Grouting a natural stone backsplash can seem daunting, but with the right materials and techniques, you can achieve beautiful results. Proper grouting is essential for sealing and protecting natural stone, and filling in the spaces between tiles. With careful planning and preparation, you can grout your stone backsplash like a pro.
Selecting the Right Grout
Choosing the optimal grout for natural stone is the first key step. Consider these factors when selecting grout:
Pick a grout color that complements your stone tiles. Contrasting colors can accentuate the tile pattern, while similar tones blend in seamlessly. Take grout samples home to view under your lighting conditions.
Popular grout shades for natural stone include:
- White – brightens the space and makes tile colors pop
- Light grey – subtle and blends with stone shades
- Dark grey – dramatic against lighter stone tiles
- Tan – warms up cool-toned natural stone
- Black – bold statement on white or light-colored stone
Match or contrast the grout based on the look you want to achieve.
Grout comes in different textures:
- Smooth – Offers a polished, refined appearance
- Sanded – Has a granular texture with a rougher finish
Sanded grout works well for wider grout lines (1/8 inch or wider). It resists cracking and sinking into joints.
Smooth grout suits narrow grout lines (less than 1/8 inch). It has a smooth consistency that’s easier to apply in tight areas.
Check your tile spacing to determine the appropriate grout texture.
Grout for natural stone must be durable to withstand cracking, staining, and discoloration.
Epoxy grout is extremely durable and resistant to water, heat, staining, and shrinkage. However, it can be tricky to apply and requires sealing.
Cement-based grout with polymer additives provides increased strength and flexibility over standard cement grout. It’s easier to use than epoxy and more stain-resistant than plain cement mixes.
For best results, use a high-performance cement grout formulated for natural stone.
Unsanded grout is recommended for polished and delicate natural stones prone to scratching like marble or travertine. The smooth formula glides over the tile surface.
Sanded grout can be used for durable, textured stones like slate, quartzite, and textured limestones. It grabs onto rough surfaces.
Always check your stone tile manufacturer’s recommendations for appropriate grout types.
Using the right grout for your particular stone ensures the best seal and appearance.
Tips for Grouting Natural Stone
Follow these tips when grouting your natural stone backsplash:
1. Clean and Seal First
Thoroughly clean all residual dirt, grease, and dust off your stone tiles and grout joints first. Use a specialized natural stone cleaner and rinse well.
Sealing the tiles prior to grouting will make grout clean-up much easier. Use a compatible penetrating sealer for your stone following the product instructions.
Proper cleaning and sealing prep prevents grout haze and staining later on.
2. Spread Grout Over Small Sections
Work in manageable 3-4 square foot sections. Spread grout over the area using a rubber grout float or squeegee. Push the grout deeply into the joints leaving no gaps or voids.
Take care not to smear grout over the tile surface. Keep grout just within the grout lines.
Grouting in smaller sections makes it easier to control the process and limits potential messes.
3. Clean Grout Off Surface
Before the grout dries, use a damp sponge to gently wipe diagonal across tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse the sponge frequently to prevent haze.
Change rinse water often to avoid redistributing grout residue. Buff tiles completely clean as you go.
Regular surface cleaning while grouting prevents dried grout from sticking to the natural stone, which is difficult to remove later.
4. Delay Final Wash
Give the grout joints about 15-20 minutes to firm up after finishing each section. Then do a final wash with a lightly damp sponge to clean off residual haze.
Don’t over-wash while the grout is drying or it may pull out of the joints. Be gentle.
Waiting for the grout to partially cure allows for easier final cleaning without damaging joints.
5. Check for Voids
Scan for any low spots or gaps in the grout lines after drying. Re-grout any problem areas to prevent cracks and holes later on.
Complete grout coverage without voids ensures water doesn’t penetrate behind the tiles.
6. Avoid Acidic Cleaners
Use only neutral pH cleaners formulated for natural stone for ongoing maintenance. Avoid vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic products.
