How to Seal Tile Floor & Is It Necessary?

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Tile can be one of the most beautiful parts of a home. Not only does the tile in kitchens and bathrooms add a beautiful finishing touch it’s also important to the function of your space. Tile is an expensive investment; the last thing you want is for it to become cracked, discolored, or otherwise damaged.

For some types of tile, sealant is a great solution to protect your investment. However, it’s not appropriate in all cases.

What Is Tile Sealant?

Tile sealer is a liquid coat that’s applied to the entire surface of your tile. It provides an invisible layer of protection from natural deterioration as well as normal wear and tear. It also protects your tile floor or wall from stains and can make it easier to clean the tile. 

Applying tile sealant after the installation of new tile can make a big difference in the overall lifespan of your tile. Even old tile can be sealed to get more mileage out of the existing floor. Just be sure to thoroughly clean the tile first and repair any cracks or chips!

Do Tile Floors Need to be Sealed?

Not all tiles are created equal, and not all of them have the same requirements when it comes to sealing. If your tile surface is ceramic or porcelain tile, it likely won’t need to be sealed. This is because ceramic and porcelain tile have a natural barrier that makes an extra layer of sealant unnecessary.

On the other hand, almost all types of natural stone tiles will need to be sealed. Slate marble, granite, and travertine, for example, don’t have the same protective layer and are more prone to wear and tear. In addition, stone is porous and is therefore more likely to absorb spills that can stain the tile. 

Reasons to Seal Tile

Sealing tile is one of the best ways to safeguard it against accidents and aging. Sealant can make your tile last longer and also takes much of the difficulty out of everyday care.

1. Protect Against Stains

When you seal porous tile, it makes it less likely that products that come in contact with the tile will seep into it and stain it. A high-quality sealant will ensure that your tile is protected and will stay looking new.

2. Minimize Wear and Tear

You put your tile through a lot. Sealing tile provides a layer of protection that can act as the first line of defense against wear and tear. Without sealant, tiles are more prone to premature deterioration and decay. Sealant can add years of life to your beautiful tiles.

3. Make Cleaning Easier

Since stone tile is naturally porous, it can be more difficult to clean. A sealant layer makes it much easier to wipe away stains and buildup without having to worry about damaging the tile. 

Reasons Not to Seal Tile

The number one reason not to seal your tiles is if they’re ceramic or porcelain. Some homeowners think that an extra layer of protection can’t hurt, but sealant can actually be a bad thing for ceramic tiles.

1. Sealing Ceramic Tile Can Make the Surface Slippery

Keeping tile safe when wet is an age-old problem. Sealed ceramic floor tile can become extremely slick, creating a hazard for homeowners. Although non-slip sealants are available, they’re not a foolproof solution for ceramic floor tiles.

2. Difficult Maintenance

Because ceramic tiles are non-porous, the sealant doesn’t adhere the same way that it does to stone tiles. Sealant on ceramic tile needs to be touched up and reapplied much more often than sealant on stone tile.

3. Sealant Can Create a Dull Look

Many homeowners think that applying a layer of sealant will enhance their tile’s shine, but the opposite is true. Sealant can actually make ceramic tiles look dull, and no amount of cleaning or polish can bring back the original luster once it’s lost.

Types of Tile Sealant

There are many manufacturers of sealants on the market. However, most sealants fall into two main categories: penetrating sealers and surface sealers.

1. Penetrating Sealer

As the name suggests, penetrating sealers are designed to seep into the tile rather than sit on the top. Penetrating sealers form a barrier just beneath the surface of the tile, providing a deep layer of protection and blending in so as not to alter the appearance of the tile.

2. Surface Sealer

Unlike penetrating sealer, surface sealer is designed to sit on top of the tile, providing a surface barrier. Surface sealer is great for homeowners looking to enhance the look of their tile, as it lends a subtle but unmistakable sheen.

How Do You Apply Sealer to Tile Floor? 

The process of applying tile sealant is just as important as the type of sealant selected. 

Tile sealant is generally applied with a pump sprayer to ensure an even coat. Application is finished with a sponge or porous cloth, allowed to set, then wiped clean.

It can be tempting for homeowners to apply sealant themselves, but sealant is best applied by a professional.

If you’re determined to seal your own tiles, follow these steps:

  1. Be sure you know what type of tile you’re working with.
  2. Choose the right sealant for the material.
  3. Clean the tiles with a gentle cleaner and wait until they’re completely dry before you begin.
  4. Wear protective gloves.
  5. Use a new sponge that’s free of lint or dust.
  6. Follow the instructions on the back of the sealant. (A common technique is the wipe-on/wipe-off method.) 
  7. Evenly coat the sponge with sealant and apply a liberal amount to the tile.
  8. Let it dry for 20+ minutes.
  9. Rub any excess sealant off with a clean, damp sponge. 
  10. Repeat the process four times (or however many times is instructed on the sealant).

Pro tips: Use a fan to speed up drying times and seal your tiles before grouting.

What Is the Best Way to Seal Tile?

The best way to seal tile is by hiring a professional to come in and apply a high-quality sealant that’s suitable for the type of tile you’re working with. Professionals know all the dos and don’ts of applying sealants and will be able to do the job right to make sure that it lasts.

Can You Seal Tile and Grout at the Same Time?

Tile and tile grout are two distinct parts of any tile application; however, most tile and tile grout can be sealed at the same time. While some tiles don’t need to be sealed, grout lines almost always need to be sealed. Grout is naturally porous, and porous grout lines can stain very easily. 

If you’re sealing grout, look for a unique grout sealer that’s designed specifically for this purpose.

Make the Right Sealant Choice for Your Tile

Now you know the basics about tile sealing for your home. Tile sealing is a critical part of protecting your tile and keeping it looking great for as long as possible. Just make sure you consult your local tile professional when you’re considering adding tile sealant.

We’d love to hear about your tile sealing journey. Keep us posted on your project in the comment section below!

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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