Grout and Tile Cleaning

Normal grouts are cement based (cementitious). Because of this, they absorb water easily. This unfortunately means that they absorb stain causing liquids easily as well. Sealers greatly reduce this by microscopically filling in the voids where the stain sets.

However...many tile jobs do not get sealer. Either the original tile installers do not seal the grout after installation, or homeowners don't keep up with preventative maintenance.

Even if this is the case, grout can be cleaned with success in many cases. Professional tile cleaning will vastly improve the look of the grout. If grout cleaning doesn't get the grout perfectly even, there are also epoxy grout colorants that can be applied.

Here is an example of a Saltillo floor that was not sealed or professionally cleaned for over 20 years until we came out there and spruced it up.

Parade of Homes

All of us at Custom Expressions were privileged this year to help Mark McCrerey and Matt Link (of McCrerey Fine Homes and Link Built respectively) build a beautiful home for the Summit County parade of homes. All tile materials were provided by McDonald Carpet One.

We spent about a month up in Silverthorne working on this project and it came out beautiful!

The people really liked our work, and voted our master bath as best in Summit County!

We did all of the interior stone and tile in the home.

Check out the link here for a walkthrough of the home:

If you want to skip ahead to the master suite, it is 5:30 into the walkthrough.

Perhaps this could be a source of inspiration for your next home project.

We would be happy to help you through the process start to finish!

Proper Prep is Everything in Tile

A lot of people have negative perceptions about tile. They think that tile cracks, that grout discolors and falls out, that tiles can fall off walls in showers, and that caulking frequently fails. While these observations are certainly true in many homes, they simply shouldn't be.

Preparation (Prep) work is the reason that all of these negative perceptions are common place. Many installers (even on 'high end' finish work) cut corners on the important stages of prep work before the tile is installed. They skip proper underlayment, don't tape seams, use incorrect mortars, don't level properly, and so much more...

Why does this happen? Is it because installers want to make a quick buck? Sometimes it is! Is it because they don't know what the proper technique is? Far more often this is the case.

Generally most construction workers are  trained entirely on the job. They work their way from an apprentice to a 'master' over a period of a couple years. This apprenticeship can  produce great installers, but only if the teacher is a great installer that actually studied the art of tile and the nuances that it deserves. It is deplorable how many projects we come across (to tear out and repair or replace) that just don't have the proper techniques and materials behind the scenes that led to failure and an undesired cost for the homeowner.

I have a favorite analogy about construction training. Around the Christmas holiday, a little girl and her mother were cooking a ham. They preheated the oven, seasoned the meat, mashed the potatoes, seasoned the green beans, and then cut the ends of the ham off before placing it in the pan. The little girl asked her mother why she cut the ends of the ham off. The mother says that she was taught that way by her mother. The question peaks the mother’s curiosity, and so she calls her mother (the grandmother of the little girl). The grandmother repeats the answer given by the mother, and she decides to call the great-grandmother, who is quite old at this point. The great-grandmother laughs in a way that only one holding proprietary knowledge can laugh, and answers this "Oh dear daughter; your dad and I were extremely poor during the Great Depression, and our home was small and so were our kitchen and our oven. We had to cut the ends off of the ham so that it would fit into the oven."

This is the fundamental problem with construction. While  the general population of workers intend to do good work, they lack the proper knowledge. This knowledge does exist, but it is not proactively sought out by most contractors. They simple 'know they are doing it right' because that’s the way their mentor taught them. They get paid, they move on, and lack the incentive to become better.

We don't take this approach at Custom Expressions. The tile world  continually evolves and changes. Doing installations the way we used to do them doesn't always work. There are many technical obstacles and changes we come across with evolving materials, and we have the responsibility to know the right answer, and so we search it out before we have any issue.

This is what gives us the ability to install the proper prep materials correctly. We have put the time and effort into studying and mastering the nuances of prep work. Maybe our clients will never know, but WE know! We believe whole heartedly that tile is a material that should last longer than the rest of your home, or at least your taste.

Proper prep is the foundation that makes that possible. And that starts with knowledge.

Grout: Pros and Cons

Grout has been the weak link in tile installations over the tile industry’s entire lifetime. It historically cracks easier, discolors, and wears faster than the tile it is placed in between. This is only sometimes true today, and is preventable with proper material selection and installation.

Many people think that grout has failed when it is flaking out of the space between the tiles. In most cases, the failure is actually with the substrate and the grout failure is only a symptom. Many installers will skip proper sub-floor reinforcement and underlayment to save short term costs. The movement that occurs because of this will fatigue the grout over time, and appear like a grout problem. If you have grout coming out of the joints in sections, there is a strong possibility that the only lasting repair is total replacement of the tile installation. 

Assuming that the tile substrate and installation were done up to industry standards, then grout should last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance.

There are essentially three types of grout available: cementitious, epoxy, and single component.

Cementitious grouts are cement bases (as the name implies) and are mixed with water at time of installation. They are the type of grout that most people think of when they think of grout (especially dirty looking grout). Although the technology is significantly better today than it has been historically, there are still many limitations.

Here is a list of the qualities of each category of grout on the market today:

Cementitious Grouts:

Most cost efficient initially

Highest lifetime cost

Can dry uneven or blotchy

Porous and accept stains readily

Require maintenance sealing

Minimal flexibility

Prone to installer error

Vary greatly on quality based on price

Epoxy Grouts:

Impervious to water

Stain resistant

Consistent color

High installation cost

Turns yellow in areas exposed to sunlight

Require entire batches for patch work and touchup

Single Component Grouts:

Newest grout technology

Best stain resistance


Lower cost to install than epoxy

Require long dry times before use (in wet areas)

Useable for patches/touchups for up to two years

Consistent from bucket to bucket


Here at Custom Expressions, we use only two main grout products for our tile installations:

Prism + High Quality Grout Sealers (cementitious)

Fusion/Fusion Pro Designer (single component)

We are happy to install other brands when specified or requested, but have had great success with these proven product lines over the years.

If you are interested in learning more about grout, please follow this link, or send us an email and we will happily answer your specific question.

Shower Pans

Shower pans can be made in any shape or size these days. They can be curbed or curb-less.  They can have regular centered drains, or linear drains. They can have curved walls, and be pretty much any design you can imagine. No matter what shape or style, a shower pan is there to catch 100% of the water and put it down the drain. A shower pan done incorrectly can damage your home and be an expensive nightmare to repair. Almost half of the shower pans that we have torn out over the years were failures because of installer error or laziness.

Think about it this way. A standard shower has a flow rate of 2.2gal/min. If a single person takes a 5 minute shower one time per day in a tub sized shower, they are using about 4,000 gallons a year. That is the equivalent of over 2,000 inches of rain in your shower per year. (Boulder historically only has about 25 inches per year). This is a lot of water, so take this part of your bathroom project seriously!

And, no matter which style you decide to go with, make sure the company doing the work knows what they are doing, can explain the system they are using to you, and does a proper 24 hour flood test before they tile over it.