Reasonable upcharge for epoxy grout?

SusanCFMarch 20, 2012

We are having four areas tiled: an entry, a mudroom, and the floors and walls of a bathroom. In addition, we're having a very small wall (30 square feet) of glass blocks constructed in the bathroom.

Because ease of cleaning is at the top of my list for tile, I requested that the contractor get an estimate to use epoxy grout instead of standard grout. The subcontractor really dragged his feet, and only provided the "estimate" today, after he had begun spreading the mortar.

His upcharge is $950 for 490 square feet of coverage. Tile sizes and grout seams width varies, but the largest area will be 235 square feet with 12x24 tiles and a 1/16" grout seam. (Most of the grout seams are 1/16".)

Is $2/square foot a reasonable additional charge for doing epoxy grout? It seems ridiculously high to me, even though we live in an expensive area (San Francisco Bay area). I feel like the guy waited until he figured we couldn't say no, but I am considering telling the contractor that the subcontractor needs to reduce this number or we want a different installer.

On the other hand, we could pay the upcharge but reduce the areas in which to use epoxy. I think the bathroom floor and mudroom are the essentials, while the entry, bathroom walls, and glass block wall could probably use regular grout. What do you think?

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glennsfc

Epoxy grout is expensive. It costs more per unit and it costs the installer more time to install and cleanup.

Make sure the subcontractor is deducting the regular grout material cost.

Ease of maintenance will be the ticket with epoxy grout and you will never be regrouting...ever.

What do floor people think who do tile all the time?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:17PM
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Sophie Wheeler

That's an entirely reasonable upcharge, or even a bit low for the amount of square footage being done. Epoxy grout is much more expensive as a material, and it's more expensive for labor as well because it's much harder to deal with.

However, I have to caution you that an installer who is reluctant to work with it wouldn't be my first choice. You don't want to be the job he's getting his on the job experience with.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:22PM
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SusanCF

Thank you both. In fact, the original charges did not include the grout, as far as I know, so the upcharge is entirely for labor. We're buying the grout ourselves.

I am concerned too about the fact that this subcontractor has been so reluctant to use epoxy grout (actually, what we're buying is Spectralock, which I understand has similar properties). We've trusted to our contractor to provide good subs, but I'm not very comfortable about this one. If I had it to do over again I would push harder for a different one.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 1:00AM
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nerdyshopper

When I used epoxy grout in our washroom I bought all the materials. After I paid the tile store $100 each for gallon sized container of grout. Then I discovered it at Lowes hardware locally in quart sized packages for 20 dollars each. The installer did not add any more for using it but it did take him a lot longer to do I think, and he must have kicked himself for not adding a reasonable charge for labor. It took a lot of grout for an area of about 6x10 feet I believe took over a gallon.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:52AM
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glennsfc

Be very careful here...you do need someone with experience with the material...you want to avoid a potential disaster. I will say that $2 per square foot upcharge simply to work with the epoxy grout rather than cementious grout seems excessive on the face of it. An installer has to stick with the grouting task until it is thoroughly done. That means...there is no returning the next day to remove haze or do a final cleanup...it all has to be done continuous from start until finish.

What I am saying here is that the installer will be making an extra $950 labor over and above his normal charge for maybe 8 or 10 straight hours of work. However, if he has to split the areas and work two days instead of one grouting with the stuff, then $950 seems reasonable. When you factor in his normal charge to grout...well that figure's not so good.

You have to decide whether to pay the freight here, but whatever you decide to do...you need an installer who has experience working with Laticrete's Spectralock grout. And make sure you buy enough grout and make sure it is all from the same lot (production run).

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:34PM
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Floortech

A good installer has the spectralock figure as his standard of labor price. I feel he is too high for an up charge..but who knows regarding Frisco rates. If he is reluctant to use Spectra Lock..I wouldnt use him..end of story.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 2:34AM
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Stonetech

Epoxy grout is a pain in the butt to install. Your tile guy will spend about 3 times as long to install properly. His price is NOT out of line.

I might suggest you look into "Urethane Grout," available at Dal Tile. A gallon is under #100 but is ALMOST as good as epoxy and is FAR easier to use. I recommend it in ALL my shower installs.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 5:16PM
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Jon_dear

I recommend epoxy to MY customers. It isn't bad to work with IF you get it as clean as you need to when doing it; as others have stated. If you miss some, it's like cleaning up bubble gum or worse.It doesn't stain, and holds up very well. My 2 cents.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 7:48PM
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weedyacres

I wouldn't spend the extra for using epoxy grout on the walls, just the floors.

Can't speak to the costs, as I've DIY'ed all my floors, but I'm glad we used it in our high-traffic areas.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 10:03PM
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SusanCF

Well, we did pay the extra money to have the Spectalock grout installed by the contractor's usual tiler, and we are not thrilled with all the results.

On the laundry room floor, I'm not sure how it's working out. The grout is gray and we've only lived in the house a week. The room does get very dirty (dogs) and I mop it often, but I can't tell whether the narrow seams are clean or not. Our front entry also has gray grout.

However, in the bathroom it's a different story. The tile and grout are very light and the floor shows dirt very easily and needs frequent mopping. The grout there is NOT rejecting dirt. I've wet-mopped a couple of times, also tried with an ammonia solution, and the grout in traffic areas is significantly discolored compares to the grout in areas where we don't walk.

Needless to say, after all the drama to get this done, I'm really disappointed. I haven't yet had the remaining grout (two wall areas in the bathroom) get dirty enough to need cleaning.

By sheer coincidence, an acquaintance who owns several rentals came by and actually pulled a jeweler's loupe out of her purse to look at the dirty grout. She said that (1) we shouldn't have used sanded epoxy grout (I just bought what was in the store, which was Laticrete Spectralock) and (2) that the grout she looked at is too porous and was probably not mixed right. She said it's very hard to find a tile installer who actually knows how to use epoxy grout.

We have the local Spectralock rep and our contractor coming out to look at the problem next week.

Disappointing.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:24PM
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TileTech

Price is reasonable.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 1:22PM
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weedyacres

It's pretty hard to not mix epoxy grout right. It comes in pre-measured packages that you stir together.

My experience with epoxy grout is not that it doesn't get dirty, but that the dirt can be scrubbed out, and doesn't stain the grout permanently.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 9:36PM
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SusanCF

Weedyacres, thanks for the reply. You know, after neither wet mopping with water nor ammonia solution worked, I tried spraying one area of the darkened bathroom grout with 409 and rubbing it with a cloth, and it still looks dirty. If this is the normal performance of epoxy grout, I just don't see the advantage over regular grout in this floor, and in fact, I am wondering if sealed regular grout would have cleaned up better.

It's very puzzling since epoxy grout seems to have such a good reputation for being easy to keep looking good. This grout was installed by a subcontractor that I believe is considered very professional. I will be interested to see what the Latricrete rep (and the tile installation company owner) say about the situation.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 2:40AM
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weedyacres

It sounds like most of the cleaning you've tried just involves wiping with different formulas. Try bathroom cleaner (like scrubbing bubbles) and a toothbrush, wiping up the residual with a cloth.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 8:40PM
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