Grouting Tile Floors: Porous and Uneven Tiles

Updated: Jan. 17, 2023

Avoid grouting nightmares with natural stone tiles

FH11DJA_GROTIL_01-2Family Handyman
To avoid grout stains, natural stone tiles—especially rough, porous materials like slate—need a generous coating of grout release and special grout application techniques.

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Three-step grout system

Photo 1: Wipe on grout release

Wipe on the grout release with care. Try to keep it out of the grout joints or the grout won’t bond to the tile. Let it dry before grouting.

Photo 2: Squeeze in the grout

Twist the bag like you’re icing a cake to force the grout into each joint. This takes time, so only mix small batches until you get a feel for how much flooring to bite off at once.

Photo 3: Pack the joints

Compress the grout into each joint by dragging the margin trowel over the joint. Then scrape the excess grout away until it’s even with the tile.

You can’t just slather grout over any porous or uneven surfaces such as split-slate tiles or limestone or similar stone tile that has crevices, holes or open cracks. The grout will fill in those areas and even if you’re able to clean them out, you’ll never have enough time to clean everything before the grout sets up.

Here’s an effective three-step system. It takes longer than conventional grouting techniques, but you’ll get perfectly clean tile with far less hassle.

The only special tool you might not have is a grout bag, which masons use for tuckpointing. Find one with the masonry tools at the home center. Also pick up a bottle of “grout release” at a tile store. To start, clean out all the grout lines by vacuuming and scraping out any thinset projecting above the tile. Then wipe the surface with a damp rag until it’s free of dust.

The three photos show how to apply the grout. When you’re finished with one batch, let the grout set until you can’t leave a thumbprint in it. Then begin tooling the joints with a slightly damp sponge to shape and even them out. Keep wiping away any excess grout until the tile looks clean.

After you see a hazy film form, polish the tile with a dry cloth just as you would with conventional tile.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Bucket
  • Knee pads
  • Margin trowel
  • Rags
  • Shop vacuum
You’ll also need a grout bag, rubber gloves and a tiling sponge.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Grout
  • Grout release