Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protection to your kitchen or bathroom walls. An important step when installing a backsplash is properly applying grout between the tiles. Learning how to apply backsplash grout correctly ensures your backsplash looks uniform and lasts for years to come.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about how to apply backsplash grout. We will cover grout types, tools needed, surface preparation, application techniques, curing and sealing, grout maintenance, and troubleshooting common grouting issues. With the right materials, proper techniques, and a little practice, you can achieve flawless grout lines and a stunning backsplash.
Choosing Grout Type
The first step in learning how to apply backsplash grout is selecting the right grout for your tile and application. There are various grout types available, each with their own characteristics and uses.
Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout
The most common grout types are sanded and unsanded:
- Sanded grout contains fine sand particles and is best for grout joints 1/8 inch and wider. The sand helps fill gaps and prevent cracking. Sanded grout is more durable for floors and high-traffic areas.
- Unsanded grout has a smooth, fine consistency without sand. It’s ideal for narrow grout lines less than 1/8 inch. Unsanded grout works well for wall tiles with tight joints like backsplashes.
For most backsplashes, unsanded grout is the best choice. The narrow joints don’t require the added sand. Check your tile spacing to determine if sanded or unsanded grout is appropriate.
Grout comes in a wide array of colors from bright white to earth tones and dark shades. Select a grout color that complements or matches your tile. Keep in mind that dark grout will show less dirt over time compared to white grout. Contrasting grout can also be used to make the tile pattern pop.
Epoxy grout is an extremely durable alternative made from epoxy resins. It has excellent adhesion, is stain and chemical resistant, and requires less sealing than cement grouts. Epoxy grout is a good option for countertops and floors, but the application is more tedious. For backsplashes, standard cement grout is often the better choice.
Some grout types can be mixed with additives like latex or polymers to increase flexibility, adhesion, and strength. This helps reduce cracking and make the grout more water resistant. Ask at your local tile store for recommendations on compatible grout additives based on your project.
Once you’ve selected the ideal grout for your backsplash and tiles, it’s time to gather supplies and prepare for application.
Tools and Materials Needed
Applying grout requires having the right tools and materials on hand. Here’s what you’ll need for grouting a backsplash:
Grout and Grout Float
- Grout of your chosen type and color
- Grout float for applying and working the grout into joints
Mixing Bucket and Stir Stick
- Mixing bucket for preparing grout
- Stir stick for mixing grout to a smooth consistency
- Grout sealer to protect finished grout lines
Sponges and Rags
- Damp sponges for wiping off excess grout
- Old rags and towels for cleaning
- Painter’s tape for protecting edges
- Tarp or drop cloth to cover floors/counter
- Rubber gloves and eye protection
- Grout cleaning solutions
- Grout haze remover
- Bucket of water
- Knee pads (optional)
Preparing the Surface
Proper preparation of the backsplash area is crucial before applying grout.
Thoroughly clean the backsplash tiles to remove any dirt, grease, or dust. Use a household tile cleaner or mix together:
- 1⁄4 cup vinegar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dish soap
- 1 cup warm water
Use a sponge or soft cloth to wash the tiles. Rinse thoroughly and let dry completely.
Cover any countertops, floors, or adjacent surfaces with a tarp or plastic sheeting. Apply painter’s tape along the edges to prevent grout from contacting other areas. Make sure outlets are covered.
Pre-seal Porous Tiles
Check if your tiles are porous. Unglazed ceramic, natural stone, and some porcelain tiles need to be pre-sealed so the grout won’t cause staining. Use a tile sealer and follow the product directions.
Once prepped, it’s time to mix and apply the grout.
Mixing the Grout
Mixing the grout to the right consistency is key for proper application.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for ratios, but here are some general tips:
- Pour grout powder into a bucket.
- Add clean water a little at a time, mixing with a stir stick.
- Avoid too much water as this can weaken grout and cause cracking.
- Stop adding water when mixture reaches a smooth, thick peanut butter consistency.
Allow the grout to slake, or rest, for 5-10 minutes. Then stir again before use. This allows the grout to fully absorb the water.
Pro tip: Only mix enough grout that can be applied within 30 minutes to 1 hour before it begins drying out. Discard any unused mixed grout.
