of tiles. The Trent Tile Company, among others, started to manufacture both white and colored ceramic mosaic tiles by the mid-1890s. White vitreous wall tile became available, as well as more decorative tiles with colored glazes, such as the variegated faience glazes intended to give a more hand-crafted appearance that were originated by the Grueby Faience and Tile Company in 1894, and soon adopted by other potteries.

In the 19th and early-20th century, many ceramic tile firms had their own engraving departments, while some used commercial designs supplied by professional printers. Well-known designers were often commissioned to work on specific product lines for a particular firm. These designers worked for one firm after another which resulted in similar designs being produced by different companies. (Historic ceramic floor tiles were usually identified by a manufacturer’s or designer’s mark on the back, if they were marked at all.) By the latter part of the 19th century ready-mixed glazes and colors were also available.

This was a great advantage for potters who, prior to this, had to mix their own colors and glazes.

During the 20th century, the floor tile industry continued to evolve as much as it had in the previous century. Modern methods of production employed sophisticated machinery, new materials and decorating techniques. In the years following World War II, there were many advances in the industry. Commercially manufactured dust-pressed tiles, which had previously required more than 70 hours just in the kiln, could be made in less than two hours from the raw material stage to finished tiles, boxed and ready to ship. Dried, unglazed tiles were sprayed with colored glaze evenly and automatically as conveyors carried the tiles into the tunnel kilns, and the extrusion process ensured that the tiles were cut to a uniform thickness and size. The changes and developments in the production of floor tile brought forth a wide range of shapes and sizes, along with new colors, glazes and decorating techniques.

After the turn of the century, fewer encaustic floor tiles were used, particularly in residential architecture. The introduction of ceramic mosaic floor tiles was a factor in their decline. The development of rubber interlocking floor tiles in 1894, along with other, more resilient, flooring materials, was instrumental in the decreased popularity not only of encaustic tiles, but also other ceramic tile flooring. These new materials were not only cheaper, they were not as fragile; they were also lighter and thinner, and easier to install.

Ceramic mosaic tiles remained in common use through the 1930s in part because an innovative development had made laying such small tiles easier. The tiles were pre-mounted in decorative patterns on 12″ x 12″ sheets of paper, and sold ready to lay in cement. This greatly simplified the tile setter’s work, and no doubt was a significant factor in the increased popularity of ceramic mosaic tiles. Sophisticated mosaic floor designs became common in entrance foyers of public and private buildings. Small, white, unglazed tiles in round, square, octagonal or hexagonal shapes were promoted for their sanitary qualities, particularly for bathroom floors, while larger, rectangular, white, glazed tiles were used for bathroom walls or wainscotting. Colored tiles were also popular, especially for bathrooms, and even kitchens. Quarry tile, which was larger and thicker than other ceramic floor tile of this period, was often used in public buildings, as well as for entrance halls, small studies, libraries, dining rooms and even living rooms in private homes. But, by the 1930s, the fashion for art tile had diminished to the point where floor tiles were, for the most part, generally regarded as primarily utilitarian, as opposed to important decorative elements.

Ceramic Floor Tile Types

The thickness of historic ceramic floor tiles varied considerably according to their intended use and when they were made. Floor tiles were thicker and harder than wall or ceiling tiles. Stove tiles, meant to retain the heat of the stove, were sometimes as much as several inches thick. Medieval floor tiles were usually one inch thick; encaustic tiles of the Victorian era tended to be slightly thinner. Modern, 20th-century tiles, with the exception of some art pottery tiles, are the thinnest, as a result of modern manufacturing methods. The backs of most, but not all, ceramic floor tiles are covered with raised (or sometimes recessed) ridges, circles or squares which help to increase the bonding capability of the tile.

Unglazed and Glazed Tiles

Ceramic floor tiles can generally be divided into two types: unglazed and glazed. Unglazed tiles include: quarry tiles; encaustic and geometric tiles; and ceramic mosaic tiles, which can be either glazed or unglazed. Most other ceramic floor tiles are glazed.

