Of all the products that men and women in the trade need to approach a tiling job, grout is the one that can often get overlooked amidst the focus upon the tile type, style and adhesive. However, grout is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
Without grout, there’s only ever half a job; a good grout can make the difference in terms of both longevity and aesthetic value. In recent times this is certainly something that merchants are very much aware of, and the range and complexity of grouts to be found on the average stockist’s shelves is quite substantial, making it important for builders’ merchants to ensure this is being communicated to their customers. Indeed, partly as a result of this, the use of grouts is increasingly affected by wider stylistic trends.
As a specialist supplier of adhesives and grouts, at Dunlop we have experienced these changes first hand, witnessing the ebb and flow of consumer demand for the product. Much of the most prominent grout trends stem from the substance’s natural variations in colour, as producers attempt to combat the uncertainty that the grout will maintain the intended hue without discolouration.
Although it may appear as such, this discolouration is actually beyond the control of the manufacturer. It has no damaging or detrimental effect on the grout, aside from the simple fact that it impacts on the look and finish of the job. Without wanting to get bogged down in the technical chemistry behind the issue, discolouration generally occurs as a result of soluble salts in the substrate or cement coming in contact with excessive moisture. The prevalence of this aesthetic issue has proved to be one of the prime motivators in encouraging suppliers and merchants to both react and seek to drive current grout trends.
On one hand, the market for coloured grouts has continued to expand, with most suppliers looking to provide the options both to lessen the impact of discoloration and to keep abreast of increasingly adventurous interior bathroom and kitchen trends. Certain grouts can help emphasise the shine and impact of a brightly coloured tile, for example, whereas a dark grout might be the best option for a lighter tile, and a lighter grout is more likely to appeal alongside a darker tile. In terms of the colours available, you’re more likely to find ivory, grey and sandstone than you are blue, red and yellow.
Such concerns are very much symptomatic of a more general trade trend; the increasing demand to consider every product in the entire tiling process as part of a wider design. Most modern tradespeople and builders will be choosing a grout that not only complements the tile, but also suits the style, fixtures and fittings of the work area.
Even with the range of grout colours now available, many specialist suppliers have invested significant time and resources into establishing exactly how tradespeople can avoid the discolouration that has made both pure white and pure black grouting seem like an aesthetic gamble. Actually, providing a few precautions are taken, this shouldn’t really be such a problem.
In short it’s all about moisture. If there is no established damp proof membrane, if moisture is trapped within cavities or the sub-floor, if too much water is added during the grout mixing stage, or even if you over-wash after application, grout discolouration is a real possibility. By the same token, these issues are straightforward to prevent – as long as you fully understand the causes.
Ultimately, the improvements in the range of grouts available on the market is a response to an increased focus upon interior style, forcing tradespeople to give that extra bit of consideration to a product not necessarily traditionally associated with the concerns of design. Not only is this a key trend pushing forward the development and sales of this crucial product, but it is also driving demand on a consumer level.
By Debi Boulton, brand manager at Dunlop Adhesives.