Finished Grout color does not match sample: arghhhh!

linnea56April 7, 2006

I did a search here for grout colorants but still need more info.

My floor tile was grouted today. The color is significantly lighter than on the sample I used to select it. They had a Mapei grout color kit in Lowe's that had various plastic bars used to choose the color. I had a dead on match with my tile, and special ordered the unsanded grout in Camel. I did a test today before they were ready and my test was at least 3 shades lighter than the kit sample, OR my tile. Since this was special order, as most unsanded grouts seen to be, I could not go out and find something else in time. They had to go ahead and grout today.

Now I can see it drying (it's about 7 hours after they finished) and I can see it lightening up just like my test: about 3 shades too light.

Is there any chance this will darken? (No, I'm not hoping for the influence of dirt!) Am I jumping the gun? I tried putting some Aquamix High-Gloss sealer on my dried test piece, in the hopes that that would help, but I honestly can't say it looks any darker (just shinier).

I've read about grout colorants here but am skeptical about picking out the right shade from an online color chart. After all, my grout looks nothing like the color sample I actually used in person.

Any advice?

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I am sorry to say that I have always found that grout dries lighter than the sample. I now choose a color a shade or two darker than what I want the finished color to be. A tile place once told me to use distilled water to mix grout, that the minerals in tap water can lighten the grout. Not sure if that's true, though.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 8:02AM
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I wish this was better known! Why can't the manufacturers just adjust the samples to reality? In my case (since my tile is on the dark side to begin with) if I had gone darker the only options left would have been dark brown, charcoal, or black, none of which would have gone. I needed a really warm reddish hot cocoa color. The color when it was wet was perfect: but I knew from my tests that it wouldn't stay that way!

The last time I grouted something was a long time ago: whan you had to buy a bag of grout and a bag of tinted pigment and mix it yourself until you were satisfied. It took time and some tests but at least you got what you wanted.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 8:52AM
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In order to match my tile, I had to get two colors of grout, then mixed them in different proportions until I found the right mix!

Grout does dry lighter...Those sticks or samples are not that helpful...

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 12:15PM
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Wow! I had no idea that we should choose a grout one or two shades darker. Good to know b/c the grout we were thinking of getting was also dead on for our tile. I guess we will pick a shade darker in the same color family.

Sorry this happened to you. I hope it does not happen to us.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 10:49PM
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We bought grout off the shelf at Lowes for our kitchen backsplash--(Once we got over the shock when the granite installer/tiler guy told us that "So do you have your grout for the backsplash we are doing in the morning?") But because my Darling Husband had done the main bath shower in the ugliest grout you can imagine, (think crushed flowerpots!) before I could see the mixed grout, we bought two different colors. I was worried that the color charts would be unhelpful. So I went home, mixed a little bowl with the #1 choice. Too light. Mixed #2 choice. Too Green. (Where did the green come from, the color was called Pale Straw?) So, in comparing what I had mixed to the sample chart now in hand, I could see that a much darker grout shade called Ivory, actually looked like it could be right. So off went DH to Lowes for Ivory. But when I mixed my tester of Ivory, it was a tad dark, so ended up mixing 1/2 and 1/2 Ivory and Biscuit for my tile job. (By the way, once I had my samples mixed, I spread some right on a tile piece, then, blow-dried it with the hairdryer to see the dry look.) I actually got my finished product done just as the grouting guys pulled into my driveway.
Anyway, we are doing a different, almost golden, tile for the floor, so I am off to the box stores for my grouts today. I HATED the fact that I had to do all this, but if you could see that shower, with the terra cotta grout, you would know that it was completely worth it! Here's a link to my finished tile backsplash.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 12:01PM
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Linnea-- when you go to seal your grout, try using an enhancing sealer. It'll darken it up permanently. Try it on your sample, first, though, to make sure it brings it back to the shade you want.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 6:54PM
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I acually mixed my color too, as I needed more of a reddish tinge than anything in a straight color that Mapei had. It was about 4 parts Camel and one part Terracotta. I just kept testing it on a tile until I had no more Terracotta to mix in. (I used the hairdryer too!) But I knew even with mixing the two colors that it would be too light: the straight Terracotta is on my backsplash, which was finished the week before, and that is too light too. But it is a very small area and I can live with that.

Bill: I was hoping you'd see my post! Do you think this would be better than going the grout dye route? It sure would be simpler! The color is not wrong, not too beige or too red, just too pale. I like my grout lines to "disappear" against the tile, not stand out.

