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.

photo-1 photo-2 photo-3 photo-4
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  • Bill Shaw

    My partner of 2+ years just had some guys install tile over a concrete slab on a rental home that we own (built 1961, so slab is old, and there were no cracks). The installer installed them without any grout butted up against each other, and was insistent that this was the “preferred” method. Alan noted how nice they look, but after reading your blog, I am concerned that the installation will not last. I don’t know if a membrane was laid beneath them, but am guessing not. Alan thought that we got a great deal with the job costing < $3 per s.f., but I am not so sure, and think that it will not be a bargain if the patio does not hold up. The installer said that he would "replace them if the floor fails in 6 months". That is not much of a warranty in my book, and I pressed Alan to get at least a 2 year warranty. The guys he used do a lot of flips and seem like jacks of all trades (but masters of none?). Should I be concerned? I have not seen it yet (will later today and take pictures), but have no doubt that it MAY look nice now – but that does not mean much if it wears badly over time as I suspect it will, given the temperature extremes here in Phoenix over a year – from the mid to upper 30s in winter to 110+ temperatures in the summer and 30 degree daytime to night time swings, to say nothing of the low humidity much of the year.

    • Roger

      Hi Bill,

      In Phoenix? I can nearly guarantee you’ll have issues with that, with or without a membrane. The slab may not have been cracked, but concrete actually expands and contracts A LOT! And at different rates than the tile will, so it’s going to be an issue. I have no idea what recourse you have, but it has been my experience that a minimum of a one year warranty is required by most city ordinances.

  • Anna

    Too late. We already requested tiles to be installed budded up and no one told me or explained me why this was not advisable. What can we do to fix it without ripping all the tile up?
    Also, all floor tile is installed now (patio) and installed has been buffing it or polishing it to the point some of the tiles are shiny when the original un installed tile never was!!!! He said that will go away with the sealer (I don’t know!)
    Also, there seems to be in other areas like a thick white film. I thought it was dust but it was not. The have been polishing and buffing these and to me they look worse than before they were polished/buffed.
    Any advise on how to fix this???

    • Roger

      Hi Anna,

      There is no fix for lack of grout lines short of replacing it. The tiles will not ‘dull’ with sealer, sealer (unless specified as such) does not change the appearance of the tile. The white may be a number of things depending on the type of tile or stone you have installed.

  • Brittany

    I will be installing tile for a client. As much as I advised against it he still wants no grout lines. He is a construction superintendent himself so I’m not going to argue with him. It seems we got quality tile. Any tips as far as guidance & level help ?

    • Brittany

      The tiles are 12×24

    • Roger

      Hi Brittany,

      Yes, refuse to do it. Walk away. Seriously. When it begins to crack or chip YOU are responsible for it. Legally, whether you had him sign a waiver or not. I know it’s difficult to tell someone no, but you need to. Just tell him that as a professional you KNOW there is a very HIGH likelihood of failure and you can not and will not install something you know will fail. That is the only tip I have for that type of installation.

  • Carol

    Using 8″ tiles on bathroom floor . What size spacing / grout should we use ?
    Also put 2″ tile around mirror with no spacing …am I in trouble ?

    • Roger

      Hi Carol,

      The tiles around the mirror shouldn’t be an issue. As far as grout size – read through this.

  • Rufus Dufus

    “The short answer is no” Wrong. Usually you do use grout but if you are recreating or restoring a Victorian or Victorian style encaustic tiled floor, grout should not be used because those tiles were designed to be laid that way. In other circumstances, grout is used to improve stability. If laying without grout special care must be taken that the bed is very solid with no movement. It must be absolutely flat so the tiles align perfectly, misaligned tiles will be very noticeable and for the same reason, tile laying must be done very carefully and perfect. Saying “no” is somewhat ignorant.

    • Roger

      Do you think that people are reading a site called FloorElf to restore victorian or encaustic tiles? Thanks for your opinion, though. :)

  • Andryea

    I have some questions that kind of relates to grout lines but not really. My questions are more about planning the tile layout, turning corners etc. and this seemed like the best place to ask. Maybe I missed it here on your site but, what are the rules or guidelines for planning and laying out the tile? I’m sure there are some!

