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Whatever floats your groutWednesday, August 04, 2010
Twenty-four hours have passed since I laid the tile, and now it's time to move on to the grout. Our target consists of approximately 4,300 two-inch lines of varying widths, depths, and shapes. Okay, that sounds completely overwhelming. But no more so than hauling six tons of concrete around the house. So...

The internet is awash with conflicting recommendations for exactly how one should go about grouting slate, which is quite porous and loves to hold on to anything that gets on the surface. The majority opinion leans toward the application of a grout release agent prior to the actual grouting event, then applying a stone sealer to the entire surface after grouting. Talking with the experts down at Aurora Tile and Daltile on Washington Avenue, this method was confirmed, and I drove home with a 25-pound bag of Mapei "Pearl Grey" grout, a gallon jug of DuPont StoneTech Professional Grout Release (incidentally, this is way too much for this job, but it is the smallest size they carry), and a quart of DuPont Heavy Duty Stone Sealer.

Here's the gallon of grout release (enough for up to 1700 square feet, it says), prior to wiping it over the tiles:

It looked like water, and was very easy to apply with a staining pad. Now we let that dry for four hours...

And now it's time for the fun part! The tools are all assembled: a drill (for mixing the grout), grout float, mud pan, margin trowel, latex gloves, sponges, the grout, and a bucket.

After mixing half the bag (according to the instructions, of course), it's time to float some grout! This process starts with the dropping of a decent sized pile of goop onto the floor, like this:

The you smear it around with the float held at a shallow angle of attack, pushing it into all of the joints, something like this:

Then you get a bit scared as the tiles are covered with grout, but you continue on. The next thing to do is to pass diagonally over the tiles with the float held at a high angle of attack. This should remove most of the grout from the faces of the tiles and help to clean up the grout in the joints. Here's a section that's done:

Once the grout has been on for 15-20 minutes, it's time to wipe it down with a moist sponge (not too wet, mind you, or you can actually draw the pigment out of the grout - a common novice mistake, says Larry at Aurora Tile).

It takes about four passes with the sponge before it's relatively clean, and one must keep rinsing and refilling the water bucket because it quickly gets saturated with grout.

Once it's good and clean, go do some more grouting, then come back and take another quick pass with the sponge and dry it off with a towel.

Overall, this process seems to be working well, without much residual grout haze - an affliction that was oft complained about in online forums. The thing is, this process is truly exhausting, and I can only imagine what it would be like without the grout release!

Moving right along, we should finish the job... uh oh. I don't have enough grout. I've done about 60 percent of the floor. Unfortunately, Daltile is already closed for the day, and the nearest other distributor of Mapei grout is in Jersey! Here's what I've gotten done today:

And I'd say it's looking pretty good, too.

But I am beat. Fortunately, it won't be too big of a deal to continue this tomorrow. I'm almost glad that I don't have another bag of the grout, because I think my hands would fall off if I have to push that grout float or wring out another sponge tonight... time for a nap...

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