A thinner grout line is a modern trend that has only been made possible by advancements in tile technology. In the past, tiles were irregular, influencing the grout line width. As a result, grout lines needed to be thicker to hide the discrepancy between tiles.
To achieve thin grout lines in your shower, you need to use rectified tiles that are precisely cut and symmetrical. A small tile spacer will create even gaps between your tiles and mark out the width of your grout line. Unsanded grout is the best choice for thin grout lines.
Chris Powell, a handyman in Austin, Texas says:
“Making thin grout lines is ten times harder because you have no tolerance for mistakes. When the tiles are so close and you need to readjust them, you don’t have much room to do it.”
But if you still want to use thin grout lines (as I did in my recent bathroom remodel), there are a few rules of the road that can help you achieve success. Read on to discover what they are!
Also, you may want to download my free and super handy tile calculator to help you figure out how many tiles you’ll need for your project.
What You Need To Make Thin Grout Lines In Your Shower
The thickness of grout lines is determined by the tiles, spacers and type of grout you choose to use. Thinner grout lines have become increasingly popular, but you need to consider your tile’s size before committing to a thin grout line. Larger tiles can look disproportionate if the grout is too narrow.
The Right Tile Will Help You Achieve Minimal Grout Lines
Your tile choice will dictate the thickness of your grout line. The larger the tile, the thicker your grout line needs to be. Larger tiles need thicker grout lines to counteract the effects of their expansion and contraction in different temperatures.
However, a small bathroom and large bathroom can handle different sized tiles. For details, consult my bathroom tile size guide. You’ll discover the right size tiles for your space.
It’s not only the size of your tile that determines the thickness of your grout line. To have the thinnest grout line of 1/16,” you will need to use rectified tiles.
|TILE SIZE||GROUT THICKNESS|
|Small - 1x1 inch, 4x4 inches, 3x6 inches||1/16 or 1/8 inch|
|Medium - 6x12 inches, 13x13 inches||1/8 inch|
|Large - 12x24 inches, 24x24 inches||3/16 inch|
Rectified tiles are ceramic or porcelain tiles cut with a perfectly straight edge by a diamond saw. These tiles are identical and, when laid in your shower, create ideal symmetry and straight lines to allow for a thin grout line.
Non-rectified tiles and hand-made tiles will have slight imperfections and size differences. These variances are amplified when placed closer together and can create a messy and unprofessional finish.
The wider grout line fools the eye into thinking the tiles are identical. If you love hand-made tiles, you may need to give up on thin grout lines unless you like the haphazard look.
To achieve the perfect thin grout line and neat even tile design, you must select a rectified tile. However, there are multiple choices, so this won’t limit you from getting the perfect tile for your shower design.
If you require more assistance in selecting your tiles, read choosing bathroom tiles to get advice from a bathroom designer. And here’s another post that will come in very handy if you’re wondering whether glass or ceramic bathroom tile is best for your space.
Use Small Tile Spacers to Get a Thin Grout Line
Although your rectified tiles are the only option that will allow your thin grout lines to look even, achieving these precise thin lines will not be possible without the suitable tile spacer.
Tile spacers are simple gadgets that slot between tiles to create uniform spacing. Spacers come in different sizes depending on the thickness of the grout line you want. These little guys are your best friends in attaining equidistant spacing for those perfect thin grout lines.
However, some tiles are self-spacing and come with built-in lugs or bevels that create the grout line. If you choose tiles like this, they will dictate the thickness of your grout line, so be sure to choose ones that allow for the 1/16 inch gap or you won’t be achieving your desired look.
For the thinnest grout line, you’ll need to look for tile spacers that are 1/16″. A fantastic option is the Brutus Horseshoe Spacer. These horseshoe shape spacers offer more surface area and grip than the more common cross-shaped spacers. In addition, they can achieve the cross shape by slotting one below the other at corners. Unlike the cross shape spacers, these shapers can create a T-junction, making them more versatile than most others on the market.
