Kate uses epoxy grout to grout the “fussy” mosaic tile on her bathroom floor
After all my hard work installing the mosaic floor tile in my master bathroom, it was time to seal it all in with grout. Not one to just slap any old grout on my beautiful new floor tile, I did much research to choose not only the right color grout — but also to choose the right grout product. I was scared to work with epoxy grout for the first time. But I used it — SpectraLOCK epoxy grout(*affiliate link) in particular. It turned out to be much easier than I expected — and it looks great. Read on for the complete grout saga–>
Choosing the grout for my mosaic tile bathroom floor
In the past, I’ve only ever installed white grout — on my bathroom and kitchen floors in my first house, as well as the kitchen backsplash in both my first and current house. All of the floor and wall tiles in every place that I’ve lived over the years have always had white grout. Here’s the thing about white grout though — it shows dirt so quickly — especially on floors. When first starting to plan my bathroom remodel, Pam bestowed her bits of bathroom wisdom on me — number one — don’t use white grout on the floor. It isn’t just Pam who has been warning me away from white floor grout. Several readers have also recommended to use a dark grout color — not only for ease of cleaning — but also to help the light colored tiles really pop. After contemplating all their advice, I agreed to break my previous white grout on the floor cycle — and go with a medium grey.
Which grout type to choose: sanded, unsanded, cement or epoxy?
Next came the research into which type of grout to use. If you’ve looked at grout before, you probably know that there are sanded and unsanded grouts — and that decision really comes down to the size of your grout joint and the type of tile being used, meaning your tile selection and desired spacing basically dictates that choice for you. My dilemma came down to another lesser known, grout decision — to use traditional cement grout or epoxy grout.
After researching both traditional cement grout (which I have installed before) and epoxy grout — specifically, SpectraLOCK epoxy grout (*affiliate link), which I chose because it claims to be the easiest epoxy grout to install and my father has used it before with great results.
During my research phase, I compiled a list of pros and cons for each grout type:
Pros of traditional cement grout:
- Familiar with installation methods (I’ve installed this several times before)
- Traditional product used to grout tiles pretty much since the invention of tiles and grout
- Cleans with plain water, can be removed even if it dries on tile surface
- Cost effective
- Easy to install with long working/cleaning time
Cons of traditional cement grout:
- When using dark colors, sometimes efflorescence causes dark grout to lighten in spots
- Needs to be sealed every 6 months to few years depending on cleaning habits, traffic and sealer applied
Pros of SpectraLock epoxy grout:
- Color is consistent and not affected by efflorescence
- Stain proof/easy to clean
- Never needs to be sealed
Cons of SpectraLock epoxy grout:
- During installation process, washing must be done quickly and completely with vinegar water solution before grout has time to try on tiles. Haze and grout left on tiles is very difficult/impossible to remove
- Short working time — grout stiffens and becomes harder to work as time goes on
After listing all the pros and cons of each type of grout, I was still left conflicted. Mostly, I was losing sleep over two important pros and cons of each type of grout installation:
- Regarding the traditional cement grout: I was terrified that using dark grey cement grout would result in efflorescence and uneven color (remember, in the past, white cement grout has been my go-to choice — I’ve never installed a colored grout before), resulting in a ruined floor job.versus:
- Regarding epoxy grout: I was terrified that the glazed texture on my mosaic floor tiles would “hold onto” bits of the epoxy grout and make it difficult or impossible to fully clean the tiles, resulting in a ruined floor job.
Feeling “darned if I do, darned if I don’t”, I considered the main benefits of taking a chance with the SpectraLock — my color would be even and I would never need to seal it. After all of the time I’ve spent working on this bathroom so far, the idea of having to seal the grout every year or so didn’t excite me. Finally, after many restless nights, I summoned the courage to try the SpectraLock epoxy grout in my bathroom.
My color choice: SpectraLOCK Natural Gray
Without being able to see any actual samples of the grout colors (besides online and what was printed on the package label) I was nervous about picking exactly the right color grey. After researching comments and reviews online from people who had used SpectraLOCK grout colors in their tile projects — I discovered that the grout often is slightly lighter than the color swatch on the package, and that the color darkens as it cures — meaning the initial color when mixed won’t be the final color. Taking these bits of knowledge into consideration, I decided on Natural Grey — which seemed to be a nice warm, mid to dark grey on SpectraLock’s color chart.
On the day of the grout installation, I was shaking in my boots. I read and reread the install instructions and made sure everything was ready. Taking Pam’s advice, I had prepared a sample tile board with leftover floor tiles so I could test install the grout for both color and ease of removal from the tile’s tiny bumps. I took a deep breath, mixed up a batch of the grout, and tried it on the sample board. To my delight — success! Knowing the color would dry a few shades darker, and noting that the grout didn’t stick in the tile ridges (probably because of the high gloss glaze) I began grouting the bathroom floor.
Tips to using SpectraLock Epoxy grout:
- Be sure to follow all instructions to a T — including using an epoxy grout float(*affiliate linke)(shown above) to install the grout instead of a regular grout float. The epoxy grout float is heavier and more dense, which helps it act as a squeegee and get much of the excess grout off the tile with the float, leaving less to wash off later.
- The grout does not stick to the epoxy float — not a problem when working on the floor, but I could see installing it on walls or ceilings would be more difficult.
- The SpectraLOCK epoxy grout does get harder to work with as time progresses, for best results, use two hands to pack the joints with grout and work quickly. I found that I had about 30 minutes from mixing the grout to the first wash (it was 77 degrees in my bathroom — grout hardens faster in warm temperatures). Since the buckets are small, I did not find myself wasting grout, but you need to mix a lot of batches to do the whole bathroom floor. Plus, grouting the floor felt like a total body workout.
- Coverage depends on the size of your tile and grout joint. For my project, each mixture of grout (Parts A&B + Part C colorant) covered about 8 sq. ft. Each mixture cost me about $24 and I used 8 units, for a total cost of $192 — not cheap.
In the end, I am very satisfied with the finished look of the SpectraLock epoxy grout. Having installed traditional grout before, my opinion is that the SpectraLOCK epoxy grout is no more difficult to install (at least on a floor) than traditional cement grout when directions are followed and proper and thorough cleaning is done. However, I’m sure the type and size of tile that is being grouted (as well as the finish) plays a huge part in my assessment. I am contemplating also using SpectraLOCK to grout my pink tile walls, but am worried about working with smaller grout lines on a vertical surface during the install.
Putting aside fears of grouting the wall tiles, I can say that I am in love with my retro pink tiled floor. The dark grout looks fabulous, and really does allow the light colored tiles to stand out and shine.