Creative Grouting

By Colin Stanyard, Technical Manager at Mapei UK

Over recent years tiled finishes have extended their boundaries far beyond their traditional roots as a functional backdrop to bathrooms and kitchens, instead being an integral component to create a design statement. They are a design element in their own right, a piece of art, pop culture at times, manipulated by a designer’s imagination to be flamboyant or subtly muted dependent on the desired mood.

Designers have long realised that the senses can be stimulated to create mood and considerably boost well-being. Therefore it is no surprise that both touch and vision are exploited by tile producers. Colour, texture and size all help create an enormous impact on the senses. From subtle pastel shades to bold, vibrant colours to calm or stimulate thus creating an environment influential on human interaction and activity.

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Geometric shapes of either random design or the more traditional hexagonal shape battle to be noticed on this ever changing canvas of design inspired beauty. Taking traditional media such as wood, concrete or fabric and adapting them into a tiled finish adds greater depth to any design as the possibilities are considerably increased. Now you can have a ‘wooden’ tiled wall or floor in the shower, or fabric walls in the kitchen with endless hand-painted designs.

Urban, contemporary living made popular by the sympathetic conversion of warehouse space into living accommodation has created the demand for concrete effect tiles in large formats as well as for distressed wood effect tiles. Extremely large format tiles can be used to create the illusion of space and uninterrupted flow being equally effective on both wall and floor.

Colour & Texture in tiling
Colour and texture are an influential part of our life and can directly affect our moods and emotions. Colour is frequently used to convey meaning, for example red is widely recognised as meaning stop or danger, and green for go and safety. Texture is also important, tactile flooring is used to identify the edge of stair treads, platform edges and crossing points at road junctions – even used on a smaller scale on a computer keyboard so the user knows where the f and j keys are located.

We have moved on considerably from those early days almost 4,000 years ago when pigment for coloured tiles was extracted from the ground, but colour is still employed in much the same way as how the Romans decorated villas and public buildings with mosaics. The Victorians also used geometric shapes to great effect with texture being introduced as border tiles, bullnose tiles and listellos, utilising vibrant colours to create depth and indicate quality.

One of the most enduring qualities of colour is its ability change at different times of the day. This is because the source of illumination can influence the visual appearance of an object. We are all familiar with the yellowish glow emitted from traditional tungsten bulbs and how this will perceptively alter the colour of an object as opposed to natural light. The time of year, the time of day and the weather conditions will shift colour perception.

Such facts can also be applied when choosing colour for a tiled installation, as it is essential to evaluate the purpose and use of the tiled area. Warm colours, such as reds, oranges and yellows are often linked with energy, happiness and comfort whereas cold colours such as greens and blues tend to be used to convey calm and professionalism.

Not so many years ago the colour pallet range for grout was extremely limited, consisting of white wall grout and grey grout for floors. However as grout plays an important yet often overlooked role in the final appearance of a tiled finish, it would be a shame to be restricted to such a limited pallet given the range of tiles available today.

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Coloured Grout Technology
Choosing an exciting and vibrant grout colour can be used to enhance the plainest of tiles, and where budget might be tight this can often be an excellent solution. Conversely, grout colours can also be used to enhance or contrast with the tiles or mosaics in order to add an extra dimension to the installation.

The use of a small amount of colour will draw the eye and emphasise the look of the tiled finish, such as a contrastingly bold grout joint bordering a large format tile. The blending of warm and cold colours together can lead to the creation of interesting designs. Subtle yet deliberately selected grout colours can emphasise the tiled finish with the grout effectively disappearing.

On a more practical note, the repeated use of a single colour in certain locations can be used to create boundaries without the need for a physical barrier. The brain will then interpret repetitive colours appropriately, presenting an ideal solution for an uninterrupted open-plan design with perceptible boundaries.

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Set The Mood with Mapei’s grout colours
Mapei has a vast array of grout colours and types. It is important to remember that grout has a technical function in addition to its decorative use. For example in heavy-duty floor tile application areas such as shopping malls, leisure complexes or airport terminals, it is necessary to specify and use a grout that is able to cope with heavy foot traffic as the tiled finish will be required to withstand greater abrasion.

By their very nature, reaction resin based grouts (usually based on epoxy resins) can be used in the harshest of environments as they are waterproof, resistant to a large range of chemicals and acids, making them easier to clean and maintain, important in hospitals and areas of food preparation where hygiene is paramount.

Mapei’s Ultracolor Plus is a high performance cement-based grout, classified as CG2WA offering high abrasion resistance with reduced water absorption, permitting its use in both heavy duty and wet environments. The grout is further enhanced with the addition of mould inhibitors for added protection in showers and bathrooms, balconies and terraces. Available in 35 colours, Ultracolor Plus includes purposefully designed colours to complement modern porcelain wood-effect tiles with colours such as sand, silk and golden dust available.

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The right grout for your project?
Contemporary styles often call for the inclusion of metallic mosaics and glass tiles. These materials  can be sensitive to even the lightest of abrasion, leading to unsightly marking or scratching not only during the grouting process but also during routine cleaning. It is essential to heed information provided by the manufacturer and to grout using a fine material such as Mapei Keracolor SF.
Natural stone tiles however require a different set of considerations. Water used in the preparation of the grout could migrate into the body of the porous stone leading to staining or undesirable “picture framing” watermarks. The use of a specially formulated rapid curing grout such as Mapei’s Ultracolor Plus will help to dramatically reduce the risk of this type of staining.

By contrast the use of a highly decorative product, such as Mapei’s Kerapoxy Design, can be used to enhance the appearance of any tile installation. Curing to a translucent finish, it is particularly effective when used with glass tiles or mosaics and equally can be used as a coloured adhesive creating impressive visual effects in swimming pools, fountains and showers.

Kerapoxy Design is available in a range of designer shades, and can be further enhanced by the addition of coloured glitter in order to make the grout joint a design statement in its own right.
Modern epoxy resin grouts from the Mapei range need not be feared by the installer. Technological advances to products such as Mapei Kerapoxy CQ ensure quick and easy application and effortless wash-off and clean-down for the tiler. Furthermore, colour quartz technology significantly increases colour stability. With a colour pallet especially aimed at pool applications such as crocus blue and  ocean blue, this range of grout is ideal for swimming pools, wet rooms and spa pools.

Kerapoxy CQ complies with the requirements of EC regulation 852/2004 relating to hygiene and foodstuffs, thereby making it entirely suitable for use in food preparation areas such as commercial kitchens. Colour can even be brought into a functional environment through the specification and use of the correct coloured grout.

Mapei has developed its coloured grout range products with both the applicator and environment in mind. All of Mapei’s grouts are easy to mix, apply and remove. Additionally many carry the GEV Emicode certification to confirm their low levels of VOC emissions.

With over 60 colours available across the different grout ranges, Mapei equips Architects, Designers and Specifiers with significant versatility in the choice of colour and performance. To complement any installation Mapei can also offer an extensive range of matching Mapesil AC or Mapesil LM sealants.
Visit Mapei’s YouTube channel for installation ideas and technical advice.

Mapei UK Ltd
Head office, Mapei House Steel Park Road, Halesowen, West Midlands B62 8HD
0121 508 6970

Specification Centre, 6 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0BX
020 302 9610

info@mapei.co.uk
www.mapei.co.uk