Acidity can etch, corrode, and discolor many natural stones over time. Use proper stone cleaners instead.
Following best practices for grouting and cleaning natural stone prevents damage and maintains the backsplash beauty.
Common Grout Issues with Natural Stone
Despite best efforts, grouting natural stone backsplashes can sometimes go awry. Watch for these common issues:
Cracking and Crumbling
If the grout starts cracking apart or crumbling out of joints, the likely causes are:
- Improper proportions when mixing grout
- Contamination from dirty mixing pails or tools
- Grout applied too thinly or unevenly
- Grout drying too quickly without curing
Repair cracked areas by raking out all loose grout and re-grouting. Allow proper slow curing.
Grout that appears discolored or stained can be caused by:
- Not cleaning tiles thoroughly before grouting
- Grout residue left to dry on the tile surfaces
- Using too much water when cleaning uncured grout
- Harsh acidic cleaners reacting with pigments
Attempting to whiten discolored grout with bleaches or hydrogen peroxide can further worsen stains. The best solution is to rake out the old grout entirely and re-grout.
A cloudy haze on tiles happens when too much water is used cleaning grout before it cures. Other factors include not rinsing sponges frequently or using dirty rinse water.
To remove grout haze, let the area dry completely first. Use an alkaline-based haze removal product formulated for natural stone. Never use acids.
Grout Dye Loss
On colored grouts, excessive moisture during curing can dilute the pigments and cause fading or splotchiness. Overly wet cleaning, steam, or hydrostatic pressure can also draw out dye.
Grout dye loss may be irreversible. Complete regrouting might be required for a consistent appearance. Using a compatible grout sealer can help prevent this issue.
Proper handling while curing is key to preventing common grout problems with natural stone.
To keep your grouted natural stone backsplash looking fresh:
- Use a gentle pH-neutral stone cleaner for routine washing
- Avoid harsh scrubbing or acidic cleaners that can etch grout
- Re-seal grout annually with a water-based penetrating sealer
- Watch for cracks or voids in joints and repair immediately
- Have grout professionally cleaned and re-colored as needed over time
With proper care, your grouted stone backsplash can stay looking like new for years of beauty and enjoyment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the easiest natural stone to grout for beginners?
Polished granite, marble, or porcelain slate tend to be the most beginner-friendly. Their tight joints and smooth polished surfaces simplify grouting. Avoid hand-chiseled rough stones on your first attempt.
Can any color grout be used with natural stone backsplash?
While white and gray are popular, any grout color that complements your stone can be used, ranging from black to tan to bright tones. Pick what matches your design aesthetic. Just ensure it works with wide or narrow joints.
Is epoxy or cement grout better for natural stone?
Epoxy is more durable and resistant to staining but cement-based grout is much easier to apply for DIYers. Cement polymer grout offers a good combination of strength and workability. Check manufacturer stone recommendations.
How soon can I clean natural stone backsplash after grouting?
Wait a minimum of 24-48 hours for grout to fully cure before regular cleaning. Use just a lightly damp sponge before then. Harsh scrubbing or acidic cleaners can ruin uncured grout.
How do I remove dried grout haze from my natural stone tiles?
Always use an alkaline-based haze remover made for natural stone. Never try to remove haze with acidic products or you can etch the stone permanently. The haze remover softens and lifts residue for easier cleaning.
What causes pits and craters in my grout lines?
Air bubbles and gaps while grouting can leave tiny pits along the joints. Make sure to pack grout fully into all edges when applying. Let it cure slowly and don’t over-wash uncured grout which can draw it out of joints.
Grouting adds the finishing touch to beautiful natural stone backsplashes. With careful prep, patience during application, and proper gentle cleaning, even first-timers can achieve professional-looking results. Pay attention to selecting the right grout for your particular stone tiles, work methodically in manageable sections, and avoid haste when cleaning and curing. Address any issues immediately to prevent permanent damage. Your natural stone backsplash will showcase its full elegance highlighted with richly grouted joints.