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How To

How to Choose the Right Grout Size For Your Tile

Tile shown: Ogee in Turquoise; Image: Kirsten Kaiser Photography

The size of grout lines for tile is something that comes up with just about every tile installation, and is a question we are asked almost every day.  While we do have recommendations for grout size for each Fireclay product line, there really is no set width requirement.  Instead, the thickness of your grout joint should be based on a number of factors including everything to tile size and amount of variation to your desired style or aesthetic.  To help you out, we've put together a list of considerations and an overview of size options to help you choose the right grout size for your project.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Grout Size

The amount a variation in size from tile to tile:  Because we make everything by hand and everything is high fired there is a considerable amount of variation in size and thickness from tile to tile.  With handmade tile we always recommend larger grout joints to account for these irregularities.

The characteristic of the edge of the tile:  Each of our product lines have different edge characteristics which help determine which grout size you should use. While our Glass has a rounded, pillowed edge our EDGE product line has a precise, rectified edge and our recyled tile is in between with a slightly cushioned edge. 

Tile size:  The size of your tile should be considered when choosing a grout size. In general there is more size variation in large sized handmade tiles so they need a bigger grout joint.

Where the tile is being installed:  Where you are installing your tile should also be considered when choosing your grout size.  For example, floor installations should consider using larger grout lines for more traction.  Also, grout size should be considered when there is a differences in the angle of a surface. If your surface is not level, the grout will slope from one tile to another.  You should also keep in mind that when tiling over a corner, your grout grout joint will opensup and when tiling into a recess, the top of the grout joint will narrow.

The style you are hoping to achieve: The size of the grout joint can dramatically change the way your overall tile installation looks, this is where personal preference comes into play.  Some may prefer very minimal grout lines, while others like there grout lines to stand out and become part of the design.

Tile shown: 3 x 6 in White Gloss; Image: Malcolm Fearon, Bliss Images

Now let's talk about your grout size options

Actual finished grout spaces will vary from 1/8" to 1/4" if 3/16" spacers are used.  If smaller spaces like 1/8" are used it will highlight the size difference of handmade tile.  Finished grout lines will vary from 1/16" to 3/16".  Using the smallest grout possible will increase installation time.

3/16":  We recommend a 3/16" grout size for our ceramic Tile line.  This thickness leaves room for the natural variation in size, and the perfectly imperfect edges of handmade tile.

3/8": We manufacture our Glass tile in individual molds which results in a soft, pillowed edge.  Because of this we suggest using a 3/8" grout line for our Glass tie, including CRT.

1/8": a 1/8" size is used for our product lines that feature a rectified, clean cut edge, including our Handpainted collections and our new large-format tile line, EDGE.  A rectified edge allows for smaller grout lines because the the precision cut of the edge of the tile itself.  There is less irregularity so less spacing is needed between each piece of tile.

When it comes to size you should keep in mind that the tighter the grout joint, the more variation from tile to tile will show, which can cause an installation to look sloppy, this is why your tile installer may suggest a larger grout line for a straighter, more professional looking installation. It is an aesthetic decision whether to go slightly larger or tighter.  Today's trend is for tighter grout joints in all types of tile than installations of the past 20 or 30 years ago.

It is possible to achieve a tighter grout joint, however it depends on whether or not the natural irregularity in tile size and shape allows for a tighter fit (typically easier with smaller sizes). It also requires a much more skilled installation to get a good end result. If the grout line is too tight the tile could chip at stress points while the grout dries.  Grout has a purpose to fill in voids, make things straight and also relieve stress.  This is especially important for Glass tile installations as glass is much more brittle than ceramic tile.

Need some more advice on choosing your grout size?  Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.