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How to Grout Tile Like a Pro

Grouting tile is a key step in tile installation, whether you're working on walls or floors. In this article we will go over the step-by-step process for how to apply grout to tile.

 

Tools You'll Need

To properly grout tile, you will need the appropriate tools. Gather the following before you begin:

  • Grout
  • Trowel
  • Grout float
  • Grout shaper
  • Sponge
  • Grout sealer
  • Three buckets
  • Clean water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Clean cloth
  • Safety glasses
  • Knee pads (for floor tiling)

 

01
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Choose the Right Grout

Sanded grout is typically used for larger joints, generally wider than 1/8 inch. The sand in the grout keeps it sturdy and prevents cracking when spread into wider joints.

Unsanded grout has a smoother texture that's easy to work into narrower joints of less than 1/8 inch. This consistency also makes it easier to apply and wipe off tiles, which is particularly useful for vertical surfaces like tiled walls where the grout needs to stay in place without sagging.

It is also important to choose a grout color that gives the visual impact you want. There are many factors for how to decide on grout color, including coordinating with the tile color for an understated, seamless look or contrasting with the tile color to make the grout's bold lines their own design element.

02
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Clean the Tile Joints

Before you begin mixing the grout, make sure the surface is completely dry and free of dust, debris. If you are re-grouting, fully remove the old grout. You can vacuum the area and wipe down the tiles with a damp cloth.

03
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Mix the Grout

If you are grouting a large area, start by mixing only a small portion of grout. This will ensure your supply of grout stays moist and usable and does not dry out and become crumbly.

Pour a portion of grout powder into a clean, empty bucket then mix it with the right ratio of water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Mix it slowly by hand using a trowel until it has a smooth, peanut butter-like consistency with no dust or excess water left in the bucket.

Next, allow the grout to slake for the amount of time specified in the manufacturer's directions. When this slake time has passed, mix it again slightly to loosen the grout. Once you have loosened it, you should immediately start applying it to ensure the batch does not dry out.

04
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Apply the Grout

Scoop a portion of grout onto a grout float. Position the grout float at a 45-degree angle and firmly drag the grout along the gaps between the tiles. Move in diagonal strokes to avoid pulling grout out of the joints. Work the grout firmly into the joints, pressing it in to ensure the joints are filled completely.

It's easier to keep the grout workable and achieve a clean finish if you work on one small, manageable area at a time

Methods for How to Grout a Tile Floor or Wall

For floors, begin at the corner farthest from the room's entrance, moving backward toward the entrance so that you are never standing or kneeling on the fresh grout.

For walls, start from the bottom and work your way up.

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05
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Remove Excess Grout

Allow grout to set for the amount of time specified in the manufacturer's directions, usually 15 to 30 minutes, then begin gently wiping off the excess grout with a clean, damp sponge. Rinse the sponge frequently, using one bucket for getting the excess grout off the sponge and the other for re-dampening the sponge. Be sure to replace the water in both buckets frequently to keep it from getting too dirty. As you wipe, be careful not to remove grout from the joints.

After approximately 30 minutes, you can use a grout shaper to trim excess grout from the edges of the tiles. This will give the grout a crisp, professional look.

06
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Curing

Let the grout dry for the time specified by the manufacturer. This will usually be 24 to 48 hours (1 to 2 days), but in some cases may be as long as 72 hours (3 days). For floor tile, do not move furniture back or even walk on the tile during this period. For countertops, do not replace appliances or furnishings during this period.

07
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Polishing and Sealing

Once the grout has started to cure, you may notice a cloudy haze on the tiles. To remove this grout haze, gently polish the tile surfaces with a soft, dry cloth.

After the grout is cured according to manufacturer specifications, apply a grout sealer to protect it from stains and mold and mildew growth. This is especially important for floor tiles, which are subject to more wear and tear as well as bathroom floors, showers and kitchen backsplashes, which may be exposed to excessive moisture. Wait until the sealant has fully dried before exposing the surface to water.

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Tile Grouting FAQs

  • How long do you leave grout before wiping it off?

    You should leave the grout to dry for approximately 15 to 30 minutes before starting to wipe off the excess. This time allows the grout to begin setting in the joints but not so long that the grout on the surface of the tiles becomes hard to remove.

  • What's the best way to keep things neat while grouting?

    To keep things neat while grouting, the best option is to clean as you go. Quickly clean up any spills or splatters with a damp sponge or cloth to keep the grout from setting on unintended surfaces. You can make things even easier for yourself by using painter's tape to cover areas around the tile, such as baseboards, countertops, and fixtures to prevent grout from getting on these surfaces.

  • How do you fill in grout lines to make a smooth surface?

    The best way to make sure your grout lines are sufficiently filled and smooth is to press the grout into the joint using a grout float. You may need to take several passes to ensure the grout is well packed in there. Once the joint is filled, you can create a smooth finish by gently going over the grout lines with a damp sponge in a circular motion.