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Size limitations / Seams in ceramic countertops E-mail
There are not any size limitations for ceramic countertops, and most people who choose them are limited only by the size of their budget. However, seams in ceramic countertops – specifically the grout in between individual tiles – is one of the material's major trouble spots. Here is your introduction to tile grout, but first, a word on sizing and pricing of ceramic tiles.

Size and price

Individually, ceramic tiles are not expensive. Typical countertop tiles that measure 36 square inches are usually between $3 and $10 apiece, with customized tiles usually costing $15 each. However, a single type of tile for a countertop can result in a drab, lifeless piece, and most people will prefer to have multiple tile types – such as two-square inch mosaic tiles or thicker porcelain tiles – in a single countertop. This can raise the cost of a project dramatically, especially if your project entails intricate mosaic designs and a high level of detail. As the tile dimensions decrease, the number of tiles you will need for your project will increase. In general, mosaic tiles cost about a dollar to $3 apiece.

Porcelain tiles, on the other hand, are usually very expensive, and most people use them as highlights for a countertop. All told, a typical ceramic countertop with a porcelain centerpiece and a mosaic design along the borders will probably cost about $600 to $700. If you want an intricate mosaic covering your entire countertop, or if you want a porcelain-covered counter, you will probably spend $1000.

Seams and grout

It follows that the more tiles you have in your countertop, the more seams you create as well. This is one of ceramic tile's biggest drawbacks. In between each tile is a building material called grout, a mix of sand, cement, and water which fills in the gaps between the tiles. Grout is porous, and if not maintained properly, mildew, mold, and bacteria can infest the tiles, staining them and making them unappealing.

Grout must remain porous, to allow it to expand and contract along with ceramic tiles. Ceramics are valued for their heat resistance. As they take in heat, they expand, and as they release the heat, they contract. Grout is able to absorb the changes in size of ceramic tiles, and acts as a buffer between them. Installing tiles without grout will usually cause the tiles to crack soon after their installation.

Maintenance recommendations

To keep grout stain-free, most contractors will recommend scrubbing them regularly with a solution of warm water and household disinfectant. Rinsing the tiles with cold water will remove any residue and prevent the accumulation of soap scum, another common grout enemy. Scrubbing them with a fine-bristled brush will remove other stain remnants. Contractors also advise staying away from highly abrasive cleaning tools such as steel wool, when cleaning grout. These can wear away at the material, eventually causing it to chip and fall out.
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