Grout backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom by adding visual interest and protecting walls from water damage. While tiling a backsplash may seem intimidating, it’s simpler than you think with the right tools, materials, and techniques. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to grout a stunning backsplash that suits your personal style.
Choose Your Tile
The tile you select sets the tone for your whole backsplash and impacts the grouting process, so choose wisely. Consider the following when picking tile:
Common backsplash tile materials include:
- Ceramic – Budget-friendly option available in endless colors and styles. Durable and water-resistant.
- Porcelain – Similar look to ceramic but denser and more impervious to moisture. Withstands heat better.
- Glass – Elegant, translucent option. Decorative but not as durable as ceramic or porcelain.
- Metal – Adds contemporary, industrial vibe. Stainless steel is affordable, while copper and brass have a higher-end look.
- Natural Stone – Granite, marble, travertine have a timeless, high-end aesthetic. Requires extra sealing.
Smaller tiles like mosaics create visual interest but require more grout lines. Larger tiles like 4×4” are faster to install with fewer grout lines. Standard subway tiles are a versatile middle ground.
Consider clean lined rectangles or intricate patterns. Accent strips, geometric prints, penny rounds, or combinations of shapes can customize your look.
Matte, glossy, metallic, or iridescent—the options are endless. Neutrals work well as backdrops while bold hues make a statement.
Choose Your Grout
Grout fills in joints between tiles with options tailored to your project needs:
Made from Portland cement, sand, and water. Available in different colors. Ideal for ceramic or porcelain in dry areas only.
Pros: Inexpensive, versatile, shrink-resistant. Good for narrow joints under 1/8”.
Cons: Not waterproof, can stain, needs sealing.
Contains epoxy resins and a filler powder. Resists water, stains, and cracking.
Pros: Extremely durable, stain-proof, water-resistant, scrubbable. Great for wet areas like showers.
Cons: Difficult to work with, requires meticulous application. Expensive.
Contains latex additives for flexibility. Useful for materials subject to movement like natural stone.
Pros: Allows slight joint movement, good for tile subject to expansion/contraction.
Cons: More expensive than traditional cement grout.
For most backsplashes, standard cement grout works well. Match the grout color to your tile—contrasting shades can emphasize grout lines while matching tones minimize them.
Gather Your Materials
Grouting requires certain supplies readily available at hardware stores:
- Grout – Cement-based grout is sold in powder form. Make sure to get the amount recommended on the package.
- Grout float – A tool with a sponge surface to spread and smooth grout over the tiles.
- Rubber grout float – Alternative to the sponge float for smoothing grout into joints. Flexible and easy to clean.
- Grout sealer – Optional but recommended—seals grout pores to resist stains.
- Sponges – For wiping excess grout off tile surface. Get a few sponges designated just for grouting.
- Buckets – For grout mixing and cleaning sponges.
- Caulking gun – If using silicone caulk for corner joints or change of plane.
- Cleaning solutions – Grout haze remover and everyday tile/grout cleaners.
- Knee pads – Protect your knees while grouting at countertop height.
- Drop cloths – Cover surfaces to catch spills and drips.
- Safety gear – Mask, gloves, and glasses to protect yourself.
- Rags – For wiping down tiles pre- and post-grouting.
- Tape – Painter’s tape to protect fixtures like walls or cabinets.
Prep Your Tiles Before Grouting
Before grouting, the tile installation should be complete with tiles adhered properly and spacers removed. Give the tile a thorough cleaning to remove any dirt, grease, or residue:
- Sweep or vacuum loose debris then wash with a generic tile cleaner or vinegar/water mix. Rinse thoroughly.
- Use a rag or sponge rather than abrasive scrubbers, which can scratch the tile surface.
- Fully dry tiles after washing by blotting with a towel—do not air dry, as lingering moisture can interfere with grout curing.
- For wall tiles, apply painter’s tape vertically along edges where tile meets cabinets, walls, etc. to prevent grout from sticking.
- Cover other surfaces like countertops with rosin/craft paper or plastic drop cloths.
- The room temperature should be between 50-90°F during grouting for proper curing.
Now the tiles are prepped and ready for grouting!
Mix and Apply the Grout
When mixing grout, follow package directions carefully for water amounts. Here are some tips:
- Only mix up as much grout as you can use in 30 minutes. It will start to harden and become unusable.
- Add powder to the water little by little, mixing to a smooth, thick consistency like peanut butter.
- If too thin, the grout will slide right out of the joints. If too thick, it will be hard to spread.
- Let the mixed grout slake for 5-10 minutes, then remix before applying. This allows chemicals to blend and improves workability.
Use the following steps to apply grout:
Hold the float at a 45° angle and firmly press grout into the joints, scraping at a diagonal downward motion to fill them. Apply in small sections of around 4 square feet.
