How to Grout Shower Tile and Make it Look Great

Learning how to grout shower tile is important for any DIY homeowner. This is messy work where safety, efficiency, and speed all matter.
Written by Matt Terzi
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Learning how to grout shower tile is a big step for any home improvement DIYer. It’s going to involve finding the right grout for the job, prepping your shower tiles, mixing and applying your grout, and then cleaning…lots and lots of cleaning.
Grout isn’t the easiest substance to work with. It’s messy and smelly and can dry out your skin. Many homeowners just hire professionals to handle their shower tile grout. But if you’re a DIYer, there’s not much fun in that. 
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What is grout?

Grout is a thick, pasty substance made up of water, cement, lime, and usually sand. It mixes up with the consistency of thick, creamy peanut butter. 
Grout is used to fill the gaps (or “joints”) between tiles, preventing water from getting in behind the tile where it can cause damage.
Ceramic and terracotta tiles are baked in a kiln and have imperfect edges and sizes as a result. To the naked eye, those tiles look like they’re identical. But when you put them all together, you’ll need grout to fill in the joints between them and seal them properly.

How to use grout safely

Grout dries quickly and can be difficult to remove from unwanted surfaces, including your skin. It can also cause irritation if inhaled or ingested. Before proceeding, make sure you have the proper safety equipment.
Here are some important safety tips for using grout:
  • Wear gloves, safety goggles, and a carpenter’s mask or respirator at all times
  • Avoid getting grout on your skin and wash it off quickly if you do
  • Make sure the room is well ventilated. Use box fans to pull fumes out of the room if you can

How to grout shower tile

Alright, it’s time to get messy! 

Step 1: Choose your grout

First, let’s choose the type of grout that’s best for you. This will really boil down to the spacing between your tiles.
  • If the joints are 1/8-inch or bigger, use sanded grout
  • If the joints are less than 1/8-inch, use unsanded grout. Acrylic latex and epoxy grout work, too
  • Joints between 1/16-inch and 1/2-inch can use power grout
Which color grout you choose is entirely up to you. There aren’t a lot of color options available, but try to find something you think will look good given how the tiles look.
Use pre-mixed grout for smaller jobs but dry grout for everything else. Dry grout is cheaper, it’s easy to mix, and you get a lot more grout for your money.
You also have the option of using sealer a few days after your grout work or mixing in a sealer additive, which replaces water. We suggest just using the standalone sealer. It seems to work better and arguably lasts longer.

Step 2: Gather supplies and prep the bathroom

Now that you’ve chosen your grout, it’s time to get some supplies together. We’ll need all of the following:
  • The grout, of course
  • Two plastic buckets (one for grout and one for clean water)
  • A shop vacuum
  • A putty knife
  • A margin trowel
  • A grout float
  • A grout finisher (not necessary, but very useful)
  • Sealant
  • Caulk and a caulk gun
  • Waterproof painter’s tape
  • Sponges and rags
  • Drop cloths
  • (Optional) paddle mixer
Now let’s prepare your work area. Start by putting down drop cloths on the floor, and use painter’s tape on corners, edges, and trim tiles to protect them during the grouting process.

Step 3: Clean and prep your tiles

Now let’s get those tiles ready for grouting. Use the shop vac to carefully vacuum out the joints so they’re clean and free of debris, and then clean your tiles thoroughly with your wet sponges and rags.
You don’t need the tiles to be pristine, but you do need to make sure they’re generally clean and free of dirt and dust.
Once the tiles are clean, let them air-dry before you proceed. Never put grout on wet or dirty tiles.

Step 4: Mix your grout

Grout dries pretty fast, in about 20-40 minutes. You don’t want to make too much at once, and you want to work quickly with it.
As for mixing your grout, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A paddle mixer makes the mixing process way easier, though you can definitely do this by hand using a trowel.
Mix the grout until you don’t see any traces of powder grout left. It should have roughly the same consistency as thick, creamy peanut butter. 
Once your grout is like peanut butter and all of the powder is gone, stop everything. You need to let the grout “slake” for about 10 to 15 minutes. Just leave it in the bucket, set a reminder on your phone, and go get some fresh air for a bit. This allows the chemicals to mix properly.
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Step 5: Apply the grout

With your slaked grout ready to go, let’s load up your grout float and get to work. Tip your grout bucket diagonally and scoop the grout with the float
Slide the float over the tiles diagonally and upward (not horizontally or vertically). This helps get the joints packed with plenty of grout, prevents grout from popping back out as you work, and stops the float from getting stuck in joints. Move diagonally upward to minimize how much grout drops on the floor, too.
Once the area has been thoroughly grouted, wipe off your float in the grout bucket—it doesn’t need to be super clean—and then go over the wall a few times, occasionally cleaning your float as needed. This not only levels the grout in the joints but also reduces the grout left on your tiles.

Step 6: Cleaning up

Let the grout set and dry for about 20-30 minutes. Then, take a damp (not wet) sponge and pull it along the joints, pushing in gently, to even them out and make them look nice. Your goal here isn’t to scoop out or remove the grout, but compact it a bit and level it off.
Next, clean off your sponge and get it damp (not wet) again, and swipe diagonally to clear away the excess grout from the tiles. This isn’t going to make them super clean, but it will remove a lot of the grout your float couldn’t get. Rinse and ring out the sponge as often as necessary.
Now, use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to wipe away the hazy remnants of the grout from your tiles. You may need to apply some elbow grease to the more difficult smudges. Just don’t use too much force!
You should be left with beautiful, well-grouted shower tiles after that. And now you can mix up some more grout and continue onto the next bit, repeating this process until the whole shower is tiled.

Step 7: Caulk the corners and borders

Our final step involves applying caulk to the corners and edges. Focus on where the tile ends and the regular wall or floor begins. Apply a small but full bead of caulk using a caulk gun, pulling it patiently along the line. 

What bathroom maintenance will homeowners insurance cover?

Homeowners insurance is meant to cover emergencies and unforeseen catastrophes. So whether or not it will cover bathroom maintenance, like fixing shower tiles or grout, will really depend on what caused the damage to begin with.
As a general rule, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover anything caused by regular wear and tear, aging, or neglect. So something like replacing the grout on your shower tile joints after 20 years isn’t covered. But a fire, a tree falling on your house, or a tornado that destroyed your bathroom would be. 
Take some time to learn about
the 16 perils of home insurance
. “Perils” are what insurance providers call accidents and disasters they’ll usually cover. Carefully review your insurance policy and call the provider directly if you have any questions.

How to save on home and car insurance

Homeowners insurance may not cover your efforts to grout your shower tile, but it can be a financial lifesaver when disasters strike. It’s expensive, but having the
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Over time, grout will start to look discolored and dirty, regardless of how diligent your bathroom-cleaning routine is. But you can recolor grout using special “grout paint.”  
Read the instructions carefully and make sure your tile is compatible. Grout paint can work wonders to restore faded or aging grout.
Whether you’re applying grout to shower tile or floor tile, the process is the same. Just note that floor tiles and wall tiles have a lot of differences in terms of thickness, weight, and friction. Don’t try to use wall tiles on the floor.
Grouting shower tile and kitchen backsplash tile is really the same. Make sure you’re taking adequate steps to protect your counter space, cabinets, windows, sinks, and appliances. (You don’t want to try and clean grout off of a stove.)
A good grout job should last anywhere from 10 to 20 years, or even longer. Grout is porous and does absorb moisture, so it’s not going to last forever. But regularly cleaning and sealing grout (being especially vigilant against mold and mildew) will prolong its life for a long time.
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