Installing a backsplash is one of the most popular ways to customize and update your kitchen. Not only does a backsplash provide an extra layer of protection for your walls against water damage and stains, but it also allows you to add visual interest and personality through tile design, color, and texture.
A crucial step when installing a backsplash is grouting. Grout is the material used to fill in the spaces between tiles. Properly grouting your backsplash ensures tiles stay firmly in place, resists damage from moisture, and gives your backsplash a smooth, cohesive look.
When is the right time to grout your new backsplash? What steps should you take to prepare? This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about when to grout backsplash and how to grout backsplash tiles successfully.
When Should You Grout a New Backsplash?
Grouting should be done after you have installed and properly prepared your backsplash tiles. The timing depends on the tile adhesive you used to set the tiles.
For Standard Tile Adhesive
If you used a traditional thinset mortar adhesive, you should wait 24-48 hours after installing the tiles before grouting. This allows the mortar adhesive to cure properly and build strength, providing a firm foundation for the grout.
Rushing to grout too soon can compromise the bond between your tiles and background, causing tiles to loosen over time. Allowing a day or two for the adhesive to cure cuts down on this risk.
For Rapid-Setting Adhesive
If you used a rapid-setting adhesive to install your backsplash tiles, you may be able to grout after just 4-6 hours. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Rapid-setting thinset mortars gain strength much more quickly compared to standard versions. Once the adhesive has reached its cured strength, grouting can proceed.
For Peel-and-Stick Tiles
Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick backsplash tiles do not require thinset mortar. With these tiles, you can begin grouting almost immediately after installation.
However, it’s still smart to let peel-and-stick tiles sit overnight if possible. This helps ensure they develop a strong initial bond to the wall before grouting.
No matter what adhesive you used, do not grout until you are positive your tiles feel completely secure and firmly attached to the wall. Attempting to grout too soon can loosen tiles.
Preparing for Grouting
Successfully grouting your new backsplash requires some planning and preparation. Follow these steps to get your backsplash ready for this important step:
1. Allow Adhesive to Cure
As mentioned above, make sure you allow the thinset mortar or adhesive to fully cure before grouting. Check the recommended wait times. Rushing this risks a poor grout job.
2. Clean the Tiles and Joints
Use a damp sponge or microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust, dirt, adhesive smears, or other debris from the face of the tiles and in the joints between them.
3. Remove Spacers
If you used plastic tile spacers during installation to maintain even grout lines, remove these prior to grouting. Leaving spacers in can affect your ability to pack grout fully into the joints.
4. Apply Grout Release/Sealer (Optional)
Applying a thin coat of grout release or sealer to the surface of the tile before grouting can make cleanup much easier. Just be sure to apply evenly and let it dry fully.
5. Have All Materials Ready
Make sure you have gathered all the necessary grouting supplies before starting. This includes grout, grout float, grout sponge, buckets, grout sealer, etc.
Once your backsplash tiles have set up properly and you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready to move onto grouting.
Step-by-Step Guide to Grouting Backsplash Tiles
Follow this process precisely when grouting a new backsplash:
1. Mix the Grout
Prepare the grout according to package directions. For most sanded grouts, you’ll mix with water in a bucket. Mix to a thick, peanut butter-like consistency.
Only mix up as much grout as you can use within 30 minutes. Grout will start to harden after this point.
2. Apply Grout
Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread the grout liberally over the surface of the tiles, forcing it fully into the joints.
Hold the float at a 45° angle and work in a diagonal motion across the tiles to avoid dragging grout out of the lines. Apply excess grout.
3. Let Grout Sit Briefly
Allow the grout to rest on the tiles undisturbed for 10-15 minutes after the initial application. This allows grout to sink further into joints. Don’t let it sit for more than 15 minutes before moving to the next step.
4. Wipe Grout Off Tile Surface
Use a damp grout sponge to wipe any grout haze or excess off the surface of the tiles. Work diagonally and rinse the sponge frequently. Change water often.
Be careful not to pull grout out of the joints as you clean. Applying grout release beforehand makes this easier.
5. Smooth and Shape Joints
Once the surface is clean, go back over the tiles with a damp sponge to shape and smooth the grouted lines. Carefully tool any low spots. Remove any remaining film.
6. Allow Grout to Partially Dry
Let the grout dry for 30-60 minutes. The grout joints should look dull, not shiny wet. Some moisture is still fine at this stage. Proper drying time prevents shrinkage cracks.
7. Wipe Down Again
Wipe the entire backsplash surface again with a clean, lightly damp sponge or microfiber cloth. This helps ensure any remaining grout haze is removed before drying completely.
8. Allow Full Cure
Let the grout cure fully for 24-48 hours. Avoid getting the backsplash wet during this time. Verify joints are hard and smooth when cured.
9. Seal Grout
Once fully cured, seal the grout according to product directions to protect against stains and water damage. Re-seal grout every 1-2 years.
Following these steps correctly ensures you wind up with straight, uniform grout lines that help your backsplash look orderly and finished.
FAQs About Grouting Backsplash Tiles
When should I grout my backsplash?
Grout 1-2 days after installing tiles with standard thinset adhesive or 4-6 hours after using rapid-setting adhesive. Grout right away with peel-and-stick tiles.
What is the proper technique for grouting?
Spread liberally across tiles, let sit 10-15 mins, wipe surface clean, shape joints carefully, allow proper drying time, then wipe again and seal once cured.
How soon can I get the backsplash wet after grouting?
Avoid moisture on the backsplash for at least 24-48 hours after grouting to allow proper grout cure time.
How do I get grout haze off the tiles during grouting?
Change the rinse water frequently and wipe tiles diagonally with a lightly damp sponge. Using a grout release or sealer beforehand also helps.
Can I use sanded grout for wall tiles?
Yes, sanded grout can work on walls, as long as the grout joints are at least 1/8 inch wide. Unsanded is also fine. Match grout type to your tile joint size.
How long does grout last in a backsplash?
With proper sealing, grout should last 3-5 years in a backsplash before needing repair. Be sure to seal grout annually to maintain protection.
Knowing the right timeline for when to grout backsplash and following best practices for surface prep, technique, and cleanup will give you professional-looking results. Carefully grouting your backsplash helps lock tiles firmly in place, seals out moisture, and neatly finishes the look of your design.
With this comprehensive guide, you should feel equipped to tackle grouting your backsplash tiles confidently. Just be sure to allow adequate drying and cure time both before and after grouting. Your beautiful new backsplash will provide years of lasting function and style.