Once joints are full, hold the float edge flat and scrape diagonally across tiles to remove excess grout and smooth joints. Add more grout to low spots.
Wipe diagonally across the tiles with a damp sponge to clean grout residue from the surface before it dries. Rinse the sponge frequently.
After 10-15 minutes, wipe again with a clean damp sponge. Then use a towel to blot up remaining moisture.
Once grout in joints becomes firm like clay, polish and shape with a damp finger or narrow tool for asmooth finished edge.
Take your time applying grout and cleaning the tile surface afterward—this makes a big difference in the final appearance!
Cure and Seal the Grout
Freshly grouted tiles require proper curing to gain strength:
- Grout needs 72 hours to cure fully. Avoid heavy cleaning or getting the area wet during this time.
- Open windows or use fans to circulate air and speed curing. Low humidity also helps.
- If the area will get wet before fully cured (like a shower), cover with plastic to protect from direct water contact.
- Check for cracks or low spots in the joints and repair if needed before sealing.
Once cured, sealing the grout adds an extra protective barrier:
- Use a penetrating sealer made for grout rather than a surface coating-type.
- Apply sealer with a small paintbrush only to grout joints. Avoid spilling on tile surfaces.
- Follow product directions on drying time between coats. 2-3 coats often provides best results.
- Reapply grout sealer every 1-2 years for best longevity.
Sealing is optional but worth the time investment on shower walls, backsplashes in food prep areas, or any installation prone to staining.
Keep your grouted backsplash looking like new with proper ongoing care:
- Use pH neutral daily cleaners formulated for tile and grout. Avoid harsh chemicals, acid-based cleaners, or abrasive scouring pads.
- Apply fresh grout sealer periodically based on product instructions, usually every 1-2 years.
- Address any cracked, missing, or discolored grout right away with repairs to prevent moisture issues.
- Clean spills quickly to prevent staining of porous grout, especially oils, dyes, or juices.
- Inspect grout lines routinely while cleaning to identify damage early. Loose grout indicates improperly mixed grout or underlying tile problems.
Following good grout practices during application and giving it diligent aftercare preserves the integrity and appearance of your backsplash.
Grout Color Options
Choosing a grout color that complements your tile makes a stylish statement. Here are popular options to consider:
- Brightens up lighter tiles for an airy, clean look.
- More prone to showing dirt or stains over time. Needs vigilant cleaning.
- Use white grout with glass, marble, or polished tiles for minimal grout lines.
- Striking contrast against lighter tiles like white subway tile.
- Hides dirt well for low maintenance. Popular for modern, dramatic accents.
- Can appear overwhelming on small tiles; better on larger formats.
- Versatile neutral works with nearly any tile color.
- Darker shades still disguise dirt and stains.
- Softer overall look than high contrast black and white grout.
- Make a bold statement choosing grout to match or contrast your tiles.
- Requires sealing for protection and easier cleaning.
- Limit to low traffic backsplashes only.
Stick with classic white, black, or gray for grout on shower walls or heavy use areas. Reserve decorative colors for protected backsplashes only.
Troubleshooting Grout Issues
Sometimes grout backsplash projects don’t go according to plan. Review these common problems and solutions:
Crumbling, Cracking Grout
- Too much water in mix
- Grout not sealing properly
- Tile movement or lack of bonding to substrate
- Chisel out old grout with a utility knife and re-grout
- Use flexible grout if tile is prone to movement
- Check tile bonding and reinstall loose tiles
Efflorescence – Whitish Grout Haze
- Grout chemistry reacting with minerals in water
- Applying sealer or cleaning too soon before cured
- Dampen grout and apply vinegar-based cleaner
- Use grout additives to reduce efflorescence
- Wait 72 hours before sealing or heavy cleaning
Grout Color Inconsistency
- Variation in tile absorbing grout pigment differently
- Some joints wider allowing more pigment
- Inadequate mixing of grout batch
- Use a grout release on tile before grouting
- Mix grout thoroughly and consistency across batches
- Apply multiple coats of grout sealer for uniform appearance
Low Spots or Grout Voids
- Improper application in joints
- Not forcing grout fully into gaps
- Re-grout problem areas, ensuring complete filling
- Hold grout float at 45° angle applying forceful pressure
- Fill wider joints in thin layers to prevent voids
FAQs About Grout Backsplash
Still have questions about grouting your backsplash? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Should I caulk where backsplash meets countertop or walls?
Yes, use a silicone caulk rather than grout where your backsplash tile terminates, meets countertops, or turns a corner. The caulk allows for slight movement and seals the edge.
How soon can I get backsplash wet or use the shower after grouting?
