How to Grout Tile

by A Manly Guest Contributor on June 12, 2013 · 16 comments

in DIY Home Maintenance, Manly Skills

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ethan Hagan at One Project Closer.

Grouting tile joints is one of the last steps for installing a tile floor, and if done properly, grout gives the floor a cohesive, finished look. To demonstrate the proper way to apply grout, I’ve partnered with Jim and Rich from Diamond Tile located in Baltimore, Maryland. Both of these guys have almost three decades of experience, and today they’re grouting a newly installed, basement floor.

If you’re considering installing tile, check out the One Project Closer project guide for How to Install a Tile Floor. It covers everything from preparing the subfloor, to marking guidelines, to laying and finishing tile.

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Tools & Materials

Rich and Jim recommend Mapei brand products, and for this project they’re using Keracolor S, which is a cementitious grout with a polymer additive. The additive helps the grout dry harder and resist stains. Grout is available in sanded and un-sanded varieties. Sanded grout is appropriate for tile joints 1/8″ to 1/2″ wide. Smaller joints should be grouted with un-sanded grout. You may not find Mapei at your local DIY center. Instead, check with local tile suppliers.

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The other tools and materials the guys are using include:

  • Small trowel
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Two 5-gallon buckets of rinse water
  • Corded drill with mixing paddle
  • Gloves

Step 1: Mix the Grout

Mix up a large bucket of grout, and target a creamy consistency and uniform color. Rich advised that if the grout is too thick, it will be very difficult to spread. If the grout is too thin, it won’t properly adhere to the joint. Rich also recommended avoiding well water because it can cause the grout to effloresce, leaving a white haze after it cures.

Slaking is the process of leaving the grout undisturbed to allow the water to completely penetrate the dry ingredients. After the initial mix, let the grout slake for about five minutes before re-mixing everything.

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Step 2: Spread the Grout

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Start on one side, working across the floor in narrow rows to keep everything in reach.

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Use the grout float to force the grout into the joints, packing them tight to eliminate any voids.

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Hold the float at about a 45° angle as you go across the joints and scrape away excess grout.

Step 3: Sponge the Joints Clean

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Sponging the grout too soon will pull it out of the joints, so let it set for about 15 minutes. After that, use a damp sponge to clean the face of the tiles in a light, circular motion.

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Next, clean the sponge and go over the tile again, wiping at a slight diagonal to the joint. Use a different side of the sponge for each pass. If after a few hours a slight haze appears on the face of the tiles, it can be buffed off with a dry towel or cheesecloth.

Step 4: Continue Spreading and Sponging

Working in these small sections, you’ll complete the entire floor.

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Step 5: Let It Cure

The grout needs about 24 hours before the floor is ready for foot traffic. Jim and Rich usually don’t recommend sealing the grout because modern products often include stain resistance. Plus, any benefit is short-lived. The only exception is high-traffic areas that will be prone to stains (like the kitchen).

Finished

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Ethan Hagan owns and operates a home improvement website called One Project Closer. On One Project Closer you’ll learn how to tackle projects with expert knowledge from professional contractors. OPC also provides coupons to home improvement centers, like this Home Depot Coupon page. Check out OPC for full details, and follow them on Facebook.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin June 12, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I recently re-did a bathroom and instead of grouting for a tiled back splash i used sanded caulk instead. It works great, can color match to your grout and is easy to use because it comes in a caulking gun.

http://www.lowes.com/pd_185276-1295-30910_4294859046

Its a pretty good option for fixing gaps and cracks in grout.

2 scarver June 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

What’s the tile that is being used in these photos…it’s gorgeous.

3 todd June 12, 2013 at 5:10 pm

My problem is that bits of the mortar (that is already dry and hard) underneath the tile is popping through when I grout. I tried regrouting to cover the mortar up but when I sponge it off it pops through again.

4 Chuck June 12, 2013 at 6:42 pm

A good set of knee pad’s are also a must have on a large area!

