We last left off where I spent several hours one night laying and setting the edges of the countertop tiles with mortar, and used masking tape to hold those babies up (darn that gravity!) for 24 hours while they dried.
The next day we did a mini-ribbon-cutting-with-golden-scissors-type-celebration (while grinning and doing the happy dance! Yeah, we're multi-talented) while we carefully peeled off the masking tape.
Why was it a mini-celebration? Because we STILL had one big, very important step left! The grout.
Adding grout to a tile project is always like the cherry on top, it finishes the whole thing off and creates a beautiful seamless effect. But it was really messy to get that dang cherry, I tell ya!
When picking grout, you have the option of Sanded Grout or Unsanded. Sanded Grout is better for larger grout lines, because it actually has little grains of sand in it, which helps stabilize the rest of the mixture and fill those large gaps in between the tiles. However, if you are using small grout lines (ours are 1/18") and/or a softer stone (think Marble and maybe Granite) you want the Unsanded Grout, which doesn't have the grainy texture needed for large gaps and also won't scratch the tiles. So we picked up a big box of the powdery-mixture (it was cheaper than the premixed) in the color Raven, which is pretty much a fancy-schmancy way of saying Black.
To mix the grout, you can either use water (the regular way) or an additive liquid that will enhance the grout in any number of ways (mold-resistant, water-resistant, flexible, etc). We went with water, because the additive liquid was milky white, and what do you get when you put black+white together? Grey. We asked around, did some research, and couldn't find anything on whether or not it would lighten the grout. But it seemed like it might to us, so we went the safe route and settled on just water. Plus, it was cheaper, didn't burn our hands, and we figured that since we were gonna be crazy-nazi-psychos about sealing it regularly that nothing like mold would bother the grout, anyways.
Once we had all our supplies, it was time to get started!
Tom's wonderful Mom came over to help me out with the grouting part, and together we totally rocked it! But since we were so busy showin' off our spongin' and squishin' skills, I didn't have a chance to get many photos. But no worries, here's a link to Ask The Builder's very informative video and grouting technique, which is exactly what we did.
First we mixed the grout with water according to the directions, and stirred for 10 minutes to get it to a peanut-buttery, toothpastey consistency. Now, we went directly ahead and started applying it to the tile gaps, but we probably should have waited about 10 minutes for it to setup a little and solidify a bit because it was really goopey and awkward to work into those thin joints. So if you attempt this yourself, don't go all gung-ho on it off the starting line - take a deep breath, plan your attack, and rest your arms for a few minutes before delving in - and your grout will be a wonderful consistency and easier to work with by then, too. It's a win-win!
Traditionally, you are supposed to use a rubber float tool to scoop up the grout out of the bucket and squish it down into the joints really well, but we didn't do it traditionally. We ended up putting the grout into a grout bag, sort of like a pastry bag, that you can buy in the tile/grouting section of home improvement stores. Or make it yourself with a couple ziploc baggies. Either way, it's tons easier that way - because you just squirt the grout into the cracks and then squish it in, and the grout stays nice and moist and doesn't dry out while you are busy squishing-and-squirting away. You're supposed to use a rubber float to squish the grout in and get the excess off, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to get the grout into the skinny lil' grout lines with that big thing, so we resorted to our backup: the putty knife. It was smaller and so was able to squish the grout into the cracks much, much easier. Score!
Once we had done about a 10ft area or so, it was time to sponge off the excess grout. For this we used a bucket of water and a large grouting sponge. We just dipped the sponge in the water and squeezed out as much water as we could, letting it stay slightly damp. Then we just dragged and wipped the sponge across the surface of the tile and the grout lines, careful not to press down too hard or we would drag the grout out of the cracks. Then we waited 45 minutes while the grout started to setup and dry on the tiles, and we repeated the "bathing", this time replacing the water frequently with new, clean water. Once we got 99% of the grout off of the surface of the tiles, we were done!
We waited a day while the grout continued to completely dry, then we took a soft rag and gently buffed out the remaining slight bit of grout left on the tiles.
This time, we did the super-duper happy dance! The granite is gorgeous! We are so close to the finish line! And the next step is super-important too, one that alot of people don't do and then regret not doing it later: sealing.
Can you see the speckles and sparkles? There's little bits of gold flecks in there, sure enough, and even some green undertones. Not to mention some natural discolorations, like a spot right by the sink. I wonder how many people will try to wash it off thinking its a dirt spot?
Anyways, next up is sealing, then it'll be done! We'll also splurge on how much this project cost us, how much we saved by doing it ourselves and opting for tiles, and all the obstacles we encountered. And we'll answer the million-dollar question too, of course!
Next Phase: Kitchen Countertop Project: Part 9 "Seal 'er Up & Get 'er Done"
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