Groutless Tile Installation: Can You Tile without Grout? (2023)

Here’s an age-old question: can you do a groutless tile installation? Well, the short answer would be a simple no – you should not attempt to install tile without grout.
Why’s that, you might wonder. It’s not like grout adds to the stability of the tile installation (unless we talk about a few exceptional cases) so why is grout necessary?

Groutless Tile Installation: Can You Tile without Grout? (1)

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Simply put, various natural materials, such as stones, are manufactured for use with a pretty consistent size. Not to mention, most of them look identical. That is why a newcomer’s first instinct might be to install them without grout lines.

There is also the argument that groutless tile installation simply looks better and makes the work seem more compact or put together. Still, experienced contractors will tell you that this isn’t a good option, and even the thinnest of grout lines can make a big difference.

Don’t Do a Groutless Tile Installation: Here’s Why You Need Grout

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Understandably, most installers have a love-hate relationship with grout. It takes up a lot of time, and it requires meticulous work. There are cases when laying tile without grout will probably leave the job looking a lot better.
But here’s the thing: if you want the job to last, then you need to use grout. Groutless tile has a higher chance of breaking, meaning that you would need to resume the work.

(Video) Can you lay tile without grout lines?

With these considerations in mind, this article will discuss some of the reasons tilling without grout is an ineffective method and why you should stick to the traditional practices.

Tiles Are Not Identical

Your tiles might look like they have the same size, but chances are they don’t. The differences could be relatively small and impossible to notice without measure, but they can interfere with the groutless installation process. When you put the tiles together, those tiny irregularities will add up, making the final result look a bit off and unprofessional. The last thing you want after you’ve worked for hours to install tiles is to notice that they are not aligned properly.

Grout allows you to mask the differences in tile sizes and control the outcome. In fact, even the smallest lines can make the tiles fit perfectly with one another, giving the final result a nice symmetrical look.

Material Might Get Caught Between Tiles

Regardless of the size of the project, certain elements might get between your tiles if they are not grouted. It can be dust, dead cells or other debris that will find a way between your tiles no matter how compact you think the installation looks. Grout can prevent such scenarios.

You can spend hours putting the tiles together and be pretty satisfied with the result. But without grout, there will always be a tiny space between the tiles that acts like a magnet waiting to attract debris. In time, these small differences between the tiles will have gathered enough dust and debris to ruin the entire ensemble.

Don’t assume that you can just clean the tiles after the installation process is over. That can prove to be quite a difficult task because even the slightest mistake is enough to damage one of the tiles and require you to work more than you’ve initially planned just to fix the error.
One of the easiest ways to avoid this nightmare scenario: you’ve guessed it – use grout when you install tiles.

Yes, They Move

Another reason you should reconsider the entire concept of groutless tile installation is that tiles move. Because the edges of the tiles will continuously rub against each other, they are likely to chip or even break at some point. Which, let’s be honest, is not ideal.

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Sure, there are other tips and tricks you can use, but they only minimize the impact and don’t stop the tiles from moving and rubbing against each other. Grout, on the other hand, acts as a buffer and prevents the tiles from making contact while they expand or contract.

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What You Can Do

It’s not all bad. After all, grouting is like the biggest, most impressive scene right before the grand finale. It’s the last step of your tile installation process. At the end it even completes the entire look for your work. It is the key difference between tile work that stands the test the time and those that end up in need of tweaks.

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Above all, remember what the ANSI specification says about the minimum grout joint size (A108.02-4.3.8):
“To accommodate the range in facial dimensions of the tile supplied for a specific project, the actual grout joint size may, of necessity, vary from the grout joint size specified. The actual grout joint size shall be at least three times the actual variation of the facial dimensions of the tile supplied. Example: for tile having a total variation of 1/16″ in facial dimensions, a minimum of 3/16″ grout joint shall be used. Nominal centerline of all joints shall be straight with due allowances for hand-molded or rustic tiles. In no circumstance shall the grout joint be less than 1/16″.
The biggest issue you might face with the process of grouting has a lot to do with getting the right thickness for the mix or having it dry solid before you even get the chance to use it. To know how the pros grout tile, read our guide to prepare your grouting material, how to apply it and how to remove it.

What about Rectified Tiles?

You might have heard about rectified tiles and wondered if these mechanically cut materials don’t require grout for the installation.

