Choosing your Grout


A man with a sponge cleaning grout joints
Freshly installed urethane grout is cleaned up and looks great.

Save for a few unique exceptions, you'll need grout for your tile installation!

There are several different types of grout, each with their own unique benefits and drawbacks. See our comparison lists below to help select the right grout for your installation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Grout


WHY do I need grout? Can't I set my tiles tightly together and not grout?

If there's any risk of spills or messes on a tile surface, you need to have grout. Grout fills the seams between the tiles to create a barrier that helps keep dirt and moisture out. Specifically, any kitchen, bathroom, shower, backsplash, or floor tiles need grout between them.

 

Tightly set tiles do not protect against water damage; liquids will use any crack to wick behind your tiles and can cause mold and mildew, which pose a health hazard and can lead to serious structural damage.

 

Grout helps your tile installation adjust to the natural movement and settling of your house.

 

Grout joints also allow for contraction and expansion of the tiles; outside installations exposed to hot summers and cold winters will fail if they are not set correctly and properly grouted. Inside, tiles can buckle and come loose if not properly set with adequate grout and the occasional expansion joint.

 

The only times when you can forgo grout are when tiling on a fireplace face (where there's no water, foot traffic, or spill risks) or when using a splitface mosaic or slate ledgerstone (the pieces are tightly set and heavily textured, with no room for grout).

 

How can I minimize the amount of grout I have and need to clean?

To make grout as low-maintenance as possible, consider these options:

  • Have smaller grout joints: make them as thin as 1/16" if the tile allows.
  • Use larger tiles for fewer grout joints.
  • Use a low-porosity grout for stain-resistance.
  • Choose a grout that never needs to be sealed.
  • Install a good quality, high-flexibility grout to reduce cracking and long-term damage (urethane grout).

 

My grout is dirty. How can I clean it?

What color grout should I use?

 

Most people choose a grout color that matches their tile, so that the grout disappears as much as possible.

 

Sometimes a contrasting color is chosen. This can make everything lighter or darker, more dramatic, or introduce a color that wasn't present before. If you grout a white and black mosaic with a red grout, it's now a black, white, and red mosaic.

   

Check out this great Houzz article about choosing grout colorsor this Houzz article about using colorful grout to change the look of your tile installation.

 

A medium tone will hide dirt, while a very light or very dark color will show dirt.

 

These pictures show how much grout color can change your installation. Click to enlarge!

The Different Types of Grout


We deal with 3 major types of grout: pre-mixed, epoxy, and cement-based. Below are listed the pros and cons of each. For more information on each of the different types, please visit their individual pages.

Pre-Mixed Grouts: Urethane or Acrylic Polymers


Options include TruColor Urethane GroutFusion Pro, Flexcolor CQ by Mapei, and more.

 

Tiny quartz beads are color coated and suspended in a urethane or acrylic binder for an unmatched level of color-consistency, durability, and 

PROS

+ Color Consistency: From one bucket to the next, your color will be exactly the same!

 

Stain Resistance: Non-porous, so you will never need to seal these grouts!


+ Crack-Resistant Flexibility: You can put pre-mixed grouts in grout joints up to 1/2" wide.


+ Quick Install: Including clean up, this is a one step installation process. No need to come back and seal later.

 

+ Work in Increments: Unlike epoxy, where everything has to be installed at once, you can work in small sections and revisit the grout later.


+ Long Life In-Bucket: You can open a bucket, use some grout, re-seal the bucket, and then use your grout again up to two years later!


No Dust: Unlike cement grout, no powders to mix, meaning cleaner air.

 

+ Low VOCs: Epoxy is known for its hazardous fumes. Urethane and acrylic grouts have no BPA or NMP.

 

 

+ Unique Options: Each brand has a sparkly version made with colored glass beads instead of color-coated quartz beads. They let light in and refract it for bright, sparkling grout that looks amazing in glass mosaics!

CONS

- Price: Pre-mixed grouts range from $75-$120 per 1 gallon unit, depending upon color, brand, and availability. 

 

- Work in small sections: Pre-mixed grouts dry by evaporation. If you try to grout an area larger than 4-6 sqft before grabbing a sponge to clean up, you'll find that the grout has already started to stiffen.

 

- Haze: Even if you do a very thorough cleaning, there may be some grout residue on the surface of your tiles. Fortunately, fine residue can usually be buffed off with a paper towel, and we have specific cleaners for more stubborn residue.

 

- Texture: The pre-mixed grouts have a sandy texture, and can scratch certain materials such as stainless steel during the installation process. Test on your tile before installation.


Epoxy Grout


Mix two epoxy components together to start a chemical reaction that results in a highly stain-resistant, durable grout. Epoxy grout has been around for decades and is the preferred choice for restaurants and swimming pools.

PROS

+ Stain Resistance: You will never need to seal epoxy!


+ Color Options: A wide selection and fun, unique options, including glow-in-the-dark.

 

+ Best for Specialty Wet Areas: Most other grouts are not recommended for submerged or steamy areas (pools, steam rooms, etc.) or water installations with high chemical content (chlorine, salt water spas, etc.)

CONS

- Tricky Application: If you aren't careful, epoxy will set up before you can clean up. You're limited by how much time you have to work after mixing the components together. Work fast.


- Tough Clean-Up: This rubbery grout is stubborn when dry and requires specialty cleaners to dissolve epoxy residue.


- Fumes: Make sure you have good ventilation when using epoxy grout; some of the chemicals in this grout are harsh and strong. Banned in France because of the fumes.


- Mixing: You have to mix two or three separate components together before application.


Learn more about Epoxy Grout.

Cement-Based Grout


Cementitious grout is the oldest grout type. It does a good job, but it has its problems.

PROS

+ Easy to Install, Easy to Clean Up: After installation, all you need is a wet cloth or, at worst, some light scrubbing to remove grout residue from your tiles.


+ Inexpensive: Per unit, cement-based grout is the cheapest grout available.

CONS

- Poor Color Consistency: Many factors (including minerals in your water, how you mix the grout, humidity, temperature, etc.) can affect the look of your grout, causing inconsistencies and hazy efflorescence.


- Porosity: Of the three major grout types, this is the only one with pores, which can allow staining and bacterial growth.

 

- Needs to be Sealed: A penetrating sealer is recommended to protect this grout from staining and mildew. 


- Brittleness: Cementitious grout is prone to cracking and crumbling.

 

- Breathing Hazard: The powder in the grout can get in your air and into your lungs; wear a mask when mixing.


Learn more about Cement-Based Grout.


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