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Design

The Difference Grout Color Can Make To Your Tiles

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This post has been one of our top Pinterest posts for the past couple of years. We were shocked at first too, but then we realized that grout is not something most people spend time thinking about until they are about to renovate their beautiful new kitchen or bathroom with their beautiful new tile. Then it’s a mad dash to Pinterest (or StyleByEmilyHenderson.com;)) to find the inspiration they need. So just in case you might have missed this one and are in the tiling stage of your renovation we hope it helps. O and if you are looking for some out of the box grout ideas check out this post!

Tile is hard to choose, grout should be easy. But sometimes it’s not. Welcome to another “Drafts We Never Published” all about grout color. The reason that we didn’t publish it originally is because I felt that just saying, “black grout looks busier but more dramatic than white grout” isn’t enough of a lesson. Ultimately I would want to give more specifics like, “when using white tile you should use ________ color from  ______ brand,” and I’d give you real takeaway instead of just “choose the right grout.” Anyway, I didn’t feel like there was enough value in this post. I can’t give you specifics, because your grout color is dependent almost completely on your tile and your kitchen or bath design. That being said, considering what different colors of grout can do to your room is a very good thing.

Let’s break it down and show you some examples of what different grouts do for different tiles so you understand what I am talking about:

White Tile…

White Grout

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: all the what’s, why’s & how much’s of the portland kitchen (+ big reveal)

White Tile with White Grout: The ever-popular combo that may seem boring when we type it out, but in reality is classic, timeless and gives any room a clean updated look. Among the most popular options in the white tile category we have the subway tile. This has been the go-to tile for DIY home renovations (and Starbucks locations) for quite some time and for a good reason. It is classic, very affordable, and is something that will never go out of style. As you can see, white with white looks great here, and gives the kitchen a clean and simple look.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s tiny kitchen makeover takeover (with tons of smart storage hacks)

Light Gray Grout

design by zga studio| photo by tatjana plitt | via remodelista

The grout in the photos, above and below, look slightly darker – more like a really light gray which is a good idea if you don’t think you can handle it when your white grout gets dirty. Because it will. But a light color is a great option for those of you with smaller kitchens or bathrooms as it will make them appear visually larger, even if they aren’t. Just make sure that you keep your scrub brush handy to keep the grout clean and fresh looking. Conclusion – lighter grout makes the room feel bigger.

design by tahma smith | photo by prue ruscoe | via est living

Black Grout

design by angela medlin | photo courtesy of schoolhouse electric | via remodelista

But what happens when we mix it up and put some black grout in between those simple tiles? This kitchen above went with the traditional subway tile, but paired it with a black grout. Which to be honest I am usually not a fan of unless it is done very well (like this version) and the rest of the space stays pretty neutral. Doing this to your tile will accentuate the grout which in turn makes the entire kitchen appear busier and less calming, but it does give it that vintage industrial look if that is what you are going for. The bathroom below is another prime example of that.

design by ali cayne | photo by brittany ambridge | via domino

Brown Grout

Now what happens when we pair a white tile with a brown grout? This one was a little more tricky to find, but we wanted to illustrate it none the less. And who did it in a way that’s effortlessly cool?? Kelly Wearstler of course. She used it in the coolest modern way possible in this bathroom below.

design by kelly wearstler

If brown is your jam then go ahead with the brown grout. Again, it is a very specific look which makes it a little less timeless than the other two, but when done well it can work and brings a graphic element to the space. I’ve never done it and I’m scared to do it, but it’s something to think about… especially after seeing this beaut.

Black Tile…

Black Grout

And just when you thought we were done playing tile matchmaker, let’s talk about black tile. It was huge in the ’90s and in the right modern space has always been classic, but different versions of it in various finishes are starting to come back and we are into it.

design by jette creative | photo by nicole franzen

This bathroom went with a black on black scheme on the walls and it really works. They complimented it (and lightened it up) with a white and light wood vanity which helps both tiles and patterns work well together as the grout is not competing with the tile, but just adding texture and depth to it.