Unglazed Tiles

Quarry tiles are the most basic type of historic ceramic floor tile. Originally made from quarried stone, they are machine-made using the extrusion process. Quarry tiles are unglazed, semi-vitreous or vitreous, and essentially are square or rectangular slabs of clay baked in a kiln. The colors of quarry tiles are natural earthen shades of gray, red and brown determined by the clay and, to some extent, the temperature and duration of firing. Quarry tiles, which range from ¼” to ½” in thickness, are available in square and rectangular shapes in sizes that include 3″, 4-1/4″, 6″ (one of the most common sizes), 9″ and 12″ squares; 6″ x 12″, 6″ x 9″, 4-1/4″ x 9″, 3″ x 6″, and 3″ x 9″ rectangles; and 4″ x 8″ hexagon shapes. (Pavers or paver tiles are a simpler, and tend to be somewhat cruder, version of quarry tiles. Like quarry tiles, they are usually unglazed, but slightly thicker. Machine-made pavers are either semi-vitreous or vitreous, and generally formed by dust-pressing, although sometimes are extruded. Hand-made pavers which are common in Mexico and southern Europe are non-vitreous.)

Encaustic tiles are a type of traditional unglazed-yet decorative-floor tile, manufactured by the dust-pressed method.

Blue, brown, and white encaustic tiles in a wide circular pattern. Encaustic floor tiles were decorated with traditional as well as original designs. Over time, the decorations can be worn thin by heavy traffic.

Whereas most ceramic tiles are surface-decorated or decorated with impressed or embossed designs created by a mold, encaustic tiles are unique in that their decorative designs are not on the surface, but are inlaid patterns created as part of the manufacturing process. First, a thin, approximately ¼” layer of fine, almost powder-dry, clay was pressed into a mold with a relief design at the bottom which formed a depression in the face of the tile. A second, thicker layer of coarser clay was laid over the first layer, then covered with another layer of fine clay. This “sandwich” helped prevent warping and ensured that the body of the tile was strong and had a fine, smooth surface. The layers of clay “dust” were compacted by presses, after which the mold was inverted and the die removed, thus producing a tile with an indented or intaglio pattern on top. After the tile dried, colored slip (liquid white clay colored with dyes), was poured to fill in the intaglio pattern. Each color had to dry before another color of slip was added. The recessed area was overfilled to allow for shrinkage, and after drying for several days, and before firing, the excess slip was scraped off the surface by a rotating cutter that created a flat, although not completely smooth, face. Problems might arise during the firing. Due to the dissimilar rates of contraction of the different clays, the inlaid clay could shrink too much and fall out of the tile recesses; or, the tile could be stained by the different pigments used for the design if impure or unstable.

By the 1840s, encaustic tiles were made entirely with almost-dry clay using the dust-pressed method. This served to eliminate the possibility of staining the body of the tile with other colors and permitted the use of more colors on a single tile. Thus, an encaustic tile can sometimes be dated according to the complexity and the number of colors in its pattern. Red tiles with white figurative patterns were generally the earliest, followed by brown and buff colored tiles. In the 1860s, blue tiles with yellow or buff patterns were popular, succeeded by more subtle color schemes featuring a “chocolate” red with a soft grey. By 1860, up to six colors were used in a single tile to form a pattern. Toward the end of the century, white encaustic tiles with a black or gold design were common, as well as tiles with complicated color patterns of white, black, gold, pink, green and blue. Encaustic tiles were decorated with traditional as well as original designs. Some, particularly intricate, designs were painted on the surface of the tile with opaque colored glazes, instead of being inlaid. Most major tile manufacturers sold many of the same pre-formed encaustic floor tile patterns through catalogues. Encaustic tiles were produced in a variety of sizes, mostly square or octagonal in shape, and almost any design could be custom-made for a special purpose or to fit a particular space. Historic, 19th-century encaustic tiles were generally slightly less than 1″ thick, about 15/16.” Cheaper tiles of lesser quality were also made of clay or cement. These designs resembled those commonly found on encaustic tiles but applied as a transfer printed pattern, or using a multi-color lithographic or silkscreen process. These are still manufactured and popular in many parts of the world.