Avoid direct water contact for 72 hours while new grout cures. Cover with plastic if needed. Limit shower usage during this time as well.
What’s the white haze on my tile after grouting?
Grout residue left to dry on the tile surface creates a chalky whitish film. Prevent this by wiping tiles consistently during application and cleaning immediately after.
Why is my grout cracking in some spots?
If grout cracks or crumbles, it likely means it was not mixed with the proper water ratios. Chisel it out and re-grout those areas. Let it cure fully before sealing or cleaning.
Should I seal all grout or just certain areas?
Sealing all exposed grout makes maintenance easier, but focus on sealing grout in wet areas like showers or kitchen backsplashes as needed most. Reapply sealer every 1-2 years.
How do I get the sanded texture out of grout lines on polished marble?
Sanded grout isn’t recommended for polished stone. Use non-sanded grout instead and finish joints smoothly. If already applied, you may need to chisel it out and re-grout.
Achieve Flawless Finished Grout Lines
If done carefully while following best practices, grouting can give your backsplash a pulled-together polished look. Take your time prepping, applying in thin layers, cleaning promptly, and allowing a full cure. Sealing afterward locks in protection for the long-haul.
Grout backsplash installation requires patience and diligence. But the beauty and durability achieved is well worth the effort for stunning results. With your newfound grouting knowledge, you’re ready to tackle your next tiling project fearlessly.
How to Do Grout Backsplash: Frequently Asked Questions
Installing a stylish grout backsplash transforms the look of your kitchen or bath. But it’s normal to have lots of questions about the grouting process if you’ve never done it before. Here we’ll answer some of the most common FAQs about grouting backsplash tile to ensure your project goes smoothly from start to flawless finish.
What is the Best Grout for Kitchen Backsplash?
For kitchen backsplashes, unsanded cement grout is the gold standard. It’s made of Portland cement blended with polymers and color pigments. Unsanded grout contains no sand aggregate, giving it a super smooth finish perfect for narrow wall tile joints under 1/8” width. Cement grout comes in different colors to complement your tile and provides a durable, stain-resistant waterproof grout line.
Epoxy grout is also popular for kitchens thanks to its resistance to stains and moisture. But it can be tricky to work with and requires meticulous application. Standard cement grout works great for most non-polished backsplash tile; just be sure to seal it after installation.
How Long Should I Wait to Grout After Tiling?
It’s best to grout within 24 hours of installing your backsplash tile. Mortar needs at least 16 hours to fully cure and adhere the tile before applying grout. But you don’t want the mortar to cure for too long either or it will be hard to pack grout into the joints.
If more than 48 hours pass between tiling and grouting, check the adhesion on a few tiles to ensure they are fully secured. Reattach any loose tiles if needed before applying grout.
What Color Grout Goes Best With White Subway Tile?
White subway tile backsplashes look gorgeous framed with bright white grout for clean lines or soft gray grout for more contrast. White grout keeps the pristine look but requires diligent cleaning. Off-white or light bone grout is lower maintenance.
Dark grout like black or charcoal makes a bold statement with white tiles but shows less dirt overall. Espresso and darker brown grouts also pair nicely for a softer contrast.
Should Grout Lines Match on Shower Walls?
For best results, use grout that matches or blends with your shower wall tile. Keeping grout lines consistent makes the whole installation look cohesive. Avoid using different colored grouts unless intentionally creating a design, like an accent strip.
Using sanded grout for wider joints and non-sanded for narrow lines can cause color variation. Check your tile spacing and use one grout type for uniformity.
How Do I Apply Grout on Marble Tiles?
Natural stone tiles require special care when grouting. Use a non-sanded, unsanded grout only to avoid scratching polished marble. A grout release helps prevent pigment staining porous marble during application.
Work in small sections, wiping frequently before grout dries on the marble. Grout diagonally across joints to limit piping or low spots. Finally, avoid acidic grout cleaners which etch marble and stick to gentle, pH neutral products.
Can Any Grout Be Used on Glass Tile?
Glass tile should only be grouted with premixed epoxy grout, not cement-based. Epoxy formulas are ultra-smooth, preventing abrasion on the glass finish. They also resist staining, provide the strongest bond, and are waterproof.
Avoid sanded grout with glass tile – it will scratch the surface. Make sure to apply epoxy grout precisely following package directions for ease of use and best performance.
How Long Does Epoxy Grout Take to Dry?
Epoxy grouts chemically cure and take longer to fully set up than cement grout. Most epoxy will be dry to the touch in 24 hours but only reaches about 75% strength at that point. Wait 3 days after application before exposing epoxy grout to water for regular use.
Avoid heavy cleaning or scrubbing for 5-7 days while it hardens completely. Return kitchen or vanity use after 3 days