Grouting is an important process in tiling that helps fill the gaps between tiles and seals the tile installation. Using a grout float helps ensure an even grout application and smooth finish. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly use a grout float.

What is a Grout Float?

A grout float, also known as a grouting trowel, is a tool used to apply and spread grout evenly between tiles. It consists of a flat rectangular metal or plastic blade attached to a handle. The float’s flat edge and flexibility allow you to press the grout into the joints and gaps between the tiles.

Grout floats come in different sizes – common sizes are 4″x10″, 5″x5″, and 6″x10″. Choose a float based on the size of your tiles and width of the grout joints. Using the right sized grout float helps ensure proper grout coverage.

Benefits of Using a Grout Float

Here are some benefits of using a grout float for grouting:

  • Ensures even distribution and application of grout into the joints. The blade enables you to spread grout smoothly and uniformly across tile joints.
  • Presses grout firmly into joints for good adhesion. The float’s surface helps compress the grout into gaps and crevices between tiles.
  • Creates a flush finish with no low spots. The flat edge removes excess grout and smoothens the joint surface.
  • Easier to control application. A float provides better control than using just fingers to spread the grout.
  • Faster grouting than manual application. The wide surface area speeds up the grouting process.
  • Prevents digging out of joints. The float does not dig into grout already applied into joint spaces.
  • Minimizes grout high points. The flexibility scrapes off any high grout above the tile surface.
  • Less messy than using fingers. The float contains the grout and provides a cleaner application.

Grout Float Materials

Grout floats come in different materials including:

Plastic Floats

  • Made of lightweight polypropylene plastic.
  • Flexible edge makes it easy to apply controlled pressure in joints.
  • Provides smooth finishing as the plastic easily wipes the grout uniform.
  • Budget-friendly and cost effective option.
  • Not suitable for epoxy or latex modified grouts.

Stainless Steel Floats

  • Made using stainless steel for rigidity and durability.
  • The rigid edge can apply more pressure to pack grout firmly.
  • Allows fast grouting of large surfaces.
  • Withstands wear and tear better than other materials.
  • Can be used for all types of grouting including epoxy grouts.

Rubber Floats

  • Made using rubber material that is flexible yet firm.
  • Provides good control for grouting tiles with deep joints.
  • Soft rubber edge gives a smooth finish to grouted surface.
  • Allows grouting at edges and corners easily.
  • Not ideal for hard-to-reach spots between tiles.

Choose a material like plastic, rubber, or stainless steel depending on your tiling requirements and preferences.

How to Use a Grout Float

Follow these steps for proper grout float usage during grouting:

1. Prepare the Tile Joints

Before grouting, ensure that:

  • Tile setting has cured completely as per adhesive specifications.
  • Tiles are clean and free of spacers, debris, grease etc.
  • Joint width is uniform according to spacing between tiles.
  • Joint depth meets the tile industry standard of 2/3 the thickness of the tile.

Check for any cracks or loose tiles and fix them prior to grouting.

2. Apply Grout Sealer

For porous tiles, apply a grout sealer on the joints and edges using a small brush. Allow it to penetrate the surface and dry completely. This prevents the grout color from getting absorbed into the tile edges.

3. Mix the Grout

Prepare the grout mix according to manufacturer’s directions. Let the grout slake or rest for about 10 minutes after mixing. Properly mixed grout should be thick and hold its shape when pressed.

4. Scoop and Apply Grout

Hold the float at 45° angle against the tile edge. Press it firmly to squeeze grout into the joint gaps. Apply grout in small 3-4 feet sections at a time.

Spread the grout diagonally across the joints holding the float edge flush with the tile surface. Ensure grout fills the joints fully without any voids or pinholes.

Applying grout diagonally

Tip: Always grout in the direction of the tile joints, not against them.

5. Remove Excess Grout

Once applied, hold the float nearly perpendicular and drag it diagonally across tiles to scrape off excess grout. Apply light pressure and smooth repetitive strokes so as not to dig out grout from joints.

Keep wiping each section until grout is level with the tile surface. Remove as much excess grout as possible right away for easier clean up later.

6. Clean Grout Haze

As grout starts to firm up, a light haze will form on the tile surface. Wipe it off using a damp microfiber cloth or sponge in circular motions. Rinse the sponge frequently and change water often.

Allow grout to set partially before wiping too vigorously. Harsh wiping on unset grout can pull it out of joints.

7. Final Cleaning

Once grout has firmed up sufficiently (time varies per grout type), do a final cleaning to remove remaining haze and polish the tiles. Based on manufacturer’s directions:

  • For cement grout, dampen a sponge in water and wipe off residual film.
  • For epoxy grout, wipe with a dry cloth once cured.
  • For colored grout, use grout haze remover and rinse thoroughly.

Avoid acidic cleaners which can discolor grout. Check manufacturer instructions.

Final wiped tile surface

8. Finish and Seal Grout

Once cleaning is complete, allow grout to cure fully for 24-72 hours. Finish by applying a penetrating grout sealer to protect from stains and discoloration.

Follow manufacturer recommendations for sealing time and applying additional coats. Proper sealing is important for durability and appearance of grout.

