How to Apply Grout Backsplash

Grout is an integral part of any tiled backsplash installation. Properly applying grout ensures your backsplash looks uniform and put-together while also sealing the joints between tiles. Learning how to apply grout backsplash correctly takes some practice, but following key techniques will help you achieve beautiful results.

Necessary Supplies for Grouting a Backsplash

Before starting the grouting process, ensure you have all the necessary supplies on hand:

  • Grout – Comes in sanded and unsanded varieties. Sanded grout is best for joints 1/8″ and wider. Unsanded is good for narrower joints. Match grout color to your tile.
  • Grout float – A trowel-like tool used to spread grout smoothly and evenly. Look for one with a soft rubber edge.
  • Grout sealer – Seals grout pores after installation to prevent staining and increase water repellency. Use a water-based silicon sealer.
  • Sponges – For wiping up excess grout. Have several clean sponges and buckets of water on hand.
  • Old towels – For wiping tools and your hands as you work.
  • Grout haze remover – Removes dried grout film or residue after installation. Use a low-VOC formula.
  • Knee pads – Protects knees from hardness of floor during the grouting process. Opt for gel-cushioned pads.
  • Drop cloths – Protect surrounding surfaces from messes while grouting. Canvas works well.
  • Safety gear – Grout sealant is caustic, so wear gloves and eye protection. An apron also helps.

Stock up on all supplies before mixing your grout to ensure efficient and uninterrupted application.

Preparing to Apply Grout

Before applying grout to your new backsplash, take steps to prep the area:

Wait for Thinset Mortar to Cure

Do not rush the grouting process. Let tile thinset or mortar cure 24-48 hours before grouting. This prevents the grout from being pulled out or dislodging tiles.

Clean Tile Surface

Use a barely-damp microfiber cloth to wipe all dust and debris off tile surfaces. Grout will not adhere well to dirty tiles. Avoid using chemicals or cleaners.

Remove Tile Spacers

Pop out any temporary plastic tile spacers from joints prior to grouting. You want the grout to fill these spaces, not the spacers.

Vacuum Joints

Use a shop-vac with a narrow vacuuming attachment to gently suck out dust and loose particles from tile joints. This prevents weak spots in the grout.

Fill Wide Joints

For joints wider than 1/8”, pack them first with unsanded grout before applying final sanded layer. This prevents cracking. Let the filler layer dry 24 hours before final grouting.

Cover Surfaces

Use drop cloths to protect countertops, floors, and other surfaces from grout spills and splatters. Tape down cloths securely.

Following these preparatory steps helps create the ideal base for grouting a backsplash successfully. Do not cut corners on tile prep.

Mixing the Grout

With your materials assembled and the tile prepped, it’s time to mix the grout. For best results:

  • Read manufacturer instructions – Follow product guidelines for proper water temperature, ratios, mixing technique, pot-life, and any special considerations.
  • Use cool, clean water – Warm water accelerates curing. Don’t use hot! Additives like latex can prolong pot-life.
  • Mix thoroughly – Continuously mix with a paddle on low speed for 5 minutes. Unmixed powder weakens grout.
  • Let slake 5-10 minutes – After initial mixing, let grout slake or rest so polymers can activate. Remix before use.
  • Avoid re-tempering – Don’t add more water after slaking period. This weakens grout. Mix up small test batches until you gauge correct grout consistency.
  • Work in sections – Mix only enough grout you can use within 30-45 minutes. Grout dries quickly once mixed.

Grout mixed improperly can crumble, crack, or become discolored. Carefully follow product instructions during the mixing process.

Applying the Grout

Once mixed to the proper creamy consistency, you’re ready to start grouting:

Spread Grout Diagonally

Use the rubber grout float to apply grout in diagonal, sweeping motions across tiles. Apply in small 3×3 ft sections.

Pack Joints

Press grout firmly into joints using float edge. Hold float at a 45° angle like a squeegee to pack tightly.

Check Coverage

Ensure all joints are fully packed by occasionally lifting a corner of the float. Reapply grout to any gaps. Grout should fill joints slightly higher than the tile edge.

Clean Excess Grout

Wipe diagonal to the joints using a lightly damp grout sponge in circular motions. Rinse sponge frequently. Don’t let grout dry on surface.

Final Polish

Once joints are smooth, polish entire surface with a dry microfiber cloth. Avoid rubbing grout out of joints. Let area dry 72 hours before sealing.

Applying grout takes some finesse. Maintain a steady pace, keep corners packed tightly, and promptly wipe away excess grout for flawless finished results.

Grout Sealing and Protection

After the grout has dried adequately (usually 72 hours), seal it with a penetrating grout sealer:

  • Apply sealer according to product directions. Use an applicator sponge or brush, not your fingers.
  • Cover entire grouted area, keeping sealer off the tile surfaces. Don’t allow puddling in joints.
  • Avoid working in direct sunlight or heat. Cool, dry conditions are best.
  • Allow sealer to soak and cure fully before exposure to water or traffic. This takes 24-72 hours.
  • Apply a second coat for maximum protection.