Smaller, single-colored versions of encaustic tiles that, when assembled together form a geometric pattern, are called geometric tiles in England. However, in the United States they are generally not differentiated from encaustic tiles. Based on the geometric segments of a six-inch square, they were typically rectangular, square, triangular or hexagonal in shape, and about the same thickness as patterned encaustic tiles. Geometric tiles were especially well suited for decorative borders, and a wide variety of floor designs could be created with their many shapes, sizes and colors—either alone or combined with patterned encaustic tiles. The cost of producing geometric tiles was much less than of encaustic tiles because each tile involved only one type of clay and one color. By the end of the 19th century, over 60 different shapes and sizes of geometric tiles were available in up to ten colors, including buff, beige or tan, salmon, light grey, dark grey, red, chocolate, blue, white and black.

Ceramic mosaic tiles are essentially smaller versions of geometric tiles (usually no larger than 2-1/4″, and no thicker than ¼”) ranging in size from ½” to 2 3/16″, in square, rectangular or oblong, hexagonal, pentagonal and trapezoidal shapes. Both vitreous and semi-vitreous mosaic tiles were available, unglazed in solid or variegated colors with a matte finish, or glazed in unlimited colors. Single, one-piece tiles were also fabricated to give the appearance of multiple mosaic pieces. This was achieved with a mold, which gave the appearance of recessed mortar joints separating individual “mosaics”.

Glazed Tiles

With the exception of quarry tiles, encaustic tiles, and some mosaic tiles, most ceramic floor tiles are decorated with a glaze. While unglazed tiles derive their color solely from the clay, or from oxides, dyes or pigments added to the clay, the color of glazed tiles is provided by the glaze, either shiny or matte. Some potteries specialized in certain kinds of glazes and were famous for them. The earliest and most common method of clay tile decoration made use of tin-glazes which were essentially transparent lead glazes. Tiles were either dipped into the glaze or the glaze was brushed on the tile surface. Glazes were generally made with white lead, flint, or china clays ground up and mixed with finely ground metallic oxides that provided the color. Colored glazes were commonly known as “enamels”. Colors included blue derived from cobalt, green from copper, purple from manganese, yellow from antimony and lead, and reds and browns from iron. An opaque glaze was created by adding tin oxide.

Laying Historic Ceramic Tile Floors

19th Century Techniques

Aside from the use of improved tools and modern materials, installation methods have changed little since the mid-19th century. M. Digby Wyatt, an architect for one of the major 19th century encaustic tile manufacturers in Britain, Maw & Co., described this procedure for laying encaustic and geometric tiles in 1857:

First, either an even layer of bricks, a 2-1/2″ bed of concrete of quicklime and gravel, or a mixture of Portland cement and clean sharp sand was laid to prepare a solid foundation for the tiles. If the tiles were to be laid over an existing wooden floor, the floor boards had to be pulled up, sawn into short lengths and fitted between the joists. Concrete filled in the spaces and made the base flush with the upper face of the joists, and created a level surface finished within 1″ of the finished floor line. A layer of cement mortar was then laid on top. This allowed the tiles to fit in the same amount of space as the floorboards they replaced.*Before laying the tiles, skirting boards or shoe moldings were to be removed, and replaced after the tiles were laid. This eliminated having to cut the outer tiles to fit exactly, and resulted in a neater appearance.

Next, the floor design was marked off with mason’s string or chalk lines which divided the space into equal quadrants. The first section to be laid out was defined by two parallel strips of wood, or guide pieces, about 4″ wide. A level thickness of cement was spread between these strips. The tiles, thoroughly soaked in water, were laid in the cement and leveled with a straight-edge. The foundation had to be kept wet while the tiles were being laid. Small strips of wood temporarily placed at right angles to the guide pieces helped keep elaborate patterns straight.

When the bed was hard, the joints were filled with pure cement mortar-sometimes colored with lamp black, red ochre or other natural pigments-mixed to the consistency of cream. Excess mortar was wiped off the tiles with a piece of flannel or sponge.

A newly-laid tile floor could not be walked on for 4-6 days until the cement hardened properly. Occasional washing would remove the saline scum that often appeared on the surface right after the tiles were laid.

