How to Grout Subway Backsplash

Grouting a subway tile backsplash can transform your kitchen or bathroom by pulling your design together into a cohesive look. With proper materials and technique, you can achieve a flawless finished product that looks professionally installed. This guide will walk you through each step of grouting subway tile to help you get beautiful results.

What You’ll Need

Before starting your subway tile grouting project, ensure you have all the right supplies on hand:

  • Grout – A sanded grout is best for subway tile with joints 1/8 inch or wider. Unsanded works for smaller joints. Match grout color to your tile.
  • Grout float – A rubber grout float helps press grout into joints.
  • Grout sealer – Sealing the grout prevents staining and damage.
  • Sponges – Have several clean sponges on hand to wipe away excess grout.
  • Buckets – Use two buckets for grout and water.
  • Grout haze remover – This helps remove any haze left after grouting.
  • Rags – Old rags or cheesecloth help polish the tile surface.
  • Painter’s tape – Tape off any adjacent surfaces you don’t want grouted.
  • Caulk – Use silicone caulk for corner joints and change of plane.

Prep Your Tiles

Before you mix up that first batch of grout, do some prep work to help ensure a smooth grouting process:

  • Wait for thinset to fully cure – Let tile adhesive cure fully per manufacturer directions before grouting, usually 24-48 hours. Grout can get pulled out of joints if applied too soon.
  • Clean tiles – Use a damp sponge to wipe away any dirt, dust or debris left over from tile installation. Grout will stick to any residue on the tiles.
  • Tape off surfaces – Use painter’s tape to cover walls, countertops, or any other areas you don’t want to get grouty. Remove tape immediately after grouting before it dries.
  • Apply caulk – Use silicone caulk to fill corner joints and any joints between tile and another material to allow for expansion and prevent cracking.

Once your prep work is complete, you’re ready to mix and apply the grout.

Mixing and Applying the Grout

Mixing the grout properly is key to getting a smooth, consistent application. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for ratios. Here are some tips:

  • Use cool, clean water – Warm water can shorten working time.
  • Only mix what you can use in 30 minutes – Grout will stiffen and become difficult to work with after that.
  • Mix to a thick, peanut butter consistency – The grout shouldn’t be soupy or crumbly.

To apply the grout:

  • Hold float at 45 degree angle and force grout firmly into joints with a scraping motion.
  • Apply in small sections so you can easily remove excess before it dries.
  • Fill joints completely and pack tightly. Don’t leave voids.
  • Let grout firm up slightly, about 10-15 minutes, before wiping away excess. Test a small area first.

Wiping Away Excess Grout

Letting the grout firms up makes it easier to wipe off the excess without pulling it out of the joints. Follow these steps:

  • Wipe diagonally across the tiles to prevent dragging grout out of joints.
  • Rinse sponge frequently using minimum water to limit grout washout.
  • Do a second wipe with a lightly damp sponge to polish and smooth joints.
  • Go over the area again with a dry rag to remove any haze.

Take care to fully remove all excess grout at this stage before it dries. Any remaining grout will need to be scraped off later.

Curing and Polishing

Allow the grout to cure fully before using the area. Follow these final steps:

  • Allow 24-48 hours minimum for grout to cure before light use. Avoid washing or soaking area.
  • If any haze remains after curing, use grout haze remover per manufacturer directions.
  • Seal grout after 2-3 days curing time. This prevents staining and damage in wet areas.
  • Polish and buff surface with dry cheesecloth or rag after sealing for an extra smooth finish.

Proper curing and sealing ensures your grout lines stay looking crisp and new. And your completed subway tile backsplash will withstand daily use for many years.

FAQs About Grouting Subway Tile

How long should I wait to grout subway tile after installing?

Wait 24-48 hours after installing subway tile to allow thinset adhesive to cure fully before applying grout. Grout can get pulled out if applied too soon.

What color grout should I use with white subway tile?

White, light grey, and off-white are popular grout colors with white subway tile. Choose a color that matches your tile while providing enough contrast with the joints.

Can sanded grout be used for small subway tile joints?

Sanded grout is recommended for joints 1/8 inch or larger. For smaller joints in subway tiles under 2×4 inches, use unsanded grout.

What’s the best way to apply grout on a vertical subway tile backsplash?

Work in small sections and grout from the bottom up to avoid dripping. Holding the float at a 45 degree angle, force grout firmly into joints in a scraping motion.

How long does grout take to dry before sealing?

Grout requires 2-3 days of curing time before applying a protective sealer. Avoid wetting or washing the area during this time.

How do I get rid of haze on my subway tiles after grouting?

Use a specialized grout haze remover product applied per manufacturer directions. Do not attempt to scrub or scrape off grout once it has dried on the tile.

Achieving a Flawless Subway Tile Backsplash

Grouting subway tile doesn’t have to be messy or frustrating. With the right techniques and materials, you can get picture-perfect results. Prep your tiles thoroughly, mix a quality grout to a thick consistency, and wipe excess carefully as it firms up. Allow proper curing time before use and seal the grout to prevent staining. Your subwqy tile backsplash can look professionally installed and last for many years to come with proper grouting methods.