Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
When doing a home remodel, many homeowners wonder whether the caulk in a bathroom or kitchen should be matched to the grout. If you don’t choose carefully, you may end up with a caulk or grout color that breaks up the pattern of the tile in your design.
Ideally, caulk should be matched to the color of the grout to maintain the integrity of the tile design, as light caulk with a light tile will blend in and look dramatically different against it than dark grout. If the caulk is a different color than the grout, it can make the bathroom look mismatched.
It’s a good thing that both grout and caulk come in a variety of colors so that renovators can achieve a pretty close match. Keep reading to learn more about how caulk and grout should be matched in a bathroom or kitchen remodel.
There Is No Industry Standard for Matching Caulk to Grout
The first thing to understand when you’re planning a remodel with grout and caulk that there is no industry standard for matching the two during a renovation. If you hire an inexperienced contractor, there’s a decent chance that they may not even attempt to match the two, which can lead to very costly redos when you check out the final result, and you’re not happy with it.
Moreover, if you don’t put a stipulation upfront with the contractor that you want the caulk and grout to match, you don’t have a leg to stand on to have the work redone for free. You’ll have to pay again for labor and supplies to tear the old work out and start over. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that your contractor knows what you want before they ever start laying tile.
Why Matching Grout and Caulk Early is Important
If you’re doing your own remodel, matching the grout and the caulk should be one of the first things you look into before gathering up your supplies. You also need to make sure that you have more than enough grout and caulk for the entire project because, if you end up having to get more caulk and grout halfway through the project, the new materials may not be an exact match to the original caulk and grout. Having to mix up new batches of grout can also increase the likelihood that there is a difference in the colors.
Running out of materials in the middle of a remodel can also be a serious time delay if you have a hard time finding the matching colors twice. You never know when a manufacturer is going to run into a backorder on supplies, especially if you’ve picked a unique color for your caulk and grout. So, try to purchase all of your materials out of the same batch if you can.
Thankfully, if you hire an experienced contractor, they will not only have the right vendor resources to make sure your caulk and grout are matched properly, but they’ll also be able to easily estimate how much grout and caulk they’ll need ahead of time.
This way, there’s no need to replenish supplies partway through the job. That’s one of the benefits of hiring someone who puts down grout and caulk for a living versus trying to do it yourself.
Matching Caulk to Grout Can Improve Aesthetics
One of the most striking design aspects of a bathroom or kitchen is the tile used in the following areas:
- Kitchen backsplashes
- Bathroom showers
- Bathroom and kitchen floors
Superior visual pattern recognition is an important part of how the human brain perceives the world, so our brains are also designed to seek out asymmetry in visual design. (Source: Frontiers in Neuroscience)
If you end up with mismatched grout and caulk, your eye will naturally seek out that discrepancy even if you may feel like matching is not that important – so will the eye of anyone who wanders into the room. No matter how good the rest of your bathroom or kitchen design is, if your grout and tile are mismatched or the color is not consistent across the entire design, it will be noticeable.
Even if you think you can live with a mismatch, you won’t know until the bathroom or kitchen is installed, and by then, you are thousands of dollars out of pocket into the remodel. You don’t want to get to this stage of the renovation and realize that you can’t live with mismatched grout and caulk because you’ll have to tear everything out and start over from scratch.
Matching grout and caulk can also be a way to pull in accent colors.
- If your bathroom is mostly done in white, but the accent pieces are in a metallic color, a dark-colored grout can help pull that darker metallic color around the room, uniting the space visually.
- Likewise, if you have dark tile and light accents, a light caulk or grout can help accentuate the difference.
Colored Grouts and Caulks
Both grout and caulk come in dozens of colors, so if you’re sourcing them separately, it can be somewhat difficult to make sure that you get a good match between the two. The good news is that many manufacturers who create colored grout also create colored caulk that is designed specifically to match it. For builders who are wanting a picture-perfect match between the caulk and grout, purchasing both items from the same manufacturer is the way to go.
If you aren’t able to find an exact match between the grout you want and the caulk you want, you can bring color chip samples along with you while you’re trying to match up the colors. This can ensure that you get as close of a match as possible if you’re not purchasing the grout and the caulk through the same manufacturer.
It’s also a good idea to do a spot test on a piece of scrap tile to make sure that the caulk and the grout match closely enough once they’re dried, as liquid caulk and grout may dry either lighter or darker than it looks in its liquid form.
Types of Colored Caulk
There are two major types of colored caulk on the market that are used in bathroom and kitchen remodeling based on their material type: silicone caulk and spectrum tile/grout caulk. The main reason that these caulks are used versus acrylic or vinyl-latex caulks is that they are mold and mildew resistant, which is perfect for the wet conditions of a kitchen or bathroom.
Silicone and spectrum colored caulk are made with a few factors in mind that make them different from other types of caulk:
- Flexibility: Because the moisture in the air in a kitchen or bathroom, as well as temperature fluctuations, can cause caulk to expand and contract, the caulk needs to be extra flexible to avoid developing any gaps over time.
- Strong adhesion: Silicone and spectrum caulk have a stronger level of adhesion than exterior or acrylic caulks because the environmental aspects of a bathroom or kitchen (especially the presence of hot steam) can cause less adhesive caulks to detach eventually.
- Waterproof: Unlike some caulks, which are porous, the silicone and spectrum caulk used in bathroom and kitchen applications are non-porous and repel water, which makes them long-lasting and durable even in wet conditions.
