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:

Brandon

I bought a palate of 6″x24″ rectified faux wood tiles for my condo and was hoping that I could but them against one another with no spacing. Can I still do this if I just put unsanded grout in the joints after installation? If not, how small of a space do I need to put in between (1/32)?

Lastly, I plan on pulling up the existing parquet flooring, which was glued to my concrete subfloor. After pulling up the parquet, what type of preparation do I need to do? If it is level, can I just thinset or do I need to do something with the glue? What would I do with the glue? Also, if it is not level, should i thinset the divots or should I use a self-leveler?

Any help you can provide would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Reply

Roger

Hi Brandon,

The size of your needed grout lines would depend on the tile. The glue will need to be scraped off of the concrete. You can go directly to the concrete, yes, you can fill any small divots with thinset.

Reply

Paul Cholak

What model of mixer do you use?

Reply

Roger

Hi Paul,

Mixer for what? For thinset I use a dewalt drill, for deck mud I use the same with a mortar mixer. For grout I use a margin trowel and a guy named Luke. :D

Reply

Lynne

Also – can you use epoxy grout when you have a soapstone counter? Would you use epoxy in the joint connecting the soapstone and the backsplash tile? Or something else?

Reply

Roger

I would use silicone at the transition, but yes, you can use it when you have soapstone counters.

Reply

Lynne

Thank you for both answers!!

Reply

Lynne

My tile guy is telling me that if I want epoxy grout I have to have larger grout lines. He said if I want really small grout lines I HAVE to go with regular grout. Is this true? This guy used to work at a high end kitchen installation company so I know he knows what he’s doing (that kitchen company ONLY used epoxy grout) but sometimes I think he tries to change my mind on things based on what is easier for him. What is the smallest grout line I can have with epoxy grout? Thank you so much in advance for your feedback!

Reply

Roger

Hi Lynne,

I have used it on 1/16″ grout lines.

Reply

Susan

Hi I’m going to used 12×12 salt and pepper granite tiles on my kitchen counter top. Think I can used a 1/16 grout joint? And sanded or unsanded grout?

Reply

Roger

Hi Susan,

Yes, you should be able to with no problem. I would use sanded grout, but you can use either with that size grout line.

Reply

Steve

Its me again Margaret! I also wanted to know if you have tried these products from Home Depot that u place under the tile as you set it to make it level? I am sticking out a little on my walls around my membrane and thought about using them to control my lip page

Reply

Roger

Hi Steve,

If you’re referring to the LASH system, yes I’ve used it. It works well, but you need A LOT of thinset beneath your tiles. But they do work quite well.

And don’t call me margaret. :D

Reply

Steve

Hey roger I have been reading looking for a solution to my problem on your site. I am installing mosaics on my shower floor. In the book I bought from you on trad. Floor it says to stick the tile to the top mud bed using thinset. I was centering my tiles around the drain and ran into a problem cutting the mosaics. I used a wet saw but the little bastards all fell off the sheet after I got my cut made. What should I do to get my tiles cut? And this looks like a real S.O.B to clean all them grout lines. Yikes. I also read your tile too tips and them grout saw blades don’t last long. Or am I using them incorrectly?

Reply

Roger

Hi Steve,

You can place transparent shelf paper over the mosaics (sticky side down) to hold the mosaics together when you cut. Leave it on there until the thinset is cured and peel it off. If you have too much thinset in the lines use a smaller trowel.

Reply

Adrien Small

Hi Roger

I’m about to attempt to lay a marble look ceramic tile on a concrete floor in our basement. The floor is not even its slopped and also has been trenched for bathroom plumbing. How should I prepare the floor???

Reply

Roger

Hi Adrien,

Self-leveling cement would be your best option.

Reply

Amanda C

My landlord installed 12″ x 12″ tiles as a kitchen countertop surface WITHOUT grout and without any sealer of ANY kind… (trust me, I was not thrilled about this when we decided to move in – we were over a barrel and needed something FAST) Anyway – – -the tiles are glued down to the plywood substrate and butted together as tightly as possible, however – sh*t still gets in (as you can imagine)…
Is there ANYTHING I can do to seal the grout lines retro-actively? We are the first renters in this house since he remodeled it and we haven’t even been in the house a year yet. We are starting to see ants now that summer has started, and I’d like to nip this in the bud!!

Thanks!!

Reply

Roger

Hi Amanda,

Grout it with unsanded grout.

Reply

Wasif

Hi, i m getting porcelain tiles done all over my condo. Installer wants to do it without grout. He is using mortor to i guess level the floor. Should he be using grout?

Reply

Roger

Hi Wasif,

There should be grout, as I’ve stated in the article above.

Reply

Larry

Hi Roger,
I read that I need to grout. I am putting a 7.5 inch by 48 inch floor tile that looks like greying wooden planks on a wall as an accent. It looks so much better when they are touching as it looks more like real wood that if I had to grout. I am using 1/2 cement backer board. Do I really need to grout since they are in a dry location and no one will be walking on them?

Reply

Roger

Hi Larry,

No, you do not.

Reply

Cathryn

Hi Roger, thanks for all the good info here. Starting a kitchen tile floor (stone peak limestone porcelain 12″x24″ walnut) about 500 sq ft. We are on a crawl and have cleared out old linoleum down to plywood and leveled floor (took down wall to make two rooms into 1) with new plywood sheets. Is concrete board sufficient for backer, screwed to plywood? Or does it need to be glued or thinset? I now am resigned to 1/8 ” grout line. What grout would you recommend?
I actually got enough tile to do foyer too, but 1/4″ board plus 1/4 tile is a problem for threshold of front door. Front door is steel. What is recommended fix for this issue?

Many many thanks in advance.

Reply

Roger

Hi Cathryn,

1/4″ backer thinsetted and screwed down is just fine. I would use sanded grout for that.

The door, if it’s steel, will need to be either cut or rehung higher. There is no easy way to deal with steel doors if you don’t have the clearance.

Reply

kathrine

This is my backsplash in my kitchen. My installer suggested using no grout. He told me the shape of the tiles would not be as prominent if they were grouted. The tile is golden basket weave 3D bought at Arizona Tile. So…what should I do? They are coming back tomorrow at 8…. Thanks for any replies! Kathrine

Reply

Roger

Hi Kathrine,

There are some tile that is not meant to be grouted – that is one of them. I would seal it, though, that will keep all the nasty stuff out of the nooks and crannies.

Reply

Mohamed

The guy who will install the tile for me said u can use something called ( sealing ) instead of the grout can I do that??

Reply

Roger

Hi Mohamed,

I have no idea what that is. If he is speaking of simply using sealer rather than grout then no, you can not do that.

Reply

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)