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Cracked Crack: Risky Decision

2013 January 17
by Katie

Do I really need to remind you of our kitchen?  Aka the Box o’ Brown. 

Well, we’ve been traveling down this road of renovations for quite some time together and this was one biggie step that made me REALLY excited to wrap up…GROUT.  Oh yes.  My favorite part of tiling :)   Seriously.  I love me some grout.  at least I love it when the grout step is done!

We had chosen to go with the hex tile as a backsplash (you can read all about that tiling adventure here) and came to a little bit of an issue.  You see, sanded grout is used for tiles that have spaces or grouting joints larger than 1/8th of inch in size…which is right for our hex tiles (which has a 3/16th inch space).  BUT….and this is a Sir-Mix-A-Lot style ‘but’…aka, a big one….it’s sanded grout….it’s made with SAND.  Sand can actually scratch polished marble.  So I did what any normal person does when they have a question about sanded/non-sanded grout, a weird body growth or a secret fettish…I googled it. 

I read all these message boards about people using sanded grout on their polished marble tile and realizing too late that it was like ultralowwaisted pants on a large bottomed girl….a terrible terrible decision.  Spoken from personal experience.  What’s the problem?  Well, non-sanded grout is only recommended for itty bitty grout lines.  If we went with non-sanded grout in our fatty grout lines, we run the risk of the grout shrinking and cracking when it dries.  So basically I would end up with either scratched tiles or cracked cracks.  Pick your poison.

In the end, I decided on choosing the cracked cracks as the risk I would rather take.  After all, I figure I could always go back and regrout…filling in the cracks and there is no way I could polish tile back to it’s glorious shine.  Two minutes after my decision, Jeremy ran to the home improvement store to pick up a bag of non-sanded grout in white.   He’s the prompt one in this relationship.

We got everything together to mix it all up…our newly purchased bag of grout, the admixture which was supposed to help our grout stay flexible, a measuring cup, a bucket, and a drill with a mixing attachment.

We measured everything according to the admixture instructions.  I’m SO SO happy that the Tile Shop people added this bottle of admixture to our pile of stuff we needed because I would have never thought to use it….but after reading all about the cracking crack situation on the internet, the fact that the bottle says “Reduces Shrinkage and Cracking” was like music to my ears.

Now I have a big problem with consistency…like I have no idea what grout is too thin or too thick.  Let me tell you right now…if you are like me and have no idea what peanut butter consistency is (even after pulling out the jar of Jiff) then you are not alone and it’s always best to err on the side of loose :)   It’s gonna dry a little over time…so if you start out stiff, it’ll be down-right hard by the time you get to the end of your bucket.

Mixing this stuff up with a drill attachment is amazing.  I also recommend this thing when mixing 5 gallon buckets of paint.  Buy it.

I am not gonna give you a full blown tutorial.  I’ve done that already when it comes to tiling.  You can read it here.  The grouting process is the same…push it into the cracks with your float and then take a slightly damp sponge to wipe. It’s brain-easy and forecep-difficult.  And it’s best as a couple-of-people activity.

For tight spaces, I used a small foam brush to remove the excess grout.  It’s a sponge on the end…works perfectly!  Also – it’s a really REALLY good idea to make sure all your electrical outlets are still OFF.  Nothing will spoil your grouting experience like bleeding from the ears.

Oh yes, I was very very pregnant while tackling this.  There you have it.  My mother should be proud.  She went into labor with my brother while painting the exterior of her house.  True story.

Okay – back to grouting….most times, you want to hold your grout float like this….at a forty-five degree angle…

(leggings are not pants katie. geesh)

but if you have a really really hard spot to get the grout into, first load your float and then push it into the space straight on….this will really jam that grout into the spots you want it to be…then do the 45 degree thing to push away excess.

The hardest part about grouting a kitchen?  The corners.  Especially when you have a fully-grown baby inside of you counter-blocking you from the grout lines.  But don’t neglect them or do a poor job on the wiping because wet grout it 100times more easy to remove than dried grout. 

Sir Mix A lot and girls with self-esteem issues…You’re welcome.

Here’s how we tackled the itty bitty space between the cabinet and the wall…a cheap spatula.  You can get a five pack of these at the dollar store…this one was old, groudie and no longer food-worthy….perfect for the trash can after applying my grout. 

You can be a little messy because you are gonna go back later and wipe it with a sponge…

The key is to get it firmly pushed into every little line.  Again – the best tip in this situation is to start at the bottom and work up.  Since we are naturally inclined to push or wipe things in the downward direction, building the grout from the bottom up means that you will push the maximum amount into those cracks and crannies.

After you wipe it all down and get the haze off, the end result is really quite stunning.  I love it.  Like to the point that I might be found laying on the counter just to press my bosom against it. 

And the wall of tile turned out really nicely too.  I’ll let you know later show ya how we tackled the bottom pencil tiles that we were struggling with earlier.  Read up on that so you don’t forget…this is vital to life stuff here people.

Oh and you may have noticed that we put the hardware back on.  We had to…it was driving us looney not having handles.  It’s funny how you can live without something for a long time and then once you have it, taking it away again is TORTURE.  So basically I am a two-year old with that mentality but it’s true.  oh so true. 

There’s a lot more to share…little and big stuff.  Oh and forgive me going forward…some of the posts in the coming month are gonna have some cray-cray photos (remember mom – cray cray means crazy :) ) because my good camera is getting cleaned and the focus was off….oh and yes, I dropped my good lens…I cried…so now I’m waiting for them to be ready to come home.   In the mean time, I’ve been iphone camering.  Camering is totally a word now.



61 Responses leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    January 20, 2013

    Katie, you are too “adorbs”! It is what the kids are saying, I am not sure I am using it correctly, I will have to ask my students on Tuesday. Great work on the kitchen and that handsome new baby of yours. You will have to beat the ladies away with sticks, when those two cute boys of yours get older. Can’t wait to see what you tackle next.

  2. January 21, 2013

    Wow! I love how you brought the backsplash up so high. Love the color too. It looks great!

  3. lara permalink
    January 23, 2013

    Katie–
    next big drywall sanding job you have, get an drywall attachment sander for your shopvac. we did for our laundry room and L-O-V-E-D it! so worth the $17 @ Ace. so much less dust!

  4. Marissa permalink
    February 20, 2014

    So- I am in the same conundrum – polished marble with 3/16th spacers. My sheets of tile predetermined the spacing so I can’t alter that. The tiles are white carrerra diamond shaped with little black squares at the tips- it’s beautiful! I have the same concern as you and read the same horror stories- sanded vs nonsanded grout- but my tile is on my master bathroom floor- not a backsplash- so it will have foot traffic. My question is- would you have made the same risk with the non sanded if it was a floor? It looks like it’s been a year since you did this- any cracks in the splash yet?
    I’ve spent so much painstaking time laying this beautiful tile, I don’t want to wreck it by scratching it with the grout, but on the same hand I don’t want cracked grout lines…. Advice please ;)

    • February 20, 2014

      We have had absolutely no cracks in our grout lines. Honestly…I don’t know what I would do in your situation. I might do a test on one sheet of extra tile with the sanded and see if it shows scratches and then make the call. On the other hand, if you did grout with the non-sanded, filling any grout lines in the future wouldn’t be too hard. I don’t know.
      xo – kb

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