There are a variety of tiles on the market such as stone, ceramic, porcelain, and terracotta. Each has different properties and needs. Porcelain is a favorite because it has a smooth and even texture, as well as being non-porous. However, do you need still need to seal Porcelain tiles?
Yes, I always suggest at least sealing the grout on your tile to protect the subfloor and keep the tiles from detaching from the surface. Porcelain is durable and nonporous, so you can get away with only sealing the grout.
What is Porcelain Tile?
Porcelain tile is made from exceptionally fine clay and fired at high temperatures in a kiln. Following the firing, Porcelain tiles are painted with glaze to give them their color and pattern before being fired a second time. This results in a dense, durable surface that will not stain easily.
Do You Need to Seal Porcelain Tile?
Because Porcelain is so dense, it is more resistant to damage than other types of tiles. You technically can get away with only sealing your grout. However, not only is sealing only the grout more difficult, but there are still many benefits to sealing your Porcelain tiles. Chief among these is protecting the tile pattern, as well as reducing the tile’s slipperiness.
Unlike a clear sealant, the glaze on Porcelain tiles is what gives them their color and beauty. As time goes on, the top layer of any surface is prone to minor scuffs, scratches, and chips. If your tiles are going to be a high traffic area, this is doubly true. When this happens, you do not want the damage to affect the glaze layer, as this will damage the look of the tile and be a pain to fix.
If the tiles were sealed post installation, this incidental damage will only affect the clear coat, leaving the tiles pristine underneath. A clear coat is much easier to fix than the glaze.
Porcelain tiles are smooth, which makes them slippery. While not a problem in places like a backsplash, this can be an earnest consideration in a shower or on a floor. However, sealing Porcelain makes it less slippery without sacrificing the look of the tiles.
Do You Need to Seal Porcelain Tile Grout?
Yes, even if you are not planning to seal the tiles, you must seal the grout on any tiled surface. Grout is very porous, meaning it will absorb any liquid it comes into contact with. Without a sealant, your grout will quickly become stained as well as allowing water into the space under the tiles where they are not protected.
What Can Happen if Your Porcelain Tiles are Not Sealed?
If your Porcelain Tiles are not sealed, you should expect that they will have a much shorter lifespan. Chips in the pattern are the main risk for Porcelain. Because the tile is quite dense, it resists staining and water damage. However, that does not mean Porcelain is immune to these issues, its just less likely.
However, the real disaster is the water damage in the subfloor and grout. Water that seeps through the grout will cause the unsealed underneath of the tile to become unglued from its place over time. It may also cause warping and cracking of the tiles. In extreme causes, the space under the tiles may begin to grow mold or the subfloor can begin to rot.
How Do You Know if Your Porcelain Tiles Are Sealed?
A simple test can be preformed to determine whether your tile surface is sealed. This is known as the beading test.
1. First, fill an eye dropper or syringe with a small amount of water.
2. Next, choose a section of the floor to preform the test. I suggest a section of grout since the glaze on the tile face will react like any other sealant.
3. Slowly drop two to three drops of water onto the surface. Wait to see how the water acts without touching it.
If your tile is sealed, you will notice that the water “beads” like raindrops on a window. If it is not, then the water will flatten out and puddle. You can repeat the test in a different location if you are unsure.
Hiring vs Doing it Yourself
Hiring a professional or trying to DIY a project can be a tricky decision. Is hiring someone to seal your tile worth it, or should you do it yourself? I usually base it on cost, difficulty, and time. Imagine you are getting paid to work the time you would spend doing this project. Would the money you make be worth more than what hiring a professional would cost?
Keep in mind that it will take you more time to complete than the professional. If the answer is yes, then you might consider paying the professional. However, for many people the answer is no. In this case, you can save a lot of money sealing the floor yourself, and its not too difficult of a project.
Now that you have decided to seal your Porcelain tile, here is how to accomplish it with most common products:
1. Remove any old sealant (other than the glaze) from the floor or roughen it so the new seal will bond correctly. This can be done with a floor stripper or sanding. The polish on the tiles may also need to be removed with light sanding. However, be careful that your method will not hurt the glaze. You can test a small section of tile in an inconspicuous place.
2. Clean the floor. Do not be afraid to be fussy, anything you leave on the floor will be stuck there for the next decade under the sealant. Use a high PH cleaner to bleach the grout and remove as much dust and dirt from the floor as you can.