20th Century Techniques

Almost 50 years later, in 1904, the Tile Manufacturers of the United States of America published Suggestions for Setting Tile with the intent of bringing tile-laying up to a uniform standard. This guidance was very similar to that given by Wyatt. But, there were some differences, such as using hollow clay tile as a foundation material and heavy tar paper when laying tile over a wooden floor to protect the floor boards from the moisture of the mortar mix. Emphasis was placed on using the best quality cement, sand, and purest water to obtain a durable tile floor. Soaking the tiles before setting was no longer necessary, but using stiffer mortar was suggested to prevent it from rising up between the tiles.

Tile-laying methods changed somewhat more later in the 20th century, mostly due to the availability of new materials and techniques. By the 1920s small ceramic mosaic tiles were manufactured as 12″ square sheets held together by a face-mounted paper “skin.” This made it possible to lay the 12″ square of tiles as a unit rather than each of the small tiles individually. Mounting the tiles directly in the cement resulted in a very strong bond. But the face-mounted paper obscured the tiles from view making it difficult for the tile-setter to see if the tiles were being laid straight. The fact that the paper was not removed until after the tiles were firmly set in the cement bond coat further complicated realignment of crooked tiles. This paper “skin” was eventually replaced with a fabric mesh backing. This permitted the tiles to be aligned as soon as the moisture from the bond coat loosened the mesh from the back of the tile; it also allowed a single tile to be cut away from the mesh and repositioned immediately. Although the fabric mesh made tile setting faster, sometimes it also resulted in a weaker bond by reducing the contact area between the backs of the tiles and the bond coat.

Following World War II, different methods of preparing a foundation for a ceramic tile floor were developed to be more compatible with new materials, such as reinforced concrete, expanded wire mesh, polyethylene and waterproof plywood. New adhesives and grouts also facilitated tile installation, and an increased variety of epoxy and cement mortars allowed for different setting bed thicknesses. But today, after half a century of practical application, some of these “new” materials, such as plywood, particle board, oriented strand boards and other wood panels, are no longer recommended for use with ceramic tile.

Mortar beds are lighter, more flexible, and much thinner than they were previously, having shrunk from several inches to as thin as 3/32″. A greater variety of materials are used for setting ceramic floor tiles, including bonding agents and waterproof membranes. Basic installation methods have not changed significantly, but they vary according to the type of subfloor on which the tile is to be laid. While the same concerns for level underlayment and strong adhesion exist, advancement has occurred mostly in the increased speed and ease of laying the tiles.

*The traditional practice of sawing the original floor boards and fitting them between the joists, still used today to maintain a low finished floor profile, has resulted in numerous cracked tiles and other failures. Instead, a better approach is to leave the existing floor boards, if they are in good shape, and install a cementitious backer board (CBU) available in thicknesses ranging from ¼” to 5/8″ as the setting bed for the tiles.

Historic Ceramic Floor Tile:

Preservation and Maintenance

Before undertaking any work more complicated than regular maintenance or a very simple repair on a significant historic ceramic tile floor, or on any historic tile floor where serious damage has occurred, it is recommended that a professional conservator of ceramics, an historical architect, an architectural historian, or a chemist with particular knowledge and experience in this field be consulted. This will ensure that all future work, whether it be regularly-scheduled maintenance or more technical and specialized repair and restoration, is done in accordance with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Cleaning Methods

Ceramic tiles are essentially a practical, low-maintenance flooring material. Yet, even glazed tiles are somewhat porous, and can get dirty and stained, especially in heavy traffic areas or where oil, fat, and grass stains are likely to occur. Although heavily soiled areas may be difficult or impossible to clean completely, in most instances, cleaning ceramic tile floors is relatively easy. Cleaning should always begin with the gentlest means possible, which may be as simple as warm water. Regular maintenance should include sweeping, or preferably dry or damp mopping or vacuuming to reduce grit. Tiles can usually be cleaned with a non-soap-based household floor cleaner, such as one of the commercial products intended for cleaning ceramic tile floors available on the market.

