David Crosson’s Interior Design Blog

Grout And About

Or, How to Best Use Grout to Make Tile Terrific

You know how it’s said a bad accessory can ruin an outfit? The same can be said of grout. Poor grout: the lowly little chorus member to the headlining tile. Poor grout: it’s not even the icing on the cake, it’s the filling between layers. What’s funny, though, is that tile is nothing without grout—and that is to say it can be quite something.

Obviously when it comes to this crucial bit-player, getting the look right is of utmost importance; after all, it goes in after your tile has been labouriously (and not inexpensively) set and cured. To have a misstep at this juncture would be disastrous, which is why your grout must be chosen at the same time as you buy your tile.

Despite its ‘lesser’ stature, grout can be quite a cunning little chameleon, acting as both quiet diplomat bridging the gap (literally) between tiles and aggressive agitator making them pop (not literally) to their fullest advantage. Although you are not likely to find an exact colour match to your tile (even white-on-white can be tricky) finding one close in tone is best if you want to create an expansive, cohesive look between the component parts of your floor (or backsplash or shower surround).

If it’s graphic impact you want to achieve, opt for medium to high contrast colours, which will emphasize the grid effect of the interlocking longitude and latitude your tile has created. In both cases—subtle or stunning—it’s important to remember how much grout you will actually be using: the overall effect is much less bold when it’s used with larger-format tiles (12 by 24, 24 by 24 or bigger).

In this washroom by DCDC at the Calgary Petroleum Club, a calmer grout colour was used to play up the texture of the imported Japanese tiles rather than their graphic quality

In this washroom by DCDC at the Calgary Petroleum Club, a calmer grout colour was used to play up the texture of the imported Japanese tiles rather than their graphic quality

Consider, then, how busy (and potentially distracting) the visual texture would be in the context of, say, 1 by 1 mosaics. If that is your end goal then absolutely go for it—as long as you know what you’re in for when all is said and done. I once did 1 by 1 white hexagons with espresso-brown grout above an espresso countertop in an ice-blue kitchen and the results were stunning. But not, of course, for everyone. (It was one of my previous kitchens, btw.)  If you’re really gutsy, there are glitter grouts on the market that actually contain metallic flakes. But seeing as you’re not Liberace and neither am I, use for this product seems somewhat limited. Talk about the extra trying to steal the scene from the star…

Two things to bear in mind when you’re working with tinted grout: 1) always be sure to seal the job once it’s done so cleansers don’t leech out the colour and 2) pre-mixed product is always better for colour consistency. I like using Custom’s Fusion line, which is true to swatch in terms of hue-faithfulness and easy to use because of its cake frosting consistency.

As I said, grout can be a wonderful addition to a tile scheme whether played up or played down. With so many choices these days you’ll have a tough time making the right decision. The important thing to remember is that this one element can make or break a great tile job, so (you knew it was coming) if all else fails, contact me…

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