Novice DIYers eager to get started repairing, replacing, or installing new tile may wonder about the differences between grout and caulk. Both products, basic to tile most projects, have adhesive properties. Compare the two any further—grout vs. caulk—and you’ll see that each has specific uses and they’re not interchangeable. Floor Tiles Cape Town
Keep reading to understand how and where each product shines to ensure terrific-looking, long-wearing tile.
For starters, grout and caulk have different properties and packaging
Grout is a masonry product that comes as a dry powder in a bag. It requires mixing with water to activate its adhesive properties, which become rock-hard when the grout cures. Caulk is a flexible, semi-liquid product made from latex, silicone, or acrylic that is packaged in tubes. Unlike grout, caulk retains a measure of flexibility after it cures, allowing it to stretch slightly if any movement, such as the house settling, occurs.
Grout fills the joints between tiles
The sole purpose of grout is to fill the spaces between tiles after the tiles have been glued in place on a floor or on a wall. Grout keeps the tiles from shifting, and also protects the edges of tile from chipping. There are two types of grout, sanded and unsanded.
When choosing grout, always read the intended purposes listed on the package. Some grout is not suitable for all types of tile, and others contain additives to increase their durability and holding power.
Caulk seals seams between tile and fixtures or walls
Caulk provides a waterproof seal where tile abuts other materials, such as bathtubs, sinks, or walls. A carefully run line of caulk (known as a bead) in these areas adds a finishing touch. Caulk is stickier than grout and adheres to the surfaces of many different materials, including drywall, wood, glass, and porcelain fixtures.
Grout is the better choice for wet areas
Though grout is more porous than caulk, it’s best for tiled shower walls and floors. This is large because of the way grout binds with backer board, the concrete material placed behind tiles. Backer board, tiles, and grout combine to form a water-impervious masonry surface, keeping moisture from saturating wall studs—and preventing mould growth and wood damage.
Caulk performs well in angled seams
Though grout is generally the best choice for filling joints between tiles in showers or elsewhere, where two tiled shower walls meet, or where a shower wall meets the floor (called “change of plane”), silicone caulk, which is waterproof, can come in handy.
Grout in these particular seams is more likely to crack due to settling. Some tile setters fill these seams with matching colour caulk because it’s more flexible should movement occur. Others still use grout but switch to an epoxy grout (grout with epoxy added), which makes cracking less likely.
Caulk is more likely to shrink over time
When grout cures, it forms a solid masonry surface that won’t contract or pull away. While movement can crack rigid grout lines, the grout itself won’t shrink. Caulk, however, is known for shrinking over time and pulling away, and when it does it must be removed and replaced.
Grout is messier—but easier—to apply than caulk
Grout is spread over a newly tiled surface and worked into the joints with a hard sponge applicator. This results in excess grout getting smeared over the tile face, which should be wiped off before it dries. Caulk goes on neatly but it requires a steady hand, experience, and skill to run a smooth, professional-looking bead of caulk.
Keep in mind, however, only grout should be used to fill grout joints (except for change of plane angles noted above). Caulk is suitable for use virtually everywhere else you need to seal a seam between two materials. Both products come in an assortment of colours to match your needs.
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