Tile flooring looks amazing in your home’s kitchen or bathrooms. But there is one serious problem which you must contend with when you install a tile floor in either of these two rooms — the floor will get wet. While a little water or spilled liquid is not a big deal for most tile floors, some types of tile can be damaged. Luckily, the solution is simple: sealing your tiles.

travertine tile in plano

Do I need to seal my tiles?

Not all tile flooring requires sealing, but most floors can benefit from an initial sealing followed by periodic touchups. Although you can use tile enhancers to improve the appearance of glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles, leaving these types of tile floors unsealed will not generally cause lasting damage. On the other hand, failing to seal unglazed, porous tiles such as those made from terracotta or natural stone can lead to permanent staining and water damage to your new floor.

How do I seal my porous tiles?

Sealing your porous tiles on your own is simpler than you may imagine, but it does require you to use the correct sealant and understand the proper application technique to provide the maximum amount of protection for your tiles.

  1. Make sure you know what type of tile you have. It may seem obvious, but if you are uncertain of the material of your home’s tiles, bring an extra tile to the store and ask. At the very least, you need to know if your tile is porous or non-porous. You can test your tiles by resting a damp sponge on your tile for few seconds. If you notice a dark spot after picking up the sponge, you have porous tiles.
  2. Choose the right sealant. Select the sealant which is made especially for your type of tiles. Most porous tiles need a penetrating sealer which seeps into the tiny spaces which are part of the natural structure of these tiles and fills them in. This stops the tile from absorbing liquids which may spill on them.
  3. Gather the right sealing equipment. There are different techniques for applying tile sealant, but one of the easiest methods is to use a sponge. Make sure to use a fresh sponge free of lint, dust or anything else which may come off during the application process. Choose a small, shallow container which makes it much easier to coat your sponge evenly. Use a pair of gloves to protect your hands.
  4. Prepare the tiles. Use a mild cleanser and a sponge to clean the tiles you want to seal. Wait until the tiles are completely dry before you start sealing them. This can take 24 hours or longer and it is important not to rush since they need to be bone-dry for the sealant to work properly.
  5. Apply the sealant. Be careful to follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations and directions for preparing and applying the sealer. A common technique for applying sealant is using the wipe-on / wipe-off method. Evenly coat a sponge with sealant and then apply liberally to the tile area. Let the sealant dry for at least 20 minutes then rub the excess off with a clean, slightly damp sponge. Continue the process at least four times.
  6. Wait. After applying the last coat, wait for the manufacturer’s suggested drying time until walking on the floor or otherwise using the surface.

Helpful Tips

  • Use a fan to speed up the drying time.
  • Seal the tiles before grouting. This is particularly important if you are using dark grout and light tiles.
  • Maintain your tile floor by reapplying sealant as necessary.

Photo by Diane Uhley

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