So, is that true?

(Video) How to apply porcelain tile with zero joint!!

Rectification is a mechanical process that requires milling the edge of the tile at a specific angle, which suggests that the materials will have the same size. As such, you can install them without worrying that the final result will look unaligned and unprofessional. That happens because this process allows you to cut each tile to the same size, with an accuracy of 0.2 mm. Rectification works for both floor and wall tiles.

Tiles that have gone through this process are popularly believed to be freed from the necessity of grout because of their nearly identical size and perfectly cut edges. However, that is not exactly the case.

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Even if rectified tiles allow you to avoid using grout without having the result look unaligned, the materials are still in danger of being chipped or damaged. Perfectly cut edges will not perform better than regular tile when friction occurs, so they can still cause a variety of problems if you opt for a no grout tile installation.

In truth, rectified tiles allow for a thinner grout line. But, the misconception that they can go groutless might leave your work looking unprofessional. Rectified tiles still very much rely on grout if you want them to withstand the test of time. However, you’ll find that their grout lines can be a lot harder to notice in the case of these rectified tiles.

The Sanded vs. Unsanded Debate

Most specialists have a pretty good understanding of the differences between sanded and unsanded grout; therefore, we won’t go into too many details.

Sanded and unsanded – these are the two most common grouting materials. It’s not a debate per se, but you need to be able to choose the right grout for your type of work to properly complete the job. We’ve mentioned that grouting your tiles ensures that your work will be long lasting. Well, having the right grout material for the right type of work also plays a major role in the success and durability of your project.

(Video) Tile Accent Wall with NO GROUT!!!

Use unsanded grout for lines smaller than a ⅛ inch wide since it will shrink as it dries. If you’re working on vertical surfaces, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to use unsanded grout for wall installations, given that it is a lot stickier than other materials. As a result, it won’t fall off as you try to fit it into the grout lines.

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On the other hand, sanded grout will work better for wider grout lines. If the name’s not a good enough clue, know that this material has fine sand added to stop it from shrinking as it cures. Though it can be used in smaller grout lines just as well, it’s a lot easier to apply it to larger lines.

However, with sanded grout, you also need to pay attention to the type of tile material you’re using. In some cases, sanded grout might not react positively with these materials as the sandy texture can scratch the tiles. Make sure to test it before using it to check if the mixture will scratch the surface of the tiles.

In a Nutshell

Yes, it’s technically possible to do a groutless tile installation, but as the article pointed out above, it’s not exactly worth it. There are three main downsides to skipping the grout when installing tiles:

  1. If the tiles are not identical, they will appear unaligned;
  2. Dirt can get beneath them and damage them in the long run;
  3. Movement can lead to breakage.

So what happens if one of your clients insists on skipping the grout? Well, you should try to talk them out of it. Of course, in the end, it’s their decision to make, but try to help them understand why grout is important. Some might desire a compact look, and think the grout simply disrupts the pattern of the tiles. Try to make them see that the benefits of grout will ultimately serve them in the long run. After all, it’s very likely that many will prefer choosing something that lasts longer, rather than opting for a few months of “looking pretty.”

Have you installed tiles without grout? What are thoughts about groutless tile installation? Let me know in the comments below!

(Video) Can you tile without grout?

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FAQs

Groutless Tile Installation: Can You Tile without Grout? ›

There are cases when laying tile without grout will probably leave the job looking a lot better. But here's the thing: if you want the job to last, then you need to use grout. Groutless tile has a higher chance of breaking, meaning that you would need to resume the work.

Can tile be installed with no grout lines? ›

If the area in which you'd like to install tiles isn't heavily trafficked and is relatively dry—or if you just really hate grout lines—it is possible to install tile without grout by laying the tiles directly next to each other with no space between.

What can you use instead of grout on tile? ›

Caulk is silicone, acrylic, or latex based, which is flexible and can help absorb movement, whereas grout can crack. Caulk is used to waterproof joints for space like bath tubs, showers, windows etc. Caulk is strong enough to adhere to tile surfaces without crevices.

Can you have a bathroom without grout? ›

Slab shower walls eliminate the need for grout and enhance the beauty of your bathroom. Instead of covering your wall with multiple pieces of tile, your renovator attaches a slab that's big enough to cover your entire shower wall.

