Tips for Grouting Tile


Kneepads are a handy accessory when grouting floor tile.
Kneepads are a handy accessory when grouting floor tile.
iStockphoto.com/Chrsitina Richards

­So, you consider yourself a pretty good do-it-yourselfer. You've had some success with home improvement projects and now you're ready for a real test: installing tile. Maybe you're planning to tile the bathroom floor or install a backsplash in the kitchen. Don't worry -- you've come to the right place.

Any grouting project becomes easier if you have all the essential materials and have sufficiently prepped the area before diving in. Here's a checklist of the supplies you'll want to have on hand --but keep in mind that additional items may be needed, depending on your project:

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  • Grout­
  • Bucket
  • Latex or water for mixing
  • Grout sponge
  • Rubber grout float
  • Grout tool, such as an old toothbrush [source: essortment.com]

You need to take care of yourself along with the floor or wall, so have rubber gloves, safety goggles and kneepads handy. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for mixing and using grout.

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Before you purchase anything, think about any special needs that your family has. Do you want to go "green" or use products that won't upset the allergies of someone living in the home, including your pets? You might want to consider what floor tiles are best if someone in your home uses a wheelchair or is unsteady when walking, or what effect climate has on the choices you make. Take some time to explore and customize your options, either at a hardware store or on the Internet.

­Tiling a kitchen backsplash is a smart move and a good investment in your home. Tile is economical and wears better than paint. It's also easier to clean. In this article we'll learn about what ­approach you should take in the kitchen and check out some helpful strategies for laying tile. Let's assume that you've done a stellar job of placing those backsplash tiles and have let the adhesive set at least overnight. You've chosen your sanded or nonsanded grout. Now what? Go to the next section to find out more!

Grouting Kitchen Tile

­You're now ready to grout the tile. First blend the mix (if you've purchased it dry rather than premixed) according to the instructions on the pack­age. Although it needs to be thick, the grout shouldn't be so thick that it's impossible to force it into the joints. Shoot for a consistency between sour cream and peanut butter. You can mix it with water or with a latex compound for greater durability [source: essortment.com].

Use a foam rubber float to scoop the grout. Then run the float, which you should hold at a 45-degree angle, parallel to the tile joints. After the gaps are filled, go over the surface with the float, maintaining the 45-degree angle to the joints. [source: DIYonline.com].

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After the tile has set for 15 to 20 minutes and is firm in the joints, clean the face of the tiles with a damp cloth or sponge. Make sure the sponge or cloth remains clean; rinse it out often. Fill in any holes and make sure the tiles are level. Then smooth the grout to just below the tile level using your finger, a damp sponge or the handle of an old toothbrush. After that, give the grout another 45 minutes to dry. When a haze forms on the tile, polish the surface with the sponge, taking care not to rub the grout out of the joints. If you're having trouble getting the tile clean, allow it to dry a bit longer. Using a clean towel, polish the tiles several hours later [source: DIYonline.com, essortment.com].

Lightly mist the grout over the next three days before applying grout sealer. Misting will prevent the grout from becoming brittle or cracking because it dried too fast. Then apply a grout sealer to protect the grout from water, mildew and stains. After a few years, when the grout ages and becomes harder to clean, simply reapply the sealer.

Grouting Floor Tile

To grout floor tile, grout the tile joints only after the mortar of the new tile floor has set, which will take two to three days. Take away any spacers you've placed and sweep or vacuum the floor as needed. If the manufacturer suggests doing so, use a presealer before you begin grouting. Wearing safety equipment, mix the grout in small batches that you can use it within a half hour. After that, it will be too stiff to use. Dont add water to soften the grout; just toss it.

Begin grouting in a corner and work toward the center. Spread the face of the tile with grout, then use a squeegee or rubber grout float to force it into every joint. Remove extra grout from the tile surface [source: Findanyfloor.com].

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About 15 to 20 minutes after you've applied the grout, it will be dry enough to begin cleaning the floor. Carefully wipe all extra grouting from the tile face, using a sponge and bucket filled with clean water. Remember to refresh the water often [source: Findanyfloor.com].

Do you still have some questions about grout before you begin your project? You might wonder about the difference between epoxy and acrylic grouting. If you're trying to figure out which one will best complete your project, read on for more information.

Epoxy Tile Grouting

All grouts are not created equal. You may have used grouting to caulk a window. That kind of grout is composed of elastomer and is cement-based. It's not what you want for a tile project. What you need is an epoxy grout, which comes in unsanded and sanded types. It's resistant to most stains and chemicals [source: Kolle, Online Tips.org].