White Grout

Now when you go with a black tile and a white grout you are going to see that visually (like with white tile and black grout) things start looking a bit busier and you do make out the shapes of the tiles more so than you would if it was all tonal. Still, a very pretty look which we love.

design by brett murray, stuart mckenzie, and simon carver | via inside out

Brown Grout

Last but not least, black with brown, this is not an easy combo to find but if you look at the awesome kitchen below, it’s a pretty great one. The perfect medium between black and white grout that’s a bit softer than both.

design by christina economous and barun chatterjee | photo by caitlin mills | via the design files

So, what is your favorite combo? Do you love the monochromatic of the white on white and black on black or do you think you could get behind mixing in some brown grout with your black or white tiles? In case you still aren’t sure we created these little cheat sheets to help you next time you have to make some serious grout decisions.

Pure White Grout | Cream Grout | Brown Grout | Black Grout | White Subway Tile | Black Subway Tile

And also pulled this one together with penny tiles, which is another popular contender and very affordable when it comes to renovating:

Pure White Grout | Cream Grout | Brown Grout | Black Grout | White Penny Tile | Black Penny Tile

Let us know if you have any questions below, and if you have found any inspiration photos that exemplify these different combos that we may have not seen be sure to leave the link to them below in the comments.

And if you like this whole ‘Post We Never Published’ thing, check out our first one – Mixing Pattern & Textures in Fashion (And Home)

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: My Kitchen Design A Year Later: Lots To Love & Some Regrets

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Silvia

I’m so glad this post made it to the blog. Until now I honestly did not even think about “grout”. The photos are very inspirational and I might even say this post is slightly life-changing 🙂

Elizabeth

Thanks for publishing this! I have been trying to decide on tile/grout for my home. I recall that once Martha Stewart Living Magazine suggested gray grout with white tile for a more contemporary version of the cream/brown, but not so harsh as black. Have you seen/liked gray grout with white tile? Thanks!

Allison

We did this in our master bath of our old house. I highly recommend because the gray resists staining better than white, but it’s not as jarring as the black grout against the white tile. Our white tile was a larger format with very faint gray streaking across it, so that helped tie the gray in as well.

My husband and I run a remodeling/design business and we recommend light gray grout very frequently. There’s a dove grout that is really popular. It still feels light but is less resistant to stain as you mention (and Emily mentions this too), and also you don’t have it leaning cream/beige which our clients just haven’t been as in to lately. We’ve also done more medium grays. True black grout can be problematic for staining the tiles too, so that’s something to keep in mind if you tiles have any indentations or texture that the grout can sit in.

Lane

If you can’t match exactly to a light tile, it’s better to go a tone darker than lighter. I think that should be fine.

Stephanie

I just did this for a bathroom-large white subway and medium grey grout using a 1/16 spacer. We also did floor in Carrara marble with the same grey grout, which tied it all together.

Hope

Also used light gray grout with white tile. I love the way it looks (very subtle) and still looks great two years after install.

These are good points. Upkeep also is important–as you say, if your white is going to get gray because of traffic or splatters or whatever, maybe it’s better to just make it gray on purpose.
And it’s important to think about what you want and to tell your contractor because otherwise they don’t ask and just make the choice for you.
I was thinking that gray grout looked like NYC subways, black grout like the London Underground and white grout like the Paris Metro, but a quick look at photos shows examples of all three colors of grout in all three cities.

Bobbi

Great post on an often overlooked design decision. I think it makes such a difference on the finished look as you have clearly shown. Thanks

Stacie

Shot in the dark but… where did you purchase that blue and white container that holds your wooden spoons in the first picture? Love it!
Thanks!

Stephanie

I want to know too!

Lisa

Me, three!

Andrea C

Me 4!

Megan

The link to the photo source is below the photo. You may find where it’s from at the link.

Robin

Personally, I’m loving the posts that were drafts. Keep doing them!

Sheri

one note: if you are brave enough to try to tile yourself (don’t! except we did, because money) make sure you stick to white grout. If you do a contrasting grout every little flaw (and there will be some, even with a professional) will be highlighted. White on white or black on black will save you some significant heartache.