3. Remove all important items. Do not have anything you will be sad to lose around while doing this, everything the sealant touches will be impossible to clean once it is cured. Honestly, plan to toss all your supplies and the clothes you are wearing afterward.
4. Mix the sealant. Most sealants come as a two-part system to keep them shelf stable. Follow product directions to mix parts one and two in correct ratios. It is okay and suggested not to mix everything at once. Your work time once the product is mixed is limited.
5. Pour the sealant into a paint tray and get your rollers. I find that one large roller and a sponge for the edges works best.
6. Work with purpose. Now that the sealant has been mixed, do not dally too much. Most products have a 60-minute pot life, meaning you have 60 minutes of work time before it starts to cure. Any product left after the pot time is over must be thrown away, because it will not work correctly. The pot time will be listed somewhere on the packaging or in the manual for your product.
7. Coat the floor evenly and thoroughly. It is important to use enough product, and not to skimp. If you do, you will see streaking after its’ cured. This is invisible while the product is wet though, so take your time and play it safe. Being in a well-lit area will help you see any spots you have missed.
8. Allow the floor to cure thoroughly before putting any weight on it. This can take between 10 and 30 hours depending on the product, so read the directions to find the correct waiting time in your situation.
How Often Should You Seal Your Porcelain Tiles?
Porcelain tiles should be resealed every ten years. If the area is very high traffic, then it may need to be done more often. You can periodically redo the beading test to see if the sealant is still present, although this will not detect any spot damage such as chips that may have occurred.
What are the Best Sealers for Porcelain Tiles?
Sealants are not all created equal. Many are only designed to bond to specific surfaces, and porcelain is one of the more uncommon ones. You will want to choose a sealant designed for porcelain like one of the following:
This is an excellent product to seal your Porcelain tiles. It comes in one gallon, four gallon, or quart sized bottles. The quart size appears to cover about a ten-by-ten ft. area. Having plenty of product is important for sealant, do not attempt to stretch the amount! This will cause visible streaking and make the seal ineffective at protecting the floor. Rest assured that proper application is worth the time.
The seller of this product has an easily accessible phone number to answer project specific questions and give advice. Do not hesitate to use these numbers when DIYing, as it is in the companies’ best interest for you to get the best possible results with their product.
Each quart of this product covers 250 square feet, making it more efficient than the previous option. It is also a single substance sealant, meaning there is no mixing. You can use this on polished Porcelain without sanding, which may be desirable if you are worried about damaging the tile. However, it is a water-based sealant and will give your tile a different finish than the GlazeGuard.
Rather than creating a coat on top with polymers, this sealant seeps into the tile and grout, effectively making it more dense and less porous. This means it will not provide a shiny finish and will be less preventative against chipping.
This is another water-based sealant, which markets itself as environmentally safe and nontoxic. Each quart of the product covers up to 750 square feet, making it the most efficient by far. This product still contains anti-stain properties, but most of its marketed benefit is anti-slip.
Because it is designed to seep into the material rather than bonding to the surface, it can be used easily on polished porcelain. This sealant is perfect for showers or sports courts where you want a nonslip matte surface.
Porcelain Tile Sealing FAQs
Do I Need to Seal Porcelain Tile in Shower?
Absolutely! Because a shower is constantly getting wet, water damage is a very real issue. Sealing the tile will protect the shower from water damage. Porcelain also tends to be quite slippery, so sealing it may also make it safer.
Do Outdoor Porcelain Tiles Need Sealing?
Yes, outdoor tiles need to be sealed because they are exposed to the elements. You will want to choose a sealant that handles UV well to prevent yellowing or fading.
How Can You Remove Sealer from Porcelain Tile?
You can do a variety of things to remove sealant from a floor. Some examples are micro-etching, sanding, or using a floor stripper.
Do you Need to Seal Polished Porcelain Tiles?
I would still advise sealing Polished Porcelain tiles, although they will need to be lightly sanded before hand so that the sealant bonds to the surface.
So, you do not have to seal porcelain, but you do need to seal the grout around the porcelain. If you are already sealing the grout, why not seal the tile and get the additional benefits of reduced slipperiness, and increased resistance to stains and chipping? Sealing should be done on your Porcelain surfaces every ten years, and it is not too difficult to DIY if that is your preference.
You may be wondering about ceramic tiles, don’t worry we have guide here for that too: Do You Need to Seal Ceramic Tile?
There are many great sealants on the market ranging from high gloss heavy duty protective coats to environmentally friendly almost invisible sealants. If you follow the manufacturer directions your floor will be sealed and safe.