Installing a subway tile backsplash can add style and functionality to your kitchen or bathroom. While the tile itself makes a statement, grouting is an essential step that pulls the whole look together. Learning how to properly grout subway tiles allows you to achieve clean, uniform joints that complement the rest of your design. With some planning and the right materials, grouting subway tile is an approachable DIY project.
What You Need to Grout Subway Tile
Grouting subway tile backsplash requires just a few materials:
- Grout – Cement-based grout is best for kitchens and baths. Choose a grout color that matches or complements your tile.
- Grout float – A trowel-like tool used to spread grout between the tiles.
- Grout sealer – Protects grout from stains and moisture. Sealer is applied after grouting.
- Sponge – For wiping excess grout off the tiles before it dries.
- Bucket of water – For rinsing the sponge while grouting. Change the water often.
- Old rags or paper towels – For removing final grout residue and haze.
- Painter’s tape – Covers edges of countertops or walls to minimize cleanup.
Optional handy tools include a grout bag for spreading grout in hard-to-reach spots and a grout haze remover for polishing off residue.
How to Grout Subway Tile Step-By-Step
Grouting tiles takes time but it is a fairly straightforward process:
Step 1: Prepare the Tile Surface
Before grouting, ensure tiles are completely set and any spacers are removed. Use a damp sponge to wash the tiles and remove any dust or debris. Let the tiles dry completely so the grout adheres properly.
Cover any countertops, walls or surfaces near the tile with painter’s tape to prevent staining from grout. Have all your materials organized and on-hand before starting.
Step 2: Mix the Grout
Prepare the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you combine grout powder with water in a bucket and mix it to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Only mix up as much grout as you can use in 30 minutes.
Step 3: Apply Grout to the Tile
Holding the grout float at a 45° angle, push it firmly into the joints to fill them completely with grout. Apply in small sections and work diagonally across the tiles to prevent pulling out the grout.
Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread the grout. check that joints are fully packed and level with the tile edges. Add more grout to low spots as needed.
Step 4: Let the Grout Sit
Allow the grout to firm up on the tile for about 15 minutes. This helps ensure it stays in the joints when cleaning. Don’t let the grout dry completely.
Step 5: Clean Excess Grout
Wet the sponge and wring it out so it’s damp but not overly wet. Gently wipe diagonally across the tiles to remove excess grout. Rinse the sponge frequently and change the water often.
Work in small sections until all tiles are cleaned and only grout in the joints remains. Use minimal pressure to avoid pulling grout out of the joints.
Step 6: Final Polish
Once all excess grout is cleaned off, go over the tiles with a barely damp sponge or rag to polish and smooth the joints. Allow tile to dry completely.
Step 7: Apply Grout Sealer
After the grout has cured fully (typically 72 hours), apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s directions. This provides protection from moisture and stains.
And that’s it! Properly grouted subway tiles should have smooth, uniform joints free of cracks or holes. Grout lines will be flush with the tile edges. Take care of your backsplash by cleaning with gentle tile cleaners and re-sealing grout every 1-2 years.
Tips for Grouting Subway Tile Perfectly
Follow these tips for flawless grout lines:
- Work in small, manageable sections so grout stays wet and workable.
- To create uniform grout lines, hold the float at a consistent 45° angle.
- Ensure joints are packed fully by scraping off excess grout as you go.
- Minimize grout haze by frequently rinsing sponges and changing rinse water.
- Avoid spreading grout onto the tile faces. Wipe diagonally across tiles.
- Don’t overwork one area while cleaning. Move around the entire space.
- Seal grout to prevent staining, discoloration and cracking over time.
Common Grout Problems and Fixes
Grout issues can occur but are often repairable:
Crumbling grout – Can be caused by moisture or inadequate mixing. Carefully scrape out old grout and re-grout the joints.
Cracked grout – Indicates movement in the tile or substructure. Regrout affected joints after addressing underlying cause.
Discolored grout – Regular cleaning and sealing helps preserve grout color. Re-grouting may be required in severe cases.
Grout haze – Buff any residual film off tiles with a rag or haze remover once grout has cured.
Frequently Asked Questions About Grouting Subway Tiles
What is the best grout to use on subway tile?
Sanded cement-based grout is recommended for subway style tiles. It resists shrinking and cracking better than non-sanded grout. White or gray matches most subway tiles.
Should subway tile grout lines be straight or diagonal?
Either style works, but keeping the lines straight creates a more uniform, grid-like look. Diagonal grout lines add some visual interest.
What color grout is best for white subway tiles?
White or light gray grout matches well and enhances the clean lines of white subway tiles. Darker grout can also create contrast. Choose the shade that best suits your design.
How long does it take for grout to dry on subway tile?
Grout takes 24-48 hours to cure initially but should be allowed to dry for 72 hours before sealing or getting wet. Time depends on humidity, ventilation and grout thickness.
What is the standard grout size for subway tile?
The typical joint size recommended for subway tiles is 1/8 inch. Wider grout lines (up to 3/16 inch) can accommodate minor tile irregularities.
With the right prep work, technique and tools, grouting subway tile backsplash can be accomplished by an ambitious DIYer. Allow plenty of time for the process and work in small sections for best results. While grouting takes some finesse, don’t stress about getting the joints perfectly clean. The finished look will come together after sealing the grout.
Following proper grouting methods helps create a stunning, cohesive backsplash that will stand the test of time. Protect your efforts by cleaning gently and resealing the grout every year or two. With its classic style and durability, a quality subway tile backsplash is a worthwhile investment in your home.