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Most landscaping contractors have their all-time-favourite grouting products, using them time and time again for ease and a consistently professional finish. We spoke to expert paver, Mark Talbot from MPave Ltd, to ask about his preferred grouting material – Flowpoint – and his essential landscaping tips for using this popular grout.
Mark is no stranger to paving. He’s spent over three decades in the trade working on a whole range of gigs, from smaller domestic jobs to large commercial projects.
“I started block paving as a labourer some 30 years ago with a friend who then worked for Tecniblock Ltd in Derby,” shares Mark, Director of MPave which is based in Nuneaton in Warwickshire. “I then went on to run my own gang and jobs.”
He also continued to develop his professional training. “I’ve gone through much training and gained accreditations through the ages! These include CSCS, CPCS, SMTSS, and more recently an NVQ in operations and management.”
Mark shares more about his landscaping experience: “Alongside small domestic jobs, I’ve managed large commercial paving projects of 20,000m2 plus.
“I used to lay mainly flexible paving until around 15 years ago when I moved towards honing my skills in wet lay. For example, in steps and wet-lay paving using various products including bonding primers and grouts.”
Today, Mark tells us he has the ‘honour and privilege’ of working with his son. “I tried to encourage him to become an electrician, but he came into paving instead! But, to be honest, it has suited him very well and he’s learning quickly.
“He is already a great asset to the company,” he adds. “And who knows, if he decides he wants the added pressure, sleepless nights and loss of hair, he may even become director one day!”
“Over the years we have used many different bonding agents, from the early days of PVA and cement to Ronafix. And then onto primers such as Pro-Prime.
“In terms of grouts, we used to use mortar and lime for injection mortar pointing, or otherwise brush-in grouts and flow-pointing grouts.
“We’ve tried many different products over the last few decades and have come to respect Ultrascape’s Pro-Prime and Flowpoint,” shares Mark.
“When installed correctly, in our opinion, there is nothing else on the market that can match the strength and longevity of these two products.”
Mark shares his landscaping tips on using Flowpoint for a consistent and professional finish every time.
Note: see our frequently asked questions if you’re looking for more basic tips on how to use Flowpoint.
Mark can’t emphasise enough that the surfaces must be damp when applying Flowpoint.
“My biggest tip is to make sure all surfaces remain damp throughout the process, but with no visibly pooled water. Never allow the grout to dry if you are still applying.
“Before grouting, it is also vital that all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned.”
Mark’s second tip is to know your products, i.e. the types of stone or slab you are using – whether manmade or natural.
“Where grouting is concerned, it is important to know the product you are using,” he shares.
“For example, if you are laying a soft stone, this will cure the grout faster than let’s say granite.”
Excuse the misquote of Kung Fu’s Master Po! Mark explains that patience is key when grouting with Flowpint.
“All too often, people get into a mess by mixing too much,” he says. “Take your time. Mix one bag at a time – or two if the area is large enough. Then finish that area before starting another.
“Too many people go too quick before going back to the start to find the grout has set. Then the fun begins!”
He adds, “Always make sure you have a constant supply of water and everything is in place before you start.”
Mark uses UltraScape’s Pro-Prime to prime slabs to the bed.
He offers some extra advice for when using Pro-Prime: “If you splash any Pro-Prime (or any other primer for that matter) onto the product when laying, sponge it off straight away with a soaked sponge. If it cures on the slabs or stones, it will be a bugger to get off!”
When it comes to recessed drainage covers, he offers some key advice so the slurry grout does not enter the drain.
“Seal around any recessed covers with silicon the day before you grout. Then, straight after grouting, remove the silicon, free the lid and check for drainage.”
Mark advises, “When grouting along ACO channels, put a load of hessian or geotextile down the sump first before taping over the ACOs if possible.
“This allows for easy grouting with minimal grout entering the ACOs again.
“Grout in stages, but leave the ACO running until the end. Then, remove the tape, turn the pressure washer off and remove the geotextile. Make sure the drain is free running.”
Flowpoint can take as little as 15 minutes to cure at 20°C, so Mark advises to “only grout small areas during warmer weather.” However, Flowpoint must never be applied if the temperature is over 30°C.
“It’s not essential,” he says, “but we always have a pressure washer rigged-up on standby in case the grout turns too quickly. Especially in hot conditions, you may need to remove the excess more quickly.”
The minimum temperature for applying Flowpoint is officially 5°C and rising. But many landscaping contractors report being able to still effectively work with Flowpoint at 2°C and rising. See our article on cold-weather grouting tips for more info.
