As the use of porcelain tiles becomes increasingly popular in the flooring industry, the question of whether or not to seal them has become a topic of frequent discussion. While natural materials such as stone, marble, and timber typically require regular sealing, it is uncertain whether large format tiles Brisbane require the same treatment.
Recent advancements in porcelain tile manufacturing have led to a marked improvement in their quality, durability, and aesthetic appeal. The vast majority of porcelain tiles available today are glazed, meaning they possess a porosity of less than 0.5% and do not necessitate sealing. In fact, only specialised sealers are suitable as most will not be able to penetrate the glaze or be absorbed by the glazed porcelain tile. To fully grasp the answer to this question, a fundamental understanding of the history and composition of porcelain tile is crucial.
What is Porcelain Tile?
Porcelain tile, a product of advanced ceramic technology, was first developed by notable Italian companies. This high-performance material is composed of a pure blend of premium clay, primarily china or porcelain clays, that are high in silica content. This results in tiles that exhibit low water absorption, high chemical resistance, high abrasion resistance, and superior overall hardness.
Porcelain tile has been touted as the benchmark for high-performance flooring materials by its pioneers and marketers. A key technical feature used to market this product is its low water absorption rate, which is typically below 0.5% according to European standards, and in some cases, even less than 0.1%. The Australian Standard (AS 4662) also requires manufacturers to meet water absorption testing standards (AS 4459.3) for ceramic tiles. Two methods for determining this include the boiling method and the vacuum method:
- The method of boiling is utilised to assess the water absorption rate of porcelain tiles. The process involves drying the tiles and then immersing them in boiling water for a duration of 2 hours, followed by cooling to room temperature over a period of 4 hours. The weight of the tiles is measured before and after immersion in water to determine the percentage of water absorption.
- The vacuum method, on the other hand, involves placing the tiles in a chamber from which air is evacuated and then immersing the tiles in water. The weight of the tiles is measured before and after water immersion to calculate the apparent porosity, apparent relative density, and bulk density of the tiles.
It is worth noting that due to the low water absorption rate and the manufacturing process of porcelain tiles, traditionally, they did not require sealing. However, as the industry has evolved, there are now various types of porcelain tiles, particularly polished ones, that do absorb liquids and can benefit from sealing.
What Are The Best Sealers?
To establish if a porcelain tile will gain from a sealant application, a straightforward water test can be conducted. By pouring a small amount of water on the surface, if the tile absorbs water within a few minutes, it is likely to stain and therefore require sealing. It is typically polished porcelain tiles that necessitate sealing, particularly those with honed or satin finishes that are commonly used in areas of heavy foot traffic.
Tile sealers come in two main types: penetrating and topical. Penetrating sealers, also known as impregnating sealers, soak into the surface of the tile and don’t change the appearance of the tile. They are great for porous tiles like natural stone and unglazed tiles. Topical sealers, on the other hand, form a film on the surface of the tile and can change the appearance of the tile. They come in different finishes like glossy, satin, and matte. They are good for tiles that need extra protection and can also increase traction. However, they may not work well on dense porcelain tiles. For those types of tiles, special sealers are available that are formulated to bond with the tile and make maintenance easier.
When To Seal Porcelain Tiles?
For maximum protection, it’s best to seal your tile and grout immediately after installation. Allow the grout enough time to dry, typically 2-3 days, before applying the sealer. The sooner you seal your tile floor, the better chance you have of protecting it from stains, dirt, and damage. This is particularly important if there is ongoing construction in the home or building. It’s recommended to prioritise the sealing of your floors in such cases.
The decision to seal porcelain tiles is now a valid consideration due to the evolving nature of porcelain and its use in the flooring industry. While in the past, porcelain was considered a low-maintenance material and sealing was not necessary, advancements in manufacturing have led to a wide range of porcelain tile types with varying performance characteristics. Some porcelain tiles, such as those with a high water absorption rate, may benefit from sealing. However, the majority of glazed porcelain tiles on the market today have low porosity and do not require sealing. It is important to understand the specific characteristics of the porcelain tile in question to make an informed decision on whether or not to seal it.