Lane

If you’re tile is white then go with white grout, but if your tile isn’t white and you can’t match it exactly, then white will just look awful. It will contrast even more than a darker shade, because white reflects a lot of light. With white you’ll also see more staining from water. There’s always stain, but it’s not always possible to clean it perfectly.

Little flaws are not that important, tile is more organic with small flaws. Nothing is perfect. As long as it’s good enough and you don’t have broken tile on the walls, it should be fine.

Next time try using white grout if you are doing a DIY job and then you can go and tint the grout after the fact. It’s easy as you just use a paint brush and it’s much more forgiving than trying to grout dark and messing up the lines.

Samantha

Has anyone had issues with their black grout turning grey or white after drying? We’re installing little black hex tiles in our bathroom and we chose black grout, and we must have used too much water to wipe it off because it dried an awful streaky grey and white. (A quick online search revealed that this can happen with dark colored grouts, and is a problem for professional installers, as well.) I’ve had to go back and scrub each grout line with a q-tip soaked in vinegar to remove the haze. It’s working, but it’s added weeks to our bathroom renovation.

Helena

We had that happen and were able to apply a colored sealer that made all the grout lines the same color.

Mia

Yes! Especially if you have hardwater over time we have had some whitish gray spots on our kitchen floor

justine

If you are afraid to commit to gray or black grout, you can grout it white and stain later to a darker color. Labor intensive but east to do.

Rachel

We did Gray w/ White–Which looks awesome.
Could you do a post on FLOOR tile/grout. I struggled w/ that!

jen

YES! I’d love a post on that. Especially with grout used with colorful ceramic floor tiles or colored tiles, not just black and white tiles.

🙂

Diana

Every time we pick grout in our office, all the designers weigh in – grout is 10000 times harder to pick than tile!!!

That being said EPOXY grout can solve your dirty white grout issues. It has epoxy in the grout mixture which keeps the grout from soaking in the dirt etc, making much easier to clean. Epoxy grout is our go to when we do white grout in commercial applications, which get WAY more use than your average home tiled area.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

We are mid kitchen reno and I know at some point our contractor will make us choose the grout. We’ve already been through the ringer picking cabinet pulls, and a debacle over the non-feature outer lying countertop (which had to be re-picked the week of fabrication when we found out what we picked was triple the budget!). We nearly got divorced over the cabinet color. It may say Snowbound, but trust me, despite what my husband says, it is white.
So my question is with a large feature island (9×4), with a gorgeous full movement white based granite counter (White River), with outer lying dark grey counters (Coastal Grey), white cabinets on perimeter, (island cabinets are navy) & Dove grey backsplash, do we choose light grey grout? I’m terrified of making a wrong decision because I’m never doing this again! This stuff keeps me up at night, drying out my eyes searching the internet.

Katie

Hey Andrea! So just to clarify:
Main cabinet/counter- dark gray counter with white cabinet.
Island cabinet/counter- white granite with navy cabinet
Light gray backsplash (subway tile?)
What material are your gray counters made of?
And your question is what color your grout should be?

Mia

I have a 1920 Spanish home and tons of grout! I mostly have white grout (in bathroom and in kitchen backsplash) and it really is a pain to clean I wish I would have went a very very light gray or even if white looks better. Kitchen floor is black penny tiles with black grout which looks super cool and I’ve been happy with but again it’s a lot of grout to clean for a kitchen floor. I long for a more modern look with bigger tiles and thinner grout lines mostly for the practicality of it all…. but I get compliments on my penny round floor tiles all of the time so I guess it’s a tradeoff. Form or function? Does anyone have a super light gray or bone colored grout with white tiles? Have you founds it easier to clean?

Anna

Ooh, please post this when you are done. It sounds amazing.

The dove with dove is definitely the safer choice. A dark gray that matches your countertops will also look awesome, but I did a white hex tile with black grout….It gets many compliments, it looks awesome, but it is visually busy, so it is something I think about and may get sick of in the future. I don’t know that white on white or gray on gray would ever be something you’d tire of.