Since there is a high demand for caulk that matches grout for high-end kitchen and bathroom applications, in many cases, you can find a manufacturer who will custom create a batch of colored caulk that matches your existing grout. However, these kinds of custom jobs can be a bit more expensive than just picking a colored caulk from a color chip. (Source: Grout Getter)
It is also possible to create colored caulk using a neutral-colored caulk and a colorant, as shown in this video. However, doing a homemade caulking dye job can lead to inconsistent coloring if it isn’t done carefully or if you’re forced to mix up multiple batches. This may not be noticeable in the middle of application but can become glaringly obvious once the caulk has cured and the job is done.
Types of Colored Grout
Just as there are several different types of colored caulk, there are also several varieties of colored grout. Here are a few of the colored grout types that you’re likely to run into:
- Sanded cement grout: Sanded cement is one of the preferred types of grout used in bathrooms since the sand included in the grout acts as extra slip-resistant in areas such as showers and bathroom floors. A drawback of sanded cement grout is that it can be somewhat slow to dry and cure completely compared to other grout types.
- Non-sanded cement grout: Non-sanded cement grout is similar to sanded cement grout, just without the sand. This leads to a stickier grout that is a better choice for vertical applications such as shower walls or backsplashes.
- Epoxy: Epoxy is one of the more difficult types of grout to install, so it should be left to professional contractors if you go this route. The quick-drying chemical action of the epoxy means that it isn’t a good option for people who aren’t experienced laying grout. However, the advantage of epoxy grout is that it is very resistant to water damage or staining.
- Furan resin: Furan resin is one of the most durable types of grout and can be used with heavier tiles such as pavers, while weaker grout may not be able to handle the weight of the larger tile pieces without losing adhesion. Like epoxy grout, furan resin is hard to install properly and should be done by a professional, especially since the chemical fumes from it can be toxic.
No matter where you’re putting colored grout in your kitchen or bathroom, there are plenty of options available to help you match it to the colored caulk that you’re using. (Source: The Tileist)
Does Grout and Caulk in Different Rooms Have to Match?
Many homeowners who are doing a full house remodel may wonder whether they need to keep grout and caulk colors consistent across the entire house. The answer is no, with one caveat—if two rooms are adjacent to the point that one can be seen from the other, then the grout and other accent colors should match for continuity through the space.
When choosing grout or caulk for a kitchen that is part of an open floor plan, you must look at the colors you have in the room(s) adjacent to the kitchen. You want to pick a grout and caulk that will match your kitchen design, but you don’t want the colors you pick to clash with the colors in the living room. If the rooms are part of an open floor plan, they should be considered part of the same visual design.
Fortunately, most kitchens and bathrooms are standalone spaces, especially bathrooms that usually are used with the door to other rooms closed. Therefore, if your grout and caulk match within the same room or space, the design should look good. However, if you use one type of grout in your shower and a different colored caulk elsewhere in the same bathroom, it’s going to look tacky and mismatched.
It may not seem like a huge detail, but the cumulative effect of having these small details match with each other inevitably leads to a space that looks much more aesthetically pleasing and put together. Since remodels are expensive, it’s recommended to plan every detail from the get-go, so you have no buyer’s remorse later after the remodel is complete and can’t be undone without significant expense and hassle.
Where Can You Find Matching Caulk and Grout?
Colored caulk and grout can be found at most large home improvement chains such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. An advantage of getting your caulk, grout, and other remodeling materials at these chain stores is that many contractors have standing bulk discounts with vendors like this, which means you can get a better deal on your supplies.
If you’re doing a do-it-yourself remodeling project with grout or caulk, a home improvement store can also prove to be a good source of information on what materials to use, provided you get in touch with someone who is experienced. However, many people are hired at these types of “big box” home improvement stores that don’t have the know-how or experience to advise you on which grouts or caulks to purchase properly. So, when in doubt, talk to a real contractor.
Matching caulk and grout can also be bought directly from manufacturers online. The biggest drawback to purchasing grout and caulk this way is that you’re buying your materials without seeing them in person, and many computer monitors represent colors slightly differently. This could lead to you ordering a large amount of caulk that doesn’t match your grout or vice versa.
Once a custom colored grout or caulk is created, it’s also difficult to return it and get your money back. Thankfully, many of the formulas that these vendors use to create colored grout and caulk are static, so the colors don’t change much. However, it doesn’t take much of a tonal change to stand out in a finished bathroom or kitchen remodel – so take caution when choosing!
How to Match New Colored Caulk to Old Grout
If you are re-caulking your bathroom with colored caulk, you might have a hard time finding an exact match to your grout if it was installed in the house many years ago. Over time, grout becomes naturally discolored. (Source: Popular Mechanics) While some of this discoloration can be reversed through intense cleaning, some of it is simply age-related.
One way to match your caulk to your grout without having to re-grout your entire bathroom or kitchen is to use a grout colorant kit or a grout restorer. Rather than having to rip up all your tiles to get a perfect match between your caulk and your grout, grout restorers allow you to match old grout to new caulk as closely as possible.
While it may not be an exact match in comparison to getting grout and caulk that are from the same manufacturer, it is usually close enough not to cause a severe mismatch.
Matching Grout to Caulk is Important for Interior Design
It may seem like a small detail, but making sure that your grout and caulk match can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of a kitchen or bathroom. Ultimately the collective effect of these small details helps to make the entire room more beautiful. Not only is this great for enjoying your space in the present, but it also helps you later down the road should you ever want to sell the property.
Matching grout to caulk doesn’t have to be hard, but it should be done before you start laying down tile. Otherwise, you might end up with a final product you’re not happy with.
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