Selecting the right grout for your kitchen backsplash is an important decision that can dramatically affect the final look and durability of your design. With so many grout types and options to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to determine which one is best for your particular backsplash tile and application. This comprehensive guide breaks down the pros, cons, and best uses of the most popular grout types to help you make the ideal choice for your kitchen renovation or new construction project.
An Introduction to Grout
Before delving into the specifics of backsplash grouts, it helps to have a fundamental understanding of what grout is and why it plays such a vital role in any tiled surface.
Grout is a cement-based material used to fill the seams between tiles. It creates a water-resistant seal that prevents moisture from seeping underneath tiles and causing damage to the underlayment or substrate. Grout also serves aesthetic purposes, such as complementing or contrasting with the tile color and design to enhance the overall visual appeal.
When selecting a grout, considerations beyond just color come into play. Grout varies in terms of its composition, texture, durability, stain-resistance, flexibility, price point and ease of application. Choosing the right grout contributes to a long-lasting, low-maintenance installation.
Knowing where your backsplash falls on the spectrum between strictly decorative or heavily utilized can help inform the ideal grout choice. For instance, a minimally used backsplash serving mostly aesthetic purposes has more flexibility in grout selection compared to a heavy-traffic kitchen backsplash requiring maximum durability.
Now let’s take a closer look at the advantages, drawbacks, and best uses for the most common grout types suitable for kitchen backsplash applications.
Sanded grout contains fine sand particles that provide an abrasive texture well-suited for joints wider than 1/8 inch. The sand within the mixture helps prevent shrinking and cracking that can occur as the grout cures.
- Strong and durable for high-traffic areas
- Resists staining better than non-sanded grout
- Ideal for tile with wide grout joints
- Provides finished look with slight texture
- Difficult to completely clean out of narrow grout joints
- Can scratch glossy tile if excess is left on surface
- Not recommended for polished stone tiles
Best For: Sanded grout stands up beautifully to heavy use on backsplashes utilizing ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile with standard grout lines 1/8 inch or wider. The fine sand provides durability without detracting from the smooth finished appearance.
- Marble or granite backsplash tiles with standard grout joints
- Ceramic or porcelain backsplash tiles spaced further apart
- Backsplashes requiring maximum strength and stain resistance
As its name implies, non-sanded grout contains no sand. It has a finer texture suitable for filling narrow grout lines less than 1/8 inch wide. The lack of sand allows it to be easily forced into crevices for optimal joint filling.
- Smoother finish with no gritty texture
- Flexible to resist cracking in tighter joints
- Won’t scratch delicate tile surfaces
- Easier clean-up for narrow grout lines
- Less durable for high-traffic backsplashes
- More prone to shrinkage, cracking over time
- Stains more easily than sanded grout
Best For: Backsplashes utilizing natural stone, ceramic or glass tiles with tight, narrow grout lines where flexibility and smooth finish are more important factors than heavy-duty performance.
- Glass, marble or metal mosaic backsplash tiles
- Ceramic or porcelain tiles with less than 1/8 inch spacing
- Light-use backsplash areas without direct food preparation
Epoxy grouts contain epoxy resins in place of cement for increased bonding strength, flexibility, water-resistance and chemical resistance compared to standard cement grouts. They are also more stain-resistant. Epoxy grouts only come in non-sanded versions.
- Extremely durable and stain-resistant
- Resists cracking and shrinking
- Handles temperature fluctuations well
- Provides bright white, uniform color
- More difficult application process
- Requires sealing to retain stain resistance
- Difficult to remove completely once cured
- Relatively expensive
Best For: Backsplashes in high-moisture areas like behind sinks or stoves where maximum stain protection and water resistance are essential. Also ideal for white or light-colored grout that will resist yellowing.
- White subway tile backsplash behind range
- Marble, limestone or travertine backsplash near sink
- Backsplash in high-humidity climates
Emulsion grout has a acrylic polymer binder that makes it more flexible and water/stain-resistant than standard cement grout. It provides similar performance to epoxy at a lower price point and easier application.
- Resists stains, water damage better than cement grout
- Bright consistent color
- Flexible, less prone to cracking
- Easy water clean-up during application
- Still requires sealing for maximum stain resistance
- Less durable for heavy use than epoxy
- Limited color selection
Best For: Backsplashes in bathrooms or behind appliances where moisture and light staining are concerns. Especially useful for grouting porous natural stone tiles.
- Marble backsplash near kitchen sink
- Travertine backsplash in bathroom
- Backsplash requiring low maintenance and easy clean-up
Urethane grout contains urethane polymers instead of cement for increased flexibility, adhesion and resistance to cracking. It offers excellent durability and stain resistance.
- Extremely durable for high-traffic areas
- Won’t shrink or crack over time
- Highly resistant to stains
- Withstands temperature fluctuations
- Available in wide range of colors
- Difficult to install correctly
- Higher cost than traditional grouts
- Requires sealing to retain stain resistance
Best For: Backsplashes in busy kitchens that will be subjected to heavy, frequent use and exposure to grease, oils and other cooking stains. The tough performance and easy cleaning of urethane grout make it ideal for heavy prep areas.
- Ceramic or porcelain backsplash behind stovetop
- Backsplash in commercial kitchens
- Backsplash requiring maximum durability
Specialty Grout Options
Beyond the basic grout categories above, there are also some specialty grout products on the market that offer unique advantages:
- Antimicrobial grout contains agents that inhibit mold, mildew and bacteria growth, an asset in damp areas like behind sinks or outdoor kitchens
- Glow-in-the-dark grout has photoluminescent properties allowing it to absorb and emit light. It’s a fun accent grout for modern backsplashes.