    We are planning to stack 4”x16” tile in a tub surround and wonder what kind of guidelines we should follow. There will be strong vertical lines. Should I start by centering one tile (vs line) and going out to the corners? Dimensionally, it works out better if we consider using 4”x12” tile instead…four tile or vertical stacks across the big wall corner to corner. What’s the best solution, oh tile guru?

    I assume that one should use full tiles if at all possible across a wall and that the fewer the cuts the better, right? But what if that’s not possible? I also assume that when turning the corner you’d want it to look like the same tile continues, right?

    With the 4”x16” tile we’d have a lot of cuts around the corner but, not if we used 4”x12” so it makes sense to go with the smaller tile, right?

    Thanks a lot for all the awesome information on your site. I’ve really enjoyed and got a lot out of all the articles I’ve read.

    • Roger

      Hi Andryea,

      As a general rule you should center the tiles (either tile or grout line) so that you have the largest cuts down the edges that you can. Whichever works out better, neither is right or wrong. Yes, you should have it look like the same tile is continuing around the corner. Generally you want the larger cuts down the corner on the back wall, then the smaller cuts down the corner on the side wall. But that also is not imperative. There really is no hard and fast rule, those, however, are general guidelines.

      And yes, I realize this reply is likely too late, but the info will be here for others in the future. Sorry for the delay.

  • Rick

    i have 1800 sf ceramic 6×24 wood look floor tile going in my house, on concrete slab. Home depot told me i have to space 1/16 minimum but installer is telling me the tiles can be placed together side by side no gap. Am i going to have issues with expansion/ contraction later?

    • Roger

      Hi Rick,

      Yes, you are. The installer is talking out of his ass, he obviously doesn’t know any of the standards, nor is he familiar with expansion/contraction properties of tile laminations. I know this is late, hopefully this tile WAS NOT butted together and soft joint and perimeter joints were installed properly.

  • Wulf Ward

    You are perfectly right. We are general surface prep contractors, specializing in sandblasting. Doing it for about 55 years. Over the years I have done some remodeling, most at my own house, but a few commercial jobs too. Most involved tile-work. I am building out a loft-space “man-hole” for me right now. That involves tiling a 24X120″ bar. I am planning to go with a rustic look 8X24″ tile and because it is a bar surface I like to have no seams. Running the tile across 24″ there will be 15 tile to cover the 10′ top. Anyhow, it’s a first for me too, but I am going to chance it….lol

  • Colleen

    There must be something wrong with me. I *like* grout lines.

  • Nicole

    Hi Roger
    If we are doing a counter top with marble tile dovwestill need grout or is it the stress of it being the floor that makes it crack.

    I wanted it to look like a slab as much as possible and I hate grouted counter tops.

    Thanks. I probably know your answer. 😀

    • Roger

      Hi Nicole,

      Yes, you do know my answer. :D You need grout. Sorry.

  • Elizabeth

    I managed to purchase in the boxes never used 3×3 glazed Italian tile. They’re pretty thick. The total number of tiles is 1, 875! I am interested in having a walk in curbless shower in a 6 x 8 bathroom being built from scratch. So I would like to know can they be used to go from floor to entire shower with a bench seat included or are they too heavy for a wall? It was a wharehouse sale. I also purchased white quartz which is beautiful similar size but unglazed. These I wanted to put as a backsplash in the kitchen I have 75 boxes of these. Couldn’t pass up a deal all for 200.00 dollars. Also can I place little glass tiles in between these tiles with grout to give them a bit more design

    • Roger

      Hi Elizabeth,

      No, they are not too heavy for walls. Walls deal with sheer stress, which is more a product of the type of thinset you use rather than the weight of the tile.

  • Donna

    I am having 12 x 24 floor tile installed on the wall around my linear fireplace horizontally without staggering the seams approximately 8 ft wide by 10ft high.

    I love the look of no grout line. What size grout line would you recomend? Edges on tile are sharp squared.

    • Roger

      Hi Donna,

      I normally use 1/16″ on wall tile.