How long can you leave tile without grout? ›

The shortest time after laying tile that you can grout is 24 hours. However, it is much better to wait at least 48 hours before grouting. This is to give the mortar ample time to set and dry before pressure is applied.

What is the thinnest grout line possible? ›

Smallest size grout lines should not be less than 1/16″. This is an acceptable space that can be properly grouted. When the space between tiles is so little like 1/32″ which is often referred to as “credit card lines” or “penny lines”, it's not possible to fill that space all the way through the bottom of the tile.

What is the minimum grout line for ceramic tile? ›

All ceramic and stone large format tile (greater than 15”) requires a minimum 1/16” grout joint according to ANSI. Daltile recommends that large tiles have a 1/8” or 3/16” minimum grout joint for the most successful installation.

Is there anything better than grout? ›

There are several key characteristics that make epoxy grout not only an alternative to cement grout, but a much better choice than cement grout. Most importantly, epoxy grout is strong and durable. It is highly resistant to stains, cracks, chemicals, harsh weather conditions, and climate changes.

What are 3 reasons for using grout between your tiles? ›

Grout offers a number of valuable benefits:
  • It gives your floor or wall a crisp finished appearance.
  • it helps keep dirt and debris from getting in between and under your tile.
  • It adds rigidity and strength to the tile installation.
Aug 17, 2020

Can I use tile mortar instead of grout? ›

Grout and mortar should not be used interchangeably. Since both are formulated for specific uses, there is almost no overlap in function.

What is best material for groutless shower? ›

Groutless Bath Walls and Floors in Quartz

Silestone Quartz material are ideal for all surfaces in your bath, such as walls, floors, shower pan, tub deck, and the vanity tops. Quartz material are durable, and require no maintenance.

Is missing grout a problem? ›

A cracked or missing grout can easily dislodge the tiles, causing damage to your flooring. Grout also is susceptible to wear and tear and easily gets discolored, stained and moldy. With so many problems always lurking around grout, it is necessary to maintain it well by sealing it.

Is grout necessary? ›

Grout is a necessary and integral part of many tile jobs for several reasons: It keeps moisture out of the substrate, helps keep tile lines straight and prevents tiles from rubbing against one another and cracking.

Can you walk on Ungrouted tile? ›

So, when the initial tile goes down, you should let the mortar set for a day before walking on your unfinished tile floor. After the mortar is set, your new tile flooring needs grout to complete the job. The grouting process should take about a day to lay down the grout.

How do you make tile look seamless? ›

There are two ways to achieve seamless tiling. The first involves a mosaic of smaller tiles that disguise the true lines between laid sections of tile. The second is continuous tiles cut to shape and fit together so seams only occur in natural or structural lines.

Can you lay tiles without gap? ›

It is recommended to use narrow, 1.5 to 2-millimetre joints. Jointless laying can therefore be considered as a conventional name, relating to minimal joints, not their absence. Jointless laying is a myth that can have serious consequences. Using 1-2 milimetre joints is a required minimum.

Does all tile need grout? ›

There are cases when laying tile without grout will probably leave the job looking a lot better. But here's the thing: if you want the job to last, then you need to use grout. Groutless tile has a higher chance of breaking, meaning that you would need to resume the work.

What type of tile has the smallest grout lines? ›

First, the smallest grout lines, less than 1/8 inch, are ideal for rectified tiles. Rectified tiles are perfectly uniform, with precisely defined edges, requiring the least amount of grout.

Can you do 1 inch grout lines? ›

As a general rule, floor tiles should have grout lines of 1/8 inch or larger, depending on the type and size of tile. Special types, such as slate or quarry tiles, often do not have edges uniform enough to work with tight spacing. These tiles usually are spaced with grout lines 3/16 inch or wider.

What is the minimum gap between tiles? ›

Regardless of the type or style of tile (porcelain, ceramic or stone) a minimum of 3mm tile spacers should be used for floor tiles. Depending on the tile, the spacer required can go as high as 10mm. Most commonly a 5mm spacer is used, especially if you're using indoor to outdoor tiles.

Can grout be too low? ›

"Low Grout Joints" are defined as not being up to the top edge of the tile or cushioned edge, depending on the profile. Some of the problems leading to low grout joints include, Joints that aren't filled properly during application. Using too much water and washing the grout out of the joints.

