How to Use a Grout Float

Remember the Importance of Comfort, Cleanliness

Man applying grout using a grout float.
The "grout float" is just one type of float tool. Photography by Paula Thomas/Getty Images

A grout float is used to spread grout into the joints between tiles. The bottom, the part that is used to actually spread the grout, is usually made from rubber. The handle can be wood or plastic. Below, a distinction is drawn between this tool and the type of "float" that you would use when working with concrete.

But exactly how do you use grout floats? Well, it is messy business but basically straightforward. You dab some grout onto your tool and start spreading it across the tiles, holding the tool at an angle. The principle is the same whether you are grouting indoors (for a bathroom, for example) or outdoors (as when laying tile for an outdoor patio).

Although the idea is to work grout into the cracks, you will inevitably get a lot of it on the tiles, too. That is perfectly all right when grouting tile, so do not panic: You have not done any real harm, because the grout can be wiped off later easily enough.

If you are undertaking a large DIY project, choose a grout float that feels comfortable in your hand. Try out different models at the hardware store before buying. If you have a big job in front of you, a little bit of extra comfort makes a huge difference.

Grout floats can be found at most home improvement stores. Beginners will be surprised to learn that there are various types of grout floats. If you are using epoxy grout, choose a grout float made to be used with epoxy grout.

Grouts for Working With Concrete Are Different

In fact, when we employ the term more generally, there is an even greater variety of different kinds of floats, so you have to be careful when shopping. Hand floats meant for concrete work can be made from aluminum, steel, magnesium, resin or wood on the bottom. Resin and wood types will make marks on the surface of concrete; this may be desirable if you are seeking to create a more slip-resistant surface. Metal types are preferred if you are not looking to create such "texture" and prefer, instead, a completely smooth surface.

Despite all of these different materials used to make concrete floats, the concept is the same: A concrete float is a spreading tool used in masonry, having a handle fastened to a flat piece. Such floats are used, for example, to finish the surface of a concrete patio or walkway. Employing an arc-shaped, sweeping motion, one smooths over bumps in the concrete surface with the float.

Then there is the "bull" float (also used for working with concrete), a large tool equipped with a long pole for a handle, so that you can reach out over the surface of a concrete patio to smooth it out, without stepping on it.

Tip: Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

Keep your grout float clean. While you are grouting, keep a tile sponge and bucket of water close by. Periodically rinse off your grout float. It will be easier to spread the grout if the tool is clean.