Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Twist & Grout!... Floor tile 101

How To Grout A Floor



Let's talk about GROUT!
(Please, no throwing of panties at your monitor. I know this is exciting stuff...)

So what does it take to grout a floor? 

Well, this is actually a fairly simple answer: 
A bucket of clean water, an over-sized commercial grade sponge and a FLOAT
What's a float? 
(Dairy Queen would tell you different)  but it's a rubber based trowel that allows you to squeeze grout into the open spaces between each tile while squeegeeing off the excess.

Let me break this down fast and hard: Put 2 minutes on the clock....

1) Make sure your tile has set for at least 24 hours

2) Make sure there is no excess thinset mortar that might pop through the grout lines

3) Make sure all of the grout lines have been cleaned and vacuumed to remove debris

4) Mix your grout to a proper consistency

I'm going to stop here. Nobody ever gives a great description of the proper consistency of a grout mix. Here's mine.. You want it to be thick enough that when you swirl your trowel through it? It stays in that last shape after you pull your trowel out of the bucket. It shouldn't slump or sag back into level.
BUT!!.. It shouldn't be so thick as to be dry and/or pastey. You want it right in that sweet spot between soft and firm. I would describe it as halfway between cake batter and peanut butter.  You may need to add water to it as you work the floor because there is a thing called "slaking" that all mortars and grouts do. Basically, they firm up in the minutes right after the initial mix and you need to remix them (sometimes adding a few drops more water) after a short period of "slaking" <--- Use that word with your friends and they'll think you made it up.

5) FLOAT (not trowel) your grout out along the surface of the floor holding the float on a slight angle as to use it's edge.

This sounds technical? But just throw a good size blob in the area you are working and begin to "FLOAT"... you with me?... Float that grout across a small workable area.

6) Remove the excess grout by floating in a wide, sweeping motion trying to keep your Float perpendicular to the grout lines

What you want to do is use your float in your hand like a giant windshield wiper. Make long swooping passes with your arm extended working the area farthest from your position back TOWARDS your position. Make sure not to dig out any grout with the float as you pass over the floor. You should be just filling them in.
Look, I can't grout and take a snapshot at the same time but... stare at this and you'll get the idea of what I'm saying:
Picture of random dude doing some grouting

Look at the picture. See how he's holding the Float on its edge? See how its squishing the grout into the grout lines while pulling off the excess? See how he has a small pile of grout in front of him ready to fill more grout lines?.... Yeah, DO THAT. Just promise me you won't wear the silly sweatbands that this knucklehead is wearing. I must have found the only image ever captured of Bj√∂rn Borg grouting a floor. 

Where was I? .... oh, yeah 

7) Using your sponge and clean water, work the area you have just grouted to clean and form the grout lines.

This is the easiest part but SOOO many people get this wrong. Don't wait, you don't need to let the grout 'set'.... trust me, more people end up fighting with clean up because they thought they needed to grout, wait, then clean. Just go ahead and work an area... maybe a few feet wide. When you've floated the grout lines, removed the excess, then use your sponge and water to work the area in the same manner much like removing a paint spill from floor. Wring out that sponge, it shouldn't be dripping... and don't be afraid to change the water along the way, clean water is key. You're going to end up with a product that looks completely clean while it's wet but, dries to a soft and easily removable haze when it dries.
The "haze" always messes people up. It should be little more than a dusting that comes off by wiping your hand across the surface. Much like dust on a mantle. Any more than that?... You didn't clean well enough during the sponge process.

Lastly, (which probably should have been "firstly"?)... There are many types of grout (Standard, Epoxy, Modified, etc). In most situations you will be dealing with standard grout in one of two forms: Sanded and Unsanded.

-SANDED is exactly what it says. There is a sand additive to give it strength for larger grout lines (usually bigger than 1/8"). This is typically the grout that you will use for a floor tiles.

-UNSANDED (take a guess where that name came from). There is no sand added and this mixes up more like a thick pudding. It's used for most wall tile applications or areas where the grout lines are 1/8" or less.

That'll head you in the right direction. Most of this is actually getting used to having a float in your hand and learning the right angle that works for you. You can't talk someone how to ride a bike....they have to do it to get the feel of what you're saying so... go cop a feel.

Okay! I think I've successfully filled my innuendo quota. Never be afraid to drop us a line if you have any DIY project questions at Ask A Home Improvement Expert!


Image: sixninepixels /

1 comment:

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