What Kind of Grout for Kitchen Backsplash? A Detailed Guide

Choosing the right grout for your kitchen backsplash is an important decision that can dramatically affect the overall look and durability of your design. With so many grout types, colors, textures, and application methods available, it can be overwhelming to select the best option for your needs. This comprehensive guide examines the pros, cons, and best uses of various popular grout choices to help you make an informed decision when grouting your kitchen backsplash.

An Introduction to Grout for Kitchen Backsplashes

Before exploring specific grout types, it’s helpful to understand what grout is and why it’s an essential component of any tile installation.

What is Grout?

Grout is a cement-based material used to fill the seams between tiles. It creates a waterproof seal that prevents moisture from penetrating and damaging the substrate underneath. Grout also “locks” tiles together for a seamless look.

For kitchen backsplashes, grout serves both functional and aesthetic roles:


  • Seals out water and moisture
  • Prevents leaks, mildew, and damage
  • Allows for routine cleaning of the backsplash surface


  • Defines the pattern and visual flow of the backsplash design
  • Accents the colors and textures of the tiles
  • Provides color, dimension, and finished look

Why Grout the Backsplash?

Skipping grout may seem tempting for a seamless look, but it leaves the installation vulnerable to water damage and unsanitary buildup in tile joints over time. Properly grouting the backsplash is essential for a finished appearance and enhanced durability.

Now let’s explore popular grout types for kitchen backsplashes and their key distinguishing characteristics.

Comparison of Grout Types for Kitchen Backsplashes

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

The primary differentiator between grout varieties is whether they contain sand. Sanded grout has fine silica sand in the mixture, while unsanded (also called non-sanded) has none.

Sanded grout is best for wider grout lines 1/8″ and larger. The sand provides strength, minimizing cracking and allowing it to be applied thickly and hold up in high-traffic areas like the kitchen. It has a slightly gritty texture.

Unsanded grout contains no sand, giving it a smooth finish. It is ideal for narrow grout lines 1/8″ and smaller, such as mosaic sheets, subway tiles, and other small format tiles. Unsanded grout resists cracking in thin applications.

For most kitchen backsplash designs, unsanded grout is the preferred choice. But for larger tile formats, sanded grout is often the way to go. Generally speaking, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for sanded vs. unsanded grout based on your tile sizes and grout line widths.

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout differs fundamentally from cement-based grouts. Instead of portland cement, it uses an epoxy resin that requires a chemical reaction between two parts to cure and harden.

Advantages of epoxy grout:

  • Extremely durable, stain-proof, and scratch-resistant
  • Waterproof seal against moisture
  • Can be used for flooring and countertops in addition to walls
  • Available in a wide range of colors, including bright shades

Considerations for epoxy grout:

  • More expensive than traditional grout
  • Requires exact mixing and precise application
  • Limited working time before hardening
  • Difficult to remove completely if discolored

Epoxy grout is ideal for backsplashes in high-traffic kitchens and in wet areas like behind sinks. It provides the hardest, most water-resistant finish. The high cost may be justified for durability and stain resistance.

Polymer-Modified Grout

Polymer-modified grout has latex polymers or acrylics added to the traditional portland cement formulation. This makes the cured grout more flexible and durable than standard cement grout.

Benefits of polymer-modified grout:

  • Increases strength and crack resistance
  • Reduces porosity for water and stain resistance
  • Provides greater bond strength and adhesion
  • Enables use of sanded grout in thin joints
  • Available in wider range of colors

Polymer-modified grout costs a bit more than regular cement grout but significantly improves performance. It’s a great choice for kitchen backsplashes where you want enhanced protection with easier application and cleaning than epoxy.

Color-Sealed Grout

Standard cement grout can be vulnerable to staining. Color sealers provide protection by penetrating and sealing the grout lines.

Sealers are applied over cement, epoxy, or polymer grouts. Benefits include:

  • Provides stain and water resistance
  • Allows use of white or light grout without discoloration
  • Reduces need for frequent sealing
  • Enhances color uniformity and vibrancy

Apply a compatible color sealer to grout as the final step of installation for maximum stain protection. Re-apply annually or as needed to refresh the protective barrier.