Applying the Grout
Once mixed it’s time to start grouting. Use these techniques for smooth, even grout lines:
Work in Small Areas
Grout a section of 3-4 square feet at a time so the grout stays workable and doesn’t dry too quickly.
Spread Grout Over Tiles
Using your grout float, apply grout diagonally over the tiles, completely filling joints. Hold the float at a 45° angle and use firm pressure.
Work Grout into Joints
After spreading, hold the float nearly parallel and work it in a circular motion to press grout firmly into tile gaps. Remove any excess on the tile surface.
Clean Grout with Sponge
Using a damp sponge, gently wipe diagonally across tiles to clean off excess grout. Rinse sponge frequently.
Once haze is removed, do a final rinse with a lightly damp sponge to clean film. Wipe tiles gently to prevent pulling out grout.
Follow these techniques as you grout small sections. Keep the tile surface moist while working to prevent premature drying. Thoroughly rinse sponges to avoid haze.
Curing and Initial Cleaning
Freshly applied grout requires proper curing and initial cleaning:
Let Grout Dry
Allow grout to dry for 24-48 hours. Drying times vary based on climate, thickness of joints, and tile porosity.
Do NOT Wet/Wash Tiles
Avoid wiping or rinsing tiles for at least 24 hours. This can pull grout out of joints or cause color variations.
Initial Grout Haze Removal
Once dry, use a grout haze remover to gently clean any remaining haze or film per product directions.
Curing continues for 28 days as grout continues to gain strength. Avoid heavy cleaning during this time.
Sealing the Grout
Sealing grout is strongly recommended as the final step, especially for cement grouts. Sealing makes grout stain-resistant and easier to clean.
Wait at least 72 hours after grouting before sealing so grout has proper cure time.
Apply Grout Sealer
Apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s directions. Two coats are ideal for maximum protection.
Seal Grout Annually
Reapply grout sealer every 9-12 months for continued protection and easier maintenance.
Once installed and sealed, follow these tips for keeping your backsplash grout looking its best:
- Use pH-neutral daily cleaners to help prevent soils and stains
- Minimize use of harsh chemicals or acidic cleaners on grout
- Re-seal grout yearly to maintain protective barrier
- Clean spills quickly to prevent stains
- Check for any cracked or damaged grout and repair promptly
Proper maintenance will extend the life and appearance of your grout. Be sure to use the gentlest cleaners possible.
Troubleshooting Grout Issues
Even when applying grout carefully, some common problems can occur:
If cracks appear in cured grout, rake out damaged areas and re-grout. Consider adding latex additive to improve flexibility.
Persistent haze may require using a grout haze remover product. Agitate with a nylon brush but avoid abrasives.
White, powdery deposits indicate efflorescence or mineral salt buildup. Use an efflorescence cleaner and increase ventilation.
For stained grout, try an oxygen bleach cleaner or baking soda paste. Re-seal if needed.
Grout Application FAQs
How soon can I walk on freshly grouted floors?
Wait at least 24 hours before light foot traffic. Allow 3 days minimum before furniture or heavy use.
Should sanded or unsanded grout be used for 1/8” joints?
Either sanded or unsanded grout will work for 1/8” joints. Avoid sanded grout for joints under 1/8″ which are too narrow.
How do I apply grout on vertical surfaces?
On walls, apply grout by scooping and packing it firmly into joints using a grout float or by hand in small areas. Wipe diagonally with minimal pressure.
Can stained grout be restored to original color?
Stained grout is difficult to restore completely. Using an oxygen bleach or vigorous cleaning may lighten staining, but re-grouting may be required for full restoration.
How long is bagged grout usable after opened?
Premixed grout is usable for 2-3 months if container is sealed and stored in cool, dry place. Discard if hardened, caked, or shows any signs of deterioration.
Applying grout is an essential step in achieving a flawless backsplash installation. With the right grout choice, proper mixing, careful application, and curing, you can get beautiful, long-lasting results. Use the techniques in this guide to learn how to apply backsplash grout for perfect grout lines every time. Don’t be afraid to practice your grouting skills ahead of time on spare tiles. Taking your time with each step will lead to success.
In no time, you’ll have a stunning, professional-looking backsplash that not only protects your walls but also becomes a gorgeous focal point in any space. With proper care and maintenance, your grout will stay looking fresh for years of beauty and enjoyment.