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.

Update: The photos below were sent in by a reader asking why his tiles were cracking. They are travertine tiles and the cracking is a direct result of having the tiles butted against each other with no grout lines. This is what can happen.

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  • Deep

    Hi Roger

    My contractor for my new pool has installed sukabumi tiles (Indonesian stone tiles, 4in x 4in) without grout. He says grout is not needed nor desirable for these specific tiles. What say you?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Deep

      Also the spacing is inconsistent, and some are touching each other. Thanks

  • Lilith


    I am so devastated! I had my bathroom floor tiles renovated. When I checked I saw that a few tiles had no grout and the others has it. They were uneven. Some tiles were very close to each other hence there’s no grout in between them. I am now so worried that my tiles will not last long. If I were to get the grout-less parts redone it would cost too much :(

    Do you have any idea how long will this grout-less tiles last? I’m so torn! If it will last 10 yrs or so that would be reasonable but I feel like it will cause me problems in a year or so 😭

    • Roger

      Hi Lilith,

      Are the tiles without grout actually touching one another, or are they just really close together?
      If they are touching it may turn into a larger issue. As they expand and contract with regular environmental factors they can rub against each other and cause cracking or chipping. If they are just really close together and not touching it likely won’t lead to any problems unless you have unusual expansion issues with your floor, which is rare.
      Regardless, you can get some unsanded grout (every color of grout is available in both sanded and unsanded) and grout over them. With unsanded grout it will be able to fill those smaller spaces making your floor look more uniform.
      You said you had them renovated – have you discussed this issue with the company who did the renovation? Most times if there is an issue they will fix it at no additional cost to you.

  • Suzy Goertz

    Hi,I am a female who knows absolutely nothing about grout or installing tiles.
    My landlord refuses to grout any of his places he rents out,and most rooms in his places have ceramic tiles,but,no grout,therefore leaving large gaps between the tiles,making it just disgusting,as all kinds of dog hair and tiny stones or Bobby pins,ect
    Get stuck between them,
    Very unsanitary and looks so yucky ,especially against
    White shiny tile,I do cleaning for his suites,after a move out,
    But,it takes hours to
    Dig out all the built up gunk and God knows what,I am digging out,it’s
    So ,so Gross,
    I don’t understand ,
    WHY, he doesn’t grout
    These places but,
    I have a feeling ,
    He might b doing
    Insurance Scams…..

    • Roger

      Hi Suzy,

      The only question I see is why he doesn’t grout them – I have no idea. Lazy? Cheap? Stupid? All three?

      My guess would be all three. It IS a sanitary issue, though. Let the building department know, I’m sure they would have something to say to him about it.

  • Bill Shaw

    Follow up my earlier post. Installer gave me two options now. I am still upset that he asked Alan if he wanted grout or not, as he pitched the no grout option as the better route. While a local tile source had recommended grouting the space 2x with non sanded, the installer (Chris) thought that the grout would crumble and that he could not warranty it if he grouted it. The other option is to rip it out and re-install with spacing for grout. Tenants are moving in today, so that is not a good option, so I am thinking of waiting a little under 2 years to see if problems develop and THEN if there are issues have them removed and re-done at that time. What option would you suggest?

    • Roger

      Hi Bill,

      Since you have people in there now I would just wait until the issues develop, then have them replace it. It really needs to have grout in it.