Other Grout Types

A few other specialty grout types to consider:

  • Glass tile grout – formulated for glass tiles and contains microsilicas instead of sand
  • Quartz grout – extremely hard with ground quartz as the aggregate
  • Furan grout – chemical-resistant for industrial applications
  • Urethane grout – flexible, durable, stainproof, but expensive

These feature unique properties for niche uses. But for most backsplashes, standard cement or epoxy grout provide the best looks and performance.

Now let’s compare factors to help choose the optimal grout type.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Grout

With an overview of popular kitchen backsplash grout varieties, next assess your specific needs across these factors:

Tile Type and Size

Match the grout to the tile. Sanded for large format tiles with wide joints. Unsanded for mosaics, small tiles, and thin grout lines. Use grout designed for glass or natural stone when applicable.

Grout Joint Width

Narrow 1/8″ and below fits unsanded grout. Wider joints benefit from sanded grout for strength. Some polymer grouts allow sanded grout in tight spaces.


Cement grout offers the widest variety of colors. Epoxy also comes in many hues. Bright white and pastels can stain without sealers.

Exposure to Water and Moisture

Epoxy or polymer grouts resist water best. Sealers also protect from stains.

Expected Wear and Tear

Epoxy rates highest for durability. Polymer grouts also improve toughness.

Stain Resistance Required

Epoxy rates best, followed by polymer-modified grouts and color sealers.


Cement grout is the most affordable. Epoxy grout costs the most.

DIY Skill Level

Cement and polymer grouts are easiest to apply. Epoxy requires exact precision.

Analyze these factors to zone in on the ideal grout solution for your new backsplash installation.

Grout Colors and Options for Kitchen Backsplashes

Beyond the grout material itself, choosing a color and finish requires careful thought.

Popular grout color choices:

  • White – classic, clean look, requires sealing
  • Grey – versatile neutral blending well with many styles
  • Black – dramatic contrast, requires frequent sealing
  • Beige – soft complement to natural stone tiles
  • Tan – warm, welcoming accent that hides dirt well

Aim to have the grout complement the tile rather than compete. Don’t allow brightly colored grout to distract from the overall design.

Finish options:

  • Matte – subtle, uniform look preferred for walls
  • Glossy – reflective shine prone to showing wear
  • Textured – adds dimension for concrete, travertine, or stone looks

Swatches allow you to view grout against the actual tiles before finalizing the selection.

Now let’s get into the all-important grout application process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Grouting a Kitchen Backsplash

Once you select the right grout, proper application technique is crucial for a flawless finish.

Follow these steps:

Step 1 – Prepare the Tile Surface

The tiles must be firmly set and the adhesive fully cured before grouting.

Use a damp sponge to remove any dust, dirt, or adhesive residue. The tiles should be clean and dry before grouting.

Step 2 – Mix the Grout

For cement or epoxy grouts, carefully follow package directions for mixing ratios and water amounts. Don’t overwater, as too much moisture weakens grout and causes cracking and shrinkage.

Thoroughly blend the grout powder with water until achieving a smooth, lump-free consistency slightly thicker than peanut butter.

Only mix what you can use within 30 minutes for optimal workability. Discard any unused mixed grout; don’t try to re-temper to soften.

Step 3 – Apply Grout

Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to force grout firmly into the joints. Hold at a 45° angle and scrape diagonally across tiles to prevent dragging grout out of the spaces.

Fully pack joints, leaving no gaps or pinholes. Remove any excess grout on the tile faces with the float edge.

Step 4 – Clean Excess Grout

Wait 10-15 minutes until the grout firms up slightly. Then use a damp sponge to wipe diagonally across tiles and smooth joints. Rinse the sponge frequently to remove excess grout residue.

Avoid smearing grout or rubbing too aggressively. Clean any remaining film with a soft cloth once dry.

Step 5 – Final Cleanup

An initial light haze will remain after drying. Gently polish the tile surfaces with a dry microfiber cloth to remove any haze or film.

Do not over scrub or you may pull grout from joints. Allow the grout to cure 24-48 hours for final cleaning.

Step 6 – Sealing and Protection

Apply any required sealers after full curing per product specifications for added waterproofing and stain resistance.