All cleaning and stain-removal products should always be tested on a small, inconspicuous area before using. Abrasive cleaners (including powdered cleansers and even “mildly” abrasive creams) and mechanical equipment can damage and wear away the protective surface, as well as the decorative design on the tiles, and should not be used on ceramic tile floors. Generally, acid-based cleaning solutions should also not be used on ceramic tile floors because they can damage the complex silicates in a glaze. However, there are some acid-based cleaners specially formulated for cleaning and removing coatings from ceramic tile floors that may be acceptable, but even these must be used with caution. Sometimes an acid-based cleaner may, in fact, be needed to remove discoloration or staining caused by lime or cement mortar. But, it should be tested first, used with caution, and applied only to a thoroughly wetted tile floor from which excess water has been removed. Pre-wetting a ceramic tile floor before cleaning is a good policy to observe with all cleaners. The water saturates the porous tile and prevents chemicals or other cleaning agents from penetrating into the tile body. Floor tiles should be always rinsed thoroughly after cleaning.

Plastic pot-scrubbers may be effective in loosening and removing superficial dirt without abrading the glazed or vitrified surface of the tiles. Stubborn asphalt or oil stains, scuff marks, or soiling can sometimes be removed with ammonia or one of the household spray products intended for cleaning kitchen or bathroom tiles. If necessary, a solvent may be applied carefully to pre-wetted tiles, but it should not be left on the surface for an extended amount of time as it may cause discoloration. If possible, a stain should always be identified first in order to select the material best-suited to remove it.

Organic growth, such as mold or mildew, can be eliminated with a dilute solution of household bleach and a neutral household detergent, or a dilute (5-10%) solution of tri-sodium phosphate (TSP). After applying either of these solutions, it may be necessary to scrub the floor with a natural bristle or nylon brush, and then rinse with clear water. Even a dilute bleach solution should not be left on a ceramic tile floor for more than a few minutes, since the alkali in the bleach can lead to the formation of a white efflorescent deposit. Efflorescence (a whitish haze of water-soluble salts) may stain and streak the tile, or may even cause minor spalling around the joints.

Regular maintenance of a ceramic tile floor should always begin with vacuuming to remove loose dirt and grit. Then, a mild cleaning solution may be applied and left on the floor for 10-15 minutes, without letting it dry on the tiles. Heavily soiled areas may be scrubbed with a natural bristle or nylon brush to loosen dirt from the tile surface. Finally, the floor should be thoroughly rinsed with clean, clear water, preferably twice, and dried with terry cloth towels, if necessary. Any proprietary cleaning product should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.

Protective Coatings

In most instances, traditional ceramic tile floors probably would not have been treated or given a protective coating other than wax. In the 19th century, some encaustic tile floors were treated with linseed oil, but this is not a practice recommended today because linseed oil tends to attract dirt and discolors as it ages. Most historic ceramic tile floors simply acquired a natural “polish” or sheen through use. Because the surface of ceramic tiles is already protected with a fired skin or a glaze, an additional protective coating should generally not be needed.

Opinions differ concerning the use of protective coatings, penetrating sealers, or waxes on ceramic tile floors, and, especially, on historic ceramic tile floors. If properly applied and regularly cleaned, a coating can sometimes be an effective maintenance treatment, but only on interior floors. However, if not adequately or properly maintained, rather than facilitating maintenance of ceramic tile floors in high traffic areas, such coatings may tend to emphasize traffic patterns as they wear away or become scratched. Some coatings may also peel in spots, or cause tile to appear hazy or cloudy if the coating is not applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, or if the tiles are not perfectly clean when the coating is applied. Furthermore, applying such a coating may actually increase maintenance costs, since a coating requires periodic removal and renewal. The frequent removal of a coating can also damage a ceramic tile floor if it is carried out with harsh chemicals or abrasive mechanical equipment. If any coating is considered, a traditional coating, such as floor wax, may be the most suitable. Wax is easy to remove when it becomes worn, and does not impart a high, potentially inappropriate, gloss to the surface.