If you are thinking of white grout with the dove gray, I would take that off the table. It won’t provide enough visual contrast to make it significantly different than the gray/gray combo, but it will show dirt over time a wee bit more.

Bethany

Your kitchen sounds so pretty! I think I would go with light gray grout (or whatever will blend in the most with your backsplash tile). It sounds like your island is kind of the “star” so you don’t want the walls to be too busy.

Lane

It’s easiest if grout matches your backsplash tile. If you cant find the exact match, slighty darker will look more sophisticated than slightly lighter

judith

Andrea, I wouldn’t dream of using anything other than a grey colored grout. You have what sounds like a lovely and cohesive color scheme and a light to medium grey would look splendid. Another commenter talked about “dove” color grout, and I like it for a grey. Very best wishes to you on your new kitchen! How wonderful!

Katie

I’m a high contrast type of girl so I would be really tempted by the white tile/black grout combo as well as the black tile/white grout combo. I want that tile to sing! In a simpler design though, where I want something else center stage I would definitely turn down the contrast knob. It all depends on the type of look you’re going for!

Jay

What grout is pairednwith your tile?

Alyssa

yes! I am here for the same question!

Whitney

I want to know, too!!!

I went with a light grey. In my bathroom I chose marble penny hex tile. The white was too stark for my taste. The grey blends seamlessly. In the bathtub I continued with the same light grey grout with white subway tile. I do love the slight contrast, but would have been happy with white/white too. Since I did an inset cubby with the same penny hex- the grey seemed like the best option.

abby

love the idea of this post! i did see your disclaimer at the top, so i wasn’t expecting much more on the analysis/advice-giving front, but i WAS hoping for more visuals with off-white or gray grout! there is only one picture of gray grout that might, in fact, be a cream or dark white. would have loved to see more pictures of white tile with off-white grout or varying shades of gray grout, for those of us who don’t want pure white but don’t like the black look either. i can google, of course, just love using inspiration off your page more since i know it will be better curated than a google search!!! 🙂 in any event, thanks for this helpful post!

Elise

I’d vote for dark gray – not quite as jarring as black. My friend did that, with classic white subway tiles, and it looks fab! And Emily, I think you’re underestimating these ‘reject posts.’ I bet they all have a lot of value!

Ann

I saw a photo of a Moorish-shaped tile on a kitchen backsplash. All white kitchen. All white tile. Grout was orange. Striking and so lovely. And I say this as a person who doesn’t like orange all that much. I kept thinking how beautiful it would be with blue grout.

I’d be interested in your take on some of the newer brightly colored grouts, like who can get away with that in what type of kitchen or bathroom? I suspect it’s only super mod poppy places that aren’t my home at all though. 🙂

I’d also love to get more Gray Guidance—like reference images of white tile with white grout and black grout like you did but also nineteen different shades of gray in between for comparison, like maybe one reference image photoshopped to show how they all read differently in the same space. I know it’s probably too late for that but these are the grout curiosities I have myself 🙂

Sarah

I did a white subway tile with white grout for my kitchen backsplash. I splurged and went with the stain resistant grout. I was skeptical, but one year later it’s still looking good as new… Even behind my stove, where it’s splatter city. Might be something to think about for my fellow white grout lovers!

Christa

I have so many opinions on grout, please allow me to share. First, if you haven’t heard of polyurethane grout, look into it. QuartzLock 2 is my favorite. It doesn’t require sealing and is mold/mildew resistant. As everyone who has lived with old floor tile knows, when grout ages it will end up a dull dirt color, so if you can be content with something close to that from the start on your floors, you will save yourself some grief. I used a blend of Silver Gray and Natural Gray on my floors, with Silver Gray on the bathroom walls. on my main bath. I used Silver Gray blended with High White on the 3/4 bath that has no natural light. For another bath project where the tiles were a warm parchment white, we wanted more contrast so we chose Olive. It’s a dark sage-y brown. The floor tiles were Heath Olive #3, so the floors looked more monochromatic. I also think if you use 2 different tiles on walls and floors, using the same grout color on both is a good way to tie the 2 tiles together for a more harmonious room. I think bright colored grout can… Read more »

