the power of grout, subway tile edition

by clé tile | published: April 27, 2023

All of the following grouts shown together for comparison.

grout is an integral part of tile installation

if you think grout is just an add-on product for your tile then think again. while we like to point out that your tile installation is only as good as your tile installer, the color of grout you choose to pair with your tile selection can make (or break) a project.

we often get asked to recommend a grout color for a specific tile, however grout can look completely different from room to room depending on factors like natural light and placement in a space. any surface will change in shade, and even color, depending on the time of day. Therefore, clé recommends that you select several grout colors that best match your tiles. we suggest this approach: pick the grout colors that you most like then ask your contractor to mock up some sample boards with your tile to see what works best in your space. The contractor is always responsible for providing the grout for your project — and they will have grout manufacturers that they favor.

to showcase the impact of grout color, we have taken the ubiquitous white subway tile (in 3×6) and paired it with eight different grout colors to show how dramatically a tile can change depending on the grout selection.

an important note: flat subway tile can look great with high contrast grout. HOWEVER, high contrast grout used with ANY tile can result in issues including showing invisible crazing and noticeable texture that can create undesirable changes in the color of your tile. always test, and test again, and use at your own risk.

your installer is your best resource for ordering grout. to learn more, check out our grout guide, here.

light grout

for a seamless, clean and uniform look, pair with a white or light subway tile. the grout will seemingly disappear, allowing the tile to take center stage.

White subway tiles with bright white grout.

avalanche – this is Mapei’s whitest grout. pairs well with white subway, white solid cement or white penny rounds.

White subway tiles with very light grey grout.

frost – leaning a tad more grey, this light grout is our go-to for weathered white zellige. also pairs well with carrara planks.

neutral grout

options for neutral grout include earthy browns and greys that pair with literally everything. these are the middle ground for grouts, and can really pull dark or light, depending on what they are paired with.

White subway tiles with light beige grout.

biscuit – this nice creamy neutral pairs well with our natural unglazed zellige. it also pairs well with our weathered white, pulling it away from the cooler tones and adding some warmth.

White subway tiles with a medium beige/brown grout.

bamboo – a medium earthy brown, this color looks great with foundry flats brick tiles.

White subway tiles with medium neutral grey grout.

timberwolf – a perfect medium grey color that seems to go with everything. we recommend this color with any of our cement tiles.

White subway tiles with medium slightly red brown grout.

caramel – pair this with any of our red terracotta tiles for a seamless look. this deep caramel color pulls brown in tone and pairs well with some of our foundry flats bricks as well.

dark grout

dark colored grouts can be used to contrast a lighter tile — making a bold statement and highlighting the layout you are creating with your tile. or, on the flip side, if you are using a dark-colored tile, these grout colors can be used to create an uninterrupted, consistent look.

White subway tiles with dark charcoal grey grout.

charcoal – a deep, dark grey. charcoal-colored grout looks great with darker colored tile for a seamless look. a perfect complement to a grey or dark green tile. think belgian reproduction or cindered olive.

White subway tiles with black grout.

black – black grout offers a dramatic look, but must be used with extreme care, and ONLY on tiles that are not porous. never use it on any tile with crazing or noticeable texture where high-contrast grout will create undesirable changes in color on your tile. that being said, it is an option with subway, but we'll say it again: use it with extreme care! high contrast grout used with ANY tile, including subway, can result in issues including showing invisible crazing and noticeable texture that can create undesirable changes in the color of your tile.

don’t forget…

grout spacing is also an important consideration. for these installations, we used 1/4” spacers. typically, the wider you go, the more dramatic the look.

learn more about using grout as a design element in tile installation.