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How NOT to Grout Tile – Home on the Plains

How NOT to Grout Tile

Misfortune Made Beautiful Again

Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


When was your first time to lay tile all by yourself?  How did it go?  Swell, I hope!  Or better than our first time at least.  This is not a negative post.  I just want to give everyone a warning to not make the mistake we did.  The mistake ended up being fixed, but it took a lot of time and elbow grease to the say the least.

When we decided to renovate our guest bathroom, we chose to put white subway tile on the walls surrounding the tub.  It gave it the classic, clean look we love!  As you may have read in the post about our bathroom renovation, we wanted an all-white bathroom to keep things feeling fresh and bright.  We chose a grout color called Delorean Gray to add some contrast to the white tile and to keep the grout from looking dingy and stained over time.

Advice was given to us to use a non-sanded grout for any tile spacing 1/4″ or less.  The tile spacers we chose were exactly 1/4″, so non-sanded grout it would be!  My husband, Kevin, and I get home one evening after work and decide it’s time to start attacking the tile job.  He had finished the Kerdi membrane the night before.  The Schluter Kerdi system is an amazing alternative to cement backerboard.  There is no heavy lifting and it can go right on top of the existing drywall making the surface waterproof.  Tile can easily be laid right on top of the membrane!

Anyway, we were taking all the advice we could get with this bathroom project.  It was our first big home project on our own and we needed all the help we could get.  Kevin spent several days laying the subway tile on all three of the walls surrounding the tub.  After he finally finished up, we mixed up some grout and got to work.  Right at the time we started filling in the grout lines, a friend of ours who had done many home projects on his own in the past walked in.  He tells us he was instructed by a contractor to let the grout dry on the tile after spreading, then wipe it off a couple hours later.  This was supposed to make the tile come clean quicker, rather than having to wipe off grout haze fifteen thousand times.  Naturally, we took the advice.  It did not go well.

Before we realized the mess that was about to ensue, Kevin had to leave the house for a few hours to go to a class he was taking at the time.  I finished filling grout lines while he was gone and started trying to remove the excess from the tile surfaces.  At first, I thought it was a little difficult but had faith it would work out.  I scrubbed on that tile for a couple hours before Kevin made it home from class.  The tips of my fingers were bloody (no joke) at that point due to pressing so hard into the nylon pad while scrubbing.  I apologize for that being a bit gross, but it’s reality.  Kevin tried scrubbing for a bit with about the same amount of luck and results I had.

After talking to our friend that gave the advice, we came to the conclusion that the grout used in his bathroom was sanded grout, NOT non-sanded grout.  Little known to us, there’s quite a difference when it comes to the adherence of these!  For some that may be wondering, we were not mad or upset with this friend.  He has been and continues to be so much help with our home renovation projects.  He is very knowledgable, and there are several things we couldn’t have done without his help.

Over the next couple of days, we tried multiple techniques and products to get the excess grout removed.  Course scrubbing pads, razor blades, grinder with a nylon brush attached, vinegar and hot water, hammer and scraper – you name it!  Surprisingly, the razor blades came out on top in the end.  Hours and hours were spent scraping away at these tiles.  The last night we were working on it, a couple of dear friends were there helping out.  They stayed with us until we finally finished around 3AM, for which, we are incredibly grateful.


The very obvious lesson we got from this is to NOT let grout dry on the tile, not non-sanded grout at least.  We will be following the instructions as they are written on the products from now on.  Kevin may disagree as most men would, but you see where that got us in this instance.

Vanessa - Home on the Plains


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