Vid

I will say that high-contrast grout requires a PERFECT tile job, since every little grout line is so visible, and it’s really obvious if some of the tiles are even sliiiightly unevenly spaced. A tone-on-tone job is much more forgiving, and something a lot of people can DIY.

stephiez

I semi-remodeled my kitchen with long white subway tile and mid/dark grey grout and I love it. It was done in 2013 and my only issue is that I didn’t carry the tile over on to the other walls. It is a little busy though. Still love.https://flic.kr/p/edwG5R

Demetrius

🙂

anniet

Thx for this! QUESTION: We have what is supposed to be off-white grout on matte marble subway tiles in our kitchen. But after a very short time I realized it read very YELLOW and dingy, especially as it’s gotten dirty. Is there a way of CHANGING the grout color (without removing the old). I know there are products that you can put OVER old grout but not sure if that can work with MARBLE tiles. Any advice is most welcome!! Thx! Love your blog Emily!

judith

Look on the web or at Home Depot or Lowe’s (if you have one) at the different products for use on existing grout. My husband got one of these products in white to go over our white grout (with white tile) in our shower. I wish I had gone with a grey grout in the first place. Anyway, this product worked to brighten and lighten the grout. Your tile material should not matter as long as you keep the grout “paint” off of the tile. Good luck to you – sorry that happened.

Jennifer

Thank you SO MUCH for this post, especially the comparisons with different colors of tile and different colors of grout. Unlike most “design” posts on the internet, this is truly useful, incredibly useful actually.

Vicki

As you said this is not an all inclusive blog, so unless you are going for a specific design look using grout my suggestion is match the grout to the color of the tile ( by squinting your eyes til the grout disappears sitting next to the tile, also works trying to match paint color to an other material or existing paint you don’t want to change). This may sound weird but it really works.
The reason for this, especially dealing with floor tile, #1, it visually expands the space-makes room look larger, #2, You see the beautiful tile not the grid, which again visually makes room look smaller.

Julie Purcell

What do you think about the grout paints out there. (The ones for painting on existing grout.) thanks!

Mary

Yay for a whole post about grout! Can we get a followup with unusual colors, different thicknesses and Schluter? With all the cool tile shapes out there right now I feel like the grout joint is having a moment.

Gigi

I’m glad you published this. The article is just the right length and the pictures are very helpful. Surprisingly, I love that black on black tile and grout in that bathroom.

Traci

You all are killing it this week with posts on topics I’m already considering. This was so helpful. I also prefer a lighter grout on white tile, but I think I’d have to learn more toward bone/cream grout, just for the cleaning factor. Our bathroom has white grout on the floor, and I regularly (every few months) have to use a white grout pen to paint it or it looks so gross and dirty. For flooring, I’d without a doubt use a dark grout.

Susan

My tip is to use the same grout colour as they used in the showroom where you fell in love with the tile. My local showroom helpfully labels all the displays with the name of the grout used.

Caitlin

Not a different combo than what you show, but I LOVE the black tile bathroom that Jenny finished in the cabin project she worked on:

http://littlegreennotebook.com/2017/01/juniper-studio-the-shop-bathroom-and-bunkroom.html/

Lauren Brandenstein

Hi! Thanks for the grout post!

Can anyone share where Emily’s cabinet mesh is from?! Thank you!

Jennifer 70

Take a look at the kitchen reveal posts. She goes into some detail about the mesh.

We have white tile with white grout and I like the simplicity of it. Busy patterns wears thin for me. One thing that should be mentioned is that you can mix sealer into the grout when the tile is being grouted so it is more stain resistant. Well worth doing – it works.

emily k

My favorite grout is light brown. I don’t know why I like it so much as I’m generally drawn to cooler colors across the board. I’ve never used it but someday I want to have the right house for it. Maybe like a craftsman.

Brenda

I have white subway tiles in my kitchen with white grout and although I love the look, I regret going with white grout due to the “practicality”…. I am absolutely paranoid about it discolouring — and it is starting to discolour behind the kitchen sink. When it was being installed, my tile guy sent me a photo while the grout was still wet, therefore it was a light grey, and I instantly wished it would stay that colour. My countertop is white with grey veining, so the grey grout would have looked really great. I think the only way to change the grout colour is to actually chip it out and re-do it. Nope.

