I just moved into a new house, and I’m really not happy with the grout used in the kitchen and bathrooms. I’m not really confident that I can pick something better though. Can you give me some pointers?
-Jeff in Utah
This may not seem like an important decision worthy of spending any time on, but the color of your grout can change the look of the whole floor or wall. The whole process of choosing tile can be overwhelming. When it gets to the last little detail of choosing a grout color, it is tempting to just say – whatever. Hang in there and use this advice to get you through.
When you look at the grout chart, don’t worry that there are so many choices. Gather one or a few samples of your tile and place them on a neutral background. Then, choose 3-5 grout samples and space them around or in between the tiles. The goal is to choose the color that best matches or blends with the tile. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match exactly, the goal is for the color to coordinate and blend.
Next, step away from the samples and look at the pieces from several feet away. Let’s face it; rarely will your face be 6″-12″ from the floor. You will spend your time looking at the floor as a whole while standing up!
Look for the grout sample that disappears the most. You paid for the tile, not the grout. The tile is what you want to see when the floor is complete. Choosing a grout color that is contrasting will draw your eye to that difference and you will see the lines that separate each tile rather than one complete finished floor.
It is tempting to try to make grout more of a design element than it is. If you have a neutral tile and have second thoughts about it being too boring while convincing yourself that the grout color can pull everything in your design scheme together – WAIT! It rarely makes sense to use a colored grout on a neutral tile. Often, it is hard enough using a colored grout on a colored tile! Unless you are going for a checkerboard look or the lines around the tile to be a focal point, let the grout be grout and choose a neutral color.
If there is an edge color around the tile that is different from the center of the tile you have a choice to make. If you choose a grout color that best coordinates with the edge color, then the edging will be more pronounced. If you choose a grout color that coordinates with the color on the center of the tile, that edging will be minimized. There is no right or wrong answer here, just personal preference.
If you have a tile with multiple or mixed colors, follow the same steps. Place a few samples around and in between several tiles and step back to view them. Again, you are looking for the most neutral color that disappears. Start eliminating choices and your decision will become clear.
One exception worth mentioning is Saltillo tile or Mexican tile. This orangy terracotta tile typically does not follow the rules. Most installations of Saltillo tile have a neutral gray grout or black in some commercial applications.
Another consideration is maintenance. When choosing a neutral grout color there are often a few shades that will work well. In this case, keep maintenance in mind. Darker grout colors will hide dirt better than white or light colors. If maintenance is a concern, you can always seal the grout for added protection.
If you make a decision that you are unhappy with or buy a home where someone else made a poor decision, you have the option to stain the grout rather than removing the grout and starting over. Removing the grout runs the risk of chipping the tile.
Ask your retailer or designer for help if you are unsure what to choose. They have made these decisions many times and can take the stress out of the decision for you.