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Grout Dust

Like other construction materials, grout is used in conjunction with other surface materials. One of the most common materials grout it used with is tiling. Applying grout adds to the overall look and feel of a design project. However, there are cases where grout dust is generated. In this article we will talk a bit about grout dust, including what it is, how it differs from other similar substances, and why grout dust should be something that tilers are educated about.

What Is Grout?

Grout is a term used to specify the paste that is used to fill crevices, or gaps, between wall or floor tiles. This "paste" can be colored using pigments and the choices of color are numerous. As a result, the grout color has come to be used as a design element in projects using tile. Because grout is such an important part of the tiling and project design, Many grouts are available for use with tile.

Is Grout the Same As Mortar?

The short answer to the question, "Is grout the same as mortar?" is no. They are two different substances. The more descriptive answer to that question is that grout is that mortar has an added ingredient.

Grout is a mixture of water, cement, and sand. It is used for filling gaps between tiles installed as wall or floor tiles. When mixed and applied correctly grout forms a water resistant seal. On the other hand, mortar is a mixture of water, cement, and lime. Mortar is available in the United States in 5 different strengths; each a result of the mix ratios of the sand and the lime. Now that we have covered the difference between grout and mortar, we can move into the real topic of this article, grout dust. We'll start by looking at where the dust comes from.

How Grout Dust Occurs

Now that we have seen how grout is made, it is easier to explain grout dust. The dust from grout is generated when tools are used for working on tile. For example, removing a tile from a surface or cutting a hole in a surface that has been tiled. When the cut is made, the tile and the grout will generate dust. If the tile is ceramic, then cutting it will produce dust that is among our list of harmful construction dust. For more information about dangers of ceramic dust, you can find a subheading on it in the article entitled: Ceramic Tile Dust Hazards. Grout though too produces harmful dust from sanding, cutting, grinding, and breaking.

Why Is Grout Dust Dangerous?

The reason that grout dust can be harmful is the same reason other materials, it contains respirable crystalline silica. As mentioned above, one of the ingredients in grout is sand. Since sand is high in respirable crystalline silica, grout contains the substance too. Thus, when working with grout using a saw, drill, grinder, or even a chisel, dust will be generated as the grout is broken down. If breathed, the grout dust can have detrimental effects.

Effects of Grout Dust

As we have mentioned already, grout dust contains silica in crystalline form. Therefore, if it is breathed, it can have harmful effects. For this reason, OSHA has published extensive information about respirable crystalline silica. But what are the effects of these particles?

Ailments From Grout Dust

Grout dust composed of respirable crystalline silica has the potential to cause health issues if the exposure reaches a certain level. Some of the ailments associated with respirable crystalline silica include:

  • COPD
  • Lung Disease
  • Silicosis
  • Lung Cancer

As with other materials for which OSHA has composed guidelines, the details will vary depending on:

  • The amount of time a worker is exposed.
  • Type of work being performed.
  • Material being worked.

At any rate, it is good to have dust control measures in place to mitigate potentially harmful dust from multiple materials. So, let's mention some ways of dealing with grout dust.

Controlling Grout Dust

One way to prevent workers from inhaling dust is for them to wear PPE. Wearing a dust mask will protect the lungs of the worker, but the dust will still linger in the air and with enough exposure to grout dust over a long enough period of time, the effects can hurt.

Dust extraction is another way to control grout dust when working on tile. The equipment will not be as large and powerful as the dust control systems used by fabricators. But they will work on the same principles; only on a smaller scale.

Finally, wet cutting might be an option depending on the environment and whether the project can withstand the amount of water you will need to use to keep the dust down.

In conclusion, even though it is not the same thing as mortar, some of the ingredients in grout are the same as those used in mortar. As a result, grout dust can be a real danger since it contains respirable crystalline silica. So, if you are working with tools that generate dust and you use them on grout, be sure you take steps to protect anyone in the area from exposure to grout dust. by doing this, you your projects will be safer in the long run.

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