  • bryan

    U mention not recommending no grout lines and I do understand the reason ..would it be possible to use a clear silicone between the tiles and butt them tight ..would this not give some resiliency against tiles when the move so they don’t Crack. .wondering what u think..thank u

    • Roger

      Hi Bryan,

      You can do whatever you want, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. One of the reasons that I really didn’t emphasize above is that most tiles, no matter the type, are never really *exactly* the same size. So if they are off by even 1/32″ of an inch from one to another, butting them up over a 15 foot area will jog your grout lines off by about 1/2″. It is nearly impossible to keep butted grout lines consistent, they will ALWAYS run off. But yeah, you can do that if you want to. It may work, it may not. But if you have a method to prevent the possibility of any issues, like grout, why would you not use it?

      • BRYAN

        thank you, if i just use some clear silicon to absorb between the stone, just a thin bead..not as a grout line..i was thinking it would maybe help from any cracking issues as well as and particles such as food , water from gaining access between the tiles ..and still get the final effect of no grout just would be nice to have that “one piece” floor look…thanks again for your advice

  • barb

    Having granite tile installed on shower walls. I agree with you regarding not liking grout.
    1. You said something about another kind of grout that can be used, forgot the name I just saw on your sight. Is that different to install and does it hold up better?
    2. contractor using (not sure what brand of) cement board and told to use and also told not to use red -guard on cement board to waterproof it. Granite tile is heavy, thin set being used.
    2. A Should I use something like red guard or not? liquid rubber?
    2.B Will granite slip off?
    2.C How does the thin set get a chance to dry if the red guard is waterproof and 1/16″ or 1/8″ grout spaces (small space) and granite tile is used?
    3. I want to thank you for telling me about the test using my granite tiles to see what size spaces I can use. I will do this test to determine grout size space.

    • Roger

      Hi Barb,

      1. SpectraLock epoxy?Yes, it holds up much better. It’s nearly bulletproof.
      2. Okay
      2a. Yes, redgard is just fine
      2b. No, the granite will not slip off
      2c. Thinset, as well as any other cement-based product, does not require air to cure. It cures through a chemical process called hydration, not through evaporation and oxidation like paint or regular glue.
      3. You’re welcome.
      4. There is no #4, but I was on a roll…

  • Patsy

    I had porcelain wood-like tile installed. From a distance, I am satisfied. Up close I see tiny, hairline seems. I thought it would look much tighter, like the pictures…is it too late to fill in between the tile with grout?

    • Roger

      Hi Patsy,

      What type of grout is it? Sanded or unsanded? If it’s unsanded it’s likely just shrinkage cracks, and can be filled with more grout. If it’s sanded it may be a larger issue.

  • Jose

    Hi. I have a problem with my floor tiles peeling off and popping upwards. A lot of them have come undone already. I believe that happened because of expansion since they’re installed on the terrace, subjected to the elements. It only happened 3 yrs after installation. The tiles have about 1/4″ spacing. When I took off the loose tiles I notice they were wet underneath. Did that contribute in any way to the tiles coming off the floor? What’s the best thing to do so it won’t happen again?

    • Roger

      Hi Jose,

      I would need a LOT more information to try and help. What is the substrate? What type of tile? What type of ‘elements’? How was the tile installed, what type of thinset. Is there any thinset on the back of the tile when it comes up? No, water will not cause the tile to become unbonded, but it can definitely contribute to the core reason (such as water retention not being allowed to dissipate or drain under the tile assembly).

      • Jose Sebastian

        Hi Roger,
        I believe the tiles are ceramic but I’ll have to verify that somehow. The substrate is concrete slab and portland cement was used as adhesive. Practically none of the thinset came off with the tiles. The elements I was referring to was nature, meaning sun and rain, basically, since it doesn’t snow over here. Hope that’s enough info?

        • Roger

          The photo you posted shows ‘tenting’. This happens when there is no compensation for expansion and contraction causing the tiles to expand against one another until the weak point in the assembly gives out – in this case the portland used as adhesive. Straight portland is not a suitable bonding product for a tile assembly. I would remove the unbonded ones and reinstall them, then dig out the grout line that runs between those two tented tiles all the way from one end of the installation to the other and install a soft joint. You also need to ensure that there is room for expansion around the perimeter of the installation, it should not be grouted between the tile and whatever vertical surface it ends up butting against. There should be about 1/4″ gap there.