Tell me if this sealer would work: Aquamix Color Enhancing sealer. I bought it at Lowes: I couldn't find any other enhancing sealer that you had mentioned before. I bought Aquamix High Gloss Sealer for the backsplash but haven't used it yet.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 7:42PM
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The color enhancing sealer would do it, but you want to try it on a sample, first, just in case you don't get the shade you want. Although I'm told that Aquamix's colorants can be used on top of SOME of Aquamix's sealers, I'm not sure which ones, and I'd hate for you to try it on your floor, not get the right shade, and then not be able to go over it with the colorant if it's not what you want.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 9:57PM
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I'll test it tomorrow. Glad I saved some grout. By the way, how long should I wait before sealing the floor grout? It said 48 hours on the bottle; but I really want to make sure it's totally dry (it was grouted Thursday of last week). Caulking was done Saturday, and I can tell that's not dry.

I noticed reading the labels that the Color Enhancing sealer seems to be oil-based, while the High Gloss Sealer seems to be water-based (assumption based on what they tell you to clean the brushes with). Assuming I use the Color-Enhancing one this time, does that mean that all sealers in the future need to be oil-based?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 10:06PM
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If it was grouted last thursday, then you're fine to go ahead. As for mixing a solvent based sealer with water based, I've heard yes and no, with good reasoning behind both sides. I've also been told by reps that the solvent based sealers are much better because they get deeper into the stone. Your best bet would be to call their tech line, though-- get the word straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 12:01AM
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I had this problem with the grout I used on my kitchen floor. I was told by an employee at my Home Depot that the problem was with the installation of the grout. She told me that colored grouts have to be allowed to be damp for about 8 hours when applied, to allow the pigments to "bloom" (her word, not mine!). She said the grout should have been kept damp, by covering it with something like butcher paper. She also told me that the true color can be brought out using an acidic cleaner with a stiff plastic brush. Apparently this process will brush off the top "crust" of the grout, revealing a darker hue underneath.

I'm going to try this in an inconspicuous spot and will report back if this works. And if it does, and if this was the true cause of the lighter grout shade, why don't the instructions on the grout state that??????????

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 3:36PM
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DON'T USE ACID!! It'll BLEACH the grout!! Also, don't ever get advice from Home Depot!! As for what the girl told you, she's only repeating the company hue and cry from Custom Building Products. This is an industry wide problem, and there's no real cure for it. The difference in color can be due to a whole PLETHORA of reasons, from installer arror (too much water in clean up or in mixing), to difference in substrates, to even something like ambient temperature or humidity (dictating how fast the grout dries-- the one your girl was talking about). We won't discuss the difference in mediums (the grout is cement based, and most samples are plastic sticks or printed pamphlets). And this doesn't even go into the possibilities of manufacturer's defects, which HAVE occured.

There's a whole BUNCH of possible reasons for it, and for this girl just to simply spout the company line to disclaim any possibility of liability without sending a rep out to take a look at it is ludicrous, and if you go back to see her, you have my permission to print this out and show it to her.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 1:31AM
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Wow, this is my old post from 10 months ago coming up. Well, at least I can let you know the effects of a little time.

I tested the water-based and oil-based sealers on the dried grout samples I had applied to a spare tile. 3 coats. The oil based, when dried, only made the sample marginally darker, but it was shinier, which I wanted. The water based sealer, which looked milky like liquid latex, made the grout look a little milky too. So that one was definitely out. Neither seemed to have any effect on the marble tile. We used 3 coats of oil based enhancing sealer on the backsplash, following instructions for applying then wiping off. It "set up" in about 20 minutes so we had to work fast, me applying, setting a timer, then husband following with the wiping rags. The grout, and the edges of the green marble tile, would get much darker when it soaked in but would lighten up when it dried. So the end result is grout that is just a little too light. But the lines are narrow and I really don't notice it anymore. I may reapply it and concentrate on the larger grout lines.

