15 October 2015

Bathroom Remodel: Grout Colors

If you're installing tile, be aware that the color you choose for your grout can make your tile look wonderful...or DREADFUL. Grout color is terribly important, and I have learned that choosing the "right" color may not be as easy as you'd expect!

This is a photo I found online which shows how grout color can change the appearance of tile. This is not the tile we're using in our bathroom, but the shape is the same. Look how different this white hexagon tile appears with white grout, tan grout, black grout, and gray grout. From a color standpoint, grout is powerful stuff!
Having done my homework, I knew going into this project that I did not want the grout to blend in with the tile, as shown in the upper left corner of the above photo. When that happens, the hexagon shapes visually disappear. We wanted the tile shapes to be visible, so we planned to choose a darker grout color.

In the end, however, we chose a LIGHT color, and I love the results. What I had not considered (DUH!) was the fact that our tiles have a darker ring around the outside edges. You can see the outlines in this photo of the tile with no grout.

The tile designers created the tile in this way so that when used with a light/matching grout, the hexagon shapes are still visible. It's actually a very smart idea!

Unfortunately, the logic behind this feature was completely lost on me until we started mixing up batches of grout in different colors to create sample boards. (And by the way, if you're doing a tile project, it is IMPERATIVE that you have your installer create a sample board before grouting the entire floor. You really can't get a good feel for grout color until it's installed and dry, and if you don't like it, then it's too late. It's absolutely worth the money to test it first.)

So we picked out a couple of shades of dark grout, assuming it would be beautiful. UGH! Look what happened! The dark grout visually "absorbed" the lines around the edges of the tiles, making the grout lines appear to be extra wide and the tiles very tiny! NOT A GOOD LOOK!

 This completely threw me off kilter. If not a dark grout, then what color? Lighter grouts are also harder to keep clean, so we hesitated to go in that direction.

We really liked the appearance of the tile with NO GROUT, so we looked for a grout that would be the color of the cement used to adhere it to the floor. This is sort of a gray color, called "natural" in the grout world. UGH! This color did not make the tile look pretty at ALL.

 Finally, against every logical thought in my head, we tried a few different light grouts. BINGO! Sure enough, when we used grout to match the tiles, the "outline" feature really worked and the hexagon shapes were still visible. This is not at all what I expected we would choose, but it was the right choice and I'm really happy with the results! As a side note, we went with an epoxy grout which is resistant to dirt/discoloration over time. It's more expensive and takes longer to install but should wear very well.

We also had to choose grout for the shower tiles, but this process was much easier since those tiles are a solid cream color. Again, we wanted the shapes to be visible, so we planned to choose a darker grout. 

Unfortunately, the light grout we picked for the floors just didn't cut it with the shower tiles. You can see how light those lines are on the left in the photo below. Not enough contrast.

And the dark grout had way TOO MUCH contrast!

In the end, we went with the "natural" or cement color between the shower tiles, and I love how it looks! I wondered for a brief moment if we should be using two different colors of grout in the bathroom, but in the end we had to choose what worked with the tiles.

So I've learned that the stakes are high when choosing grout: If you pick the wrong color, the grout lines (not the tile) will be the first thing you notice. You really want the grout to play a supporting role and make your tile look great. It's not unlike choosing the "right" colors of cardstock to match a photo on a scrapbook page. You want your photo (not the cardstock) to be the star of the page!

If you're working on a tile project, I hope you'll find this information helpful. I knew grout color was important, but I definitely didn't anticipate how hard it would be to choose the right color. I love how the completed floor and shower turned out! I'll share photos in my next post.


Jill Morgenstern said...

Oh we're going through all that - tiling the bottom floor, carpeting the top. We didn't think to have a sample done but luckily a sort of neutral worked out ok for us because our tiles are more or less gray. It wasn't nearly as tough as a white tile because there's a lot of texture in the tile and the grout more or less blends in.

Sarah Coggins said...

Picking those colors is so important! Smart that you had a few sample boards made beforehand. We used a white subway tile on our kitchen backsplash and went with a near matching grout color - but I wanted that more seamless feel. I still see the tiles, but didn't want too much pop. Looking forward to seeing your finished tile job. From the sneak peeks, it looks gorgeous!

Janet said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jill! Hope your project is going well!

Janet said...

Thank you, Sarah! I would love to use subway tiles in the kitchen, too. We didn't do a backsplash when we updated the kitchen a few years ago (not sure why...) and I remember you installed yours later. Maybe one of these days we will tackle that project!