Christine and Pierre's Kitchen: What Not To Do While Grouting

Renovation Diary

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Name: Christine & Pierre
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Type of building: Ground floor apartment of a triplex, 1,100 square feet

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

Well, I didn't think it was possible to screw up grouting, but apparently it is. I guess that's what these renovation diaries are for, dear AT reader - you get the pleasure of learning from our mistakes, mistakes I didn't even think were possible to make! Luckily this was a fixable screw-up that just lost us a few precious hours and earned us bunch of blisters from scrubbing. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Pierre using the rotary tool to make some small adjustments to tiles.
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This week was tiling saga, part two. Having finished the toughest part of the tiling the week before, we were hoping to finish up the long wall relatively quickly. Our big goal was to get this wall tiled and grouted so we could install the range hood (and consequently start to use our stove again!).

Planning out the position for the range hood, to ensure the wires were placed correctly.
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With the range hood delivered and sitting on our kitchen floor, we could take some measurements to figure out where it should be mounted. I wanted it to line up with the bottom of the upper shelves, so we guesstimated the thickness of the shelves and sketched out the positioning on the wall. We didn't have a ton of slack with the electrical cord, so it really paid off to take an hour and plan this out exactly.

Then it was just a matter of tiling like maniacs. Finishing up the rest of the wall took the entire day Saturday. Sunday was grout day - we expected that the grouting would go pretty quickly and that we might be able to even mount the range hood by the end of the day. WRONG.

From everything I had read about grouting, it seemed pretty straightforward. Mix it up, spread it on, wait a bit, then wipe off the excess. Easy, right? Well, I managed to screw up on multiple fronts.

A combination of grout that was too dry, plus a very hot midday sun, and my inexperience at knowing how much to spread on in one go meant that the first section of wall had dried almost rock solid before I got the chance to properly remove the excess. Now this is a fixable mistake - you can scrape off the grout pretty easily with a putty knife, and subway tiles are very forgiving. But it meant that we spent a good 2-3 hours on a small section, scrubbing and scraping like our lives depended on it. We destroyed two sponges and our hands were blistered and wrinkled by the end of it. Stupid.

It may not appear so, but that first section of the wall represents 3 hours of pain.
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However, after that snafu, the rest of the grouting went relatively quickly. We changed to a grouting mix that was MUCH softer and worked in very small sections, erring on the side of caution. In the end, I'm very happy with the results. We went with a grey "pewter" grout rather than black and I'm quite glad - it gives the definition we wanted for the tiles without being quite so busy.

The whole wall, done. Boom.
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Our contractor is coming in tomorrow to help us with the remaining walls and to mount the range hood. As much as I would love to continue doing this ourselves, my due date is in a week and it would be great to have the kitchen mostly functional as soon as possible!

Estimated time for project: 20 weeks?
Time remaining: 2 weeks?

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for #22 of Christine and Pierre's Diary.

(Images and diary text: Christine Zoltok)