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Grout Basics : Techniques for Grouting Basic Wall Tile

Sheet rock is an okay surface to tile on if it's not a water area. It's used here for demonstrating purposes. The best surface to bond basic wall tile using adhesive is on Durock. After a week the tile will only come off in little bitty pieces. Great Bond.

I use my wet saw to make my trowel leave as much Mortar/Adhesive as possible. By using a lot of adhesive on the wall there is room for your tile to get flat and level.

It's not possible to install quality tile without using straight edges. Starting your installation on a solid, leveled straight gives you peace of mind as you take the tile up the wall. I usually spread about 2 feet high the length of the wall — in this case 5 rows — and spread the adhesive to a line for easy clean up for your next courses.

Spread the adhesive uniformly without voids and sparce spots. Common sense less or more will effect the look of your job. Start your tile installation on a solid, leveled straight edge wall or floor. Straight edges come in metal or a straight 1 x 4 from Lowes.

When tile is installed, beat tile gently with a hammer and a 2 x 4 diagonally. You can actually feel the tile get flat. Clean the edge for next courses. Always straighten your last row so you have a straight-edge surface to start the next row with.

You should install your tile a section at a time, about 24" square. With 12 x 12 floor tile, that's 2 rows, about as far as you can reach. Work one section at a time, and always straighten the last row before continuing to the next one, and you can't lose.

When starting your wall tile installation, start as low as possible on the wall, but always leaving the bottom row off. Allow tile to dry overnight. Remove straight edge and install floor if there is one, and lastly install the bottom row. That way you have tile coming down on tile for waterproofing.

Moving on with another 5 rows and having a straight surface to start against, spreading your adhesive here is important. Do everything the same every time.

Beat in the bottom tile, clean with wet sponge, wipe off excess water. Now we're ready for grouting.

Once again I only grout the same 5 rows at a time. Mix grout with a grout additive. (1776 laticrete) to a less than a peanutbutter consistency and spread on tile.

After spreading unsanded wall grout on tile the joints must be striked with either a whittled wood back of a toothbrush or, as I like to use, fingers.

Change fingers often. You don't want to wear through the skin (very painful). Do all the down lines first, then the horizontal. This not only removes the excess grout from the joint, it also pushes the grout in the tile as far as possible.

Wipe off with a sponge, making sure to keep the grout down in the tile. After the excess is cleaned off, take a clean sponge and run down each line for the next coat of grout. It's not possible to grout basic wall tile once and have a quality grout job! It has to be done more than once.
Grout basics

OK grouted the first time. Nothing to worry about but to keep the joints as low as you can. This phase is a helpers job. Very easy and fast. 1st coat needs to set up before 2nd coat is applied. If this were a tub section or shower the section where you started grouting is usually dry enough for the second after finishing the 1st. If not let it set overnight. I have no problem finishing the grout in one day. Both applications are very fast.

Close-up of the set up 1st coat of grout, ready for 2nd coat.

I'm right handed so the excess cleaning grout stroke is from top right to bottom left on a slight angle to the grout lines, never straight down the lines. Grout fills the joint in a uniform way. On this coat, no striking joints, wipe the sponge opposite from bottom left to top right. Wring out sponge after each swipe of about 6", switch to the clean side of the sponge and repeat until area is wiped once. On this step you get one swipe per side of sponge, that's all.

The second wipe of the sponge is across the tile from bottom right to slightly top left. Just enough angle so you're not wiping down lines. The bottom line is the cut-off point where the top is. Grout twice and you're ready to grout the bottom section.

A 4 x 6 hydra sponge holds a lot of water. Wring out most of the water, and hold onto the end of the sponge. Drag across the surface of the tile. Don't use a lot of pressure. The weight of the sponge is enough.
Grout basics

After applying grout, wipe it off in this direction.
Grout basics

2nd direction, wipe across the lines.
Grout basics

The last direction in finishing your grout job is down slightly, bridging the lines.
Grout basics

Same process - strike joints and clean. Wring your sponge out often.
Techniques for grouting

Repeat the process and you're left with a perfect grout job with full, as-flush-as-possible ready-to-seal grout joints. This way of grouting takes a little practice, but it's easy. You get better with practice and the grout joints come out near perfect every time.

Are they all perfect? Hardly, but they are uniform, flowing high quality grout job, as flush as the manufacturer allows. After all the manufacturer has control of the grout look by the edge the make.

If you can master basic wall tile, grouting the tile twice, all the rest including all floor tile is easier. Tilesetters, you don't ever have to use sanded grout again, and that is a wonderful feeling.

Next time you have to take a leak in a commercial bathroom, check out the grout. Nobody wants that grout job in their home.

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