Is it OK to use caulk instead of grout? ›

A lot of contractors use grout in situations such as this, but for the most part, caulk should be used. It's more flexible and waterproof as well, unlike traditional cement-based grout, which provides no flexibility.

What is the easiest tile and grout to keep clean? ›

You can find different porcelain tiles, but the easiest to clean tile is the polished or glazed porcelain tile. You can clean these tiles by sweeping off any extra dust, mopping them with a cleaning solution, rinse with water, and wiping them dry, which will give you the best results.

Why not use silicone instead of grout? ›

The biggest downside of silicone, however, is that it is a lot harder to apply properly than grout. If you get it wrong or you don't take the time to smooth the line, silicone will dry with little gaps that water can seep under directly.

How does groutless tile work? ›

These outdoor tiles are backed with plastic grids with interlocking tabs that simply snap together. Best of all: no grungy grout to repair or refill. Turn your deck into a patio -- they'll cover any level surface. DIY-friendly, groutless stone tiles are about $12 per square foot.

What are the disadvantages of grouting tiles? ›

In certain situations, it may dry unevenly or blotchy. Stains can easily penetrate the porous surface. Maintenance sealing is required. Minimal flexibility.

Do you have to seal grout? ›

Grout needs to be sealed. It's naturally porous and will stain easily. Most installers of tile floors do not seal them because grout has to cure first. It's something you should do to keep your grout looking its best.

What happens if you use thinset instead of grout? ›

The only difference between thinset and grout is that you need to clean the thinset off quickly and thoroughly and do not let a haze dry onto the mosaic because, unlike grout, you cannot come back the next day and do a final cleaning.

Is thinset the same as grout? ›

People tend to get them confused, or even think that they're the same thing. Thinset mortar is used to adhere tiles to a surface, while grout is designed to fill the spaces between tiles once they've been installed. Because they fulfill different purposes, these materials have different compositions.

What's the difference between mortar and thinset? ›

While thinset is technically a modified mortar, it's thinner and designed specifically for tiles, unlike mortar which is thick and holds stacked bricks in place. Likewise, thinset contains cement, but its formula lacks the strength to build walls or even serve as a stand-alone flooring product.

Do you have to use grout with zellige tile? ›

Zellige tile can be laid in several ways based on design preference. The traditional (and most common) method for installation does not use standard grout joints; tiles are instead laid edge to edge by hand with minimal grout spacing.

What is the best maintenance free shower tile? ›

Porcelain tiles are the best option, as they are very durable and chip resistant, and they are actually less expensive than other options! Another benefit of porcelain tiles is that they have a high coefficient of friction, making them safer to navigate when wet from shower water.

What is the easiest tile to install in a shower? ›

Slate is one of the easiest, while pebble tiles will require extra cleaning with their many irregular grout lines. The wider your grout lines, the more grout cleaning you will have to do (and the higher likelihood that mold and mildew might grow).

What is the best low maintenance tile? ›

Granite Tiles

If you're looking for a durable, stylish, and affordable option for your walk-in shower floor, granite tile is a great choice. Granite is a natural stone resistant to scratches, staining, and chipping, making it a low-maintenance option for busy families.

What happens if grout is missing in shower? ›

‍Deteriorating or missing grout in your shower or any tiled area allows water to seep underneath the and loosen the tiles over time. Plus, the accumulated moisture creates a breeding ground for mould and mildew to thrive, potentially aggravating respiratory illness and allergies for the entire family/household.

Why is my grout cracking after 6 months? ›

If your grout is a few years old, it's normal that in time, it will crack. This results from a few key causes: Exposure To The Elements. A common problem for wet areas in the home, like the bathroom or shower, grout tends to crack here as a build-up of water slowly eats away at the material.

Does grout make tile stronger? ›

“Not only does grout fill the voids, it makes the floor, wall, or countertop stronger by bonding the tiles together and preventing the edges of a tile from chipping and cracking,” says David Goodman, the tile contractor for This Old House's Nantucket project.

How often should grout be replaced? ›

Grout doesn't last forever. You can expect a lifespan between eight and sixteen years. Its lifespan will vary depending on how you treat your shower. Odds are, you have no idea when your grout was installed.

