Can I Install Tile Without Grout?

by Roger

This is a question I get asked from time to time. The short answer is no, you should not. Although grout does not add to the stability of the tile installation (unless it is epoxy grout), you still need to grout it.

Why you need grout

A lot of natural stones, namely granites and marbles, are manufactured to be consistently sized. For the most part all the tiles are identical.  This makes a lot of people want to install them without grout lines. Although in some people’s opinion butting the tiles against one another looks better than having even the smallest grout lines, it is not a recommended installation procedure.

Even if all the tiles look like they are the same size I can nearly guarantee they are not. Unless they are “rectified” they will differ, even if only a tiny amount, from tile to tile. Attempting to butt the tiles will result in a “jog” of the lines between them. The larger the area, the more those lines will run off. By leaving even 1/32 of an inch grout line you will be able to compensate for the difference in tile widths.

You also need grout to ensure that nothing can get between your tiles. Look at it this way: would you rather have a very small grout line filled with grout or a very, very small grout line filled with spaghetti sauce? No matter how tightly you attempt to butt the tiles, there will still be the tiniest space between them. Not grouting them leaves open the possibility of all types of unruly things filling them. Then you have to clean them out risking the possibility of damaging one of the tiles.

The final reason I’ll throw out there is that no matter what substrate you are using there will always be movement. Always. Placing the tiles against each other will eventually damage them. If you continuously rub the edges of two tiles together one or both will eventually chip (and you need to get out of the house more, or at least find another hobby). The expansion and contraction of wood or concrete will do the same thing. Although you can minimize this using different underlayment materials, it will still move.

I hate grout, I really do. If it were up to me I would install most tile and all granite and marble with no grout lines at all. I can’t do it. Even though it will look better initially, eventually it will ruin the tile. The best thing to do is use the smallest grout line your particular tile will allow and get a grout that closely matches the tile. For most granite and marble tile I install I use either 1/32 or 1/16 inch grout lines. In most other tile I will use 1/16 or 1/8 inch lines. I try to use the smallest grout lines the tile will allow.

To figure out how small you can go, place nine tiles in a 3 X 3 foot square butted against each other. Measure corner to corner diagonally both ways and see how close they are. If they are within 1/16 inch that is the size grout line you can use safely.

Please resist the temptation to install your tile without grout. Grout sucks, believe me, I know. By choosing a matching grout, though, you’ll be happier in the end and your tile will last significantly longer.

Previous post:

Next post:

glo

Lowes cuts tiles for you, if you’re buying them from them. At least ours doed. I doubt our home Depot does.

Reply

Roger

Hi glo,

Some do, some don’t. Depends on the particular store. (Home Depot as well)

Reply

Jamie

Hi Elf, thanks so much for the great site and manuals.
I love your spectralock grout and had great results with it in my shower 2 years ago. I’m about to do my Mud room and a new bathroom/shower and the tile shop is reccomending “Mapei Flexcolor CQ” straight from the pail grout. It sounds so easy to use and their installers love it, but I figured I’d ask you for any thoughts and opinions on it. Have you tried it, and is it too good to be true?
Thanks as always,
Jamie

Reply

Roger

Hi Jamie,

It is a very good grout. Be ABSOLUTELY sure to follow the required curing times before water exposure.

Reply

Themus

Roger,

I was sealing my grout tonight in my second bathroom from a tile job someone did for me and noticed on the floor, the 12 x 12 tiles were often not really even with one another. I compared that to my 6 x 6 tiles in the bathroom which were even.

Is this normal? I just assumed all tile floors had each tile lined up evenly with each other, but in my case in the second bathroom, there is a definite difference in several spots.

Reply

Roger

Hi Themus,

It depends on the installation. When properly installed yes, they will be flush. If they aren’t it’s simply poor workmanship.

Reply

Nell

I also hate grout. Reading your piece that says one must use it, makes me so sad. I want to install glass tile over my bathroom counter which is 48″x 21″ along with a copper bowl. I don’t want the traditional grout. It would ruin the whole effect. Can I use clear a clear epoxy instead?

Reply

Roger

Hi Nell,

Don’t be sad. :D There is actually a manufacturer that listened to us knucklehead tile guys and came out with a clear grout. Let me find it and I’ll let you know what it is. Give me a few minutes.

Reply

Roger

Google Laticrete translucent plasma grout. :D

Reply

Nell

Thank you for you quick reply and extra effort.
Nell

Reply

Lisa

I work at Home Depot and we haven’t cut tile for customers for about 10+years or at at least the three I’ve worked.

Reply

Roger

Hi Lisa,

I thought they all did. The two here in town still do. Thanks for the info!

Reply

duane

can I use a silicon sealant (or some thing like it) between back splash tile. 1/16 spacing and one row of 3 1/5 inch tile. Small area

Reply

Roger

Hi Duane,

Yes you can.

Reply

Leave a Comment

;) :wtf: :wink: :whistle: :twisted: :suspect: :shades: :roll: :rockon: :oops: :lol: :lol2: :lol1: :idea: :guedo: :evilb: :evil: :eek: :dance: :cry: :corn: :cool: :censored: :bonk: :arrow: :D :?: :-| :-o :-P :-D :-? :) :( :!: 8)