Questions on Mixing Mortars & Grouts
It is no secret that some of the key ingredients to a successful tile install are the right mortar and grouts. For them to work as intended and ensure a successful installation, we need to make sure they are properly mixed. Mortar or grout failure can lead to cracked tile, crumbling grout, failure to adhere, and all sorts of bad scenarios. A little time, attention to detail, and effort goes a long way.
Rule #1: Follow Manufacturer Mixing Instructions
We know. It’s just grout. How hard could it be? You just pour, add some water, shake it a little, and magic! We’re here to tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Do yourself and every one else a favor; take 5 minutes and read the instructions before you open or touch a single thing. Save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars as well as countless labor hours by making sure the thing that literally holds your entire project in place, is properly made.
There are all sorts of little details that could make or break your mixture. Did you use too much or too little water? Were you working outside of the recommended temperature range? Did you store your materials out in the hot sun or extreme cold for too long? Maybe you mixed at too low of a mixing speed? Or you just didn’t mix for long enough?
See where we’re going with this? There’s a chance to cause future failure every single step of the way. But if you follow the manufacturer instructions, then trust us - you’ll be fine.
Not too slow
Mixing speed matters. We are talking in RPM’s here, so being a little familiar with your mixing hardware would be extremely helpful. Mixing at less than 300 RPM has proven to result in incomplete and overall ineffective mixing. However - please be aware that this does not mean using faster speeds is a good thing. Speeds above this setting can also result in trapping air into the mix. Air bubbles become air pockets when the mix hardens and increases risk of failure, cracking, or just failure to adhere if the pockets are too big.
Allowing the right amount of time for mixing your grout or mortar is crucial for optimal results. The mixing portion itself has three stages. The initial mix is where the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and blended together. The next stage is Slaking. Slaking is the process of leaving the grout undisturbed to allow the water to completely penetrate the dry ingredients. Do this for about five minutes before re-mixing everything. Finally, remixing ensures a final mix that has been properly blended with as much air removed from the mix as possible.
Use the Correct Tools
The right tools make the job easier and make sure it’s done right. Mortar and grout often rely on tools used for effective mixing. Commonly used tools are the “beater” and the “spiral mixer”. The beater could be considered the more traditional tool as it has been around for quite some time. Think of it as a giant kitchen mixer - only you’re not mixing cookie dough or cake batter. The spiral mixer is a bit more “exotic” looking with all sorts of styles to help thoroughly mix your grout or mortar while avoiding introducing additional air into the mix.
The box mixer is what you really want to stay away from. It mixes by moving ingredients from the inside to the outside of your bucket, the problem is this results in large amount of air being introduced into your mix. This is the last thing you ever want to do. Adding air into your mix does nothing but cause a weaker product. Also if that doesn’t convince you - it can be very messy. So there’s that.
Keep it Clean
Clean? Yes, it’s a somewhat confusing concept considering the work we are talking about. We want to keep the mess inside the bucket not all over your workspace. There are a variety of solutions that not only help keep your workspace clean but also protect you and everyone else from ingesting or inhaling excess materials or dust that come about from the mixing and install process. Dust containment devices can be added to the rim of the mix bucket and HEPA filter vacuums are ideal for any work environment. Trust us, when you’re finally done - there will be a lot less cleaning to do.
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