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So, your tiles are laid, neat and well!! What next? You might notice that the contractor has left very fine gaps, typically between 1-3 mm. around the tiles. These gaps need to be filled up, through fillers, as explained below.
But before we tell you about fillers and the options available, you might be wondering why a gap was left in the first place? This is to allow for expansion of tiles. All the tiles, after settling, expand a fraction, hence these gaps are meant to allow the scope for this expansion.
Before filling the joints, you must make sure that the joints are free of dust. Next, there are two options for filling the joints: using a grout filler or white cement.
Filling joints using grout filler
The most commonly used filler for tiles is epoxy filler. Epoxy, simply put, is an artificial synthetic compound, with multiple applications in construction and interior work. Epoxy-based fillers, have 3 components: base, hardener and filler.
To use epoxy filler, first the base and hardener are mixed as per a specified proportion. Then the filler is added to this mixture. This paste is then filled into the joints using a tool like trowel and then joins are pressed.
After about 10-15 minutes, the excess filler is wiped off using a sponge.
The tiles should be left to settle down for 24 hours.
Fixing of tiles using white cement
White cement is the older and more conventional method of filling joints. In this a paste of white cement water is made, which is then applied on the tile joints.
Difference between the two approaches
Epoxy-based fillers offer far better quality compared to white-cement based fillers. With white cement, tiles are prone to develop cracks after a period of time. Also, there might be water seepage through the joints, which would result in cracks or damp patches in the underlying walls. Another disadvantage is that white cement tends to “yellow” or stain after a certain period. Epoxy-based fillers, on the other hand, are available, in multiple shades, so you can select a shade to match with your tile design and color. These tend to retain the color even after multiple years.
Epoxy-based fillers tend to be more expensive though.