Do You Need Grout for Backsplash? A Complete Guide

Grout is an important component of any tile installation, including backsplashes. Using grout for your backsplash provides numerous benefits that contribute to a professional-looking, long-lasting finish. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about grouting a backsplash, including critical factors to consider before making a final decision.

What is Grout?

Before diving into specifics on backsplashes, let’s review what grout is and why it’s used with tile.

Grout is a cement-based material used to fill the joints between tiles. It creates a waterproof seal that prevents moisture from seeping underneath the tile and causing damage to the substrate. Grout also binds the tiles together, helping to prevent cracks or loose tiles over time.

There are a few different types of grout available:

  • Sanded grout – Contains fine sand particles and is best for joints 1/8″ or wider. The sand helps prevent shrinkage and cracking. Often used with ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles.
  • Unsanded grout – Smoother finish without sand. Best for narrow grout lines 1/8″ or less. Often used with glass, mosaic, and stone tiles with tight joints.
  • Epoxy grout – Extremely durable 2-part grout that resists stains. Commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Grout caulk – Specialty grout with silicone added for increased flexibility. Helpful for grouting changes in plane, like corners or edges.

When mixed with water, grout forms a thick, paste-like consistency that can be pushed into tile joints with a rubber grout float or squeegee. It cures over 24-48 hours, bonding to the sides of the tile and forming a solid joint.

Choosing the right grout type and proper grouting technique ensures the job will look uniform and last for years to come.

Why Grout a Backsplash?

Many homeowners wonder if grouting a backsplash is absolutely necessary, or if they can simply leave the joints open. Here are some of the top reasons why applying grout is important:

Sealing the Joints

Grout seals the open joints between tiles to prevent moisture from penetrating behind the backsplash. Water can get underneath the tiles when cleaning the backsplash or from splashes and spills. Without grout, this moisture can leak through the open joints and get into the wall cavity, potentially causing mold, mildew, or water stains on the wall.

Proper grouting forms an impervious seal to protect the integrity of the backsplash installation.

Holding Tiles in Place

The cement mixture in grout is adhesive and binds to the sides of the backsplash tiles to hold them together within the grid. Without this bonding agent, tiles could wiggle loose or fall off the wall over time. Grout holds everything securely in place.


On a visual level, grout gives a finished look to the backsplash. The joints between the tiles create a grid pattern that complements the design. Leaving joints open looks unfinished and sloppy. Applying grout makes the installation look complete and professional.


Grout is durable and hardens like concrete. It stands up well to daily wear and tear, like cleaning, scrubbing, utensils scraping against the wall, and potential stains. Grout won’t easily chip, crack or fall out with proper installation. It adds to the longevity and resilience of the backsplash.

Easy Maintenance

Keeping grout in good shape just requires regular cleaning with a pH-neutral cleaner and occasional re-sealing. Neglected or cracked grout can be repaired fairly easily without having to replace all the tiles. Maintenance is much simpler compared to dealing with water damage or tiles detaching from the wall if the joints are left open.

Considerations Before Grouting a Backsplash

While grouting a backsplash is recommended in most circumstances, there are a few factors to take into account first:

Type of Tile

The size of tile and width of your backsplash joints will determine which grout is best. Small mosaic tiles or bricks with thin, 1/8” joints would need unsanded grout. Larger tiles like 6”x6” or 12”x12” with wider grout lines require sanded grout. Mixing them incorrectly could lead to cracking and other grouting problems.

Whether an Impervious Seal is Needed

For low-use backsplashes in a bedroom or laundry room, sealing the tile joints may not be as crucial. But kitchen backsplashes with frequent exposure to water absolutely require grout for its sealing properties.

Personal Preference

Occasionally homeowners opt to forego grout simply because they prefer the look of open joints. This is more common with handmade art tile or metal tile installations. The unfinished look isn’t always right for a kitchen backsplash, but it can work well in the right setting.

Change in Plane Joints

The transition from backsplash to countertop or where the backsplash wraps inside corners will need flexible grout caulk instead of hard grout, which can crack. Specialty caulk is designed for those change of plane joints.

If you take these factors into account and determine that standard grout is the best choice for your backsplash installation, the next step is selecting the right grout.

Choosing the Best Grout for a Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen backsplashes require grout that can resist common stains, hold up to heavy use, and provide long-lasting protection. Here are some smart grout options:

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout is one of the most durable and stain-resistant choices for kitchen backsplashes. It’s a two-part grout that mixes a resin with a hardener before applying. Once cured, it forms a waterproof plastic seal within the joints.

Epoxy grout stands up well to grease, food spills, and aggressive cleaning. It rarely needs re-sealing. The thick consistency can be challenging to work with, but proper installation techniques minimize issues.

