Do I need to seal my tile floor? This is a question we hear all the time. You’ve just had a new tile floor installed and you want to protect your investment. You want to make sure it’s looking like new for as long as possible. Let me break down when you would need to seal your tile floor and when it just isn’t necessary.
Does your tile floor need to be sealed? The short answer is it depends on exactly what type of tile you’re using. If you have glazed tiles such as the majority of ceramic or porcelain tiles, then there is no need for sealing. But if you have unglazed tiles such as travertine or terracotta, then you will need to seal these tiles to protect them from water and stains.
Certain types of tile do need to be sealed, and others that don’t need to be sealed. We’ll cover more specifics here. Installing a tile floor is a great choice if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require much more than a good cleaning here and there. Interested?
Porcelain and Ceramic Floor Tiles
Both porcelain and ceramic floor tiles are impervious. This is exactly what makes these types of tile flooring great options for kitchen or bathroom flooring. Liquid just can’t get inside these tiles. Whether you get a little sloppy when washing dishes or your toddler likes to hide things in the toilet to see it overflow, you can rest easy knowing that your tile floor won’t sustain water damage.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are also a great choice because of their durability. Again, this is why they don’t scratch or dent. If you don’t believe me, consider the prime example of porcelain: the toilet. It’s just about the sturdiest piece in the entire house. Just imagine that strength and durability in a floor tile.
Because each of these types of tile is so solid and non-porous, they actually won’t take sealant. Therefore, sealing porcelain or ceramic floor tiles is just not necessary.
Other Types of Tiles
Porcelain and ceramic aren’t the only choices when it comes to tile flooring, of course. These are some other of the most common stones used for floor tiles:
These are the kinds of materials that do need to be sealed. While these are fairly strong and resistant to damage on the exterior, they are all porous, to different degrees. That’s why it’s important to use a sealer. It will fill in the tiny little pores, keeping moisture and water from seeping in and causing damage.
Since tile flooring is often chosen because it’s resilient against water damage, it’s often installed in kitchens and bathrooms, as we discussed briefly already. And even though these tile surfaces are only mildly porous, it’s still enough that sealing them is beneficial.
However, it’s important to note that sealing any of these materials doesn’t actually add any more protection, because they are natural stones. But, sealing these stones can prevent water damage from happening, if something floods or there’s a spill. Sealing natural stone tiles basically buys you some more time so that water damage doesn’t start immediately.
Types of Tile Sealer
This type of sealer is also used to protect grout, which we’ll touch on shortly. When this sealer is applied, it penetrates the tile and forms a barrier right under the surface of the tile itself. This way, if it’s taking on water, or another kind of spill, it will be more of a challenge for the liquid to make its way into the tile.
These are more of a topcoat for flooring tiles. They add a little shine to the floor, but also an added layer of protection.
But What About the Grout?
Ah yes, the grout. The little lines that separate each individual tile. The grout is the floor’s weakest point of defense. Depending on the color of your grout, it can easily be the most forgettable place in the house as far as cleaning goes, yet fairly needy, all at once. Grout serves as the seams in between tiles.
Lighter colored grout in thicker lines can get incredibly dirty, and because of its porous nature, it can also absorb different materials. So not only can you tell when it’s dirty, but it’s also a giant (and literal) pain in the neck to clean. Darker colored grout doesn’t show stains as easily.
If you have an older floor with grout, chances are, it’s already been sealed, and you’ll need to continue to seal it regularly to protect the grout. Older grout is made of different compounds that the ones used today.
But, if you’re getting a new floor (congratulations, this is always exciting), whether it’s being installed or you’re DIYing it, you more than likely won’t need to seal it. Most of the grouts that you can buy in today’s market don’t need to be sealed.
Ways to Seal Grout
This is probably the simplest of sealer applications. The sealer either comes with a roller or a brush, which is then just applied directly to the grout itself. This is great for those that are doing this on their own because one can be very precise with the application.
If you have a bigger floor, and it’s been installed by a professional, they’ll most likely use a spray grout sealer. This is not recommended for novices in the home-renovation department. Spray sealer must be done carefully to avoid over spraying, and also must be cleaned properly so that the tile itself isn’t affected.
Types of Grout Sealer
This is the same as the penetrating sealer mentioned above. It gets down into the grout and keeps any moisture or stains from getting into the grout.
These sealers also change the color of the grout, but it’s more of a protective feature. Membrane sealers are ideal for anyone with tile flooring in a humid climate as they’re more protective against moisture.
How to Seal Your Tile Floor
Sealing a tile floor is an easy job and can be undertaken by most DIYers. Always read the instructions as different sealant manufacturers require specific application techniques and drying times in between coats.
The process begins with thoroughly cleaning the tile floor with a vacuum or broom. It’s also a good idea to mop the floor with either warm water or a water and vinegar mix if required. Don’t use any chemical cleaners beforehand unless instructed to by the manufacturer as this can have a negative reaction with the sealant.
Once the floor is completely dry and free from dirt, you can begin to apply the sealant with either a paint roller or sponge mop. You need to make sure the sealant is getting into any gaps and crevices the tiles may have. The best way to ensure this is by rubbing back and forth on the tiles. It’s a good idea to apply the sealant in different directions to help apply the sealant properly. Always do a final wipe with the applicator to make sure there is no excess sealant left behind.
After you have properly applied the sealant, it will need to dry for the specified time. Most sealants will require a second application for the best results. It’s also recommended to allow ample time before replacing any furniture to ensure the sealant coating is completely cured.
Quick Guide in Steps
- Get rid of any debris on the floor. This might mean a few rounds with a vacuum and mop combo.
- Check sealant manufacturer’s instructions for any specific application techniques. There might be slight variations from brand to brand.
- Apply the sealer with a roller or sponge mop.
- Leave dry properly and then apply a second coat, making sure to leave no excess sealant on the floor.