How to Mix, Grout, and Seal Your Tile

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If you are a hard-core do-it-yourself-er, then you already have and will continue to take on a lot of home improvement projects. When people renovate kitchens and bathrooms, one of the most dramatic changes that is often made is adding or changing tile. There is no doubt that adding a nice tile around your tub or to your kitchen backsplash can add class up the style quotient. 

But, if you are going to do tile work, then it is important to know how to grout tile. Getting it right is important if you want to enjoy your tile for years to come. With that in mind, here is a little tutorial on grouting tile.

​New Tile vs Old Tile

Re-grouting Old Tile

Sometimes you do not need a complete overhaul because you already have perfectly serviceable tile in place. All you really need is to freshen up that tile.

Maybe you have nice solid ceramic, subway tile surrounding your bathtub. If it could use some freshening up or it is beginning to come loose, new grout might be in order. 

You will need to know how to grout ceramic tile, but first you will need to remove the old grout. For that you will need special grouting tools, which you can find in your local home improvement store.

You will then need to remove the grout and make sure the tiles are clean. Also, make sure any loose tiles have received new adhesive. Allow the adhesive time to set.

a guide on the process of how to grout tile
sikeri on Visualhunt / CC BY

​Grouting New Tile

Beyond making accurate cuts with your tile saw, the hardest part of installing new tile is just making sure you have set it cleanly and evenly. Once you have done that, figuring out how to grout the tile should be no problem. Before you start, there are several things to check.

  • Make sure your tile is clean. If not, take the time spiff it up. 
  • ​Make sure all the spacers have been removed. These can mistakenly be left in after installing a new tile wall or floor. 
  • ​Allow the adhesive enough time to set. Usually it takes about 24 hours to set completely, but you read the packaging to make sure.

​Also remember that if you are using a porous tile like ceramic tile, you need to pre-seal it. It is important to know how to grout ceramic tile and other porous tiles, so you do not stain or damage them as you are working.

Keep in mind, too, there is a difference between ceramic and porcelain tiles. Porcelain is non-porous.

​Types of Grout ​to Use

There are many different types of grout. You can get it in powder form and mix it yourself, or you can get it premixed.

There is also sanded and unsanded grout. Grout also comes in a variety of colors.

  • Premixed Grout: This is convenient if you only have a small area to grout. Generally speaking, it is better (and more accurate) to mix your own grot. 
  • Powdered Grout: This is better if you are covering a larger area like a floor or a wall. Because you have a limited window for working with grout once it is exposed to the air, it is easier and more cost effective to mix up new batches of grout as you go.
A large bag of unmixed sanded grout
  • Sanded Grout: Sanded grout is stronger than unsanded grout and is best for using on tile spaced more than 1/8 of an inch apart. It will hold up longer
  • Unsanded Grout: This is best for getting into spaces 1/8 of an inch or smaller.

Because grout comes in a variety of colors, it is best to consider the look you are trying to achieve before you purchase grout. You could use the grout to contrast with the tile, making it pop. Or, you could try to get grout that matches your tile, thus achieving a cohesive appearance.

Before you get started on the project, spend the time needed to pick out the ​perfect tile grout for your shower or wall.

If you plan on painting your tile down the road, make sure to think about that before grouting. It is a pain to go back and regrout.

How ​to Mix Grout

If you have opted for powdered grout, then you will have to mix it. This is relatively easy and quick:

  • Mix up only what you will use immediately. Don’t mix everything you’ll need for the entire job. Otherwise, it will dry out before you reach it. 
  • Add about 3/4 of the recommended water and then mix. Evaluate the consistency: grout should be approximately the consistency of toothpaste or a loose peanut butter.
  • If necessary, slowly add the last 1/4 of the water to the mixture slowly until you have achieved your desired consistency. ​

How to Grout Tile

The basic procedure for applying grout is pretty simple. Before you begin, make sure that surfaces adjacent to where you will be working are covered so that you don’t get grout on them. Scoop some of the grout out of the container with a trowel.

You can also consider adding cement board or hardie board to ensure there aren’t any leaks or moisture.