Some landscapers are concerned about what to do if the grout sets too quickly. But Mark offers some words of wisdom.
“Remember, it’s not a problem if the grout turns too quick on you. Just pressure washer it off ‘el rapido’, even if it rips out of the joints.
“Put it this way, you can always re-grout. But it becomes expensive if the grout is left to dry on the product. In our experience, the only removal remedy that works with hardstone such as granite is sandblasting… Ouch!”
Although Flowpoint is simple to use, Mark advises seeking some extra advice if you’re completely new to this grout.
“Flowpoint is a simple grout to use, but if you’re a complete novice we suggest gaining advice first.
“You can often get advice from installers such as ourselves, and quality suppliers and distributors such as the family-led The Paving Experts are always willing to help. The manufacturer, Instarmac, is also very informative and helpful, and even has a training academy.”
If your company or gang is not yet familiar with Flowpoint, it is a cementitious wet slurry grout that is commonly requested by architects, specifiers, landscapers and streetworks engineers on large commercial projects.
Exceeding the requirements of the British Standard BS 7533, Flowpoint can be applied quickly, sets rapidly and offers robust jointing and cost efficiency. In fact, it is the leading product in its field with a solid reputation as it is manufactured to last up to 40 years.
Flowpoint is ideal for both domestic and commercial paving jobs and can be used with most types of stones and slabs – both manmade and natural.
Let’s take a look at the different grades of this recommended flowable grout. Each grade is available in either Natural Grey or Charcoal.
Flowpoint is renowned for its easy to mix, pour and apply consistency – quickly mix on-site with water and apply. It’s economical to use and the product of choice for many large-scale projects.
As with all grades of Flowpoint, it sets after 15 minutes, can be washed off after 30 minutes and the area can be open to foot traffic after one hour and vehicles after four hours (if the temp is 20°C).
Ideal for narrow joints and porcelain. Flowpoint Smooth contains finer grains than the standard formula allowing a seamless surface even with narrower joints.
This formula is ideally suited for smooth paving slabs and stones, and especially when grouting porcelain joints as thin as 3mm wide.
For a more environmentally sound formula, Flowpoint ECO is the one to go for.
Containing 20% recycled materials, the ECO grade is ideal for those projects where sustainability is a primary focus but without sacrificing on quality.
There’s now a new formula on the block: Flowpoint Fine.
Although Flowpoint Smooth provides a great grouting solution for narrow joints, Flowpoint Fine is a fine-grade grout with no visible aggregate. As another external grout, it offers a super-smooth, indoor-style finish that looks more like a traditional bathroom or kitchen grout.
Mark says, “We have yet to use Flowpoint Fine, but we’ll be trying it out soon. With some products for the garden it should give a nicer, aesthetic joint, and – I suspect – a fuller joint.”
The new fine formula has all the same features and benefits of Flowpoint but fills joints from 2–50mm and comes in a 20kg, contractor-friendly bucket (other grades of Flowpoint are available in 25kg bags).
“We have tended to use Smooth up until now as this brings fuller joints on the likes of porcelain. So we look forward to seeing what the Fine grade achieves.”
Finally, we asked Mark about his trickiest paving challenge in all his years of experience and how he overcame it.
“Getting up for work everyday is my trickiest so far,” he jokes. “I solved it with an alarm clock and my better half kicking me out of bed!
“Seriously though, my philosophy is that every problem has a solution and as long as you always remain open to learning and never believe you know it all, you will find it.
“As far as projects go, every project requires working at it so it can get to the final outcome. As long as you plan and communicate, you will always achieve the job.”
He adds, “But a lot depends on the people ahead of you, i.e. the groundworkers and site management. In my opinion, it is my ability to read people well and communicate to get the best out of everyone I deal with that helps me get to the end result of a quality installation, on time and on budget.”
If you’d like to see whether Flowpoint is right for your next landscaping project or further tips on how to use this popular cementitious grout, get in touch with our team of paving experts on 0845 862 1099 (Mon–Fri, 8.30am–5.30pm).
We’re more than happy to talk you through all the finer details about Flowpoint grout including the recommended bedding mortars and primers to use for a long-lasting and professional finish.
At The Paving Experts we offer some of the best deals online for landscaping supplies including all grades of Flowpoint plus the new Flowpoint Fine. We have special trade rates for larger orders too. Next day delivery is available. Our delivery prices are fully transparent and shipping can be arranged throughout mainland UK.
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