Tile & Basement Finishing: The Weakest Link

Here’s another tip that’s not just for that basement finishing project you’re considering, but for any type of tile project that you may have coming up.

Remember that obnoxious game show, “The Weakest Link?” The name of the show alluded to the colloquial reference that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Put enough pressure on the chain, and the chain will break — always at the weakest link in the chain.

When it comes to tile and the potential for stressful water prevention problems, the weakest link is any corner.

The potential for disaster becomes even worse in a basement finishing scenario. Basements are already cool, dark, and damp; this is Mecca for mold-related issues.

9 Separate Corners In This Basement Bathroom.  How to keep the water out?!?!

And most basements will have a shower with at least one, if not two, corners. The corners where tile from two different walls come together is usually simply grouted. In some cases, the grout may have a thin layer of silicone caulk smeared over the top. Either situation is potentially problematic.

First, grout does not hold up well in corners. It cracks and rapidly deteriorates with the gentle expansion and contraction that a corner experiences. Additionally, a thin layer of silicone over the top of cracking grout won’t last long. Finally, silicone should ideally have a better surface to bind to as it cures so it will last longer.

You’ll want to make sure that your tile is done differently. Do not allow your basement finishing contractor to grout those corners. Or, if you’re planning to do the tile project yourself, make sure YOU don’t grout those corners. Instead, make sure to caulk the corners with an elastomeric caulk that is matched to the color of your grout.

You’ll love this solution to this problem for a number of reasons. First, because the caulk is matched to the color of your grout it makes for a seamless transition from one wall to the next; just as good as grout. Second, because there is no grout underneath it the caulk has a great surface to bind to as it cures, which helps ensure a strong impenetrable corner. Finally, because the caulk is elastomeric it will flex and contract with the subtle movement of the wall without cracking.

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Not only should you or your basement finishing contractor use it in corners, but it should be used to caulk other transitions too. Some examples include tile to tub transitions, tile to sink transitions, tile to hardwood transitions, tile to drywall transitions, etc.

The little links in your tile project and basement finishing chain will go a long way in making your project a huge success.

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