5 Jimmy June 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I’d rather have a nice vinyl flooring instead of tile.

6 JulioCG June 13, 2013 at 12:48 am

Wow, this really took me back. I started working as a mason when I was 11 in my stepfather’s company, and I still do it now every once in a while for a bit of extra cash. I remember learning all of this as an 11 year old, thinking I’d never be able to lay down and finish tile like my stepdad did. About 60 tile floors later, this is practically second nature.

Great post, Mr.Hagan Thank you.

7 Paul June 13, 2013 at 4:48 am

Make sure to wear the gloves…combined with water, grout absolutely tears up your hands in the sponging stage.

For me it’s second only to installing fiberglass insulation, in terms of odious construction jobs.

8 michael denny June 13, 2013 at 10:56 am

This is only how to do grout tile if you are trying to work yourself to death. You mix the grout slightly thin (as in a little extra water), get a spray bottle full of water that you can hang on your belt and get an industrial size squeegee. Pour the entire bucket of grout out onto the tile and spread it with the squeegee remaining at a 45* degree angle to the grout lines. As the grout begins to dry while spreading, continue to re-wet it with the spray bottle. The technique takes a little practice, but you can grout thousands of square feet of tile in a matter of a couple hours.

9 Colin June 13, 2013 at 5:46 pm

@todd

You must chip away or remove the excess mortar before grouting. A rough chisel/scraper and hammer will do.

10 Ethan@OPC June 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the comments. I’ll try to address some of the questions thus far…

@scarver- it’s a big 20 x 20″ porcelain tile from Marazzi purchased through a local distributor. I highly recommend avoiding the big box for tile b/c the tiles they offer are mixed batches (less consistent color) and often a lot more size variation (tougher to keep straight grout lines).

@todd, just like colin commented, you’ll need to chip away the excess mortar. That’s something to be mindful of when laying tile.

@chuck, I agree about the kneepads. However, Rich (other of the installers) never uses them! I guess he’s buit up a resistance.

@JulioCG, I’m glad you liked the article!

@Paul, I mention that in the article, and grout is so rough on the hands because of the sand and lye. Gloves are especially important for dark grout that can stain your hands, tools, baseboards, etc.

@Michael Denny, Too much water and the grout won’t adhere and will chip out easily. Also, adding water after the initial mix is a bad idea too. It’s right there on the grout instructions. Pouring the entire bucket isn’t necessary because then you’re pushing all the grout rather then just what you need for a small area. You also have to make sure you can reach all the grout with a sponge to clean the face of the tile and smooth the joint.

11 Kirk June 17, 2013 at 10:17 am

Digging the Orioles hat worn in the pictures. Now THAT is manly!

12 Brian June 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Can there be more articles on laying tile? I don’t know jack about it, but I’d really like to. Can anyone recommend a site where I can read more?

13 Ethan@OPC June 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

Hey Brian,

We’ve got you covered.

http://www.oneprojectcloser.com/how-to-install-tile-floor-complete-guide/

This series walks you through everything you’ll need to know about laying tile.

14 Mike July 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

A few pointers,

1. Keep the joints and tile clean as you lay it. I usually make a few cleaning tools to empty the joint out and then clean the joint and top of tile with a sponge and water.

2. Get a large towel, bucket of water with a wringer. Dip the towel in the water, wring out to almost dry and drag across the surface of the tile to remove any dust prior to grouting.

3. Allow for at least the minimum amount of set time prior to wiping the joints. If the joints are too soft you run the risk of “pulling” grout out of the joints.

4. If you are left with a haze, there are several ways to clean it off of the tile without damage to the joints. Do not mix up some sort of strong acid mix, this is a huge home project mistake.

@Ethan@OPC good articles!

15 Mimi February 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Great tips. I taught myself to lay tile 20 years ago and have done numerous jobs in all my, my children and other family and friends. I have found that the most important non-cosmetic error you can make is to lay tile on a non stable surface. You must, must invest in a good sub floor prep. Always use 1/2 inch concrete board if you have room for it. 1/4 is not as strong and will give more, potentiating cracks and popping out of grout. By the way, I am a female and I love your site.

16 Kirk March 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm

we had a tile floor installed about a year ago and the grout between the tiles has sluffed off, it is not cracked, what could cause that.

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