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Old 03-04-2010, 03:07 PM   #1
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


I'm building a hearth pad for my woodstove. Using porcelain tiles (12") for most of the surface. I also have tumbled slate mosaic (2 rows of 2" square tiles) as an inset / border. I got everything dry fit - the porcelain is now thinset on the durock backer which is on a 3/4" plywood base, on top of the subfloor. Very solid. I did not set the slate tile border yet as I had some problems with a couple of the tiles that needed to be replaced.

When I was in the store getting the tile issue resolved, one of the staff told me I should seal everything. And particular - to seal the slate mosaic tiles before grouting them as the (dark) grout would affect the surface of the porous slate. However, I was also told to seal them right on the mesh sheet - before setting them down in the thinset - otherwise sealer could run into the grout lines and cause problems grouting later.

Does this make sense? I'm not even sure I want to seal anything - it's a hearth pad under a wood stove - some "rustic" look and wear is expected. But if I leave it untreated, do I worry about some of the dark grout "staining" the surface of the slate tiles when I do this part?

Any advice?

thanks.

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Old 03-05-2010, 06:14 AM   #2
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


Glazed tiles do not need to be sealed, in fact, they are already sealed by the glazing process. Unglazed tiles and grout should be sealed, as they will absorb stains.

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Old 03-05-2010, 06:43 AM   #3
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


Well, there are two schools of thought on this question, one that says "seal everything" and the other that thinks things through a bit more than that. Those who advocate to 'seal everything' are usually sellers of sealers, who use a CYA philosophy, an elephant-gun approach to sealing tiles.

Now apart from sealing, say, a travertine tile in a kitchen floor setting (where it is recommended), there are occasional circumstances where sealing the edges of certain tiles is recommended to prevent grout colour from leaching into an absorbent tile - but IMO you don't have one of those situations here. Sealers in general retard the absorbency of stains into grout or into tile by physical and chemical means but the choice of sealer to use is specific to the tile, the grout, the stone and the need for it.

In a $10,000 Botticino white marble tile install with dark grout, sure I'd seal it! If just for safety's sake. But way before the firs tile goes down, I would have done a lot of testing with different sealers to find the optimun choice for my situation.

You've got mosaic slate under a wood stove; so, and unless you plan to have red wine spills, mustard sandwich parties, tomato ketchup drawings as a regular regimen on your hearth, I would skip the sealing. Not required...

Now if you regularly have ashes spill on it, and you rinse it off with water, then I would say that sealing the entire surface of the tiles a good idea as it would make wet cleaning easier - by a fraction. We clean grout using 'profesional' tools so I know that even unsealed slate tiles are cleanable, but I'd offer a sealer to make my next job a bit easier...

So, unless the guy who recommended that "you seal it" has specific information about your tile and your grout and your cicumstances, he is banking on selling you sealer using the fear factor, not any technical reasoning.
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Old 03-05-2010, 12:38 PM   #4
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ccarlisle View Post
You've got mosaic slate under a wood stove; so, and unless you plan to have red wine spills, mustard sandwich parties, tomato ketchup drawings as a regular regimen on your hearth, I would skip the sealing. Not required...
LOL - outside of the occasional food fight (kidding) there shouldn't be anything dropping on the hearth.

except ashes - yes - but the intent is to just sweep the ashes into a metal can - yeah the grout may pick up some ash / dust but I think I'm ok with that. Mostly I'm worried about the grout badly staining the edges of the tiles when I apply it. But if that's not a concern then I guess I'm good to go.

watering down the the hearth probably means I'm putting out a runaway fire - in which case the tiles I think will be the last thing I'm worried about...

thanks all for the replies

Last edited by rtoni; 03-05-2010 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:36 AM   #5
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


update - for anyone interested - I got the hearth finished - I saw a small bottle of sealer in my travels and figured what the hell - I'd try this on a couple of the small slate mosaic pieces as a test - it dried quickly and didn't seem to change the appearance of the tile at all, and only took a couple seconds to apply. So I put it on the small slate tiles - before thinsetting them down. Grouted everything and cleaned it all up as per the directions. It came out great for a DIY. I don't plan on sealing anything else at this point (I like the "well used" look from a bit of ash, etc. - call me crazy...)

thanks all for the feedback
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:41 PM   #6
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do I need to seal tiles, and if so, when...?


Penetrating tile and grout sealer will not change the appearance of the tiles or grout. I would seal all the grout and the slate. it'll be easier to maintain.

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