- Metallic grout has a reflective quality that resembles metal. It can lend a shiny, jewelry-like look.
- Glass tile grout is specifically designed for grouting glass tiles. It resists sagging and discoloration.
Always check that any specialty grout is suitable for your particular tile type and backsplash location before applying. Consult manufacturer guidelines for usage and installation recommendations.
What Type of Grout is Best? Key Considerations
When deciding on the ideal grout for your kitchen backsplash, keep these key factors in mind:
- Type and size of your tile – Match grout texture and joint width to your tile. Delicate stone and glass tiles often require non-sanded grout for example.
- Amount of traffic – Heavily used prep areas need maximum durability from sanded or epoxy grout. Light-use spaces can utilize standard cement grout.
- Exposure to moisture – Backsplashes near a sink or behind appliances need enhanced water-resistance from epoxy or urethane grout.
- Exposure to grease/oil – Frequent splattering calls for the stain-resistance of epoxy or urethane grout.
- Grout color – Contrasting or matching grout color impacts the visual style and feel.
- DIY or pro installation – Some grouts like epoxy have trickier application best left to pros.
- Budget – Epoxy and urethane grouts cost more than standard cement options.
Analyze your individual backsplash location, tile selections, traffic patterns, and lifestyle to make the optimal grout choice. Don’t merely default to the cheapest or most readily available grout. An extra investment upfront in the ideal grout prevents headaches with replacement and repairs down the road.
Grout Recommendations by Tile Type
Here are some general recommendations for suitable grout types based on common backsplash tile materials:
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
- Sanded grout for standard joint widths
- Non-sanded for very narrow grout lines
- Epoxy for heavy use areas
Natural Stone Tile
- Non-sanded grout to avoid scratches
- Epoxy or urethane grout for water resistance with marble or limestone
- Non-sanded grout to avoid surface scratches
- Epoxy or urethane grout for durability
- Use grout specifically designed for glass tiles
Metal or Mosaic Tile
- Non-sanded grout for smooth finish
- Epoxy grout if metal is prone to staining
- Use grout matched to mosaic tile thickness
Brick or Textured Tile
- Sanded grout for wider joints and cracks
- Urethane grout for uneven or challenging surfaces
- Non-sanded grout for classic smooth finish
- Sanded grout ok if wider spacing desired
Be sure to consult your specific tile manufacturer’s recommendations as well. Custom grout blends formulated for a particular tile line are also available.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Selecting Grout
- Match grout texture to tile type and joint width
- Consider the amount of use your backsplash will receive
- Choose color that complements your tile style and colors
- Allow 2-3 days minimum for epoxy and urethane grout to fully cure and seal
- Use sanded grout with polished stone tiles
- Apply latex modified grout in hot or humid climates
- Mix different grout types within same joints
- Spread sealer on epoxy or urethane grout before fully cured
Grout Maintenance Tips
To keep your backsplash grout looking fresh and intact for years to come:
- Seal cement-based grout annually
- Re-seal epoxy or urethane grout every 2-3 years
- Caulk where backsplash meets countertop or sink to prevent water seepage
- Clean spills quickly to prevent staining
- Apply grout sealer after deep cleaning to refresh water resistance
- Avoid abrasive cleaners which can scratch grout surface
- Check for cracks annually and re-grout as needed
Proper grout installation and maintenance will allow your backsplash to remain a stunning focal point in your kitchen for decades. Spend some time weighing the numerous grout options available to make the ideal choice. With the right grout selection tailored specifically to your backsplash tile, traffic, and aesthetic tastes, you can achieve a high-performing and visibly-appealing accent wall to admire during meal prep for years on end.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most common questions homeowners have about selecting grout for kitchen backsplashes:
What is the most popular grout choice for kitchen backsplashes?
For most backsplashes, a sanded cement-based grout offers an ideal balance of affordability, ease of application, and durability to stand up well in moderate-to-high traffic kitchen areas. White or light grey are popular grout color choices for a clean, classic look.
What should I avoid using in a kitchen backsplash?
Avoid non-sanded grout for heavy use areas since it lacks the durability of sand-enhanced grout. Also avoid specialty grouts like metallic or glow-in-the-dark that are better suited to low-traffic accent walls vs. kitchen prep zones.
Can I use leftover tile grout in the gaps on my backsplash?
It’s not recommended. Flooring grouts are formulated differently than products designed specifically for backsplash use. They may not adhere as effectively to wall surfaces. Stick with a grout blend approved for vertical tile installation.
How do I match grout color to my existing backsplash?
Take a grout sample piece to home improvement stores and hold it against grout colors until you find the closest match. Be sure to match the texture (sanded vs. non-sanded) as well. White and off-white are the easiest shades to match to existing grout.
Should I seal my backsplash grout?
Sealing is highly recommended for cement-based grouts to boost stain resistance. Epoxy and urethane grouts also benefit from occasional sealing to refresh water-repelling properties. Always use a sealant designed specifically for grout rather than a generic tile sealant.
How soon can I get the backsplash wet after regrouting?
Cement grout takes 24-48 hours to fully cure and epoxy up to 3 days. Avoid direct water contact during these periods. Wait at least 7 days for epoxy or urethane grouts before exposing them to heavy moisture. Check manufacturer guidelines for any water restrictions after installation.
Selecting the optimal grout for your new or existing kitchen backsplash is a key decision that impacts aesthetics, durability and ease of maintenance. Take into account tile material, traffic levels, exposure to water and potential staining when weighing grout options ranging from traditional cement grouts to more advanced epoxy and urethane blends. With the right grout choice tailored to your specific backsplash needs, you can achieve a high-performing accent wall that seamlessly blends form and function.