On the other hand, a penetrating sealer, or impregnator, may be worth considering to protect patterned encaustic tiles, or painted or printed tiles featuring a design that might be worn off, particularly in public buildings with a high volume of foot traffic. For example, some manufacturers of new, reproduction encaustic tiles recommend applying a penetrating sealer to the replacement tiles, as well as to the historic tiles. Impregnators do not change the color of the tile surface and, unlike some penetrating sealers, are completely invisible after they have been applied. They can reduce the porosity or water absorption of the tile surface, and provide some protection for the tile (and the grout) against staining. This may be particularly useful on light-colored floors. Whether to apply an impregnator to an historic ceramic tile floor, and what type or product to use, are decisions that should generally made in consultation with a conservator or ceramic tile specialist. It may also be necessary to comply with certain safety standards and friction requirements of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The ADA Guidelines recommend “a static coefficient of friction” of 0.6 for level surfaces and 0.8 for ramps. This may require the application of a non-slip sealer or wax to historic ceramic tile floors in some public buildings.

Despite the non-traditional shiny finish they may impart to a floor surface, two-part, acrylic-based coating systems are commonly used today on historic ceramic tile floors in many public buildings, primarily because they facilitate easy maintenance. If it is decided that a sealer is to be used, a product with a matte or dull finish may be preferable, or more appropriate, for a historic ceramic tile floor than one with a high-gloss.

In some cases, temporary protection may be the best approach until a better solution is found. Non-permanent protection for an historic ceramic tile floor may be as simple as using floor mats at doors or in heavy traffic areas.

Damage and Deterioration Problems

Diamond and square black, white, and brown encaustic tiles with blurred designs. Worn encaustic tiles are still serviceable, but once the design has been lost, the tiles cannot be repaired. They must be replaced in kind, to match. Photo: NPS files.

Loss of Tile Surface and Pattern

Ceramic tiles are among the most durable of historic flooring materials, but natural wear and a certain amount of deterioration or damage is inevitable. Some tiles, such as dense, close-textured quarry tiles and ceramic mosaic tiles, resist abrasion and stain absorption very well. But many others, especially patterned encaustic and geometric tiles, are extremely susceptible to abrasion. Heavy traffic can also result in uneven wear, or even cupping, in certain areas of tile floors that get more use than others, such as doorway entrances. The particular clay mix, or the dye or pigment used to color the clay, can also affect the hardness and durability of individual tiles or an entire ceramic tile floor.

Tile Glaze Failure

Occasionally some glazes can become pitted or powdery as they age. Lead glazes used in the 19th century, which were fired at low temperatures, deteriorated relatively quickly. Glazes have different physical properties from the fired clay tile body itself, and as a result may sometimes crack or craze. Unless the crazing visibly extends into the porous clay of the tile body beneath, this is not generally a serious material failure; however, dirt entering these cracks cannot be removed, and will discolor the tile. If the crazing penetrates through the glaze, it may increase the water absorption of the tile.

Tile Breakage

Ceramic floor tiles are very susceptible to damage and breakage caused when something heavy is dropped. Repeated passage of heavy objects, or carts, over a floor can also crack and break ceramic tiles, as well as heavy vibration from outside traffic.

Moisture Damage to Tile

Ceramic tile floors have been traditionally viewed as highly waterproof systems that do not require protection from moisture. In reality, however, this is not true. Water-related problems are one of the most common causes for the deterioration and failure of historic tile floors, particularly in bathrooms and other rooms where there is a lot of moisture. Water that is allowed to sit in areas around shower stalls and bathtubs can eventually damage grout and mortar, and loosen tiles. Some of the more porous kinds of tiles that are not as hard-fired may actually begin to powder or spall if subjected to constant moisture.

Loose, Cracked, Broken or Unbonded Tile Due to Mortar Failure

The durability of ceramic tile floors depends to a great extent on a sound mortar bed and sound mortar joints. The wrong mortar type or mortar that is inadequately mixed can also spell trouble for a ceramic tile floor. Failure of a tile floor system laid over a subfloor is often the result of weakened or deteriorated grout or mortar which allows the tiles to become loose. Mortar may also be weakened or loosened by cleaning solutions that are too strong.

Proper tile-laying technique includes the use of a material that will allow for some movement of the tiles. Traditionally, a layer of asphalt (replaced by a layer of plastic or building paper in more modern construction) was inserted to separate the base and the bedding underneath. This prevents bonding between the base and the bed, and allows for some “relative” movement. It is intended to prevent the ceramic tile floor from arching or ridging, a condition in which single or entire rows of tiles can pop up to relieve tension and separate completely from the bed. When this happens, the condition will probably require taking up and relaying many or all of the tiles.