Epoxy grout comes in a wide range of colors, including popular choices like white and gray. It’s suitable for all types of tile, from ceramic to glass, porcelain, and natural stone.

Polyblend Grout

For another reliable stained-resistant grout, Polyblend is a leading brand. It’s a polymer-modified grout made with high-grade Portland cement. The acrylic polymer additives increase flexibility, adhesion, and resistance to shrinking and cracking.

Polyblend grout is suitable for floors and walls, including backsplashes. It comes in standard sanded formulations for wider joints and unsanded for smaller tiles. The vast color options let you match the grout to your tile color or choose a contrasting shade.

While not quite as indestructible as epoxy, Polyblend offers other advantages. It’s smoother and easier to work with, less expensive, and requires only water for mixing. For most backsplashes, Polyblend provides sufficient protection and beauty at a lower cost.

Silicone Grout Caulk

For the change of plane joints where the backsplash meets the countertop or inside corners, use a grout caulk instead of regular cement grout that can crack.

Silicone-based grout caulks like GE Silicone Grout Caulk are made for these flexible joints. They apply similarly to grout but offer enhanced elasticity while maintaining a watertight seal. Match the caulk color to your grout for a seamless appearance.

Do’s and Don’ts for Grouting a Backsplash

Once you have the right grout selected, be sure to follow these do’s and don’ts during application:


  • Carefully read manufacturer’s instructions for prep, mixing, drying times, etc.
  • Allow tile adhesive to cure fully (24-48 hours) before grouting
  • Apply grout sealer or enhancer as directed
  • Work in small sections, cleaning as you go along
  • Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread grout
  • Push grout fully into joints leaving no gaps or pinholes
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout
  • Use minimal water when cleaning to avoid washing out joints
  • Allow proper curing times before sealing & normal use


  • Mix too much grout at once or it may harden before using
  • Allow grout to dry on the tile surface
  • Use harsh chemicals to clean grout off tiles
  • Forget to caulk change of plane joints with flexible grout caulk
  • Neglect to seal grout; re-seal epoxy grout every 2-3 years

Proper grouting techniques will ensure your backsplash stays beautiful and protected for many years. Taking your time and following best practices prevents headaches down the road.

Tips for Removing Old or Discolored Grout from a Backsplash

Over time, grout can become discolored, cracked or just look grimy. Refreshing the grout will make the entire backsplash look new again. Here are some recommendations for removing old grout:

  • Use an oscillating multi-tool or rotary tool with a grout removal bit to scrape out old grout. Work slowly to avoid damaging tiles.
  • Apply a grout remover chemical like Polyblend Grout Renew before scraping to soften old grout first.
  • For superficial grime, use a specialized grout brush with stiff bristles to scrub.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach that can ruin surrounding tiles.
  • Wider grout lines may require manual scraping with a carbide grout saw before brushing.
  • Once grout is removed, thoroughly vacuum and wash the backsplash before re-grouting.

Regrouting a backsplash isn’t overly complicated but does require some elbow grease. Taking time to remove all old grout completely will ensure the new application looks uniform. Be patient and use the proper tools to avoid damaging the backsplash tiles.

Grout Maintenance Tips for Backsplashes

Day-to-day maintenance keeps your backsplash grout looking its best:

  • Use a gentle daily cleaner like dish soap & water to wipe the backsplash. Avoid harsh, acidic cleaners.
  • Scrub the grout occasionally with a special grout brush and oxygen bleach cleaner.
  • Re-seal epoxy grout every 2-3 years to renew stain protection; seal other grout annually.
  • Immediately wipe spills like wine or cooking oils to avoid stubborn stains.
  • Fix cracks right away before they worsen. Remove caulk annually and reapply.
  • Consider applying a clear grout sealer initially for extra protection and easier cleaning.
  • Replace discolored or damaged grout completely every 5-10 years.

With regular care and maintenance, your backsplash grout will stay looking fresh and clean for many years before needing a refresh. Be attentive to stains and damage and address any issues promptly.

Grout Color Recommendations for Popular Backsplash Tile Materials

Choosing a grout color that complements the tile is an important finishing touch. Here are suggested grout shades for common backsplash tiles:

  • White subway tile – Use white or very light gray grout to match the tile color. Avoid any yellowish or dark gray tones.
  • Carrara marble – Opt for white or off-white to enhance the veining and patterns.
  • Travertine – Use a beige or tan color in a slightly darker tone than the natural tile color.
  • Glass mosaic – Match the grout to the tile color or go with a boldly contrasting shade.
  • Metal or Mother of Pearl mosaic – A dark gray or black grout highlights the shine and dimension.
  • Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles – White or light gray grout works with most patterns and colors.

