Why does our new grout look discolored?

minacApril 7, 2010

We had our bathroom finished in December. When we first had everything completed, the contractor warned us that the grout was wet (he ran the water in the shower to rinse everything) and not to get worried that it was dark. But we noticed that it has been 3 months now and the grout never looks one color. There are areas that almost look dark brown while others look tan. I know the contractor let the grout sit for a certain amount of time and we didn't use the shower for several days after the grout was put in. We also have a fairly strong fan in the bathroom. The grout is Home Depot Polyblend non-sanded grout in Quartz. Our floor grout is the same color as the tub grout but it looks consistent and lighter. Any ideas why the color for the grout in the tub looks like this?

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Blotchy grout colors are usually the result of too much water used somewhere during installation or cleanup process. Sometimes discoloration can occur due to minerals suspended or dissolved in the water used to mix the grout, insufficient mixing (uneven pigment distribution), or using grout that's past its shelf life.

When the shower was new (and unused) was the grout color uniform throughout after it had gone through its initial curing/drying, or were there discolorations from the start?

The two photos you show appear to be of the lower portion of the wall, down by the tub or shower pan. Are there any dark areas up high? Mid-point on the wall? High on the wall, above where the water strikes the wall?

If the dark areas are just down low and only occurred after use, it could be water getting behind the tile/grout and running down the vapor barrier, then wetting the lower portion of the wall.

If the shower goes unused for an extended period and the dark spots lighten up, or if they change size and/or location over time, then it's likely a moisture-behind-the-wall issue.

If the discolorations were there from the start and are static; they remain no matter how much drying occurs, then it's likely an installation issue.

Was a sealer used on the tile or grout? What brand?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:28AM
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That doesn't look like discoloration from improper grouting. That's more like some kind of foreign material on the grout (or coming THRU the grout).

Is it like that all along the tub?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 11:40AM
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That's why I asked the high/low and before use/after use photos.

The pics aren't clear enough for me to tell if the light is efflorescence over dark grout, or if the dark is moisture/mildew/soap scum over light grout.

Oh these troubled times we live in.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 12:34PM
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You know, I just went on the Custom website to see what "quartz" looks like.

It looks like I see some natural color in those photos surrounded by lighter areas of efflorescence and darker areas of moisture/mildew.

Still, a high/low shot of the entire wall would help to see if this is just localized at the bottom of the wall where behind-the-wall moisture issues would be more likely to show.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 1:35PM
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I looked again at the pictures when we first had the bathroom done. The grout was always a little blotchy. I noticed that even though it was supposed to be the same color as the floor grout - the floor grout looked almost linen while the shower grout was tan. Within the shower it is a linen and light tannish color mix at the top. The middle tends to have a little darker mixed in. At the bottom there is almost a brownish tan, linen, and medium tan mix. It's all over the shower - not just one spot but it seems to be not as much color variation on the wall that has the shower controls and niche. It also looks like we need the contractor to come back anyway because we see a crack in the grout in the corner between the shower control wall and the back wall.

Here are the pics - grout at top, grout in middle part of shower, grout at bottom (this is all along the long wall). The last pic is grout cracking.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:14AM
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That last pic...I don't have the heart...bill, mongo?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:19AM
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Yeah, I don't use that grooming product either. But hey, we're all beautiful, each of us in his and her own way.

At least that's what Barney taught me.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 12:24PM
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You crack me up...kinda like grout in the changes of plane...

(to minac: what we're talking about, or at least what *I'm* talking about :), is that corners or changes of plane fare much better if a sanded color-matched *caulk* is used. It's amazing how many pros don't do that--the guys who are doing the heavy lifting on my install actually tried to argue against using caulk because "the color won't be the same" -- no, not exactly, even though it's pretty closely color matched, but it *will* flex as necessary to accomodate movement in joints. You could even take the grout out yourself, if the tilesetter is recalcitrant, and caulk them. My first bath project, the tilesetter put not just grout but *epoxy grout* in the corners, and it cracked within 2 months. Lovely. So yours isn't that bad, at least!)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 1:11PM
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I mighta been wrong. That grout job is kinda FUGLY! And Flyleft's right. (get it?) That corner should have been caulked, and before it DOES get caulked, the grout needs to be removed, first.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Did you say he ran the water in the shower to rinse off the grout? As in he sprayed water all over the newly grouted tiles to remove the residue?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 9:49PM
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Did you say he ran the water in the shower to rinse off the grout? As in he sprayed water all over the newly grouted tiles to remove the residue?

Holy crap!! This whole time, I completely missed that!! Yeah-- ya wanna answer that?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:54PM
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Wow, this whole time (been checking this thread since posted) I've been focused on that small statement, but since Bill and Mongo didn't jump on it I assumed I was wrong.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 12:41AM
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I don't know if he sprayed water over the tiles to rinse residue of the grout. As I remember the events, he grouted in two passes - I think maybe the shower niche was done separately. For some reason he grouted one day. And then said he had to do something with the grout again. At the time, I thought, wow he is doing a really thorough job grouting. The grout in the shower sat for several days - no one used the shower etc. We still also needed the floor grouted but needed a semi-functional bathroom for the holidays which we had except for the shower. Then the day when everything was done and we were doing the final walkthru he said not to worry about the dark color of the grout - that it would be that way when it was wet. I'm not sure he if ran the shower to show the plumbing was working in the shower or to rinse of the tub/tiles.