          • Jose Sebastian

            Hi Roger,
            I believe you identified the problem right diwn to a teepee (pardon the pun). Indeed the area was large, had no soft joints and the tiles were installed flush to the walls on all sides, leaving no room for expansion at all. Thanks for enlightening me on the right way of doing it. So, is there anything elf I need to know?

            • Roger

              Yes! Never chew strawberry bubble gum after drinking a really hoppy beer – it tastes like absolute shit… :D

  • Todd

    When you say 1/16″ grout line does that translate into using a 1/16″ spacer?

    • Roger

      Hi Todd,

      Most of the time, yes.

  • Douglas

    I am renovating my shower. Using a stone tile on one wall its I have the 1’x2’x5/8″ tiles. If ever there was a stone that begged for almost no joint it is this. Instead of unsanded grout I was thinking of using a colored sealant. I tested GE Silicone 2 and it does not react with this stone and cause the wet look around joints.
    What do you think would be better for a small 1/32″-1/16″ joint. Laticrete unsanded with the 1776 additive or sealant?

    • Roger

      Hi Douglas,

      You know that ‘sealant’, or silicone, loses elasticity over time, right? That’s why you always see silicone pulling away from the tile and tub in corners, it has nothing to do with the brand or quality of the silicone or the installation (mostly). It will ALWAYS lose elasticity and shrink over time. What happens with your joints when that happens? I would use the grout.

  • Phillip Ferreira

    Hi Roger,
    just finished laying the floor tile in my bathroom, and now will start the walls – had to be done this way because some grout lines from the floor will continue up the wall.
    Anyway, I was planing to leave the floor ungrouted till I am done with the walls, but covering it with construction paper, then plastic sheeting and finally a thin plywood sheet- trying to avoid any damage and/or contamination.
    Is ok to leave the tile this way for a few weeks, till I am done with the walls?
    (yes, eventually it will be grouted and sealed after the walls are)

    • Roger

      Hi Phil,

      Yes, you can leave it ungrouted for as long as you need to.

      • phillip

        Thanks again Roger.
        where the elf we would be without your wisdom :0

  • Radu

    thanks a lot for your article, it helped me a lot.

  • Heather

    Hi Roger,

    I’m doing a backsplash project in my kitchen and I order some seamless tile, but every so often there are very thin gaps. Do I need to grout or can I just use a tile sealer?


    • Roger

      Hi Heather,

      A good sealer should work just fine.

  • S smith

    Hi, we just moved into a new home and the previous owners laid tile in the kitchen with no grout. They butted the tiles up against each other, but you can see where there are some minimal gaps and it’s trapping dirt and debris. Is it too late to go back in with grout? Some of the tiles have no gap at all, so I’m not even sure we could get grout in there….any solutions?

    • S smith

      Here’s a picture for reference–tight in some places, small gaps in others…

    • Roger

      Hi S,

      Short of replacing it you can use unsanded grout in that. It should work just fine (until the expansion and contraction begins to chip tile…). :D

  • Brian Walker

    Hi Roger

    I am having 60cm square ceramic tiles laid in a large hall. What do you think is the minimum thickness of grout? They are white and I hate grout but I have been advised that white 3 mm grout will get dirty so grey would be preferable.

    I would be very interested to know your opinion.

  • Rick

    Hi Rodger,
    What’s your opinion on butting resilient tile together? My customer pretty set on no grout lines. I know not to butt other tiles together, because of moving. Never know about resilient tiles. I’m not sure if all the same size. Edges are beveled.
    Thank You

    • Roger

      Hi Rick,

      You can absolutely butt those together. The consistency depends on the manufacturer, though. I hope you get good ones otherwise it’s a pain in the ass.

  • Matthew Cohen

    Hi Roger.

    Love your threads.

    So I have read most of them looking for comments related to showers and wood grain rectified tile.

    I understand that tile over tile can be done but is not suggested.

    I think I want to try it anyway for a small, 4’x3′ shower.

    If you “had” to do it…

    What suggestions could I elite from you?

    Thanks for your time…

    • Roger

      Hi Matthew,

      You’ll need to raise the drain top, you can get a drain extension kit for tile installations like yours. It just screws right into the existing drain. Very handy.