Learn How to Grout Cement Tile

by Drew Henry

The LiLi Team Shares 12 Steps to Grout Cement Tiles for a Beautiful Finished Product

For those of you new to the tile game, grout is a mixture of water, cement, and aggregate used to fill the gaps between tiles. Whether using ceramic, stone, or cement tile, you will need to grout before enjoying your new floor or backsplash. While grouting is a fairly simple process, cement tiles require a few additional considerations for proper installation. The LiLi Team is here to teach you how to grout cement tile for a beautiful finished product that will last for generations to come.

12 Tips for Grouting Cement Tile

Use these 12 tips as a helpful guide to installing and grouting your cement tiles.

1. Select Your Cement Tile Pattern

There are many ways to use cement tiles to accent your home with vibrant colors and patterns. First things first, you need to decide where you are installing your tiles. Cement tiles are durable and water-resistant when sealed, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor flooring, backsplashes, showers, fireplace surrounds, and more. Once you have chosen where you are installing your tile, you can shop our cement tile collections and pick a tile that reflects your style and meets your needs. Make sure to not only consider pattern and color but also think about the size and how the pattern will look when cut to fit the space. 

2. Purchase the Correct Cement Tile Grout 

Cement tiles are porous, which means they are susceptible to staining before being sealed with a protectant. Due to their porous nature, cement tiles absorb color pigments in dyed grout. We recommend using quartz-based grouts to prevent discoloration and staining when installing cement tiles. Quartz-based grouts are colored with natural quartz aggregates rather than dyes so that they won’t stain cement tiles during installation. Here are some of our recommended grouts that won’t damage your cement tiles. 

3. Perform a Dry Lay 

Our cement tiles are handmade using the same process developed in the 1850s, resulting in slight variations that add to the product's beauty. We recommend performing a dry lay before cement tile installation since there are slight color variations from tile to tile. In this step, you lay out the tiles in a test run to decide where each should go and ensure the pattern interlocks in each section. Color variations will reveal themselves in a dry lay, providing an opportunity to blend the tiles for a more consistent look. 

4. Backbutter and Set Your Tiles

Once you know where each tile will live, you can work on backbuttering and setting your tiles into place. To install your tiles, apply a thin-set to the floor or wall, back butter the tiles, and carefully set them. Cement tiles are typically installed with smaller joint widths, around 1/16 inch, for a cleaner look that doesn’t break up the pattern. Depending on the weather and environment, tiles take 24 to 48 hours to set. 

5. Apply Sealer to Your Cement Tiles 

Like we said before, cement tiles are porous and require a sealer to protect them from spills and staining. Seal your cement tiles with an alcohol-based sealant after they set. We recommend using Dry-Treat STAIN-PROOF Original™ sealer. You must seal your cement tiles after installation and before grouting. The easiest way to do this is with a paint roller, ensuring all tiles are thoroughly & evenly coated. 

6. Wet the Cement Tiles With a Sponge

After sealing your cement tiles, you can begin the grouting process! Before grouting, wet your cement tiles with a sponge. This step allows for an easier application because you will be better able to move the grout across the surface of the tiles and into the joints. 

7. Scoop the Grout Onto the Tile 

There is no need to mix before grouting when working with pre-mixed and ready-to-use quartz-based grouts, like Mapei. Simply scoop the grout onto the tiles and get to work moving on to the next step. 

8. Force the Grout Into the Tile Joints

Use a medium to hard rubber grout float tool to spread the grout off the face of the tiles and force the mixture into the joints or crevices between each tile. Aim to create grout lines level with the surface of the tiles.  

9. Clean Grout Haze and Residue to Prevent Stains  

Once you fill the joints with grout, scrape the remaining residue off the tile faces for an initial cleaning. Scoop and deposit the excess back into the grout bucket. Next, use a clean wet sponge to wipe away any remaining grout haze from the surface of the tiles. Rinse out your sponge frequently to ensure a better clean. Remove all grout haze before it dries to prevent permanent residue and stains.  

10. Always Work in Small Areas

Always work in small areas when grouting to maintain a high quality of work and prevent grout from drying on the face of your tiles. Once the grout dries, it will be difficult to remove and could lead to permanent damage. The temperature, humidity, and location of where you’re working will affect grout dry times, so change the size of your work area accordingly. It’s always safer to work in small areas than to attempt to take on a large section without enough time.   

11. Double Check the Installation Instructions

While these steps generally apply to most cement tiles, it is important to review the installation guide that comes with your tile. At LiLi Tile, we include installation instructions in every box. In some cases, pre-sealed or unsealed cement tiles may change the order of some of the installation steps. So always read the installation guide before jumping into your project!

12. Hire a Professional When Needed

While some of us have no problem taking on a cement tile DIY project, others may feel intimidated by the process — especially first-timers. Remember that installing cement tiles is very different from installing ceramic tiles. Cement tiles are porous and require additional steps to preserve their beauty. If you’re not up for the challenge, hire a professional with cement tile installation experience.

Don’t Forget to Take Proper Measures to Prevent Cement Tile Grout Stains! 

The most important part of the cement tile installation process is to protect your tiles from staining. Here are some of the key takeaways to keep in mind during your cement tile install.

  • Purchase quartz-based grout and never use a grout product with dyes. 
  • Don’t let grout haze dry on top of your tiles. 
  • Work in small areas and clean regularly. 
  • Seal your tile to protect it from grout stains and everyday spills. 
  • Continue routine maintenance and gentle cleanings.  

Watch a grouting demo below:

How did your installation go? We want to see the finished product!  

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