Grouting Kitchen Backsplash Tiles
As we continue to document the Kitchen Backsplash project that we’re doing this month we wanted to spend this article showing you how to grout the joints between the tiles on a backsplash. If you’re just finding this article now you can read our previous articles on how to tile a kitchen backsplash at the following links:
- Choosing Kitchen Backsplash Materials
- Designing A Kitchen Backsplash
- Thinset vs Mastic for Kitchen Backsplash
- How To Install Kitchen Backsplash Tiles
Once you’ve installed all the tiles (How To Install Backsplash Tile) and let the thinset or mastic cure you’ll need to fill all the joints with grout. As you can see in the adjacent photo we installed our tiles with 1/8 inch spacers. The spacers create the grout joint which now needs to be filled with an appropriate grout.
Before getting into the details of how we grouted the tile joints I wanted to point out a couple of features with our decorative accent tiles. We chose a decorative tile that runs around the entire kitchen in the third row of tiles. The tile actually looks like a metal tile with a repeating pattern of vines or flowers. The pattern is such that we decided to use zero space between them and no grout in the vertical joint between decorative tiles. The tiles are colored around the edges so that you can install them in this fashion without grout.
In order to keep grout out of those joints we taped off all the decorative tiles with painters tape. The painters tape is easy to install and ensures that none of the grout works its way into the joints.
Selecting Backsplash Grout
Before grouting your new backsplash you’ll need to select a grout. There are several things to consider when selecting grout including:
- Color – Most designs try to pair a complimentary color that takes a back seat to the tile. In other words choose a color that will blend in and not draw attention. For the project we selected a color called “camel” which blends nicely with the tan color of the marble tiles.
- Sanded vs Unsanded Grout – There are two basic types of grout to choose from depending on the width of your grout joints. If your grout joints are 1/16 inch then unsanded grout is best. For joints larger than 1/16 inch a sanded grout is best as it’s less likely to crack. For this project we’re using a sanded grout.
- Premixed vs Dry Grout – In the past I’ve always used dry grout and mixed it myself. However, this time I decided to purchase a premixed grout from TEC. We purchased the premixed TEC Invision ready to use grout in Camel color. If you’re a newbie to tiling this is a great option as it eliminates a step and takes some of the unknowns out. This particular grout is stain, mold and mildew resistant and it does not require sealing like most dry unmixed grouts.
How To Grout Tile Joints
Traditionally tile grout is installed using a rubber trowel to press the grout into the joints. This method works very well on floors, large walls and smooth glass or subways tiles on backsplashes. However, for our project we are faced a couple of issues that make the traditional method hard to do.
- We used a tumbled marble tile, 4 inches by 6 inches, with lots of holes, voids and rough surfaces. We didn’t want those voids to be filled with grout but rather to maintain the voids for character.
- We already had a six inch tall granite backsplash in place which reduced the total height of tile to 14 inches. Having only 14 inches of space made using a large sponge and rubber trowel (pictured above) very difficult.
Because of these two issues I decided to use a method that I’ve only read about and that’s to use a pastry bag to “squirt” the grout into the joints. By using the pastry bag I was able to keep the grout focused to just the width of the joint and minimize how much grout was applied to the surface of the tiles.
The following is a short video showing how quickly I was able to grout the tile joints using a pastry bag. I used a standard pastry bag with a round #10 tip. The premixed grout is almost the same consistency as frosting so it worked beautifully.
After successfully grouting the joints I needed to trowel or “work” the joints. This accomplishes two things, first of all it allowed me to remove any excess grout and secondly it also ensures that the joints are full and there are no voids. I used a small putty knife to work each of the grout joints. It’s important to only work with a small area at once. You’ll want to grout the joint, work the joint and then clean the tiles before moving on. The following short video shows you how I troweled the joints.
It’s also really important that you not work the grout joints to vigorously as you’ll pull out all the grout and also weaken the final grout lines. Again one of the keys to this is only tackling and area that’s large enough that you can successfully grout, trowel and clean off before the grout cures and hardens to the surface of the tiles.
Final Thoughts On Grouting Backsplash Tiles
Grouting tiles isn’t that difficult if you’re prepared and take your time. The key to a successful job is doing small areas so you have plenty of time and don’t get ahead of yourself. Also, smooth tiles with small joints are the easiest to grout while porous tiles with large joints are more work. Using a premixed grout with sealers already in it will save you time and aggravation. If you don’t use a premixed grout be sure to seal your grout after it’s cured with an approved grout sealer to protect against staining and mold.
If you’d like to see the final pictures of our new backsplash along with a summary of all the backsplash articles then visit our complete guide on how to install a kitchen backsplash.