Every once in a while I look around our bathroom and dream wistfully of a ‘down to the studs' remodel. Then, I realize that there's no functional need to re-do it, and the costs are prohibitive. But, regardless, I still think of new fixtures, a luxurious shower, improved hardware, and big tiles (as opposed to our white ones). One of the things I can't stand about new bathroom jobs is how quickly the grout often gets dirty and wears out. As it turns out, your standard grout is cement based, and while cement is a hard substance, it absorbs water slightly. This means that dirt and such that comes from the water in your bath ends up making it dirty, and the wetter areas lead to cracking.
Epoxy To The Rescue
One of the ways to address this is to avoid using cement grout. The best alternative to this and becoming more popular is to use epoxy based grout.
Benefits of Epoxy Grout
Epoxy offers a few distinct advantages over the cement counterpart in terms of grout:
- Waterproof – Epoxy is completely waterproof so it will not take on any water.
- Easier to clean – Since the water does not lead in any dirt, the dirt will not absorb into epoxy grout, keeping the look fresh for years after installation.
- Stands up to chemicals – While normal grout can often be cleaned, the harsh chemicals required to get all the dirt from the grout can end up weakening the grout, leading to failure. Although you shouldn't need strong chemicals to clean epoxy grout, you can be assured that whatever your cleaner of choice, epoxy grout proves much more resistant to breakdown from any chemical or cleaner.
Why Not More Widespread?
With these advantages, the first question I asked was why the entire world hasn't switched to epoxy grout. The biggest reason for many is that it's more time consuming and more difficult to install than cement based grout. Time: Epoxy grout takes longer to setup than cement grout. Since it takes a few passes to get the joints filled, the common approach with cement grout is to mix a batch, go through and lay the grout. By the time you're done, often enough time has passed for the first pass to set up, so you can just keep using your batch. Epoxy takes longer to set up, so not only is there more time in between coats, you also have to mix multiple batches, resulting in more pre-work. Difficult:When you're installing cement grout, if you get some on the tile, it's not that big of a deal. Just wipe it off before it dries and you're good to go. Epoxy grout does not simply wipe off, as it will leave a haze on your tile that is difficult if not impossible to remove. While an amateur or semi-pro can often lay cement grout, an epoxy grout installation is best left to a professional. Epoxy definitely doesn't sound easy, but the benefits sound like they make up for it in many ways. Since a bathroom is expected to last for many, many years, I would definitely consider epoxy as it stands to make up for the extra resources needed up front. I'm only dreaming of a new bathroom for now, but if you're doing more than that, give epoxy grout some consideration as part of your planning.