Tile spaces are straightforward to use. You will place the tile spacers between the adjacent tiles as you lay them. It’s best to put the spacers at the corners of your tiles and then push the tiles to meet them, creating even spacing.
Once you finish tiling, you can remove the spacers and reuse them for another project.
The Best Type of Grout for the Thinnest Grout Lines
Some handymen will suggest that sanded grout is always the best option, as long as you have the strength to squish it into the gaps between tiles. However, getting the sanded grout into the fine lines is tough for skinny grout lines, and your efforts may result in poor grouting.
As the name suggests, sanded grout contains silica sand along with inorganic aggregates and chemicals. Due to its durability, sanded grout is the choice for most tiling jobs, but the addition of sand means it includes larger particles.
Because it requires significantly more strength to get the sanded grout and larger particles into small spaces, it’s easy to do a poor job and end up with air bubbles in the grout. These bubbles will cause the grout to crack and crumble.
When it comes to thin grout lines, it’s better to use unsanded, also called non-sanded, grout. This type of ground does not include sand but uses polymers instead. The lack of sand makes the unsanded grout easier to work with. Unsanded grout is also the best option for glass, ceramic or marble tiles as it won’t scratch the tiles as sanded grout could.
Custom Building’s white unsanded grout is the perfect product for your thin grout lines. It’s easy to apply, doesn’t dry too quickly while you work, and offers a smooth finish that isn’t crumbly. It also cleans off your tiles effortlessly when the job is done and doesn’t cause scratches to delicate tiles.
How To Make Thin Grout Lines
Now that you know the materials you require to achieve thin grout lines, let’s walk through the steps. It is the same process to apply the grout to thin lines as any other width, but it is the use of rectified tiles, 1/16″ spacers, and non-sanded grout that will get your desired result.
Lay your rectified tiles. Read my post on replacing bathroom tile for detailed directions on how to tile around a bathtub.
Use your 1/16″ tile spacers to create even, thin spacing between tiles. Place them at the corners of your tiles for the best result.
Follow the instructions on the box of unsanded grout to determine how much water you need to add. Then, mix the grout and water in a bucket to achieve a consistency similar to peanut butter. (If the grout is too runny, it can crack once set.)
The grout will start to dry after about a half-hour, so only mix batches of the amount you’ll be able to use in that time.
Before you begin to apply the grout, first let it sit. Base this length of time on the manufacturer’s guide. This process is known as slaking.
Once the grout has rested, dish out a gloop onto a grout float (foam-backed). A grout float is a paddle with a flexible foam back that stops your tiles from getting scratched. Smear the grout across your tiles, but only over a small area at a time.
Pull your grout float over the tiles in multiple directions, ensuring that you push the grout into all the gaps.
Scrape any leftover grout off the section of tiles you just grouted using the flat side of your float. Once done, continue to grout the next area.
Carry on applying your grout, pushing it deep into the joins until your entire project is complete.
Leave the grout for 10 minutes to settle.
Using a wet sponge, wipe away grout residue, but don’t touch the grout in the joints. Make sure your sponge is moist but not sopping wet.
Once the grout turns a light color or a powder forms over the surface of the tiles, your grout has begun to set. You can remove the residue with a dry cloth. However, be aware that your grout is not completely dry at this point, so be careful not to damage any grouting lines as you wipe. It usually takes grout a couple of days to fully harden.
Once it’s fully hardened, you can use a grout haze remover to take off any remaining residue.
Apply a grout sealer to prevent water from seeping into the walls. This is advised as a final step to help you steer clear of bathroom mold. For details about how to seal grout, see Don’t Forget the Sealer | Tile & Grout Guide.
What If You Make a Mistake?
If you missed cleaning some of the grout and it has dried on a few of your tiles, do not despair. There are means of removing unwanted grout from your tiles. Don’t be tempted to use a metal scraper, which could damage your tiles. Instead, a simple sugar-water solution and a bit of patience will do the trick.
Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in a gallon of hot water. Pour or sponge the sugar water onto the areas with unwanted grout. Try to soak the grout with the sugar water and leave it for approximately 2 hours. The solution should help dissolve the grout. Next, use a wooden stick to remove the now loosened grout and scrub the remainder off with a nylon sponge.
Or you can use the vinegar and plastic card method that Ashley Marino uses in the video just above.
What Happens If Your Grout Is Too Thin?
Ultimately you need to keep in mind that grout is there to serve a purpose. It seals the spaces between your tiles, stopping unwanted dirt and water from getting in. Grout also assists in absorbing the natural movement of your shower tiles as they expand and contract with different bathroom temperatures.
If your grout line is too thin, the installation will be complicated. You or your contractor will battle to apply the grout into the narrow spaces and this can then lead to holes and air bubbles in the grout. These leaks will allow moisture in and can result in the grout crumbling away in these areas.
Grout lines that are too thin will also affect tile expansion and contraction. With there not being much leeway for the tiles to move, they can end up cracking or chipping under the pressure as they push up against each other, or buckling and falling off your shower wall.
So try to use the right size grout lines for the size of your bathroom tiles. But if your grout crumbles away in places, don’t despair. It’s possible to fix it with a grout repair product.
The Disadvantage of Thin Grout Lines
The primary downside to thin grout lines is trying to clean them. With them being so thin, it’s easy for dirt to get trapped in the narrow gaps but very difficult to reach once there.
The best means to clean grout is with a highly-rated grout cleaner like this one from Eversprout. It’s an eco-friendly cleaner, making it safer to use than some other products. It’s safe to use on porcelain and ceramic tiles but not recommended for natural stone. This specific one even comes with brushes to help you get to all those hard-to-reach places of your beautiful thin grout lines.
How to Choose Bathroom Tile and Grout
While the width of your grout lines is an important decision, so too is the color of grout you choose. Bathroom designer Kathleen Finley advises selecting a color of grout that is similar to the color of your tile. Here’s what she says:
“Do you want your grout to be a feature? If yes, you have so many options. I’m always amazed by how many color options and widths there are for grout. Note that when the grout becomes a feature, your chosen layout pattern becomes a feature, too.
Keep in mind that if you choose a dark grout, it may show efflorescence (whitish or grayish spots from salts) over time. And a word on white grout: it will show dirt more—it really will. So if you absolutely must have white grout, use thin lines and make sure to use a grout sealer.”
What is the Easiest Tile Layout for Thin Grout Lines?
If you’re laying the tile yourself and don’t have much experience, you may want to choose a layout that will be more forgiving with thin grout lines.
Handyman Chris Powell advises, “Doing subway tiles is much more forgiving than stacking tiles. When you stack tiles, you need everything lined up from the bottom to the top, but with a subway layout, each row is another start.”
If you’re not familiar with a subway tile layout, the tiles are staggered from one row to the next. In other words, the tiles and grout lines in one row do not align with the grout lines in the row above or below it.
Thin Grout Lines in the Shower: The Bottom Line
To create thin grout lines, you need to resist getting hand-made tiles and work with rectified tiles that can give you precise and even lines. Tile spacers that are 1/8th inch or 1/16th inch will help you make sure that all the gaps between your tiles are thin and even, and it’s the use of unsanded grout that will squeeze best into those tight spaces.
By the way, if you’re tiling a small bathroom, definitely read my post 18 Ways Tile Can Help Your Small Bathroom Feel Bigger to get ideas you may not have considered.
See 21 Tips for Perfect Bathroom Tile for links to all my best bathroom tile resources.
And be sure to fill out the form below and I’ll send a handy tile calculator straight to your inbox. It will help you determine exactly how much tile to order for your project and what the project will cost.