Can You Install Tile Without Grout?

by Charlie
Can You Install Tile Without Grout

Grouting is a messy and often very frustrating business that takes a long time, and if you aren’t experienced, it can be difficult to get it right. Using grout often requires quite a lot of practice. Doing it wrong results in tiles not sticking properly, or tiles rocking, sitting crooked, and other issues.

Grout also doesn’t look great; it creates lines between your tiles, and over time it can discolor, leaving the area looking dirty and unappealing. A lot of people really dislike grout, and would love to lay their tiles without using it at all. Grout doesn’t significantly increase the tile stability in most cases, so you may be wondering if you really need it.

Can you install tile without grout? Unfortunately, grouting is pretty much always necessary, or at least strongly recommended. If you are not going to use grout, you will have to buy rectified tiles, because otherwise the tiles won’t fit together neatly. You can only install tiles without grout if the area will not get wet. In almost all cases, you do need to use grout.

Why Do You Need Grout?

Grout serves several important purposes. When you buy a box of normal tiles, they will be irregular in places – even if they look completely identical to the naked eye. The grout makes up for these irregularities. If you don’t grout between the tiles, you’ll find that they don’t butt up against each other neatly, and you cannot tile the area properly.

Even a tiny irregularity in the tile will change how it fits against the other tiles, and can push everything out of line. When you put a buffer of grout between the tiles, you create adjustable thicknesses that will let you line the tiles up properly.

A tile that is slightly wider will end up with a thinner line of grout around it, so it doesn’t push all the other tiles out of line. This makes laying the floor very much easier.

To be clear, these differences are usually minor, and you may not even see them as you’re laying the tiles – but they will affect the overall appearance of the tiles and make it easier to lay them. The grout introduces a bit of flexibility that you won’t have in the tiles otherwise, and it’s key to laying tiles properly.

If you don’t want to use grout, you will have to purchase rectified tiles.

What are Rectified Tiles?

Rectified tiles are the only kind that can be used without grout. These tiles have been precisely cut so that they are all exactly the same size, and that means you can lay them without needing to grout in between. You won’t need the leeway that the grout gives you, because the tiles really are identical.

If you buy ordinary tiles, they will probably look identical to you, but it’s important to bear in mind that they will have some irregularities, and this stops them from sitting flush when you lay them next to each other.

However, even if you have purchased rectified tiles, grout can be beneficial, and grouting is still advised. You may be able to use a much thinner layer, but you should still grout.

Why Do You Still Need Grout?

Grout creates a buffer that smooths out irregularities, but it serves other purposes too. For starters, grout creates a waterproof layer that prevents moisture from seeping down between the tiles. Secondly, grout stops the tiles from moving and bumping against each other. Thirdly, grout stops dirt from getting in between the tiles, keeping your floor cleaner.

Let’s explore each of those in more detail. Firstly, grout stops moisture from going between the tiles, and this is key if you’ve laid it anywhere that it’s likely to get wet. It isn’t waterproof, but it will stop condensation and general dampness. This protects your floor and your subfloor.

Secondly, it stops the tiles from moving. If you’ve laid rectified tiles, you might feel like they aren’t going to move at all anyway, because they are so close together – but that isn’t the case. Every time you walk on the tiles, they will shift a tiny bit (no matter what you have used to stick them down) and this movement damages them.

Grout serves as a cushion that stops this from happening. If there is no grout between the tiles, there’s no cushioning layer between them. They slightly shift when they are walked upon, and they will start to wear down. You won’t be able to see this movement, but it will be going on constantly and it will gradually damage the tiles.

That means that a tile floor, which could last around 50 years if properly maintained, will start to wear and chip surprisingly fast. Grouting is therefore the best option for protecting your floor and making sure it doesn’t get damaged.

Finally, grout stops dirt from getting between the tiles. Again, you might feel like your rectified tiles will fit together so perfectly that there’s no space for dirt – but that simply won’t be the case. Rectified tiles can form a superb fit, but not a perfect one. Grease, dust, debris, and grit will work their way between the cracks.

It will be impossible to clean all this dirt out from between the tiles, and this means that the floor will – over the years – start to look grimy. Instead of a small, clean layer of grout between each tile, you’ll end up with a general grubby appearance. This is best avoided.

A lot of people prefer the appearance of tiled floors without grout, and it’s true that they often look better when they are initially laid. However, it will not take long for them to start looking dirty and worse than grouted floors.

Final Thoughts

Installing tiles without grout is possible, but you will have to buy special tiles. Even if you do this, grout holds several advantages that you may not want to lose – so it’s important to weigh up the cons of not grouting carefully before you start laying your floor.

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