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Grouting Tiles: A DIY Definitive Guide

on September 29, 2021

The grouting process is the final step in your tile project. You've laid all of your tiles, and now it's time to seal them with grout.

Grouting is an integral part of the process because it will help protect against dirt and stains that can be absorbed into porous materials like stone or ceramic tiles.

If you want to make sure that your flooring looks its best for years to come, then, here is everything you need to know about how to properly grout your tiles.


Things you need to know and do before starting your grouting tiles project

If you are grouting tiles for the first time, here are a few things you ought to know before starting the project;

  • Choose the suitable tiles to grout. Make sure that they are flat, clean, and free of dirt particles.

  • Protect your flooring with a drop cloth to avoid stains on it. Use only what you need and keep waste down by cutting back overhanging fabric or paper after laying out tiles.

    Tuck edges under baseboard trim or moldings, if possible. If necessary, secure the material with masking tape at corners using heavy objects like bricks - make sure no gaps are present between them for tiny particles to go through - seal everything else off around the room's perimeter before starting this project. I do not want dust everywhere!

  • Buy a good tile sealer before you get started with your project. This will prevent your finished product from cracking or breaking after it has dried up completely.

    There are different types of sealers out in the market depending on where you plan on using them (exterior vs. interior), so make sure to read instructions carefully before buying one for yourself.

  • There should be small spaces between the tile pieces to be filled with mortar (cement mixture) to attach them and create one solid surface.

    Ensure that these gaps are not too wide since the water might pass through, which can damage your finished flooring. Do not fill up all the space because doing so would mean blocking any room for expansion when exposed under high heat, such as inside ovens during the cooking process.

  • Before applying grout on top of the tiles, it is best to apply a thin layer of mortar at the joints. This means you need not be worried about having too much grout on top since it will spread out when forced downwards by your trowel or tile float during the installation process.

  • If there are old tiles that have loose pieces, use a hammer and chisel to remove them before installing new ones.

    Learn how to do basic masonry work using these tools to avoid damaging newly installed bricks while removing broken parts from existing tiles.

  • Purchase plastic spreaders made especially for applying adhesives/sealants to large areas like floors or countertops.

Tools and materials you'll need for this project

  • Sponges/buckets
  • Rubber gloves
  • A grouting tool (float),
  • Tile sealer
  • Powder form of tile grout mixed with water pre-mixed in buckets
  • An area outside where you can mix up large batches of tiles if any spill occurs on the ground before using them all.

 

A step by step process on grouting tiles

  1. Clean the surface of all dirt and debris.
  2. Mix a small amount of grout per package instructions on its label.
  3. Place the tile on a flat surface that is covered with paper. The paper should be slightly bigger than your tile to allow for excess mortar around it.
  4. Mix the grout powder according to the manufacturer's instructions and gradually add water until you get a mixture that can easily spread, but is not too wet. It will run off of the tiles after application.
  5. Use a rubber float to spread the grout onto the tiles in an even layer. Make sure it is applied evenly across each tile before proceeding further with applying grout.
  6. Work in sections, applying grout to the entire area and then using a damp sponge or cloth remove excess grout until it is level with the tile surface. If you have irregularly shaped tiles or cut around obstacles like sinks and toilets, just wipe off as much of the excess grout as possible without smearing your previously applied lines too badly. This will be fixed later when we clean up.
  7. Let dry overnight before continuing to the next step: Sealing tile joints against moisture penetration/stain removal by cleaning agents such as household cleaners and mildew removers used on floors and walls for bathrooms, showers, etc. The tile should be completely dry before proceeding with sealer.


Types of grouts for tiles

There are a few different types of grouts from which to choose. They include;

Cement-based grouts

Cement-based grouts are typically made of sand, Portland cement, and water. These are ideal for almost any type of flooring, and they come in an array of natural earthy tones and more modern hues like white and grey.

They're commonly available in powder form mixed with just enough water to make a thick paste. They're easy enough to mix up, but you will want to make sure that the color isn't going to change too drastically when it comes into contact with water because this could lead to some discoloration over time.

It's recommended that you wear gloves when working with this type because the mixture can irritate the skin.

Silicone-based grouts

Silicone-based grout has many advantages over its competitor. Silicone-based materials are often easier to work with than their traditional counterparts due to their long open time, which means there isn't any rush or worry about trying to get your tiles set before things start drying upon them.

This also makes for less waste since most people find they need much less material by volume than what they would use if opting for cement-based grout.

Epoxy-based grouts

The third and final type of grout is epoxy-based. These are a good choice if you're looking for something that will have an extremely long life span since it can be resistant to just about anything.

Since these types don't require any adhesive, they're great when working with natural stone tiles because there won't be any worries about the epoxy seeping into your pores or causing damage over time.