Tips for Proper Grout Float Usage

Follow these tips when using a grout float for best results:

  • Apply grout in small, manageable sections of 3-4 sq.ft. Don’t spread over large areas as grout dries quickly.
  • Hold float at a 45° angle and use consistent pressure when packing and smoothing grout.
  • Wipe diagonally across tile lengths to remove excess grout. Do not wipe against tile joints.
  • Clean often and change water frequently when wiping grout haze.
  • Do not overwork grout once it begins to firm up. This can displace grout from joints.
  • Allow grout to partially cure before aggressive wiping to remove haze.
  • Do not wait until grout hardens completely before finishing. It becomes much harder to clean.
  • Use the rounded corner edge to grout tight corners and edges where two tiles meet.
  • Rinse and wipe grout float periodically while grouting to keep the edge clean.

Common Grout Float Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes when using a grout float:

  • Not allowing enough open time when spreading grout before wiping. This can pull grout out of joints.
  • Excessive wiping that digs into and displaces grout from the joints.
  • Wiping against the length of the tile instead of along the tile. Makes it easier to scrape out grout.
  • Using a dirty grout float which leaves residue behind on the tile surface.
  • Not cleaning properly while grout is fresh, leaving a thick haze layer.
  • Applying too much pressure on grout joints causing cracks or chipping of tile edges.
  • Not tooling joints for a flush finish. Leaves an uneven grouted surface.
  • Leaving unfilled pinholes and joints. Allows moisture penetration and grout loss.
  • Attempting to finish large areas without adequate help. Leads to problems with consistency.
  • Not allowing proper cure times before cleaning or sealing grout. Results in a weaker surface.

Grout Float Maintenance

With proper care, a quality grout float can last several tile jobs. Follow these maintenance tips:

  • Rinse and wipe the float blade frequently when grouting to prevent buildup.
  • Clean with water after use to remove residual grout. Do not allow it to dry on the blade.
  • For dried grout, soak the float in warm water to loosen debris and then scrub clean.
  • Check blade corners and edges for dents or bends after each use. Replace if damaged.
  • Store grout float with blade protected from nicks and scrapes. Hang horizontally or vertically.
  • Apply a light coat of mineral oil on metal floats to prevent oxidation if storing long-term.
  • Consider disposable grout floats for small jobs to avoid cleaning hassle. Recycle plastic floats responsibly.

Grouting Large Tile Floors

Grouting large format tile floors and walls requires some special considerations:

  • Use a larger grout float, generally a 6″x10″ size, to cover more joint area.
  • Have 2-3 floats for continuous application. One to apply, one to wipe, and another as back-up.
  • Opt for epoxy or urethane grout which has longer working time for large installations.
  • Use additional laborers to maintain pace, keeping grout wet edge to avoid lines and color variation.
  • Split floor into separate workable quadrants for grouting instead of mixing large batches.
  • Apply liberal amounts of grout sealer on porous tiles beforehand to avoid over-absorption at edges.
  • Check that adhesive under tile is fully cured before grouting. This prevents sinking or cracking.
  • Allow longer cleanup and drying time for wider grout joints on bigger tiles.

Proper planning, getting help, using the right grout and tools will ensure successfully grouted wide tile joints.

Grout Float Alternatives

While a grout float is the ideal tool for grouting, here are some alternatives that work in a pinch:

  • Hard Rubber Squeegee – The firm rubber edge can pack and spread grout well. Angle the squeegee near 45° to force grout into joints.
  • Plastic Putty Knife – Soften edges by warming slightly with a heat gun or in hot water first. Use to pack and scrape off excess grout.
  • Wooden Tongue Depressor – Cut and shape the edge to create a DIY grout applicator and remover if in a fix.
  • dense Foam Float – Find dense foam packing material to shape a float edge. Won’t be as rigid but usable for small jobs.
  • Cardboard Margin Trowel – Take a thick cardboard shipping box, cut out a 3-4″ wide portion along the corrugated edge to improvise a temporary grout float.

While handy in a pinch, these alternatives lack the rigidity and finish results of a purpose-made grout float. Investing in a quality steel or rubber grout float is recommended for frequent tile work.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should you use a grout float?

Use a grout float any time you need to apply and smooth grout between tiles. They are recommended for all grouting applications to allow easiest spreading and finishing of the grout joints.

Can you grout tile without a float?

It is possible but not optimal. Without a grout float, it is challenging to evenly fill joints and get a flush finish. Fingers or improvised tools lack control. Grout floats provide the right consistency and finish.

How do you apply grout with a float?

Hold the float at a 45° angle and use it like a squeegee to force and press grout firmly into the gaps. Then smooth diagonally over the joints to spread grout evenly and remove any excess above the surface.

When should you wipe the grout after applying with float?

Wait about 10-15 minutes after applying and smoothing the grout before wiping, depending on humidity and grout type. Test by touching it with your finger – if grout is tacky, set and not smearing, it is ready for wiping.

Can old grout be cleaned from a float?

Yes, soak the grout float blade in warm water for some time to loosen old grout. Then use an old toothbrush or scrub pad to gently remove stuck-on residue without damaging the float edge.


Using a quality grout float helps ensure even filling of joints, proper smoothing, and efficient removal of excess grout. The right techniques of holding the float at an angle, applying in small sections, and wiping diagonally provide professional looking grouted joints.

Work methodically in manageable areas, change water for cleaning often, and allow adequate drying time. Follow manufacturer directions for cleanup and sealing grout.

Investing in the proper grouting tools goes a long way towards achieving a flawless and long-lasting tiled surface. With some patience and practice, DIYers can get professional grouting results using a grout float.