When you look at the floors in your home, it’s probably apparent that tile can have a big impact. Entering a room with white marble tile is going to be a radically different experience from entering one that’s completely covered in dark green tile. When the time comes to replace that tile, you’ll no doubt know to consider those factors.
But what you might not consider is that the grout is equally important. Though it takes up significantly less of your floor space, it still has an impact on the eye, one large enough to determine the feel of an entire room.
What Is Tile Grout and Why Is It Important?
On tile floors, the tiles are the polygonal pieces of ceramic, glass or stone that are organized in a grid or mosaic across the floor. But they don’t take up 100% of the floor space. The gaps between the tiles are filled with a dried paste called grout, which can be made of a few different materials.
Grout is important for several reasons. To start with, it acts as a sealant against water. The tiles have to be spaced apart to keep them from cracking in case they expand, but leaving those gaps empty would allow water to seep down into the floor and cause damage. Grout keeps that from happening.
But grout also serves a visual purpose. As important as the tiles are, the grout between them has the power to set them apart or blend them together. Much of this is dependent on color. There are three ways that grout can relate to the tile it borders — matching, complementing or contrasting.
- Matching: Matching grout is the same color, or very nearly so, as the tile.
- Complementing: Complementing grout is a different color than the tile, but only subtly, often using neutral colors.
- Contrasting: Contrasting grout is a radically different color than the tile, like black grout with white tile.
Each of these arrangements has a markedly different effect on the tile, and therefore on the overall look of the room.
Common Grout Colors to Choose From
Wall and floor colors can vary dramatically across different homes and rooms, but it’s interesting to note that the range of colors is largely dependent on the materials used. Rooms whose walls are covered in wallpaper or paint, for example, tend to use bold colors like red and bright blue more often than those covered in tile.
By the same token, there’s typically more room for color variety amongst the tiles themselves than amongst the grout. Grout can certainly contrast with the tiles it borders, but in most cases, it would look rather strange to walk into a room with bright red grout, no matter what color the tiles were.
Most often, grout comes in simple, earthy colors. Two of the most common grout colors are black and white. In addition to those, shades of beige, brown, gray and mossy green are frequently used. Others are available as well, depending on what you need.
Tips for Selecting the Right Grout Color
Choosing grout color isn’t always an easy process. But it’s only complicated by the fact that it’s about more than just what color you like best when you look at the available options.
You have to consider how the grout color will compare with the tile color, as well as what it will mean for installing and cleaning. Believe it or not, the color of your grout can have an impact on how you apply it and on how much you have to clean it later on.
The good news is that if you’re aware of these factors when you choose the grout, you can make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. Here are some things to consider when deciding what color grout to use.
It may seem strange, but grout can affect how big a room feels. If you walk into a room that uses complementing or matching grout color, the grout will make all the tiles feel connected, giving off the feel of a wider floor.
Contrasting grout, on the other hand, makes the space feel more active and full. If you’re more comfortable in smaller spaces, contrasting might be the way to go. Otherwise, consider matching or complementing colors.
Another thing to think about is what the design of the tile is intended to be. If you want a simple grid, like subway tile, you can go either way. But if your tile is laid out in a mosaic and you want to bring out the pattern of it, contrasting grout is probably the best option, as it will enhance the design and draw attention to it.
One danger to using dark grout is that it can stain light-colored tiles. If you want to install that particular combination, be sure to apply a sealant to your tiles before you apply the grout. Test the sealant beforehand to make sure it will be effective.
Darker shades of grout may be more of a pain to install, but they can save you trouble down the road. That’s because floors are natural spots for dirt to accumulate, particularly in high-traffic areas. As grout is usually slightly below the level of the tiles, it’s hard for mops and vacuums to clean those depressions out well.
If you have light-colored grout, this arrangement will make things harder on you, as you’ll have to clean it more frequently and more extensively. Dark grout, on the other hand, makes it harder to see dirt. It’s still good to clean it sometimes, but it requires much less effort than lighter grout. Be aware of this factor, especially if you’re putting the grout on a floor people will frequently walk across.
If you’ve ever painted a wall and had it dry into a different shade than it looked like when it was wet, you’ve already had experience with one potential aspect of grout. Like some brands of paint, grout can occasionally come out looking different than you expected after it dries. In some cases, this change might throw off the effect you were trying to create.
When this happens, don’t worry — you still have options. In particular, you can take advantage of staining products to recolor your grout. Be aware, though, that these products are best for making grout darker, not making it lighter.
So if you’re looking for a particular color and you’re unsure of which shade to pick, it’s better to err on the side of too light a grout rather than one that’s too dark. You can always darken it later.
Roughly a week after your grout has been put in, you’ll want to come back for a final step — sealing. Sealing your grout will help cut back on how much it gets stained down the line. The type of sealant you use depends on the tile and grout you have. Some are better for ceramic tile, while others work well with marble. Likewise, certain sealants are more suited for sanded grout, which is typically used in wider tile spacing, while others are best for non-sanded grout, which is used in tighter spacing.
Once you’ve selected the best sealant, apply it slowly and diligently to your grout, making sure to wipe up any excess as you go. After you’ve applied the sealant, leave it for around an hour, and then apply a second coat. Give it one to two days to settle in, avoiding foot traffic in the area during that time.
Schedule Your In-Home Tiling Appointment
If you’re looking at picking grout color for your tile floor, you’re likely installing or replacing the tile floor altogether. It can be challenging to know what tile and grout colors will look best in your home when the only place you can see them is in a store.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go to a store to view your options. 50 Floor offers a “shop-at-home” experience, where we bring tiling and grout options right to your home. This process lets you see them in the room of your choice before deciding, so you can be sure you’re getting the right color. Schedule an appointment with us today to get started!