The end is near at this point in the backsplash tiling process. We’ve prepared the walls and we’ve installed the tile with thinset, letting it dry really well. Today, we can talk about grouting, plus you can learn how to fix it if you mess it up like I did! I make mistakes, so you don’t have to!
Part 3: Grouting
Part 1: Preparing the walls |
Part 2: Installing tile with thinset
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- First, we’re going to get the area as clean as possible. I used a shop-vac to remove any loose, dried thinset pieces. This also showed me that some of the tile pieces were not adhered as well as I had thought. So I reapplied thinset to those pieces and let it dry for another day. Sad, but necessary.
- With a nice clean surface, you’re ready for grouting your tile. If you mixed it yourself, you want the consistency of icing.
- Use the rubber float to apply the grout, using a diagonal motion to shove it firmly into the cracks. I like the smaller float because by this time, my hand was claw like and everything hurt. It also was easier to maneuver than the larger one, because backsplashes are not very large.
- Use the float again to remove the excess grout on the surface, being careful not to remove it from the cracks. Using an “S” shape pattern works well to remove all of the excess grout. I’ve read that working on 10 minute increments is a good rule. ***
- After applying grout for 10 minutes, stop and grab the sponge and fill a bucket with water. It helps to have more than one. I used empty buckets that we had in the garage. You can buy empty buckets as well. They come in handy all the time!
- Wring the sponge out so that it’s not sopping wet and start wiping the tile down, rinsing it in the bucket as necessary. You’ll have to rinse it a lot! Use the grout scrubber on any stubborn spots. Smooth the grout lines as you go, being careful to not remove too much grout. It should be fairly firm at this point.
- When the water is gross, switch to a new bucket. Pour the old water outside. You don’t want it in your drains.
- A little bit of leftover haze is normal and can be taken care of easily.
- Continue until the grouting is done. Don’t rush this part. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Trust me. Use the 10 minute rule!
- When you’re done, wipe off the layer of haze with a microfiber cloth.
***What I did wrong while grouting***
The aforementioned claw hands were part of the problem, but I was also tired of not having a kitchen. Ironically, if I had done it correctly, I would have had my kitchen back the next day.
I grouted the whole thing, and then went back to wipe it. My grout package said to let it dry for 30 minutes, but it was a really warm day, so I think it dried much faster.
I also did not wipe enough of the excess grout off in the initial grouting stage. Womp womp womp….
So it dried and was difficult to remove. But not impossible.
How I fixed the dried on grout
- Grout scrubber
- Small wooden stick (I used a piece of a shim)
- Fiber Abrasive buff dremel bit
- Wash cloth
- Microfiber cloth
- Scrub off what you can with the grout scrubber. Soaking it in vinegar helped, but be careful of this. Vinegar can stain some tiles, so use caution.
- Use the wooden stick for really stubborn spots. I think I waited too long for this part. It might work for you.
- At this point, I was exhausted and certain that this was the job for power tools. I went to the store to look for something to attach to a drill. They had nothing, but they did have buffing pads for a dremel. So I bought a few packs and came home.
- These worked well, but I used them up quickly. Buy twice as many as you think you need. So like 4 packs.
- I got it to “good enough” with this technique. Be careful not to “polish” too much. I was concerned about taking the finish off of the tile. A few turned a funny color, but they always washed off just fine.
- Then I started washing the tile down with a wash cloth. I dipped it in vinegar and this seemed to take off the rest with some light scrubbing.
- Wipe it with the microfiber cloth.
- Voila! Tile job not ruined!
- Caulk where the edges meet the countertop and anywhere else necessary, like along the windows or cabinets. I used white to match the white grout. If you mess up, you can let it dry and then scrape it off.
- Let caulk dry.
- Apply grout sealer. This part was really easy. I wiped a generous amount on, using the squeeze bottle to make sure that I got it really well behind the sink and stove where I make the most messes. Let it sit for a few minutes and wipe off the excess with a clean rag.
It still needs a few pieces of wood trim to be complete. I decided to add wood trim in my “problem areas.” I’m a big believer in not making work harder than it needs to be. It might not be “right”, but I would rather it be done and “good enough” than be curled up somewhere in fetal position crying. My method is not for perfectionists, because I’m not one. I’m a “get stuff done” kind of girl.
Anyways, instead of agonizing over cutting tile into perfect 1/4″ pieces, I decided to beef up the trim around my window instead. It’s a win-win situation because the trim is pretty wimpy.
Edited to add: I ended up adding thinner tile to the edges around the window. See the finished kitchen here.
As hard as this project ended up being for me, I still think of tile fondly. It’s like having a baby. It sucks while you’re doing it, but eventually you want another. (Except I would much rather have tile than more babies.)
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