DIY: How to Properly Seal Kitchen Tile

Sealing tile is an important and often overlooked step in installing, regrouting, or refinishing kitchen tile. The kitchen is a high traffic area in most homes, and tile floors, countertops and backsplashes take a lot of abuse over time. One way to insure that your kitchen maintains a clean new look is to protect the tile from the moisture, spills and stains it encounters on a daily basis.

The first thing you need to do when sealing the grout yourself is determine the type of tile you are working with. Is it porous? Does the tile need sealing or just the grout? Is acid sensitivity going to be a factor? Asking yourself these questions before beginning a project will save you time and money in the long run. Here’s how.

Testing For Water Absorption:

Often times manufacturers will label tile with different names according to their marketing goals. This sometimes leads to very different materials (stone, ceramic, etc.) being placed under similar or misleading names. So before deciding on a sealant based on the name of the tile or look you want, figure out which sealant will be the most effective

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in protecting the materials you have.

  • With a few drops of water, test the material to determine its absorption rate. If the water soaks in quickly and darkens the color of the tile you are working with a porous material and the actual tile will need to be sealed for its protection.
  • If the water does not absorb and beads on top, you are working with a non-absorbent or pre-sealed material. These tiles do not need to be sealed, just the grout joining them.

Testing for Acid Sensitivity:

  • On the underside of the tile, place a drop of muriatic acid (a pool maintenance chemical). If it fizzes the material can be acid etched. Acid etching is used in both art and industrial situations, but is not necessarily the effect you want for your tile. Acid sensitivity is an indication that the tile will take on stains from grout easily.

  • Acid sensitive tiles should be sealed prior to grouting with a penetrating sealer to avoid frustrating stains during the grouting process.

    If you are still unsure about your tile, bring a sample into the hardware store or tile manufacturer and ask.

Types of Sealant:

Once you’ve determined the material you are working with, look for a sealant based on maintenance needs first, and then consider the effect you are looking for.

For porous tiles such as natural stone and unglazed ceramics:

  • Look for a water based penetrating sealant.

    • A penetrating sealant will soak into the natural or untreated surface letting it breathe while providing protection from damaging moisture or debris that allow mildew and staining to slowly break down both the tile and grout.

    • Water based sealant won’t usually change the color of the tile or grout.

  • Chose the effect you desire from your tile.

    • Do you want a wet or high gloss look, or a natural matte finish on your tile? Within the range of penetrating sealants, there are finishing options available.

High Gloss Tile

Stone Matte Tile

For glazed ceramic and non-porous tile:

  • These tile do not need to be sealed. The glaze itself is the sealer.However the grout joints still need to be protected.

    • If your grout is epoxy, which is a good choice for high traffic areas like the kitchen, look for an epoxy grout sealer to increase its already existent water resistant qualities.

    • If your grout is cement based, a penetrating grout sealer is necessary to protect the porous material from the inside from water absorption.

  • Grout sealers often come with easy application tips in the form of a brush or wheel that help guide the sealant into the grout joints. Investing in one of these bottles can be very helpful in keeping sealant off of the tiles themselves.

    • If you decide to not invest in an applicator, a toothbrush/grout brush and a damp rag will be necessary for sealant application.

  • Roll or brush the sealant into the grout joints starting in a corner of the surface and working out and down from that point.

Before sealing, make sure you are working with a clean surface. Time has passed since the tile and grout were installed, so clean off with a warm damp cloth any debris that may have accumulated and let the area dry completely before applying sealant.

It is also recommended that the sealant be applied, whether over the entire floor or just the grout, in two coats allowing time for it to set in between applications (approx. 15 minutes, but check manufacturer’s instruction to be sure).

To learn more about our Tile Installation Services visit us at Denver Tile Installation.

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One Response to “DIY: How to Properly Seal Kitchen Tile”

  1. gold price says:

    Grout sealing is one of those necessary evils of tile installation. You’ve got the tile laid, the grout done, and it all looks great…and now you’re expected to do yet another task? Believe me, as painstaking as the task is, grout sealer is something you really need to apply. Call it whatever you may, but I like to think of grout sealer as your tile’s best friend.

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