Starting the Process

  • Starting in the corner of the room farthest from the door, begin spreading the grout over the floor.
  • If you’re grouting a newly installed shower wall, then start at the top and work your way down.
  • Use a grout float to press the grout into the joints, holding the float at a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold the float at a diagonal from the joints to create a smooth finish. Running the grout float parallel to the lines can cause it to dig the grout out from between the lines, thus undoing your work. 
Tile flooring with thin grout lines

Wait and Evaluate

When you begin, start in a corner and only do a small spot. Wait about 30 minutes for the grout in the joints to begin to set, and then remove the excess grout with a damp grout sponge. ​

You can also take a blow dryer to the area to get the grout to dry quicker. Use this sparingly, though, as you don’t want to overheat the grout. 

The purpose of starting slowly is to see what the grout looks like when it’s dry. If you are unsatisfied with the look, this is your chance to find that out before you grout the whole area. It is easier to change things up when you have only done a small area, than to wait until you have completed the whole thing.

Finish Grouting

Once you are certain you are happy with your grout, it is time to start the job in earnest. It is recommended you work on a small area at a time.

A patch of nine or ten tiles at a time is a good rule of thumb for larger tiles like floor tiles. A patch of a couple of square feet is adequate for smaller tiles like the sort you might use on a kitchen backsplash.

You do a small area at a time because the grout dries pretty quickly, and you should be making sure you are getting your grouting done correctly as you go along. If you end up using dried grout, then it won’t set properly, and could leave to loose tile down the road. 

​Grouting Next to a Wall​

Grouting tile is one thing, but it can be tricky to figure out how to grout tile right next to a wall. Many of the tools you use for grouting may not be very convenient or effective when you have to grout right next to a wall.

For this area, leave space the size of your spacers and fill it in with grout caulk. It should be made by the same company who manufactured your grout so that it has the best chance of matching.

You might also run into this challenge if you’re grouting a freshly tiled staircase, where its not a wall you’re up against, but a hard-to-reach area.

​Cleaning Up After Grouting Tile

Wait approximately 20 minutes after you complete grouting before cleaning up. This will allow the grout to dry out a bit, and make clean up easier for you.

Use a damp grout sponge to wipe away excess grout. A grouting sponge has rounded edges, which you want. In contrast, the sharper edges of a common kitchen sponge can dig into the joints and pull up the grout that you just installed.

Wipe diagonally across the tiles and rinse the sponge often as you go.

If you notice inconsistencies in the application of grout, you may need to take a grouting tool or your finger around the joints. This ensures your grout is at an even depth around the tiles and has a consistently concave appearance. Making it pretty is the name of the game.

Even after you have cleaned the grout from the tile using a grouting sponge, there will likely be a grout “haze” or residue left behind. After the grout has had a chance to firm up a bit– usually about an hour or so after grouting– you can go after the “haze.”

Use a very lightly dampened clean rag or microfiber cloth. Wipe the tiles and take extra care around the joints. Then use a dry, clean cloth to buff the tile. Mr. Clean Magic eraser has been known to work wonders here, too.

Thick grout in between black and white shower tiles

Sealing the Grout

You must wait for the grout to completely cure before sealing it. This could take several days. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for specific times.

Make sure the room is well ventilated before you begin. It would be a good idea to open windows. Begin by pouring a small amount of sealant on the area where you will be working.

If you are sealing floor tiles, start at the area farthest from the door and work your way toward the door. With a sponge, use small circular motions to work the sealant into the grout. Allow the sealant to sit.

It may need to sit for about 10 minutes or so before you wipe it off, but check the packaging for exact times. 

You should reseal your grout every six months to a year to keep it properly protected.

Conclusion

If you plan on doing any home improvement projects in your kitchen or bathroom, knowing how to grout tile, and even more, how to grout ceramic tile, will certainly come in handy. The process is not difficult.

Any dedicated DIYer could figure it out with the right tools and some instructions. And, when you are finished you will have the pride of looking at your beautiful new tile work and knowing you did that.