Let your finished backsplash dry for a few days before exposing to water and regular use. Proper grouting technique keeps your kitchen backsplash looking pristine.

Tips for Successful Grouting

Follow these helpful tips for flawless grout application:

  • Maintain a consistent temperature and ventilation while grouting.
  • Work in manageable sections so grout remains workable.
  • Hold the float at a consistent angle as you smooth joints.
  • Minimize excess grout by wiping continuously during application.
  • Use minimal water when damp cleaning to prevent pulling out grout.
  • Avoid spreads or smears by cleaning diagonally across joints.
  • Allow proper curing time before heavy cleaning or sealing.

Take your time with each step and the end results will exhibit crisp, uniform grout lines.

Cleaning and Caring for Grouted Backsplashes

Grout collects grime easily, so keeping kitchen backsplash grout clean takes some care and routine maintenance:

  • Use a pH-neutral cleaner formulated for tile and grout. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Apply sealers regularly to protect from stains, depending on grout type.
  • Scrub gently with a soft brush to loosen dirt from grout lines.
  • Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue after cleaning.
  • Re-apply grout where joints have cracked or broken down.

With proper care, your grouted backsplash can maintain its just-installed look and water resistance for years of beauty and functionality.

Grout Issues and Repairs for Kitchen Backsplashes

Even when carefully installed, grout issues can develop over time. Here are some common problems and repair solutions:

Cracking or crumbling grout – Indicates drying too quickly. Remove loose grout and re-apply fresh grout.

Discoloration or staining – Scrub with oxygen bleach. Re-seal if needed. May require complete regrouting for stubborn stains.

Efflorescence – White powdery deposits on grout. Mix vinegar and water to wipe clean. Then re-seal grout.

Grout haze – Whitish film on tiles. Gently buff with cheesecloth once grout is fully cured.

Pinholes or pits – Use leftover grout mixture to fill small holes. Smooth with damp sponge.

Knowing the likely grout problems helps detect and resolve them promptly to keep your backsplash looking impeccable.

FAQs About Grouting a Kitchen Backsplash

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about choosing and applying grout:

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout on my kitchen backsplash?

For most backsplashes, unsanded grout is preferable for the smoothest finish in narrow joint widths. But verify your tile spacing and the manufacturer’s guidelines.

How soon can I get the backsplash wet after grouting?

Wait a full 72 hours for grout to cure before regular use and exposing it to moisture.

What’s the easiest grout color to keep clean?

Darker shades like black or brown hide dirt well but require frequent sealing. Tan and beige also conceal soils and need less maintenance.

Is it okay to grout polished marble or travertine?

No, unsealed natural stone requires a different adhesive without cement that could stain the stone.

Should I seal my grout?

Sealing is highly recommended for all cement and epoxy grouts as it prevents staining and improves water resistance. Apply a compatible grout sealer after installation.

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

Gently buff with a dry microfiber cloth once cured. Avoid scrubbing aggressively before grout has fully hardened or it may drag out of joints.

What causes pitting and cracking in grout lines?

Excess water content in the initial mixing, improper application technique, and rapid early drying lead to compromised grout.

How soon can I get my backsplash wet after re-grouting?

Allow 72 hours minimum for new grout to fully cure before regular kitchen use involving water.

Enhance Your Backsplash with Expert Grout Selection and Application

The grout plays a vital role in realizing the full visual potential of your kitchen backsplash while providing essential moisture protection. Consider all grout characteristics and installation factors for the ideal solution. With crackers, grout lose, proper mixing, quality application tools and techniques, and routine care, your backsplash will exhibit timeless beauty thanks to durable, uniform grout lines accenting the tile design. Expert grout selection lets your backsplash tile work shine for years of function and enjoyment in your kitchen.


Selecting the optimal grout type and applying it correctly ensures your kitchen backsplash effectively seals out moisture while offering long-lasting aesthetic appeal. Matching the grout to tile material, spacing, exposure, and traffic allows it to both accent the design and stand up to daily use. Taking care to properly mix, pack joints fully, clean excess at all stages, and seal cement grout provides the success secret to a pristine backsplash that delights as a focal point in your kitchen. With this detailed guide’s insights and techniques, you can confidently tackle your backsplash grouting project and complete an installation you will admire and enjoy for years to come.