Mortar Joint Repair

Deteriorated mortar joints and loose mortar or grout can generally be repaired. First, the entire floor should be checked for loose tiles that need to be regrouted. Damaged mortar should be carefully removed by hand and the joints wetted or a bonding agent applied in preparation for regrouting. When making mortar repairs, it is important to use grout that matches the old in color and consistency as closely as possible.

Tile Repair

Trying to remove one tile can endanger surrounding tiles. Thus, it may be better to preserve and retain an original historic tile that is only slightly damaged, rather than replace it. Sometimes cracks may be repaired, or a corner or piece of tile that has broken off may be re-attached, using an epoxy glue, or grout. If a tile is chipped or a small corner or edge is missing, a carefully executed patch of epoxy-mixed with colored enamel, or mortar tinted to blend with the tile, may be less conspicuous than trying to replace every tile that has even the slightest damage. And, it is a better preservation treatment.

In limited instances, glaze failure or surface powdering of ceramic floor tiles may sometimes be treated successfully by a conservator with a specially formulated, solvent-based, mineral densifying agent (such as silicic acid), followed by a siloxane sub-surface repellent, applied 24 hours later. Under the right circumstances, such a treatment can harden and bind the surface, and lower the absorbency of the tile, and still maintain the vapor transmission. But this is a highly complex undertaking and should only be attempted by a conservator after appropriate testing. Not only are these chemicals highly toxic and dangerous to handle, but if used improperly, they can cause greater damage to the tile!

Tile Replacement

When an individual tile or a larger portion of an historic ceramic tile floor is missing or so severely damaged that it cannot be repaired, or if it has become a safety hazard, then it should be replaced. When a ceramic tile floor has deteriorated as a result of long term wear and abrasion, or from settlement or vibration damage to the setting bed, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before choosing a preservation treatment. If damage to tiles is the result of more than normal wear and tear, the source of the problem needs to be identified, and the problem corrected before replacing the damaged tiles.

Successful replacement not only depends on the availability of matching tiles, but on the condition of the substrate on which the tiles are laid. Before installing the replacement tiles, any problems, such as settlement or vibration, will have to be addressed, and the height of the new setting bed may have to be adjusted for the thickness of the new tiles.

All About Grout

It’s what’s between the tiles that counts:

Grout is forced into the spaces between tiles with a rubber tool called a float. The excess is wiped away with a wet sponge, leaving joints filled to just below the surface. After the grout cures rock-hard, the tiles are polished with a soft cloth to remove any “grout haze” left behind.

When grout does its job — locking tiles tight, keeping out water, and giving floors and walls a finished look — nobody pays much attention. It’s only when grout fails, becoming stained, cracked, or falling out altogether, that people take notice.

But grout deserves more respect. “Not only does grout fill the voids, it makes the floor, wall, or countertop stronger by bonding the tiles together and preventing the edges of a tile from chipping and cracking,” says Jay Broadwell, Owner of Grout Logic, LLC in New Orleans, LA.

Cement-based grout

Grout comes in two basic types, and the choice of which one to use depends not on the tiles but on the width of the joints between them. Narrow joints of 1/8 inch or less call for unsanded grout, a pudding-smooth blend of Portland cement and powdered pigments mixed with water. Joints wider than 1/8 inch get sanded grout — the same material, but with sand added. The sand helps bulk up the grout and keeps it from shrinking in the joints.

Older cement-based grout was brittle and prone to cracking. It also dried irregularly, leaving colors inconsistent. Today’s grouts use polymer additives, which ensure color quality and increased flexibility, allowing for joint widths of up to 1 1/4 inches. Those wide joints come in handy for camouflaging irregularities in handmade tiles and for bridging the varying thicknesses of tile in some patterned installations.

Despite their improved performance, however, all cementitious grouts are porous and subject to staining. That’s why manufacturers and installers recommend sealing grout after it has cured for a and is completely dry. Sealers come in two varieties: membrane-forming and penetrating. The first type is prone to peeling or getting cloudy when residual moisture from mastic or underlayments pushes to the surface of the tile. Penetrating sealers, which still breathe after soaking into tile and grout, are preferable.