Sealing is crucial for resisting stains and damage in a backsplash’s high-use environment near sinks and stoves. Reapply sealer annually.

Troubleshooting Grout Issues

Despite best efforts, grouting problems can occur:

Grout cracking – Indicates too much water in mix. Carefully chisel out cracked areas and re-grout.

Powdery joints – Caused by dirt in joints or improper rinsing. Clean completely and re-grout affected areas.

Discolored grout – Can result from cheap grout quality, tainted water source, or incorrect ratios. May require re-grouting.

Grout haze – A thin film left behind on tiles. Wipe with a damp sponge once grout is dry. If severe, use grout haze remover.

Joints washing out – Means grout didn’t cure fully before exposure to moisture. Allow longer drying time and re-grout.

With practice, you can learn to avoid common grouting mistakes and achieve perfectly smooth, uniform grout lines. Don’t be afraid to re-do sections as needed.

Grout Maintenance

To keep your backsplash’s grouted joints looking fresh long-term:

  • Limit moisture exposure like splashing near the sink to prevent erosion or discoloration.
  • Re-seal grout annually or biannually, especially in kitchens. Look for sealers with antimicrobial protection.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners with dyes, bleaches or acids. Use neutral pH cleaners and soft scrub brushes.
  • Inspect sealant condition around joints while cleaning. Repair cracks or missing sections immediately to prevent damage.
  • Refresh caulk between tile and sinks or counters when it appears cracked or peeling. Match new caulk color to grout.
  • Deep clean dirty grout annually with an oxygen bleach cleaner and stiff nylon brush. Rinse thoroughly.

With proper installation, sealing, and maintenance, your grouted backsplash can stay looking like new for years before needing regrouting.

Grouting Large Areas Efficiently

Tackling grouting over a large backsplash or wall area? Here are some tips:

  • Work in small, manageable 3×3 sections. Completely clean and polish each before moving to an adjacent area.
  • Have two buckets of water – one for rinsing sponges, one for dampening them. Frequently change water to prevent grout haze.
  • Keep your movements efficient to complete each section within working time of the grout batches. Avoid delays or distractions.
  • Station all supplies within easy reach – water, sponges, rags, grout float, grout mixes. Limit steps to conserve energy.
  • Take breaks to save your knees, back, and hands from overwork. Hydrate and stretch aching muscles often.
  • Have an assistant wipe down completed sections with a microfiber towel once you finish an area.

With smart planning and a systematic approach, grouting even large backsplash installations is completely manageable.

Common Backsplash Grout Questions

New to grouting? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I grout before or after sealing tile?

Always grout first. Sealer can repel grout from adhering to tile surfaces. Only seal tiles after grouting is complete and cured.

How soon can I expose grout to water?

Wait a full 72 hours at minimum for complete curing before regular water exposure. This prevents weak, crumbly joints.

What’s the best grout color?

Match your grout color as closely as possible to your tile color for a seamless look. Contrasting grout shows dirt easily. Opt for lighter shades in small spaces.

How do I get a smooth grout finish?

Carefully pack joints, wiping diagonally across them. Avoid excess water when rinsing. Let area dry, then polish with a dry cloth. Use sanded grout for wider joints.

Should I grout around outlets or fixtures?

Yes, fill any gaps around cut-outs for outlets, faucets, soap dispensers, etc. This prevents moisture damage behind tiles. Apply caulk between tile and fixture edges.

Can I change grout color?

With effort, old grout color can be removed using a grout saw or multi-tool. Re-grouting with new color is required. Consider sealing existing grout instead for simplicity.

How do I choose sanded vs. unsanded grout?

Sanded is stronger and recommended for joints wider than 1/8”. It resists cracking. Unsanded is only for narrow grout lines and smooth polished stone where sanded texture would show.

Following best practices for preparing, mixing, applying, and caring for grout results in a flawless, professional backsplash that withstands daily use. With a little experience, you can tackle grouting your tiles like an expert.

How Often to Regrout a Backsplash

Even properly installed and sealed grout will degrade over time and need replacing. Knowing when and how to regrout your backsplash keeps it looking fresh.

Signs It’s Time to Regrout

Watch for these common indications that your backsplash grout needs attention:

  • Crumbling joints – Grout that appears flaky, powdery, or has cracks wider than 1/16”.
  • Discoloration – Once pristine white grout has turned gray or yellow. Stains remain even after deep cleaning.
  • Worn sealant – Sealer has worn off and grout looks dingy and absorbs liquids easily. Annual sealing can help avoid the need for regrouting.
  • Grout erosion – Sections near the sink or stove have worn away from frequent exposure to moisture and cleaning. Joints may be lower than tile.
  • Tile loosening – Grout deterioration or moisture damage has led to tiles becoming loose or cracking.
  • Major staining/damage – In cases of extreme mold growth, or deep stains that can’t be removed through intensive cleaning.
  • Change in color scheme – Homeowners updating their kitchen may desire to change the grout color to modernize the backsplash’s look.

