How Grout Color Can Transform Your Tile Project

Grout being applied to tiles using a grout spreader
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Grout color instantly makes tile design pop. Even though many homeowners barely even give it a thought, it is so simple to do: fast-mixing and easy to match (or contrast with) your field tile. Here are tips for working with it:

3 Ways To Get It:  Pre-Mixed, Color Additive, or Colorants

  1. Pre-Mixed: Most homeowners doing their own tiling choose to purchase dry-mix or pre-mixed grout with the color already added in.
  2. Additive: Separate color additive can be mixed to the dry or pre-mixed grout to achieve any color. Because it is difficult for non-professionals to effectively add pigment to grout, most DIYers choose grout with the color already mixed in.
  3. Colorants: Grout can be colored after-the-fact--after it has hardened with the colorant. You can purchase colorant "pens" that will paint the grout with color while staying within the grout lines.

Forget "Spicy Red":  Popular Grout Colors Are Muted

Predictably, the most popular grout colors are gray and off-white. Few homeowners take advantage of the fact that grout comes in a myriad of stock, ready-made colors besides gray and off-white.  

Mapei Corporation, a major supplier of tile-related materials, has grout in 33 colors. Laticrete has 40 grout colors.

Few truly vibrant grout colors are available, most falling in the earthen-toned color spectrum. A dull orange is about as colorful as most grout will get. With Mapei, this orange is called Cinnamon. With Laticrete, this hue is called Cinnamon Spice.

For the "Grid Look," Try White.  Or Avoid White.

Some homeowners love the regimented look of sharp white or off-white grout lines against the dark tile.

It may seem like a good idea at the time to use pure white grout, but it will give you problems later on down the road. Not only does white grout get dirty quite fast, but when it is still white it does not look natural. The contrast between the tile and grout can be too striking. The grout lines overpower the color of the tiles, presenting a kind of grid-like appearance.

Here's What Dark Grout + Lighter Tile Does

When the tile is light and the grout is dark, then the grout becomes a design element that you need to consider. When the contrast is too much, then you end up with an unpleasant checkerboard look.

Are You The "Grout and Tile Must Match" Type?

It's tempting to try matching color and tile colors. You will find that it is nearly impossible to match tile and grout colors, so don't even try. One exception: some tilemakers produce grout specifically made to match the tile.

Instead of trying for slavish consistency, aim for a hue lighter or darker, and enjoy the delightful interplay between the grout and tile.

Grout Colorant: Both For Fixing Stained Grout and For Changing Colors

Grout colorant is a waterborne epoxy that is applied to grout after it has become dirty and discolored. It is applied with small brushes that are the width of the tile seam. Typically it is difficult to lighten your tile grout. An easier fix is to choose a grout colorant that is a shade darker than your existing shade.