Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Benefits of Pre-Sealing Cement Tile


Pre-sealing cement tiles is not a required step in all manufacturers' installation procedures; however, it is something I recommend. Before deciding whether or not to pre-seal your cement tiles, let's make sure you understand the purpose of pre-sealing along with its benefits and risks.

Using a grout release or pre-sealer on cement tiles helps insure a successful installation
Using a grout release or pre-sealer on cement tiles helps ensure a successful installation.

Why Pre-Seal Cement Tile?
First, let's not confuse sealing with pre-sealing. After installation, sealing cement tile with a penetrating sealer is recommend because concrete is porous. The sealer help protect the tile from oil, acids and water. The purpose of a pre-sealer is very different. A good pre-sealer should do two things: it should clean the tile; and it should make grout clean-up, or removal, easier. In fact, a pre-sealer may be called a "grout release."

When you see a finished cement tile installation (or any tile installation), it's hard to visualize how bad it looked when grout was first applied. The only way to get grout into the grout joint is by smearing it all over the tile. With a glazed ceramic tile, grout removal and clean-up can be difficult. However, a porous material like cement makes the task more arduous, especially because acids can't be used.

Grout being applied to patterned cement tiles  - a messy job!
Grout being applied to patterned cement tiles - a messy job!

The benefit of a pre-sealer or "grout release" is to make sure the grout can be easily removed after grouting. By apply a grout release prior to the installation of the tile, you also get the added benefit of inspecting each tile and the opportunity to cull any that might be damaged or off-color before the actual installation.

The only downside is that pulling each tile out of the box and re-packing them is time consuming. Also, the more the tile is handled, the greater its chance for breakage. Using a grout release or pre-sealer on cement tile is not always required. In fact, if you have someone familiar with installing cement tile, they may even laugh. After all, there were no pre-sealing products when cement tile was used more than 150 years ago. Rest assured, pre-sealing is another step that will help guarantee the project's success.

While a penetrating sealer could be used (and is sometimes recommended), I prefer a water-based "green" product, such as Fila PS87. For pre-sealing, using it in its undiluted form will be less expensive than using a penetrating sealer. You can also dilute it to clean and remove grease and grime from the tiles after installation. It's an excellent product for acid-sensitive material, such as concrete.

How to Apply a Cement Tile Pre-Sealer
Applying a pre-sealer is not difficult, but it will take a great deal of time. As I mentioned, an added benefit is that you can view/inspect all of your tiles, and verify the quantity purchased.

First, pull the tiles from the box and arrange them onto pallets. Place the tiles next to each other so you can match pattern colors. More importantly, this step will also help prevent the grout release from dripping down the sides of the tile. Now, apply liberally; but, be neat.


Cement tiles are removed from the box and placed on pallets prior to applying the sealer.
Cement tiles are removed from the box and placed on pallets prior to applying a grout release.

Next, pour a small amount of the undiluted grout release into a container. Apply with a small, soft rag cut to a dimension smaller than the tile. Again, this keeps the pre-sealer away from the sides of the tile. You need the grout to stick to the sides of the tile.

Pre-sealer being applied to cement tile
Pre-sealer being applied to cement tile

Use a small, soft cloth to apply the pre-sealer
Use a small, soft cloth to apply the pre-sealer

Make sure grout release does not drip down the side of the tile
Make sure grout release does not drip down the side of the tile.

Where can I purchase this product?
We have recommended Fila products for years, but often, they have been difficult to obtain outside large metropolitan areas. Thankfully, you can purchase Fila PS87 and all Fila products in small or large quantities online at SealersRus.com. The owner of the company, Ali Madani, is extremely knowledgeable about Fila sealers and their application for both tile and stone.

Fila PS67 is a water-based cleaner that can be used to pre-seal cement tile.
Fila PS87 is a water-based cleaner that can be used to pre-seal cement tile.
Fila PS87 is a degreaser and cleaner for acid-sensitive materials like natural stone and concrete. It's ideal for basic cleaning of concrete and removes water-based wax. Use it undiluted for pre-sealing cement tile prior to installation. It will help ensure the tile is clean and assist as a grout-release.

To learn even more and see how a pre-sealer is applied, watch our latest video, How to Apply a Grout Release - Cement Tile Install Tips.

Watch the Video: How to Apply a Grout Release to Cement Tiles

This short video shows how to apply grout release to cement tiles. This optional step is a great insurance policy to protect your tiles from the hazards of installers while making sure the grout is easily removed.

In the coming months, we'll be providing more tips on how to successfully install cement tiles. Stay tuned!
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