Unexpected grout colors could be the solution to tired tiles you’ve been searching for.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated March 22, 2019
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Looking at grout colors sounds like it might be at the bottom of anyone’s kitchen remodeling to-do list, but this small detail can have a major impact—especially for anyone willing to go bold with their tile floors or kitchen tile backsplash ideas. Ideally, grout color selection occurs in tandem with picking the tiles themselves, but even people with preexisting tile floors or backsplashes can try a new grout color, completely changing the look of the space in the process.

White and black grout are proven favorites with tile of any color and shape. They offer a classic look and sense of balance, especially with atypical tile choices, and can easily push everything from subway tile to penny tile in more modern or more traditional directions. White grout tends to look modern when paired with white tile, while black grout helps white tile pop and look very classic—it’s a very popular look for the farmhouse kitchen look. Both serve as neutrals with colorful, bold tile.

Shades of gray grout colors are becoming more common. Gray grout can serve as a sort of softener, offering a less stark and dramatic alternative to the black grout, white tile look. Gray grout paired with a small tile—surfaces with small tiles have more grout coverage than those with large tiles—can look modern and unexpected. With larger tile, the grout is less noticeable and serves as more of an accompaniment to whatever statement the tile is making. The most popular subway tile grout color is black, for the most popular, traditional look, but white and gray grout is also used with subway tile for more contemporary and relaxed looks, respectively.

White, black, and gray grout colors tend to be the most popular, but brighter grout colors can completely change the look of a tiled surface. They’re also a good option for ambitious but cautious home remodelers.

“Many homeowners who feel that bold patterns on tile might be a bit too much could find a nice middle ground in opting for colorful grout,” says Jerry DiFabrizio, president of Florida-based Tampa Tile. For people in that category, committing to a colorful grout with neutral tiles (even trusty subway tiles) might feel less daunting and less permanent.

Any color beyond the neutral trifecta—golds and oranges are popular—feels very fresh and contemporary, in a way that can easily lean toward bold and unexpected. There’s a huge range of color options out there; The Home Depot offers 40 color options, including blue, green, and brown shades, in just one grout product. More surprising colors—and even glitter grout, which certainly isn’t for everyone—are out there, but may require a little searching.

One caveat: Playful, unexpected grout colors can require a little extra upkeep, especially if a room relies on that colorful grout to maintain its pleasant appearance. White grout is so popular because it can be cleaned thoroughly and scrubbed with chemicals and bleach, which can strip out color, without losing its visual appeal. Bright grout colors—and even black and gray grout—will require a little extra maintenance to maintain their hues. Learning how to clean grout correctly, and often without popular cleaning products, will be key.

How to change grout color

Grout color is typically chosen—and committed to, at least for the lifetime of the tiles—at installation. This is certainly the most typical course for changing grout color. Still, many people aren’t able to replace tile floors, swap out a tiled backsplash, or redo a floor-to-ceiling tiled bathroom. Fortunately for them, changing grout color on a preexisting tile surface—called regrouting—is doable and can even be a DIY project, with a little skill and patience. (Professionals can also come in and tackle the project for more money but less distress, in many cases, for the homeowners.)

And, like painting tile floors, using a grout pen to change grout color is technically an option, but it may not hold up.

“Many DIY blogs recommend using a colorant pen to paint the grout, but just painting over the grout is unlikely to have good results,” DiFabrizio says. “It’s usually better to have professional help if you want your colorful grout to look good and last a long time.”