Epoxy grouts include a hardener and an epoxy resin. This gives the grouting a strong bond, chemical resistance and better resistance to items that may be dropped on the floor. Because it's expensive, it's generally reserved for industrial and commercial use. It won't work well if you're using tiles that are more than half an inch (1 centimeter) thick, or if your grout joints are a quarter -inch (centimeter) or smaller. However, if you're placing tile in an environment where it will be exposed to grease or acids, or in a heavily trafficked area, epoxy grout is your best choice [source: Online Tips.org].

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Applying epoxy used to be tricky, because it was hard to apply and had to be used within 45 minutes of being mixed. Newer epoxies have detergents added to the hardeners. This means that they're easier to work with and can be quickly cleaned up with water. Epoxy tile grout can cost four times more than cement-based grout. However, those less expensive grout mixes last about a year; two-part liquid epoxy lasts forever in sealed containers if not exposed to extreme temperatures [source: Kolle].

Some epoxy grouts are modified with Portland cement. This gives the epoxy many of the qualities that make cement grouting easier to work. Consider your needs and the strength of bond you will need for your project [source: The Tile Doctor].

All's well and good, you may be thinking, but are epoxy groutings my only option? By no means -- read on to the next section.

Acrylic Tile Grouting

­If you're concerned about adhesion qualities, consider using an acrylic tile grout additive. The silicone additive, which comes premixed with Portland cement grout, aid­s in greater adhesion. Because of its stability in freezes and thaws, it can be used outdoors, making it perfect for deck or garage projects. The additive helps the grout retain color and resisting stains. It's the kind of grout that most fast-food restaurants use on their floors. Some companies specialize in creating acrylic caulks to match tile or paint colors [source: Wm. Smethurst & Son, Inc., Super-Tek, Keilholz].

One of the benefits of using acrylic latex grout is that it can be maneuvered into small spaces. Gaps of less than an eighth of an inch (roughly a half centimeter) are suitable for acrylic grout. It's also the perfect choice for marble tiles, because a sanded grout will scratch them. It's great for repair work, too [source: Lowe's].

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Another advantage of acrylic grout is that you don't have to cover the entire work surface. You can just apply it in the joints between the tiles [source: Keilholz].

In some cases, you can add an acrylic latex mix to your grout. It's a milky liquid that you add to the mix in lieu of water. If your grout is labeled "polymer-modified," however, you can't add the acrylic latex [source: Maki].

Congratulations -- having reviewed the types of grouting and when to use them, you're now ready to shop for tiles and grout! You're about to embark on a project that will satisfy you every time you walk into the room.

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Sources

  • DIYonline.com. "Kitchen Wall Tile." (Accessed 12/14/08)http://www.diyonline.com/servlet/GIB_BaseT/diylib_article.html?session.docid=1159
  • essortment.com. "Diy home interior remodeling projects: installing grout in tile flooring." (Accessed 12/14/08)http://www.essortment.com/home/diyhomeinterio_skro.htm
  • "Installing Tile Floors Do-it-yourself (diy) Guide." (Accessed 12/14/08)http://www.findanyfloor.com/InstallationGuides/TileInstallationGuide.xhtml
  • Keilholz, Steven. "Applying Grout to Install New Flooring in Your Basement." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.expertvillage.com/video/3587_applying-grout.htm
  • Kolle, Jefferson. "All About Grout: Epoxy Grout." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,384695-2,00.html
  • Lowe's. "Repairing Tile Grout." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=howTo&p=Repair/RepairGrout.html
  • Maki, Bruce. "Floor Tile Basics: Applying Grout to Floor Tiles." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/flooring/tile/grout1/sanded.htm
  • Online Tips.org. "Tile Grout Basics." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.onlinetips.org/tile-grout
  • Rex Art. "Glass, Tile and Ceramic." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.rexart.com/glossies.html
  • Super-Tek. "Acrylic Grout Additive." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.super-tek.com/acrylicgrout.htm
  • The Tile Doctor. "Grouting Tile." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.thetiledoctor.com/installations/grouts.cfm
  • Wm. Smethurst & Son, Inc. "Grouts & Caulks- Floor and Wall Tile Grouts and Caulks." (Accessed 12/15/08)http://www.smethursttile.com/groutsandcaulks.html