Epoxy Grout

There are some settings — notably those exposed to acids and greases — in which even an additive-enhanced, sealed grout falls short. Such harsh conditions call for epoxy grout. Made up of two parts, resin and hardener, epoxy grout comes in both sanded and unsanded varieties and is impervious to most chemicals and stains. Early epoxies were unforgiving and difficult to apply, and had just a 45-minute pot life. This made them fast to cure but slow to be embraced by many tile setters, and anathema to beginners. The new generation of epoxies contain detergents in the hardeners, which make for quick cleanup with water and improve workability. Because epoxy can discolor porous surfaces, such as unglazed quarry tiles or limestone, these should be sealed before grouting. But its stain resistance, hardness, and durability make epoxy grout the best choice for applications such as kitchen counters, backsplashes, floors, and other heavy-traffic areas.

Choosing very different tile and grout colors can provide a striking contrast.

Choosing Colors

When it comes to grout color, there are three approaches: contrasting (say, white grout with black tile), harmonizing (green grout with green tile), or neutral (a shade of gray or white). 

If you do choose a bold color, have our technicians grout up a sample section of tile on plywood and live with it for a few days. 

Worn and blackened, the grout on a kitchen counter and backsplash first gets a dose of powerful degreaser. “Never clean tile and grout with an oil-based soap,” Broadwell says. “The wax in them builds up and stains grout.”

Care and Repair

Years of food and grease stains can penetrate surfaces, leaving grout a dingy mess. In extreme cases, the only cure may be to regrout or retile, but more often than not old grout can be renewed. All it takes is a degreasing agent, our propriety grout neutralizer, and elbow grease. Some spot regrouting is usually necessary — a process that involves digging out and replacing cracked or crumbled areas.

How to Hire the Right People for Your Grout Logic Territory

Your employees take care of every aspect of running the day-to-day operations of your business. More importantly, they act as ambassadors to your service and your brand, and their interactions with customers and fellow employees reflect heavily on your business. Your employees play a pivotal role in your business’s success by providing exceptional service and consistent, memorable work.

Cultivating a great work atmosphere for your employees begins with your hiring process. However, hiring quality employees remains a challenge for many small business owners and distributorships in any industry. Here are some tips to help you build the best team possible for your Grout Logic distributorship:

Know What You Want

Clearly defining the job description is the first step in attracting and finding quality candidates. Make a list of the specific benchmarks for experience, personalities, and skill sets you’re looking for in candidates, as well as outlining job responsibilities.

If you’re a multi-territory owner and are looking for more managerial staff, you will want someone with organizational skills and management experience. For technicians and other employees, you can be a bit more flexible on necessary qualifications, and instead focus on more intangible traits, such as the ability to learn quickly and having strong interpersonal skills. Here are a few things you will want to look for in a great grout technician:

  1. Reliability
  2. Honesty
  3. Loyalty
  4. Ability to be a team player
  5. Physical ability
  6. Willingness to learn

It is much easier to teach employees different skills – like how to clean and seal grout or run payroll – than it is to teach traits, attitudes, and work ethic. So, prioritize those qualities, and you’ll find great candidates who can provide your customers a wonderful experience.

Ask the Right Questions

Your interview questions will vary based on the position you want filled. Asking the right questions should come much easier once you have clearly defined the type of person you’re looking for and the duties associated with each job. Here are a few sample interview questions to isolate the best grout tech candidates:

  1. Are you willing to get up early and have a positive, engaging attitude toward your team and your customers?
  2. Do you enjoy physical labor and honing a craft?
  3. Do you enjoy working with other people? Would you consider yourself a “people person”?
  4. Is your schedule flexible?
  5. Are you able to work in the prone position on and off for a few hours at a time?

Once you’ve found and hired the perfect candidates, the next step in molding them into an exceptional employee is to train them for success. Fortunately, within a distributorship system like Grout Logic, training and support systems have already been laid out for you, so you can focus on success and on consistently positive customer experiences.

If you’re interested in getting involved in a growing industry, click here. 

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 © GROUT LOGIC. All RIGHTS RESERVED.