The gap between tiles is filled with a paste called grout. This is a cement-based powder, which is mixed with water and is available in standard colours – white, grey and brown – as well as in a range of colours, so you can add interest to a plain field of tiles by matching or contrasting the coloured grout. Coloured grout is available ‘ready-made’ but you can also mix dry, powdered pigments into it yourself. Where tiles are exposed to running water, such as around showers, baths, basins and sink splashbacks, it is essential to use an epoxy-based waterproof grout so that these surfaces remain ‘stuck’ and the grout can be easily cleaned to keep it germ free.
Using a sponge or squeegee, the grout is rubbed firmly into the tile joints and any surplus is removed immediately with a damp sponge. Grouting should be left until the tiles have firmly set in their bed of adhesive – at least 24 hours, but check with the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines, as setting times do vary.
Any grout that has dried onto the surface of the tiles will need to be polished off with a soft cloth. Professional decorators use a special tool to finish the joints, but a slightly round-pointed stick – an ice-lolly stick is ideal – can be run between the joints to make a neat joint line before the tiles are given one final polish.
Step by Step Instructions
1 Using plastic edging
The top edges of a field of tiles that runs halfway up a wall can be sealed off with a plastic edging strip instead of grout. The smooth coping strip, which comes in a range of colours, is held in place while the tiles are hung.
After the tiles have firmly set – about 24 hours – use a sponge or rubber squeegee to fill the joins between the tiles with grout, using waterproof grout where appropriate. There are also specialist grouts available for use in food-preparation areas and for exterior use.
3 Making good the joins
The grouted joins between the tiles are made neat by using a small stick with a pointed, but slightly rounded tip. The pointed tip is carefully pressed into the grout and run along the join – a little like the pointing on a brick wall – to neaten the finish.
4 Polished finish
When the excess grout has been removed from the tile surfaces with a damp sponge, the joins finished and the grout dried, polish the tiles to a sheen with a clean dry cloth. A piece of hessian is ideal: while coarse in texture it is still quite soft and won’t scratch the glaze.