Anne

Wow this is what I call perfect timing! We are renovating the bathroom of our new housse right now and I asked for white grout with our white tiles on the walls and black grout with black tiles on the floor. So glad you’re saying this is working! I’m going for a classic but textured look, hope it will end up as I imagine. Thank you for this post, very useful 🙂

Sarah

Love this post and love all the comments – I moved into a house that I thought had grey grout kitchen tiles – but haha, if I scrub enough it comes up white. I don’t want to spend my time scrubbing tiles with a toothbrush, so I am saving to replace them. Great information, Emily!

Jacquelyn

go to home depot and get grout colorant (or amazon). paint your grout. It also seals it so you won’t have to worry about the toothbrush again

Mary Ellen

Hi Emily & team
I recognise the “black brick with white tile” photos although the source from which you have taken them is unattributed. The house is by Melbourne architect Clare Cousins – http://clarecousins.com.au/projects/brick-house/
I really enjoy reading your blog every day, Thanks for your tireless efforts!

Breck

I’d say that unless you’re very sure that it’s what you want, and you’re going with high-end finishes, DO NOT DO BROWN GROUT. The existing bathroom in our current house went with cream/beige square tiles and chocolate (poop!) grout, and it looks awful and dated and NEVER CLEAN. We hate it so much that we’re going to have all the tile and grout painted white as a temporary fix (out of money from kitchen and other bathroom remodel ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

Jacquelyn

Just paint the grout with grout colorant. that is what it’s for. you may have to do two coats but it works. get it at home depot or amazon.

Lisa

Hi, I am debating grout colors for a kitchen backsplash right this second. So, this was helpful to me. I have a lot going on in my kitchen so your advice to go lighter will definitely be used.

I want to add something however–honed marble can be cleaned with bleach/comet+green scotch pad and then be re-sealed. So–if someone was putting marble everywhere, a light or white grout with the marble is actually the most practical because then it makes the marble easier to clean.

Matty

Remember the big crocodile tears over your trees?! That is me now on grout. I HATE the grouts colors we just used in our $30k++++ bath renonvations. I feel sick to my stomach over it. Want to vomit.

So my question is: what is cost/process to re-grout, and what labor is involved? And second the question re: floor + wall- why go different? Why use same color for both?

Jacquelyn

Just get ground colorant and paint it. It’s tedious but it works. Ive been painting all my grout.

you can get it at home depot or amazon has a ton of colors

Jacquelyn

grout colorant, not ground

Cindy

Emily, this is super helpful! Any chance of adding a grey grout option to these subway & penny tile photos?

E

We have brown grout with regular white subway tile, and it looks great. We have unusually dark brown limestone floors and dark wood work (1930’s house) and wanted to keep things warm. We didn’t want to worry about white grout getting dirty and gray wouldn’t have fit at all. We love it! Wish I could attach a photo.

Caitlin

The comments speak for themselves–grout post for the win! I think many would be very interested in an even deeper dive on this subject, looking at more colors and hues, floor versus wall, and even by room. There is definitely so much more we would love to know! Thanks to you and the team for all your hard work, always.

Dale

Emily! Thank you!!!! This is great info which we’ll use for our kitchen renovation.
Wish I had this info 3 months ago. Is there a way to lighten grout?
Moved to the UK 5 months ago, just finished very very small reno on a very small budget. Asked for grey grout exactly matching the lightest shade of gray in the tile – contractors interpretation was a very dark gray. I was told it would dry down lighter – still waiting. Is there a way to lighten grout? (There were so many complications with this contractor – I was afraid to ask them to re-grout for fear more problems would occur). I’v love your advice. Kindest regards, Dale

nice design…

Thanks for the blog…I agree that Custom Sisal Rugs is a practical and elegant flooring solution.

Donald

The brown might be my favorite of all of them, and I’m not a brown loving person at all. But it really freshens up the wood cabs.

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