Factors to consider when grouting tiles

Things to consider in the planning stage of grouting tiles include:

  • Whether to grout before or after the tiles are laid. Once tiles have been placed, a tile repair will be difficult, if not impossible, and there is always a chance of damaging your work while you try to remove it for repositioning.

    But this doesn't make it wrong - some professionals choose to lay their tiles first then come back in with the grouting afterward because they think that's easier than trying to get perfect alignment on both sides of each row. discuss pros and cons here.

  • What type of tile adhesive to use. Most commonly available adhesives can perform admirably when applied correctly, so take care only in choosing an appropriate one for certain types of materials and surfaces (for instance, using a non-sanded grout for natural stone tiles and a sanded one for porcelain).

  • Where are we going to tile in our house/room? It could be the floor, countertop, wall etc.? This is important because some areas require different types of floors.

    For example: if it's on a hardwood floor, then use cement board and thin-set adhesive, but if doing ceramic backsplash then just need thin-set mortar around the back of tiles which adheres directly to drywall. A little bit more tedious but less expensive.

  • Where do you want to put your project; in the living room, bedroom, etc.? This will determine how much foot traffic and obstacles like furniture and electrical wires that might interfere with the tiling process.

    Make sure no one walks in the area until completely dried. Also, consider having an escape route just in case someone does walk into wet tiles!

  • What type of grout to use? This is a much more open question than the one above, as there are many different types available with their advantages/disadvantages.

    You can discuss how each works here - for instance, whether they're suitable for natural stone or porcelain tiles, etc. also talk about cost and environmental impact if appropriate (for example, use recycled materials).

  • How thick should the grout be? This can vary depending on your choice of grout and surface, but in general, it's best to use a more dense mix for porous tiles (such as limestone) where drainage is poor.

    If mixing by hand, try using around five parts water to one-part dry powder - more or less may need adding according to results you get with trial batches. 

  • How Long After Setting Before Tiles Can Be Cured? For most applications, it is best to let the tiles set for a minimum of twenty-four hours before applying any pressure or stepping on them.

    The exception would be when using large format tile in wet areas such as shower walls where setting time needs to be shorter so that installation can continue without interruption.

  • What are common mistakes when trying to achieve professional-looking work? This will help readers identify problems they might not have considered themselves that could lead them towards amateurish finish within hours rather than having their tile flooring look good for years!

    Discuss issues such as incorrect product choice, poor surface preparation, and incorrect application of grout here.

 

How to clean grout

A common problem with tiling is how you're supposed to keep the floors looking great day after day without ruining your tiles and having unsightly discoloration over time which you can avoid by using a good quality grout sealer.

Cleaning them up regularly will help prevent dirt build-up, making it easier for future cleanings as well.

To preserve the brand new look of the tile for the longest time, invest in high-quality products rather than cheap ones.

This is vital, especially when dealing with something on your floor, because these materials are very sensitive to chemicals, so even mild cleaners cause problems.

Common mistakes when conducting a DIY tile grouting

This is a list of common mistakes when performing a DIY tile grouting project;

  • Failing to read the manufacturer's instructions or seeking professional advice before starting work.
  • Using sanded grout with large format tiles (larger than 600mm). This can lead to cracking/leakage when drying out.

    Using non sanded products may seem like an attractive option, but they often require more product to fill larger holes, so overall cost ends up similar in many cases too, depending on size & type used:

Conversely, using unsanded products on smaller format tiles (under 600mm) can lead to a smoother finish:

  • Using the wrong type of grout for your flooring. For instance, if unmodified cement-based products are used, porous and unsealed natural stones such as marble/travertine could be left with unsightly white residue.

    So, ensure you select an appropriate modified or polymerized product instead that is suitable for sealed surfaces & has been designed specifically for use on stone tile types.

  • Not allowing enough drying time between coats. Many people fail to appreciate how much longer it takes from each coat compared to standard plastering.

    So allow at least 24 hours before applying the next layer unless the manufacturer's instructions state otherwise.

  • Applying too many layers in one go results in excessive build-up and challenging to remove the product, which will also reduce the performance of the adhesive.

  • Not ensuring that all previously applied sealers/sealant has dried out entirely before grouting.

    Never attempt to apply another layer of silicone sealer over one which is still wet as this can lead to staining with some products such as those containing silica particles etc.

  • Using inappropriate tools either due to them being incorrect types (i.e., metal scrapers instead of plastic ones) or by misusing them (i.e., failing to remove excess product with a grout float before it becomes too dry).

  • Using too much grout on purpose. Avoid this at all costs. If you put too much grout in the joints, it will dry quickly before smoothing out with water and turning into concrete within 24 hours of application. It needs time to appropriately fill up every crack so that there are no visible lines between tiles once it’s dried.

 

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