So anyway, what I am hearing is that we likely need to have it regrouted but with color matching caulk in the corners and where the tiles meet the tub. Would you say we should use sanded grout instead of unsanded this time around? Should we use something other than Home Depot Polyblend? Should we seal the grout this time. Unless I am willing to eat the cost of having this regrouted which I know won't be cheap and I'm not handy to do it myself, I need to get the same person to come back and try to fix it and I want to minimize the chances of having this happen again so I want to make sure I specifically know what to look for and am using products that will make this less likely to happen. The irony is that the other grout jobs - floor and glass tiles around the mirror - seem to look okay and the person that recommended the person said he did a good job with her tiling.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 8:07AM
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What about using a grout colorant over what you have now?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 8:25AM
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I don't know beanola generally here and have asked more then my fair share of questions of Mongo and Bill, but I so enjoy reading their responses on threads like these. And Mr. Mongo just keeps getting funnier and funnier. Hootville!

Anyway, speaking to the grout colorant that Bill just mentioned. I can certainly comment on that. We had Customs Prism grout put in our shower. You know.....the guranteed sure color through out grout sh*t. Well, ours turned out to be one speckled pup....unbelievable blotchy! Customs rep came and ultimately paid to have our tile dude color the grout. It worked great as I was skeptical that it would even it all out. If all else fails, it is something you could easily do....if you have patience. You paint it on with whatever suitable tool you choose...toothbrush, paintbrush. Whatever works for you. You paint it on in small sections and then wipe the excess from your tile before it dries. Easy, but a bit of a process. Good news for us was that it also sealed our tiles in the process.

Good luck to you!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 8:52PM
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It's actually a whole lot easier than that, But I'll hold off for now, unless this becomes a possibility.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:28PM
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Well, I'll throw out another wild one.

I'm looking at those joints and they look wider than 1/8". And you said he used unsanded grout? And it appears this guy like to water his grout...I'm almost thinking that if he did a lousy job the first time around, he had problems with the unsanded shrinking during the curing. Especially if he likes water. Maybe a little flaking, a little cracking, a few pinholes opening up.

Then he came back on the subsequent visit and grouted again over the existing grout to hide and fill in the blemishes. But that's just too crazy for me to speculate like that.

I'm almost tempted to recommend a few ideas, mainly try a Q-tip dipped in bleach to see if the dark stuff low on the wall isn't mildew, and try a bit of an acid, even mild vinegar, on the white stuff down low on the wall to see if the white stuff is efflorescence that the acid will dissolve away.

I keep coming back to your first photo:

In the vertical wall-wall corner joint that is grouted, the right part of the grout joint looks like the original quartz color. the white stripe on the left part of the grout joint, as well as the white in the horizontal grout lines above the first course of tile, looks like efflorescence. The dark along the tub looks like mildew or moisture. But if the light and dark have been there forever, both efflorescence and mildew take a while to form.

If your water has heavy minerals or it's heavily chlorinated, that might be a player. If is he used old bags of grout that were past their shelf life that could be an issue too. Or a contaminated mixing bucket. Or...

But as you can tell, I'm just scratching my head and guessing.

Does the white grout have a different texture? If you scrape the white with a fingernail, does it powder off? If it does come off, is there any of the true "quartz color" underneath it?

Have you tried cleaning this grout at all?

Like in my first post, I just keep leaning towards the idea that too much water was used.

When I first looked at the photos of the upper walls, they looked like areas of good grout with a few blotchy dark streaks. Now I look at them and see the uniform light color being almost all efflorescence, or I'm seeing grout that has had the surface cream/pigment washed away, and the "dark blotchy areas" are actually the proper quartz color!

I'd love to see this shower with my own eyes to figure it out.

I probably have to take my son down to William and Mary for a college visit later this month. Bill, how about a road trip? A few crab cakes, catch a lacrosse game while we're down there, we can check out this shower all while taking my son for a college visit? Too bad the Orioles are going to be at Fenway instead of the other way around.

Road trip!!!

Seriously though, have you tried cleaning the grout with anything? A neutral pH cleaner and a bit of elbow...

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 12:57AM
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Thanks for all the advice. We have the contractor coming back to look at it today. I went back and looked at all the pics and there was some discoloration from the beginning - I can see it a bit even when the haze was on the tile and the bathroom wasn't finished. It wasn't as pronounced until the grout was wet ... and then we shrugged it off as being - oh the grout hasn't dried out. It was only once my husband went on a work trip and came back when we thought - wait a second, no one has used the shower and it is still this color.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:33PM
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I am a tile installer myself. I have installed tile floors, backsplashes, and complete tile showers. Well, recently I tiled 3 bathroom floors, a kitchen floor and the walls around a tub. I have ran into the same situation--discoloration of grout. It seems to be the worst on the kitchen floor. I have never had this problem and I have been laying tile for 5 years. My first thought was something in the water or defective grout because I know that I did not do anything different than I have in the past. I am confused and just looking for answers.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 9:17AM
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