How to Grout Tile like a Professional

by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

After that bright, shiny tile is laid and carefully anchored in thin set, you can be proud of the progress you have made on your bath flooring renewal project. To obtain the professional finish you want the tile must be grouted. This guide will show you to grout like a professional.

What is grout?

Remember the colored cement the guy at the tile center said you would need? Grout helps hold tiles rigidly in place and is a simple method of sealing joints. Grouting that is well done makes the floor easier to maintain in a sanitary condition. Grouting also offers a one-time opportunity to accent the color of that beautiful ceramic tile.

Maybe you purchased pre-mixed grout that comes in a pail.  Either dry or pre-mixed is fine. If applied properly, grout will resist wear, cracking, and separation from the tile. A good grout application can last as long as the tile does; if mixed improperly, it may soon fail.

Tip: Chemical additives control the set rate of grout. Adding too much water can affect the hardness, durability and final quality of the grout .

Regardless of product chosen, for a beautiful finish, a successful grouting job is essential. Follow these tips and grout tile like a professional.

Choose the right grout for the job: Sanded or unsanded?

In general, you should choose grout that contains sand (called sanded grout) for tile installations with normal spacing which may range from 1/8″ to 3/8″. Leave smooth, unsanded grout for wall tile and narrow 1/16″ tile spacing applications where fine grout lines will be much easier to fill with a smooth, creamy grout.

Premixed or Dry Powder “mix it yourself”?

SOME GROUT products like Tec® Accucolor™ Easy Grout are premixed for quick application, and offer special features like “Stain Blocking Technology” which eliminates sealing the grout after curing. Premixed grouts tend to be a bit more expensive. For a very small bathroom job, premixed grout is  fine. For larger jobs, consider mixing it yourself. Remember, the key to good grouting is to use quality grout products.

“Remember the old adage, “Make a mess and you’ll have to clean it up”?

Clean out and prepare the tile spaces before you begin mixing grout. Remove all spacers, and with a suitable tool, (an old screwdriver or a paint scraper will do ) scrape out lumps of hardened thin set, and ensure the edges of the tiles are clean. Be careful not to pry sideways which can chip or dislodge the tiles. Use a broom and vacuum to clean the floor and spaces of all grit and lumps.

Mixing Grout

If you already have tile installed firmly on the floor, you probably read “How to Mix Thin Set Mortar“. Many of the same issues are involved . Like thin set, grout has to be mixed “just right” to work properly. Remember to read the instructions for the specific product you are using. You’ll need a plastic bucket and a mixing spatula. For bigger batches, use an electric drill and paddle.

Mix grout a little dry to start with, adding a bit of water at a time until it is the consistency of smooth pudding. With grout, if it’s  soupy, the grout line can subside, requiring additional filling. It can also result in shrinkage and poor quality joints. When lump-free and the consistency is just about right, be extra careful; at that stage it is easy to add too much water. Mix only as much grout as you can easily apply in about 20 minutes.

Tip: If your grout batch is left too stiff and dry it will not pack easily into the tile spaces, leaving gaps, lumps, and difficult-to-correct errors . If you mix too much grout, or get dragged off to coffee before the job is complete, your pail of grout can set before you use it . Remember that as a cement, grout has a specific “open time”, after which it is no longer usable. Open time can be extended with the judicious addition of a bit of water, but overdoing it is not recommended. Why?  Too much water affects the quality of the grout.

Applying Grout: it’s all in the swipe.

Apply the grout generously along the grout line. Hold your float or trowel at 45 degrees to apply, and with the side of the tool, swipe the grout into the spaces, filling them completely. Work diagonally across the cracks to ensure the space is packed and completely filled, leaving no gaps or holes. Clean up excess grout as you go. Tip: Work small sections at a time, and for less cleanup, avoid pouring grout onto the tile surface unless the tiles are mosaics or small-format tile. Remember the old adage, “make a mess and you’ll have to clean it up.”

Take extra care with highly-colored grout

Highly-colored grout such as dark reds or blacks can be difficult to clean up and may stain porous tile or marble. Use this special technique to minimize cleanup. With practice, a careful application of highly-colored grout using a pair of trowels in unison can be achieved neatly.

Using one trowel, swipe a suitable amount of grout along the edge of a second float. Place the loaded edge of the trowel on the tile parallel to and adjacent to the space.

Push suitable amounts of grout sideways directly into the space using the second tool.  Ensure proper gap- filling as you go. Remove all extra grout immediately by raking back across the space diagonally, loading the excess of grout right back onto the trowel. Using that technique can result in a cleaner job, substantially reducing tile staining, ultimately saving time and effort .

Which grout line “look” do you wish to achieve?

The final look is your choice. Grout lines on most  bathroom floors are typically left level with the tile surface to create an easy-clean surface. Dragging your float or trowel across the wet grout spaces diagonally while holding the tool close to 90 degrees vertically will remove excess grout, leaving the grout lines level. Watch carefully for gaps or holes. Finish with a sponge, ensuring no bubbles or marks are left in the grout line.

Tip: A gentle circular motion across the grout line using a dampened fine sponge will smooth the surface and ensure the grout will remain in the space. Dragging the sponge along the direction of the filled space may result in grout being dragged out, particularly if the sponge used is  too coarse, or the grout is too wet.

Alternatively you can profile grout lines to just below the tile surface if a relief or “raised tile look” is desired. A lowered grout line can be achieved using a simple grout tool.

For special profile effects, watch the “wet” surface of the level grout line. While the surface of the grout remains “wet” looking, the profile can be altered. With wider grout spacing in some applications, for the high-relief look, “ rake” the grout line to a curved finish, using a suitable curved raking tool. Complete all joints identically, raking them just as the grout begins to become “drier-looking” for the best outcome. Ensure no holes or air bubbles are left visible on the surface.

Tip: Avoid grouting expansion joint spaces along walls or spaces adjacent to fixtures that may require filling with flexible caulking compound.

Clean the Tiles
After 15 to 30 minutes, (read the instructions for the product you use ) the surface of the tiles can be cleaned . Use fine sponges and clean water, blotting and carefully removing smeared material from the tile surface without disturbing the grout lines.

To obtain the best results and avoid “grout haze” you will need clean water for the final wipe-down, so wring out the sponge often, and carefully “blot” water and remaining residue. With careful cleaning, there will be little grout haze remaining.

Allow the grout 24 hrs. to set hard, and then do another floor cleanup. The grout you have installed may also require the application of a grout sealant after 24 hours. Now you know how to grout tile like a professional. Easy, wasn’t it?

Comments Off on How to Grout Tile like a Professional