How Often Should Grout Be Replaced?

With proper installation and sealing, quality grout can last 5-10 years before needing replacement. Heavy-use areas may need regrouting more frequently:

  • Kitchen backsplashes – Regrout every 2-5 years
  • Bathroom walls – Regrout every 5-10 years
  • Showers – Annual resealing needed. Regrout every 2-5 years
  • Outdoors – Regrout and reseal annually due to greater weathering

Inspect and maintain grout sealant regularly to maximize lifespan. Catching issues early better preserves surrounding tiles.

Regrouting vs. Grout Repair

For minor cracking or isolated staining/damage, targeted grout repair may suffice:

  • Caulk cracks less than 1/16” wide with flexible sealant. Wider cracks need regrouting.
  • Use grout touch-up kits to fill chips, small holes, or hairline cracks. Follow product instructions carefully.
  • Spot clean stains/mold using intensive scrubbing, oxygen bleach, vinegar, or poultice methods. Reseal cleaned areas.
  • Reseal any absorptive areas like near the sink even if discoloration remains.

For more extensive grout deterioration affecting entire walls or over 20% of the area, full regrouting is best.

Step-by-Step Regrouting Process

Regrouting a backsplash completely revitalizes its appearance:

1. Remove Existing Grout

Use a grout removal tool, grout saw, oscillating multi-tool, or dental pick to rake out old grout at least 1/4” deep. Take care not to scratch tiles.

2. Clean Tile Surface

Scrub tiles with a stiff-bristled brush and alkaline tile cleaner. Vinegar or oxygen bleach also helps remove residue. Rinse thoroughly.

3. Re-caulk Edges

Inspect caulk along countertops/sinks and re-apply fresh caulk if deteriorated. Let cure 24 hours before regrouting.

4. Vacuum Loose Material

Use a shop vac with a narrow crevice tool to thoroughly vacuum all joints to remove dust and debris for good grout adhesion.

5. Re-grout Area

Follow typical grouting steps of mixing, packing, smoothing, and polishing new grout into cleaned joints. Match original grout color if possible.

6. Seal Grout

Once grout has cured completely per product guidelines, seal the entire area with a penetrating grout sealer.

With the right tools and techniques, regrouting a backsplash isn’t difficult. The refreshed appearance rejuvenates the whole kitchen or bath at a fraction of replacement cost.

Cleaning and Caring for Grouted Backsplashes

Grout attracts dirt, stains, and grime easily in busy kitchens and baths. Proper ongoing care keeps grout looking clean and prevents the need for regrouting.

Routine Grout Cleaning Tips

  • Wipe spills immediately to prevent stains, especially oils and juices.
  • Wash backsplashes often with mild pH-neutral cleaner and soft brush. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
  • For hard water deposits, use white vinegar and scrub gently with a toothbrush.
  • Disinfect grout occasionally with diluted bleach or oxygen bleach cleaner like OxiClean.
  • Use a gentle approach. Harsh scrubbing can erode grout over time.

Removing Stains from Grout

For stubborn stains, try these solutions:

  • Food stains – Rinse immediately, using enzymes like Meat Tenderizer to help lift stains if dried-on. Reseal afterwards.
  • Grease/oil – Degrease with dish soap,then scrub baking soda paste into area. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Mild mold – Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. Let solution sit briefly before scrubbing and rinsing.
  • Harsh chemicals – Flush immediately with water. Soak a poultice in hydrogen peroxide and apply to grout for 15 minutes before rinsing.
  • Dyes/ink – Dab denatured alcohol on stain and let soak briefly. Scrub gently with an old toothbrush.

Avoid using colored cleaners or those with acid, as these can permanently discolor grout. For tough stains, call a professional grout cleaning service.

Preventing Grout Stains and Damage

Maintenance is key to limiting stains:

  • Reseal grout every 1-2 years minimum, more frequently near sinks and stoves. Use a silicone sealer.
  • Immediately clean spills, splatters from cooking, and soap scum to avoid buildup.
  • Run hood vents during cooking and consider adding backsplash guard panels behind cooktops.
  • Squeeze-dry sponges and towels after cleaning to limit excess water exposure.
  • Avoid cleaning with vinegar, lemon juice, or other acids long-term as these erode grout.
  • Ensure any new cleaners are pH-neutral and non-abrasive. Test in inconspicuous spot first.

With diligent cleaning and resealing, your grout can better stand up to heavy use and continue looking new.

DIY Grout Color Change

Over time, the original grout color you chose may seem dated or discolored. With some concentrated effort, you can change the grout color yourself to refresh your backsplash’s look.

Cleaning Prior to Regrouting

Thorough cleaning before regrouting is crucial:

  • Use a grout haze removal product or mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide into a paste. Apply to grout lines, let sit 15 minutes, then scrub.