Grout Color: A Town Topics Column

by Lasley Brahaney Architects

QMy contractor asked what grout color to use for my kitchen tile. Does it really matter?

AMost people spend a great deal of time picking out the perfect tiles, but for some reason give no thought to the grout color between the tiles. I guess you could let your contractor decide, but it's not a bad idea for you to spend some time on it yourself because the wrong color can really spoil a great tile job.

Your tile selection is often a very personal - dare I say artistic - expression so chances are you want it to be noticed. You probably spent a great deal of time and money choosing "just the right tile"; one that spoke to you. You may have even had a few sleepless nights debating the benefits of the handmade iridized glass mosaic tiles called "Zen Weave" over the tiny brushed stainless steel herringbone tiles imported from Reykjavik. It would be a shame to detract from a selection so coveted by introducing contrasting grout lines that draw your eye away from the prize.

Here's my advice. Choose a grout color and brightness that match the tile color and brightness as closely as possible. If you are using multicolored tiles, select the predominant color of the tiles to use for the grout. If you don't have an eye for color, ask someone whose color sense you admire to help you find a match or complementary color. As for brightness, try this rule of thumb - for a light colored tile, your grout could be a little lighter and for a dark colored tile, a little darker.

There are exceptions. If you absolutely love doing crossword puzzles, you've chosen white 2x2 ceramic tiles with a few black ones here and there, and you want to reinforce the theme, go ahead and choose black grout. But if you're like most people, you want your tiles to be noticed and not the grid that separates them.

If you're really stuck, buy some samples and do a few mockups on a spare piece of wood so that you see your options in real life before you commit. Trust me, this would not be a waste of time. Having to dig out grout that's already been installed is a total drag. Ask a tile contractor to do that and you'll make an enemy for life.