Grout 101: Filling in the Gaps

Grout 101: Filling in the Gaps

Selecting grout can often feel like a rushed afterthought, because, if we’re being honest, who’s thinking about grout when there’s sparkly tile, lighting, and hardware to select!? Well, we’re here to tell you that, though grout may seem like a tiny detail, it packs a mighty punch! By bonding your tile together and preventing cracks and chips around edges, it plays an important role in the healthy maintenance of so many of your home’s most beautiful surfaces. So, while it may not be the most glamorous design element, grout does a stand-up job showcasing and protecting that custom tile work you’ve spent countless hours dreaming up.

Read on for a few grout tips we’ve picked up over the years while designing tile-heavy kitchens and baths:

Grout 101 choosing grout bathroom subway tile

Marie Flanigan Interiors

Cement vs. Epoxy

Alright, let’s dive in to the nitty gritty (pun intended)! You’ve got two main options when choosing grout: epoxy and cement.

Grout 101 choosing grout for kitchen backsplash subway tile

Marie Flanigan Interiors

Epoxy, made of resin and filler powder, is quickly becoming our #1 grout choice! It’s durable, stainproof, waterproof, and it doesn’t fade…it’s basically the holy grail of grout. Can we get an amen!? However, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of: it comes at a higher price point and it can be very tricky to install (that means all you DIY’ers can roll down your sleeves because you’re probably gonna’ need to call a professional). That being said, the money spent upfront saves you from having to re-grout every few years, which can be a costly headache.

Grout 101 Marie Flanigan Interiors herringbone tile pattern kitchen backsplash

Marie Flanigan Interiors

While epoxy certainly has its place [here’s lookin’ at you, kitchens and baths], there are times when using a simple cement grout will do just nicely! Cement is a wonderful option if you’re installing tile in an area that doesn’t receive a great deal of wear and tear or exposure to water and grime.

Grout 101 mosaic tile on staircase

Jute Home

Expert Tip: Always have cement grout sealed to maximize its life! You’ll thank us later when that red wine accidentally hits the floor…

Cement Grout: Sanded vs. Unsanded

Dig a little deeper into the world of cement grout and you’ll undoubtedly come across the sanded versus unsanded debate. Feedback and guidelines exist all over the web, but we particularly like the one provided here.

The long and short of it? Sanded grout should be your go-to selection due to its wide availability, diverse range of color options, and ability to withstand the test of time. Unsanded grout should only be considered if you’re working with super thin grout lines (1/8 inch or less) or projects that involve fragile surfaces that can be easily scratched, like glass or honed stone.

Dark vs. Light

When selecting your grout color, you need to decide whether you want the grout to match or stand out against the surrounding tile. Coordinating the hue of your tile and grout makes a space feel larger and more streamlined, while opting for a contrasting grout color tends to create a funky, carefree vibe!

Grout 101 Marie Flanigan Interiors herringbone floor tile with grey subway tile shower and dark grout

Marie Flanigan Interiors

We’re suckers for a clean, tailored space, so you can probably guess which side we’re on!

penny tile floor with large grey wall tile master bath

Marie Flanigan Interiors

Expert Tip: If you’re worried about yellowing, opt for a grout that has a grey undertone. It will still read white but has the power to maintain its cooler tone over a longer period of time. 

Vintage tile dark grout

Kitchen subway tile dark grout

While we love the streamlined look of tone on tone, there are times when using contrasting grout feels just right! The color opposition takes on a vintage vibe and it’s ideal for showing off intricate pattern work. Added bonus? Dark grout is better at disguising dirt and stains!

Choosing Grout Vintage Tile Modern Tile Arch Digest

Vintage Shower Subway Tile Dark Grout

Still on the fence? ASK FOR SAMPLES! If you have extra tiles, there’s no shame in asking your contractor to pull together a sample of both grout colors to be sure that you’ll be happy with the end result. And if you don’t have any tiles to spare, try laying a few pieces over grout color swatches to be sure everything marries nicely.

Traditional Home White Hex Tile Choosing Grout

Marie Flanigan Interiors

To Seal or Not To Seal

Grout isn’t as resilient as the materials it so kindly holds together. Unsealed, it is susceptible to staining and discoloration from food and drink, water, household products, and oils. Protect your investment by discussing these concerns with your contractor and clearly request that, if their team used concrete grout, it be sealed before the project comes to an end. On a happy note, this is a step you can skip on by if you decided to go the epoxy route!

We hope you enjoyed our brief Grout Guide – drop us a note below if you’ve got any tips we missed!


Join the Conversation