By Megan Salzano
When it comes to a home remodel, new build or anything in between, the flooring itself is usually what steals the show during the purchase process—and rightfully so. The flooring will more or less provide the backdrop for the design of the space or just simply serve as the place we live our lives on day in and day out.
However, often overlooked are the grouts and mortars that provide the functionality. Without these seemingly sundry products the installation would be incomplete and the flooring would likely fail.
Perhaps the most design-savvy of flooring categories, tile is most particularly supported by grout and mortar products. In fact, industry experts agree grout and mortar can make or break a tile installation. “With any remodeling or renovation project, it’s all in the details,” said Art Mintie, senior director, technical services, Laticrete. “Grout and mortar’s value lies in its strength, durability and stability that it pro- vides to your tile floor. Besides functionality, grout also con- tributes greatly to the design of a project.”
Jay Samber, senior director installation products, Dal-Tile Corp., agreed, noting that both grout and mortar have specific functionalities and can cause failures if not used properly. “Grout is used to give the tile a finished look and feel and helps with the strength of the final installation,” he explained. “Without grout, dirt and debris would make their way into the small space of separation between the tiles. Without mortar, the tile will not stick to the floor. Mortar is also used to eliminate small uneven spots in the substrate.”
Properly selected and installed, grout provides myriad functions that support a successful tile installation, noted Adam Abell, market manager, tile and stone installation systems, sealants and surface rep, Bostik. “Grouts in today’s market have many features to them that allow for excel- lent color consistency, microbial protection and stain resistance,” he explained. “Grout protects the edges of tiles, fills the joints and allows for one of the most durable and easiest-to-clean construction surfaces.”
When it comes to the proper selection of grouts, Russ Gaetano, senior marketing manager, Ardex Tile & Stone Installation Systems, said the tile itself is key. “The use of proper installation products based on the type of tile being installed and the environment will determine not only the aesthetic look of the floor but how long the installation lasts,” he explained. “The tile itself is significant and the largest part of the installation investment.”
Just as its sister sundry provides technical and design features on the surface of the install, mortar provides durability and functionality below. And, as the tile category evolves, so must its corresponding mortar.
Eric Carr, vice president commercial marketing and product management, Custom Building Products, said several innovations in tile have impacted the mortar category. “Consider the industry trend toward larger module tiles—this has created a need for more specialized, large, heavy tile adhesive mortars,” he said. “Couple that with a shift to faster installs and more demanding application requirements, and mortar manufacturers have been presented a unique challenge: Improve the installation experience while increasing the technical capabilities of the product.”
The result? Lightweight mortars that reduce installer fatigue and offer gains in workability, handling and strength. “These mortars promise non-slip performance for wall installations and non-slump performance for large, heavy floor tile installations,” Carr said.
Following is a curated selection of the best in grouts and mortars, as well as expert tips to make the sale.
“Retailers should be focused on the use of quality installation products. To close the sale, retailers can also make use of available warranties for the installation products. While the length of the warranty is important, using single-source manufacturers for the installation products is beneficial, so the end user can work with one point of contact should problems with the installation arise.”—Russ Gaetano, senior marketing manager, Ardex
Ardex recently introduced Ardex X 90 Outdoor Tile & Stone Mortar, which addresses the growing popularity of porcelain tiles used on patios and decks. The mortar works equally well in cold, hot and wet environments. It does not contribute to efflorescence, can stand up to heavy rains in only two hours and actually sets/cures at temperatures as low as 40 degrees.
“Work with your customers so they understand the specifications and technical details of each product in consideration to make sure the mortar works for their specific substrates, tiles and the overall timing of your project. Is the project in question interior or exterior? Floor or wall? Will it be used in a pool, shower or other submerged application? What is the size and weight of the tiles? A quality mortar offers good open/working time, adjustability, walkability, sag resistance, bond strength and, of course, versatility within the application.”—Adam Abell, market manager, tile & stone installation systems, sealants & surface rep, Bostik
Bostik’s BAM launched in early 2020 as a fiber-reinforced, rapid-cur- ing, anti-sag, large and heavy tile mortar. Containing RapidCure technology, BAM is specifically formulated for maximum performance in commercial and residential applications. It is approved for the installation of gauged porcelain tile panels as well as all other types and sizes of tile.
Custom Building Products
“Aside from staying current with the latest design trends and installation materials, it is especially important that retailers ask key questions about their customers installations—such as the type of area the job is in and potential elements to which they may be exposed. This allows them to recommend the best installation materials for each project.”— Eric Carr, vp/commercial marketing & product management, Custom Building Products
Prism Ultimate Performance Grout is a problem-solver and sets the standard for high-performance, stain-resistant cement grouts. Prism’s calcium Aluminate cement-based formula offers consistent color with no shading; regardless of tile type, temperature or humidity, and it will not effloresce.
RapidGrout, launched in 2020, is a key installation accessory in Daltile’s new RevoTile system, a patented, genuine porcelain tile floating floor that installs two-times faster than traditional tile. RapidGrout is a premium, pre-mixed water-based grout especially designed for tile that features ClicFit Technology. The quick-setting formulation installs up to 50% faster than traditional grouts and never needs to be sealed. RapidGrout provides superior water resistance, delivers consistent color every time, features stain and crack protection and offers antimicrobial properties.
“Retailers who are knowledgeable in the background of grout and mortar use will capitalize on its importance when their customer is looking to buy tile and/or stone. The type of tile and location of the installation plays a huge role in the type of products needed. If the retailer understands the fundamental needs of their customers’ tile applications, they can better deliver the right materials for the job and ensure a successful sale.”—Art Mintie, senior director, technical services, Laticrete
This year, Laticrete launched SpectraLock 1, a pre-mixed, stain-proof grout with true epoxy performance that meets or exceeds many of the ANSI A118.3 performance characteristics and criteria, according to the company. Additionally, it is available in a wide variety of colors to match any design and contains no epoxy resins.
Grout-Aide Grout and Tile Marker kills mold and mildew while renewing grout. It covers all grout stains and is fast drying. It is permanent on most surfaces, water-resistant, odorless, non-toxic and covers approximately 175 lineal feet of average grout lines. It is available in several designer col- ors that need to be specially made.