Is groutless tile a good idea? ›

Groutless tiles are a great option for other areas of your house since they're so low maintenance! If you fell in love with the look of a feature wall or want to add a dazzling fireplace surround, grout-free (or in this case, minimal grout) tiles are a stunning option that won't add to your household chores!

How long does it take for grout to harden? ›

New grout can take 24 or even 48 hours before it dries completely. It depends on the humidity and temperature in the room where the grout is installed. While grout manufacturers no doubt try to get the color stripe on the bags to be a true representation of the color of the dried grout, you can't count on that.

How long does it take for grout to cure before walking on it? ›

Most tile experts recommend waiting between 48-72 hours for your mortar to set. You can let the mortar dry for longer if needed. Allowing the mortar more than 72 hours to cure will not adversely affect the tile. Just be sure not to walk on the tile or get the surface wet while the mortar sets.

Can tiles be butted together? ›

Butting tiles together can lead to various problems such as a chattered edge. A chattered edge is when the edge of the butted stone chips do to the compression stress it is subjected to when the stone naturally expands due to moisture, temperature or it moves from structural movement.

How long after laying tile can you grout? ›

The shortest time after laying tile that you can grout is 24 hours. However, it is much better to wait at least 48 hours before grouting. This is to give the mortar ample time to set and dry before pressure is applied.

Is it okay to tile without spacers? ›

If the grout lines are uneven, then the final result will look messy and unprofessional. That is especially true if you're using a grout color that stands out against the tiles. Spacers are an excellent way to ensure that the grout lines are uniform and well-proportioned.

Do some tiles not need spacers? ›

It depends on the brand of tile and the look you want to achieve. Subway tile made by Dal-Tile or American Olean, for example, has a small built-in spacer that allows you to stack the tile without additional spacers. Other tile manufacturers like Pratt and Larson or Heritage Tile do not have the built-in spacer.

Is grout necessary between tiles? ›

Regardless of the size of the project, certain elements might get between your tiles if they are not grouted. It can be dust, dead cells or other debris that will find a way between your tiles no matter how compact you think the installation looks. Grout can prevent such scenarios.

What is method of putting tiles together without gaps called? ›

A tessellation or tiling is the covering of a surface, often a plane, using one or more geometric shapes, called tiles, with no overlaps and no gaps.

What happens if you don't use spacers? ›

If you don't use tile spacers, you risk having your tiles end up crooked. Tile spacers, because they nestle into the corner of each tile, allow for a completely straight, even finish.

How do you install tile without a gap? ›

How to Lay Tile Without Grout Lines
  1. Purchase rectified tiles. ...
  2. Lay out the tiles directly onto the area where you will install them. ...
  3. Mark any tiles to be cut with a pencil and straightedge. ...
  4. Take the tiles up in the opposite order you set them down. ...
  5. Press the tiles into the mortar in the same order you laid them out.

Do all tilers use spacers? ›

Tile spacers are necessary anytime you are doing a tile installation. They can aid in giving your job a professional finish by keeping each tile an equal distance apart. When you install tiles yourself, spacers make it possible to keep straight grout lines and square tiles together as the adhesive dries.

Can I use silicone instead of grout? ›

As mentioned, silicone works well in places where shifts in pressure can cause your grout to crack. For most bathrooms, this means using it as a sealant for the joints of the shower tray and the bath.

What are the disadvantages of tile spacers? ›

The disadvantages of spacers are as follows:

a. Increases the construction cost. b. Time-consuming need to fix and remove later after 20-30 minutes.

What is the minimum tile spacer? ›

Regardless of the type or style of tile (porcelain, ceramic or stone) a minimum of 3mm tile spacers should be used for floor tiles. Depending on the tile, the spacer required can go as high as 10mm. Most commonly a 5mm spacer is used, especially if you're using indoor to outdoor tiles.

Videos

1. How to install a zellige tile backsplash - no grout look!
(Colton Crump DIY)
2. Can you lay floor tile without grout lines?
(Health·WHYS)
3. HOW TO TILE A FLOOR WITHOUT GROUT | 60by60 granite tiles
(The Jack Sparrow Show)
4. How to Install a Rectified Porcelain Tile Floor
(Home RenoVision DIY)
5. How to Install Backsplash In Kitchen (Subway Tile)
(Azim Rahamatali)
6. The Essential Guide to Groutless Tile Installation
(The Tile Club)

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