You have decided to go for a tiled shower, and now you are on the predicament to choose between an epoxy grout or cement grout finish? Read on our article on the benefits and drawbacks of both epoxy and cement grout, which will help you to choose the best option for your next project!
What is cement grout?
Cement grout is a mixture of cement, water and sand or other aggregates that is used for filling and sealing the gaps and joints of your tiles.
Benefits of cement grout
- Easy to work with: Cement grout is easy to mix, apply, and clean up, making it a popular choice for DIY projects and professional applications.
- Cost-effective: Cement grout is a cost-effective solution for filling the gaps and joints of you shower tiles, when compared to epoxy grout.
- Strength and durability: Cement grout is a strong and durable material that can withstand heavy loads and foot traffic, making it ideal for use in high-traffic foot areas like public bathrooms.
- Appearance: Cement grout is available in a wide range of colours, allowing you to match it to your tiles or other materials, or to create a contrasting look.
Drawbacks of cement grout
- Lack of flexibility: Cement grout is a rigid material that doesn’t flex or expand well. This can be problematic in situations where the structure is subject to movement, such as in earthquake-prone areas. Over time, the rigidity of the cement grout can cause it to separate from the surrounding surfaces, compromising the integrity of the structure.
- Mixing: Cement grout requires careful mixing and placement, and if not done properly, can result in an uneven or weak bond. If the grout is not mixed with the correct ratio of water, it can become too thick or too thin, making it difficult to apply and compromising the overall strength of the bond.
- Susceptibility to Water Damage: Cement grout is porous and can absorb water, which can cause it to deteriorate over time. This can be especially problematic in areas where the structure is subject to frequent exposure to water, such as in bathrooms. The water can seep into the grout and cause it to soften and weaken, leading to cracking, separation and crumbling of the grout.
- Potential for discoloration: Cement grout is susceptible to discoloration over time due to exposure to sunlight, moisture, and other environmental factors. This can be especially problematic in areas where the grout is exposed to a lot of light, such as near windows or skylights. Discoloration can make the grout look unsightly and can reduce the aesthetic appeal of the structure.
What is Epoxy Grout?
Epoxy grout is made from two-part epoxy resins which are mixed with a hardener. Epoxy resin is a synthetic polymer that is created by combining an epoxide (a reactive chemical group) with a polyamine (a compound containing multiple amino groups). When these two components are mixed together, they undergo a chemical reaction that causes the resin to harden into a solid material.
The hardener, as the name suggests, is a chemical compound that is added to the epoxy resin to help it harden. The specific type of hardener used will depend on the specific epoxy grout being produced, as different hardeners can be used to achieve different properties such as faster or slower cure time, increased resistance to moisture or chemicals, and more.
Benefits of Epoxy Grout
- Safe & Hygienic: When compared to cement grout, epoxy has very low porosity features and so it does not allow bacteria, mould, or mildew to grow on it. Therefore, epoxy is overall more hygienic for you, and safer for your health.
- Easy to clean: Unlike porous cement grout, which absorbs stains and dirt, epoxy grout is non-porous and does not absorb dirt and stains. This means that it can be cleaned easily with just soap and water, making it ideal for use in areas exposed to high moisture levels or dirt, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
- Waterproof: When compared to cement grout, epoxy is fully waterproof. Usually after you have grouted your tiles, it is recommended you apply a sealant on top of it to make the grout waterproof. It is not recommended to seal epoxy grout.
- Strong: Epoxy is a highly durable product that is resistant to stains, abrasions, breakage, and harsh chemicals. Because of that, it is a great option for places that are cleaned on a much more intense and regular basis, such as commercial kitchens or public bathrooms.
- Versatile: While you can add pigmentation to cement grout to create new colours aside from the original grey colour, there is absolutely no comparison to the wide variety of colours you can get it with an epoxy grout. You can even add gold glitter to your epoxy grout if this is what you’re into! If you are not into that but want to add a nice and delicate backsplash to your bathroom or even marble, then epoxy grout is the way to go as it does not scratch these types of delicate materials.
- Environmentally friendly: Epoxy grout is a more environmentally friendly choice than cement grout. It is made from a blend of natural chemicals, including resin and hardeners, and does not contain harmful chemicals or solvents. This means that it is safe to use it in your home and does not pose a risk to the environment.
Drawbacks of Epoxy Grout
- More expensive: Epoxy grout is more expensive than cement grout.
- Difficult to work with: Epoxy grout can be more difficult to work with than cement-based grouts. It has a shorter working time and requires more care and precision during installation. Epoxy grout is difficult to clean up once it has dried. Bear in mind, that if there is any excess grout that was not cleaned during the installation then it will require the use of special solvents to remove the excess.
- Mixing: Epoxy grout requires precise mixing in order to achieve the desired consistency. If the mixing ratio is off, the grout may not set correctly or may be weaker than expected.
- Discolouring: If you have chosen a white or light-coloured epoxy grout just be mindful that if constantly exposed to sunlight, then there is a chance that the epoxy will discolour it. You can avoid this by choosing a darker colour grout.
- Appearance: Some people may find that epoxy grout has a plastic-like appearance that does not match the natural look of tile or stone.
How often should I need to regrout my tiles?
The frequency with which you need to regrout your bathroom depends on several factors, including the quality of the original grout, the amount of moisture and humidity in your bathroom, and how frequently the bathroom is used. In general, it is a good idea to inspect your bathroom grout periodically and address any areas of damage or wear as soon as possible. This will help to prevent water damage and the growth of mould and mildew.
If you notice any cracks or missing grout, it is a good idea to regrout those areas right away. It is also a good idea to regrout your bathroom periodically as a preventive measure, even if there are no obvious signs of damage. A good rule of thumb is to regrout your bathroom every 6-10 years, although this may vary depending on your specific circumstances.
Regular cleaning and maintenance can also help extend the lifespan of your grout. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools, as these can damage the grout and make it more susceptible to wear and tear. Instead, use mild cleaning solutions and soft brushes or sponges to clean your bathroom grout regularly.
To sum up, keeping an eye on your bathroom grout and addressing any issues promptly can help to ensure that your bathroom remains clean, safe, and functional for years to come.
Overall, while both epoxy and cement grout have their own advantages and disadvantages, Newline Showers certainly recommends epoxy grout as the best choice for fully emersed areas such as showers. This is because epoxy grout meets the performance criteria for grouts required by BRANZ such as water resistance, ease of cleaning, and ability to accommodate to minor movement, along others.
If you need expert advice on what epoxy grout you should use for your next bathroom project, then we recommend you give the team at Technokolla NZ a call and they will be able to help you!