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Our Best Grouting Tips

Finish your tile job right.

FH08OCT_BETGRO_01-2Family Handyman
Learn to use the right tools and materials for successful grouting on any tile job. A proper grout mix and application technique will give your tile work a great look that will last. Along the way we'll show you how to avoid the pitfalls that lead to grouting disasters.

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Overview

Grouting can be a rewarding task. It’s the last step in a tile job, so you know you’re almost done. And filling the joints with grout brings out the beauty of the tile. But if you’ve ever had grout turn rock hard before getting it off the tile, you know grouting can also be a nightmare. So to help you avoid problems and get the best results with the least effort, we’ve assembled these grouting tips.

Let the grout slake

Let grout set, then remix

Remix the grout after letting it set for 10 or 15 minutes. Add a little water if the grout is too thick.

It’s tempting to skip this step, but it’s important to let the grout set for 10 minutes after mixing. This step, called slaking, allows the water to completely moisten the dry ingredients. Remix the grout after the slaking period and adjust the mixture by adding a little more powder or water until you reach the viscosity of mayonnaise. Be careful, though—it doesn’t take much of either to radically change the consistency.

Don’t spread too much grout at once

Apply grout to the wall

Scoop grout from the bucket with your grout float and apply it to the wall with upward strokes. Don’t worry about getting it into the joints yet.

Temperature and humidity affect how quickly grout starts to harden after you spread it on the wall. And once it does start to harden, you’ll really have to hustle to get it cleaned off the tile and get the joints shaped before the grout turns rock hard. Avoid this problem by grouting small areas at a time. Start by spreading grout onto a 3 x 3-ft. area. Finish grouting, shaping the joints and cleaning each section before proceeding.

Force grout into the joints

Hold grout float at 45-degrees

Fill the joints by pushing the grout at an angle to the joints with a grout float. Start in one corner and work methodically to fill all the joints.

For a long-lasting grout job, make sure all the joints are completely filled with grout. To accomplish this, make several passes over the same area from different directions with the grout float. Hold the float with its face at an angle of about 45 degrees to the tile to force the grout into the joint. When the joints are filled, remove excess grout from the face of the tiles by holding the float at almost 90 degrees to the tile and scraping it off.

Tool the joints

Shape the joints

Pull the rounded corner of the grout float over every joint to shape them.

Shape and compact the grout by dragging a tool across every joint. The tool can be anything from the rounded corner of the grout float to the rounded end of a toothbrush handle. Whatever is handy and has about the right radius to create a slightly concave joint will work. Don’t use metal tools. They can damage the tile or leave marks.

Video: Removing Tile Grout

Simplify ceramic tile grout removal by using a carbide-grit blade in a reciprocating saw or an oscillating tool. Both speed up this tough, tedious chore.

Use a clean, damp sponge to remove grout

Remove excess grout with a sponge

Remove grout from the face of the tile with the corner of a damp sponge. Swipe from bottom to top, using a clean corner of the sponge for each stroke.

Start with a clean bucket of water. Wet your grouting sponge and wring it out until it’s just damp. Then, starting along one side of the grouted area, position the sponge so that the corner of one long side of the sponge is in contact with the wall and drag the sponge in a continuous stroke up the wall. Now rotate the sponge to expose a clean corner and repeat the process alongside the first stroke. When you’ve used all four corners of the sponge, rinse it in clean water, wring it out, and continue the process until you’ve cleaned the entire area once. Clean the tiles two or three more times using the same process until they’re free of grout residue. A thin film of grout may appear when the water evaporates. Buff this off with a soft cloth.

Don’t scrub the grout or use too much water

Don’t use a wet sponge

Don’t use a dripping wet sponge to clean grout from the tile. If water runs down, the sponge is too wet.

Let the grout harden slightly before you clean off the excess. Test the grout by pressing on it with your finger. When it’s hard enough to resist denting, you can start cleaning the excess grout from the face of the tile and shaping the joints. Two common mistakes at this point are using too much water, and scrubbing the tile like you’re washing a wall. Too much water will weaken the tile and cause the grout color to be uneven when it dries. And scrubbing doesn’t remove grout efficiently; it just moves it around.

Remove grout from corners before caulking

Remove grout to make room for caulk

Remove grout from inside corners and along the tub to make room for caulk. Use a utility knife for narrow spaces or an old screwdriver or putty knife for wider joints.

Because it’s flexible and can handle slight movement, caulk is used at corners instead of grout. For a good tile installation, apply a neat bead of matching caulk at vulnerable areas like along the tub or countertop and at inside corners. But to achieve a good-quality caulk joint, you’ll first have to remove the grout from these areas. Most home centers and tile shops will have caulk to match the color of your grout.

Seal porous tile before grouting

Spray sealer on floor tile

Apply a thin coat of sealer to porous stone. Follow the application instructions on the label. Wipe up excess sealer with a cloth to avoid puddles. Then let the sealer dry before you grout.

If you don’t seal porous tile and stone, grout will stick like glue and be nearly impossible to clean off. There are two different products that can make it easier to clean grout from porous stone and tile. If you’re installing a matte finish tile or other tile with a rough or porous surface but don’t want the sheen that a sealer would leave, apply a liquid grout release product. Grout release forms a thin film that prevents grout from sticking but washes off as you clean off the grout.

Use a sealer rather than grout release if you want to enhance the color of stone or leave a “wet” looking finish. You may have to apply another coat of sealer after grouting for maximum protection and to enhance the color of the stone.

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
  • Grout float
  • Utility knife
Sponge
Soft cotton rag

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • Caulk
  • Grout mix
  • Tile sealer or grout release
Tile sealer or grout release is only needed for porous tiles.