Always look at grout swatches against a full tile sample during selection. Natural light shows colors most accurately. Choosing a grout shade that complements without clashing is key.

Top 5 Beginner Mistakes When Grouting a Backsplash

Even experienced tilers can make mistakes during the grouting process. As a beginner, be especially careful to avoid these common pitfalls:

1. Not Allowing Thinset to Fully Cure First

It’s crucial the thinset mortar adhering the tiles to the wall cures completely over 24-48 hours before grouting. Grout on top of unset thinset can cause cracking or weak adhesion. Don’t rush this step.

2. Applying Grout in Direct Sunlight or Heat

Grout begins curing quickly and applying it in hot conditions makes it challenging to work with. Always grout early in the day out of direct sunlight.

3. Not Sealing Grout

All cement-based grout needs sealing to prevent staining and discoloration. Don’t skip this protective step after installation.

4. Forgetting Flexible Caulk at Grout Changes

The junction between backsplash and countertop needs flexible silicone caulk, not hard grout. Use caulk in inside corners too.

5. Cleaning Too Aggressively

Rubbing or scrubbing tiles hard to remove grout residue can damage the tiles. Use light pressure and minimal water instead.

Avoiding these missteps will ensure your backsplash grouting looks professional and lasts for many years. Take it slow and steady.

Grout Tool Recommendations for DIY Backsplash Installs

Grouting a backsplash is an easy DIY project with the right tools. We recommend having on hand:

  • Grout float – A firm rubber float with a sharp, flexible edge for smoothing grout.
  • Grout haze remover – Chemical cleaner formulated to remove cured grout residue.
  • Grout sealing brush – A soft-bristle brush to work sealer evenly into grout lines.
  • Grout sponge – A coarse, low-absorption sponge ideal for wiping up excess grout.
  • Corner grout tool – For working grout into inside corners or narrow joints.
  • Caulking gun – Applies consistent bead of caulk for change of plane joints.
  • Mixing paddle – Thoroughly blends grout powder and water into a smooth, lump-free consistency.
  • Mixing bucket – Lets you mix only needed portions of grout at a time.

Start with high-quality grout, read all label instructions, and take your time. Having the right basic tools on hand makes achieving beautiful results much easier.

Hiring a Professional vs DIY Grouting

While a motivated DIYer can successfully grout a small backsplash, larger jobs or intricate tile may warrant calling in a professional tiler. Reasons to consider hiring out include:

  • Intimidated by mixing and applying epoxy grout
  • Concerned about properly sealing porous natural stone tiles
  • Worried about staining light marble or glass mosaic tiles
  • Dealing with a travertine backsplash pitted surface
  • Wanting guarantee of perfect uniform joints and minimum tile damage
  • Unsure how to remove old grout and re-grout correctly
  • No time or energy for intensive grouting labor
  • Dislike messy, tedious grouting work and cleanup

If any of the above issues give you pause, don’t risk a grouting catastrophe. Hire a reputable professional willing to guarantee their workmanship.

For straightforward jobs, grab some quality grout, watch some tutorial videos, take it slow, and you can likely DIY with success. But knowing limits is wise.

Frequently Asked Questions About Grouting Backsplashes

Q: Can I just use caulk instead of grout on a backsplash?

A: Caulk alone is not a substitute for grout on a full backsplash installation. Grout provides essential sealing, stability, and structure. Use caulk only in designated flexible joints.

Q: How soon can I get the backsplash wet or clean it after grouting?

A: Cement grout takes 24-48 hours to cure initially before cleaning or regular use. Epoxy grout may require 3-4 days curing time before washing or exposure to moisture.

Q: Do I need to seal natural stone backsplash tiles before grouting?

A: Yes, sealing porous tiles beforehand prevents grout from staining the stone. Use a compatible impregnating sealer.

Q: Can I use sanded grout for very narrow backsplash joints?

A: No, sanded grout can crack if applied to joints narrower than 1/8″. Only use unsanded grout for thin grout lines.

Q: Is epoxy or urethane grout better for kitchen backsplashes?

A: Epoxy is preferable for its extreme durability, stain resistance, and lower cost. But urethane is also a quality option.

Q: How do I cut backsplash tiles around outlets or switches?

A: Use a rotary tool with a diamond blade to carefully notch tiles for a custom fit around outlets before installing and grouting.

Grouting a backsplash the right way ensures your beautiful tiles will stay securely adhered to the wall and protected from damage and stains for many years. Take time to clean and seal the grout periodically. With proper maintenance, your backsplash will retain its eye-catching style and function. Happy grouting!


Grout plays a critical role in any tiled backsplash installation. Applying high-quality grout seals the joints between tiles, binds the entire surface