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How to Grout Tile in 6 Simple DIY Steps

You’ll be grouting like a pro in no time.

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By Architectural Digest US | August 10, 2021 | Diy

You’ll be grouting like a pro in no time.

Wondering how to grout tile correctly? It’s a fair question, especially since grouting is a job you have only one chance to get right. Once your tiles are installed in a perfect grid or chevron pattern, it’s time to finish up the job with an application of grout. You can also replace old grout with a new batch if things have started to look a little grimy. While it’s certainly not the most luxurious material you’ll use in a renovation, grout plays a big role in the final look of your tile project. With an array of colors to choose from, grout can be used to add contrast or create a sleek single-shade space.

But before you break out the trowel, you need to be prepared for the task. After all, poorly grouted tile doesn’t just look bad, it is also less stable and more likely to chip or need repairs. So, to make sure you get the DIY job done right the first time, we talked to Dan Chollet, contract and installation lead at Fireclay Tile. Dan has 40 years of experience working with tile and has supervised large installation projects in Silicon Valley and Las Vegas—including the Apple II campus in Cupertino, California. With Dan’s help, we’ve created a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to grout tile. Read on and you’ll be ready to grout like a home improvement pro.

1. Choose your grout.

There are three main types of grout: cement-based (with or without latex), epoxy, and urethane grouts. “All work, and all have their pluses and minuses,” says Dan. Whether you’re working on installing floor tile, a kitchen backsplash, wall tile, or doing any other type of tile job, it’s important to know what your options are.

Cement-Based Grout

The most common variety used in projects is a cement-based grout. Dan notes that these are also the easiest to use. If you have small joints between your tile (an eighth of an inch or less), you’ll use an unsanded grout, while joints larger than an eighth of an inch call for sanded grout.

Epoxy Grout

“Epoxy grouts are expensive, and are usually two-part mixtures with solids and color additives,” Dan says. “They are used mainly for commercial projects, and are much more difficult to install than cement-based grouts, and therefore take more labor.” They can also develop a hard-to-remove haze, and he does not recommend this type for first-time grouters. (He also cautions that some people can also be allergic to epoxies.)

Urethane Grout

“Urethane grouts are also expensive, and are premixed in buckets,” he says. “You open the bucket, remix it up, and use what you need. Close the bucket back up, and it should be good to use later. You need to use a very dry sponge when cleaning a urethane grout off tile during grouting.” Urethane grout also needs seven days to cure before being exposed to water, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of using it in your only shower.

When it comes to choosing the grout color that will work best in your space, there are numerous options. First, decide if you want the grout lines to match or contrast the tiling. Matching or complementary grout will offer a pristine, clean look—we’re picturing a wall of white ceramic tile with light-colored grout in the shower or kitchen for a super sleek vibe. (Note that pure whites will be the hardest to keep clean, so you probably want to opt for a light beige or gray.) Or, if you want to have a little more fun with your tiled space, you can test out a color for your grout: We’ve noticed colored grout appearing in some of the coolest bathroom spaces recently. Whether yellow, blue, or pink, these details bring a bit of vibrancy to your most-used spaces. Head to your local hardware store to browse all the options before making your final decision.

2. Gather your tools and supplies for grouting.

According to Dan, you should have these basic tools on hand before beginning to grout. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies at the ready before you get too deep into your DIY grouting project.

  1. 3 to 4 buckets
  2. Margin trowel
  3. Rubber grout float
  4. Drill and paddle (optional to mix)
  5. Closed-cell sponges
  6. Clean cloths or cheesecloth
  7. Grout sponge
  8. Rubber gloves
  9. Blue painter’s tape
  10. Tarp or paper to mix grout on

Curious why we don’t recommend using a putty knife to apply your grout? The metal blades can scratch your tiles, so even though this toolbox staple may seem like a fine option for your grout install job, it’s best to stick with a proper grout float.

3. Mix the grout.

When it comes to mixing up your grout, you don’t want to wing it. “Read the manufacturer’s instructions on the bag or box, and follow them,” says Dan. Whatever you do, don’t add too much water. The less water you use, the better the grout’s consistency and strength will turn out.

In addition to using as little water as possible, you also want to mix as much as possible. A thorough mixing will help make sure the color stays true throughout the entire grout.

4. Do a practice run.

Before you start to grout your tile, do a practice run. “You should do a small area first to practice on,” he suggests. “It is always a good idea to make a mock-up. Use a board of around 18 by 18 inches with tile installed, which you can then grout to see what it would look like. I would recommend testing your techniques out on that first.”

5. Apply the grout in small sections.

Apply from a quart to a half gallon of grout mixture to your tiles and get to work. Using a grout float, work the grout into the joints at a 45-degree angle. A 45-degree angle is very important, and it refers to the angle at which you hold the float. Make sweeping arcs and work the grout completely into all the joints between the tiles. You can also use your grout float to wipe away excess grout as you go. Work in sections, rather than trying to grout the entire wall or floor of tile at once.

6. Clean tiles thoroughly.

Once the grout sets for a few minutes (see the package for recommended time), wipe down the surface of the tile with a grout sponge. You’ll need to clean again and rub off any grout haze with a cloth, towel, or damp sponge once the grout hardens. In this step, as well, you want to be stingy with water use. “You have to watch out that you do not wash your grout joints out with too much water—make sure the grout has set up a little bit before you begin cleaning it off the tile,” Dan says. “And clean your sponges and buckets of water often, since dirty water does not clean.”

Original article appeared on Architectural Digest | Author Kristi Kellogg, Elizabeth Stamp, and Allie Weiss