Grout color: sometimes you get lucky

I hemmed and hawed for a long time over the grout color for the den. The tiles are various colors (on purpose), with a reclaimed wood look. There are off-white, tan, brown, gray and charcoal tiles with different patterns in each color.

My typical go-to grout color is natural gray. Mainly because it works with many things, doesn’t grab attention, and is forever available from various companies (Laticrete, Mapei, TEC, Custom Building Products, etc.). Meaning you’ll be able to find it if you ever need a patch repair.

The den has wood paneled walls. Though it’s just plywood and moulding, the plywood is designed to look like edge-glued boards. It’s a stained red oak in color (probably originally ‘honey oak’), but the grain tells me it’s not oak. However, I wanted something that went _reasonably_ well with the walls. In other words, a brown grout of some type.

I chose SpectraLOCK Pro Premium from Laticrete because I’ve used it before and it’s a very good grout. It’s harder to install than a cementitious or ready-to-spread urethane or acrylic grout, but it’s worth the effort. It’s essentially stain proof after curing, it’s very strong, and in my experience it is very color-consistent from box to box (especially if you buy ‘Part C’ all at once to get boxes from the same batch).

The problem is that no one local stocks it. None of the big box stores carry it at all, except Floor & Decor which isn’t close to me. But the worst part is that you just can’t trust color swatches. While my main computer monitor is very color accurate, if I look at color swatches on various web sites for the color I chose, they vary dramatically. And the swatch on the grout box itself doesn’t quite match the cured grout.

I chose ‘#55 Tawny’, after thinking for a long time that I’d use Chocolate Truffle. I’m so glad I waited and gambled on the Tawny; it was the right choice. Mostly by sheer luck.

Using SpectraLOCK Pro Premium grout

It’s been a while since I’ve used Laticrete SpectraLOCK Pro Premium grout on textured tiles. I’m in the process of grouting the den floor, and the tiles are textured. The secrets to success as a DIYer with this grout…

  • Use the mini kits, not the full kits. The grout firms up fairly quickly, and becomes hard to work with in as little as 15 minutes (depending on temperature and humidity and the difficulty of the joints). You don’t want to mix more than you can use in about 15 minutes.
  • Use a 2-gallon bucket for the cleaning packets as prescribed, but use a separate 5-gallon bucket of clean water to rinse out the sponge before dunking it and wringing it in the cleaning solution again. This will put most of the epoxy into the 5-gallon bucket instead of your cleaning solution, and greatly reduce gummy build-up in the sponge.
  • Pay attention to timing. If you start the initial washdown too soon, you’ll just spread the epoxy around and probably nick up the joints. But don’t wait too long. I wait until it doesn’t stick to my finger before starting the initial wash down.
  • A white scrub pad is very useful on the second washdown. It will allow you to work the joints as needed, and loosen up epoxy on the tiles. I then use a sponge with a microfiber backing. One swipe with the sponge side, flip it over, one swipe with the microfiber.
  • As a final step I wipe down with a cheap microfiber cloth.

I’m using a 30% acetic acid (vinegar) jug to clean my sponges afterward, mixed in an appropriate ratio with water. Then rinse thoroughly. Since the mini kits come with their own sponge, I use that sponge for the initial washdown and then throw it away. It feels a little bit wasteful, but to be honest, you’re not going to get good use out of it beyond one mini kit.