Tile and Grout

Mosaic sampleI possible public art project looms on the horizon – we jumped the first two hurdles easily. The next step is to present actual samples of the artwork to the board that will decide on whom to award the job.

Liz and I each created our own 12″ square sample on 5/5″ plywood. I decided to stay a little more monochromatic, Liz opted for a more colorful presentation. We both added 3-dimensional ceramic objects and mirror. The mirror adds movement to a 2-dimensional installation.

We agreed on gray grout, the neutral grout accentuates the broken color, the hallmark of mosaics. Rather than purchase a bag of grout, we tried pre-mixed SimpleGrout® available at Home Depot. While almost ideal for a small project such as this, I doubt that we will use it on a large-scale installation.

With pre-mixed grout, you have consistency of – well consistency – from one container to the next.  As with any grout, as long as you stick to the same lot number, you will have consistency of color, also. For almost any public piece, we stick with standard colors from major manufacturers for the simple fact that if we are called back to do repairs to a project a couple years down the road, we can get an almost exact match.

I really loved the way the grout spread easily, it just flowed between the tesserae without having to be over-worked or pushed into empty spaces.  But it was after this step that it became touchy to work with. Since it contains acrylic polymer rather than water, and also ethylene glycol, which both help to prevent shrinking while drying, and prevents any possibility of expansion (and inhibits staining), the tiles and mirror were left with a plastic haze that could only be cleaned with a lot of elbow grease and damp rags. The cleaning and polishing steps took twice as long as they would have had we used plain-Jane grout. This sort of grout is definitely more suited to bathroom tub and shower tiling bobs where the grout lines are thin and uniform, and the thickness of the tile is the same throughout the job. Cleaning with a dampened float would make that sort of a project a cinch for the home handyman.

Today I cut edge moulding to finish the display panels – little touched like that show that we do pay attention to detail. The panels will be Fed-Exed to the client this week, and then we will cross our fingers.  This will be my first public art project in three years, so a lot rides on the presentation.


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