For our foyer floor I actually did not get around to sealing it (Cringing here from Bill V. reading this). I have a seasonal business and am gone or too busy spring and summer. By the time all the work had gotten to where we would live with it as it was (chiefly the operational bathroom) it was time for me to travel. Husband would not do it while I was gone, seeing that it took two people to do even the backsplash. Wiping off the oil and getting it streak-free was not easy. We are waiting now for spring when we can open all the doors and windows. Husband is sensitive to fumes: we don't paint or varnish until windows can be opened. I have not washed the floor, only wiped up drips on the tiles with plain water as they occurred. In winter we use a different door so no wet boots are coming in. As it happens I don't really notice that the grout lines are lighter than the tile now. The difference is a not that great. When I was in the middle of it all it was natural to focus on the little things, now I just see the floor as a whole (with occasional self-congratulation for how well I stained the baseboards to match the tile).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 12:32PM
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From this old post, it does look like grout dries lighter. I want a grout to blend into my tile without being darker than my tile.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 9:53PM
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I wish we had found this thread before our tile/grout project. We had exactly the same problem. We put travertine down in a small bathroom and then bought Mapei grout from Lowe's. Their Biscuit color from the sample was the best match.

At home I mixed the grout exactly according to the instructions and it went on with a perfect color match to the tile. But after 15 hours, it dried VERY light. The color was almost a perfect match to Mapei White!

We were very disappointed so I called Mapei to complain. The rep was very dismissive of the problem. He did not apologize or ask any technical questions. He did not ask for the lot or batch number of the grout so he could check his quality control records. He simple told me he would send me a liquid grout colorant that I could use to make th color darker and also seal the grout.

I have been in manufacturing for 20 years, and quality control for half that time. I would never treat a customer complaint so dismissively. It is obvious that this company just does not care.

I was so upset I went straight to the Lowe's store and complained to their tile person, who seemed young and inexperienced. I told him my entire story, and he came up with the same lame excuses that others have mentioned, such as humidity and not using tap water to mix the grout. Pathetic! If this is true, then why doesn't the manufacturer put this in their instructions?

I will never consider Mapei grout from Lowe's again. I will probably have to buy a bag of Mapei Mocha to mix with the Biscuit to get the color I want. The Mocha is about 3 shades darker than the Biscuit, which should have been the correct color.

Thanks for starting this thread. I hope our experience just adds to the education that is sorely needed on this topic.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 3:30PM
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WOW!! Just had the same problem with the same grout-MAPEI. I'm totally heartbroken with the way my tile floors look. We had the tile that looks like wood planks (dark chocolate color) installed throughout our entire bottom floor and the grout that Mapei recommended dried about 6 shades lighter making my floors look like brown bricks. I've been going back and forth with Lowe's where I purchased everything and the installer. Lowe's has recommended a grout colorant to darken the grout. Of course, to keep the warranty, we had to get the colorant from Mapei. We are testing it out today. Keeping my fingers crossed!! Wish I would have come across this post earlier!! I'm with sdshack.....NEVER WILL I USE MAPEI PRODUCTS AGAIN!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 6:12PM
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This just happened to me with our wood tile. The grout lines are grayish white when we picked a dark brown. Was anyone ever able to fix it. Our tile guy already tried a sealant in a test spot and a cleaner that the manufacturer recommended. Please help. I'm freaking out!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 8:01AM
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I am going through this now. Did coloring the grout work? I installed dark wood tile planks and bought the dark chocolate Mapei grout. It dried a very light cream color. I wanted the lines to be inconspicuous and now they clearly stand out. Please help!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Same here dark colonial wood planks from lowes with a Choco brown grout which dried too light :( will look into some grout enhances or colorants.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:20AM
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Not sure if the last 3 will be notified when this is posted but I need to know how ya'lls turned out! we just got done laying our entire house with the SAME tile from lowe's... what did y'll do?? & how did it come out??

please :(

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 11:00PM
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Just had marble tile installed professionally and have the same problem. Grout was supposed to be warm gray to "disappear" but is instead virtually white. I am sick over the way it now looks.

Has anyone done anything that worked to correct their grout color? Please help!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 7:56AM
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we had the same problem with our dark wood look tile. 2600 sf of it. I'm slowly going through room by room using an enhancing sealer. It's making a dramatic improvement, just very time consuming.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2015 at 11:14PM
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I feel for you and are also having an issue with our backsplash. Our backsplash was just installed by our builder along with the grout as you can see. This is not the grout we chose, in fact it is too dark. We chose "Bone" color from samples..does this look like Bone to anyone? We believe it just got done either yesterday or this morning. Does anyone think it will lighten up when it dries?! Thank please

    Bookmark   February 4, 2015 at 12:40AM
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