Floors account for more surface area than anything else in a home, other than walls and ceilings. They set the tone for living spaces, including kitchens, bathrooms and main traffic areas, like the entrances to homes. And tiling can add a lot to those spaces if it’s done properly.
Studies show that tile floors increase a home’s resale value more than any other flooring option. And it’s no wonder—they’re durable, attractive, easy to clean and available in a wide range of colours, patterns and finishes. Many ceramics now do a great job of imitating natural stone for a much lower cost.
The three most common areas in a home where tiling is used are backsplashes, kitchen floors, and in the bathroom—that includes in showers and on bathroom floors and walls. But when tiles are cracked or the grout starts to crumble, it’s not pretty. It can really downgrade the overall look of a home.
Cracked tiles and signs of water damage tell you that any tile work needs to come down or be pulled up. But just removing the tiles isn’t enough. If we’re dealing with backsplashes or tiles on bathroom walls you need to get rid of wallboard and backerboard too. If we’re dealing with tiled floors and walls, get down to the studs and subfloor to make sure any water damage is taken care of and mould or rotting wood are removed.
I’ve seen renovations where, to save money, old tiles were removed and new ones laid onto the existing wallboard and subfloor. That’s just stupid. Don’t do half the job to save some money. What you’re actually doing is wasting money because if you don’t fix what’s underneath the tile you’re just asking for more of the same thing: cracked tiles and water damage. You’ll have to tear out that new tile job in just a few years—and that will cost you more than the few hundred you ‘saved’ on new subfloor or backerboard.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the subfloor is critical to how your floor works and how long it lasts. And when it comes to backsplashes, make sure there’s a waterproof membrane behind the tile. Water damage can occur anywhere on a backsplash—not just behind the sink.
Usually when people get to the tiling stage of their renovation they get stuck. They don’t know if they should seal the tile, seal the grout or both. Do you do one before the other? What type of sealer should you use? It can be confusing.
Many tiles are porous—especially natural stone like slate, marble or limestone. Porcelain or ceramic tiles are not. Depending on what your tiles are made of, you might need to seal them. Glazed ceramic tiles are stain resistant and easy to clean–same with porcelain. But unglazed tiles are porous and need to be sealed to make it stain and water-resistant. And you need to make sure the tiles are sealed before any grout is applied.
If you don’t, the grout will absorb into the tile, making it cloudy and ruining the surface finish. If the grout penetrates the pores of your natural stone tile, it’s impossible to get out. You can’t let your contractor tile, grout, then seal the whole thing—it’s a huge mistake. And I don’t recommend sealing grout. In my opinion, grout needs to be able to breathe, so any moisture that gets in behind your tile is able to escape. If you seal the grout, that can’t happen.
Grout will get dirty over time and it can be tough to keep clean—that’s why many contractors suggest sealing it. I think a better solution is to tint the grout so it matches the tile and hides discolouration. Don’t try and solve your stained grout problem by sealing in moisture. You will only create a bigger problem.