How to Choose the Perfect Grout Color for Your Tile
Carrie Waller, founder of the lifestyle and crafting blog Dream Green DIY, has mastered the art of strategic color. Since she started cataloging her projects in 2011, she’s used the full spectrum of shades to play up everything from a front door to picture frames. But if there’s one often-overlooked place where she’d like to see more hues on display, it’s tile grout.
“We forget that grout is just as important as tile choice,” she says. “Grout has the unique power to make an otherwise boring tile really pop in a space.”
It’s possible to experiment with a full kaleidoscope of tiles, and those colors can be used to distinguish other design choices, like texture and shape. Ignoring it is a missed opportunity.
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“We end up spending so long trying to choose the ‘perfect’ tile that all of our energy is spent when it comes time to pick a grout to go with it,” she continues. “My advice is to not leave your grout choice to the last minute. Pick it out the same day you choose your tile, because a bad grout choice could end up ruining a good tile choice.”
To make this process less intimidating, Waller breaks down what you should know about choosing a high-impact grout color, how to test it out, and the best way to apply it. Follow her lead, and this detail may become your new favorite feature of your bathroom or kitchen.
Thinking About, Testing, and Applying Grout Colors
Pick up a free grout color sheet.
If you’re spending time at home improvement stores looking at tiles, then you’ve likely noticed a grout color sheet in the vicinity, too. Those sheets are usually free, and they’re worth bringing home with your tile samples.
“The sheets show a true-to-life printed block of color for each grout color option provided by the manufacturer,” she says. “Whatever you do, though, don’t pick your grout color there in the store aisle. Take the color sheet home and look at the grout color options in your specific room, so you can choose based on the lighting. Have your tiles handy to lay down next to the grout line printout for a fairly accurate representation of the finished product.”
Consider the size of your grout.
Grout color can be used as a way to contrast minimalism or accentuate maximalism. Depending on your personal tastes, it’s possible to go as unique or as traditional as you please. For a compromise between extremes, Waller recommends this trick: “Go a shade or two lighter or darker when choosing a grout color for your tile,” she says. And when you nail down a color, pay attention to the size of your grout. It will determine how your choice is received.
“If you’re worried that your color might be a little over the top, just make the grout line a little slimmer, so that it tones down the statement,” Waller explains. “In other words, use 1/16-inch spacers when tiling instead of 1/8-inch—that way your grout line will be thinner in the finished space. The grout will still be visible, but just a little more refined.”
Be sure to remove enough grout during application.
Before you start installation, take a look at the depth of your tiles: How thick or how thin are they? Their size should hint at how much grout is needed.
“Your instinct might be to leave it thick, but the depth of your tiles should determine how much you end up leaving behind,” Waller notes. “Protruding, uneven grout lines are the first sign of an amateur application. To hide your DIY work, just make sure to use a heavy hand when wiping away excess wet grout from between the tiles. Pass the sponge back and forth across the space between the tiles, and gently but firmly wipe until you see the edges of your tiles show through.”
Our Four Favorite Grout Color Ideas
- Alabaster: “This is a great choice when working with marble tile, as it helps highlight the dark veining that runs throughout the natural stone,” Waller says.
- Charcoal: “Everybody knows that white subway tile is a classic choice that will never go out of style, but consider punching up this fairly safe tile choice by using an ultra-dark grout,” she notes.
- Coral: “I was inspired by fellow blogger Kelly Mindell, of Studio DIY, when I picked this grout for a hypothetical project,” Waller adds. “That subtle pop of blush would go especially well between white or gray penny tiles, and complements gold plumbing fixtures to a T.”
- Bright White: “If you are working with black hexagon tiles, then use a bright white grout to help highlight that unique shape and really make your tile work shine,” she says.