• January 30, 2024
  • by Ricky Attard
  • 42

Tiling requires attention to detail and can be a rewarding activity once completed. But every now and then, you can miss these little things called tile spacers while grouting. Some tilers say that they can stay in, others say they need to be removed, but what is the correct thing to do?

Tile spacers need to be removed prior to starting the grouting process. This is mainly due to the fact that they take up the space where grout should go. Never grout over tile spacers, even if they are stuck, as this could lead to further issues that could compromise the grouting process. 

Read on to find out everything you need to know to remove tiling spacers to ensure that your tiling project comes out looking as professional as possible. Let’s go!

What are tile spacers?

Tile spacers come in many shapes and sizes, the most common being in a “T” shape. Their main function is to keep your tiles evenly spaced as you grout them. Sizes of tile spaces range from 1 mm to 10 mm to cater for various tile designs and styles.

You’ll use tile spacers to keep the spaces between your tiles at a consistent width until they need to be grouted. So, when it comes to grouting, you need to remove the tile spacers so that you can grout over its place. 

In general, most tilers agree that you need to remove tile spacers before grouting. This is because leaving these spacers in could potentially lead to compromised structural integrity. But what if your tile spacer is stuck? Get out your chisel and get it out so that it’s clear, and then re-grout that area.

Why should you remove tile spacers before grouting?

There are a few reasons why you should remove tile spacers before grouting. Here are a few to consider:

  • Leaving tile spacers in place and grouting over them can result in an uneven grout line, which will detract from the finished look of the tiled surface
  • Grout needs direct contact with the tile edges for proper adhesion, and if you leave spacers in between the tiles and start grouting, they could obstruct this contact
  • Grout serves to fill gaps between tiles, providing stability and preventing moisture penetration. If spacers remain, the grout may not effectively perform these functions, as tile spacers will compromise the structural integrity of a grout joint
  • Removing spacers before grouting ensures a professional and polished appearance in the final tiled installation

When should you remove the tile spacers while grouting?

You should remove the tile spacers once the tile adhesive has set. By doing this, you will ensure that the wall or floor tiles won’t move while you grout them. So after 20 to 30 minutes, it should be safe to take them off, but always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for accurate timing as it may differ from brand to brand. Don’t remove them too soon, or this could cause them to shift out of place.

How to remove the tile spacers before grouting

You may think collecting tile spacers is a simply “pluck it out” kind of action, but that’s just not the case. Tile spacers are often between tiles with the adhesive, which means they sometimes get stuck fast. Here are some steps to removing tile spacers without causing damage on your new tiling project:

  1. Wait for the adhesive to dry – most fast-setting adhesives will usually take between 20 – 30 minutes to set, and this is the perfect time to remove tile spacers. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging for an accurate time. 
  2. Work your way from the outside in – begin at the tiles at the edge and make your way to the central ones.
  3. Use the right tools – use a tool, like a rubber mallet and needle-nose pliers, to gently lift the tile spacer and ensure the tile doesn’t move out of space.
  4. Clean up as you move from tile to tile – being diligent with cleaning up the tiles will ensure that the grout will stick properly.
  5. Triple-check that all the tiles are set well – having a tile shift out of place because you removed the tile spacer too soon is such a pain, so always check multiple times before grouting that the tile is stuck fast.

Common mistakes to avoid when removing tile spacers

Collecting the tile spacers before you grout is a simple task but can sometimes be easy to overlook. Likewise, one or two things make more work for you if you do them. Here are some mistakes to avoid when removing the tile spacers before you grout:

  • Don’t remove the tile spacers too early or too late – removing tile spacers too early could cause the tiles to shift and become unevenly spaced, whereas if you leave them in for too long, they could become stuck and be extra tricky to remove
  • Don’t rush – be patient if a tile spacer is difficult to get out because you don’t want to damage your tiles in the process of removing the tile spacer
  • Ensure that you clean the grouting areas properly – especially after removing tile spacers. Not cleaning the grouting areas can lead to compromising the integrity of the grouting process
  • Using the wrong tools is a common mistake –  trying to get out a tile spacer with a metal hammer is just asking for trouble. Rather, use a small flat tool, pliers and a rubber mallet
  • Missing spacers leaves the job looking unfinished –  thankfully, as you go over and grout, you should pick up on tile spacers that you’ve missed.

Final Thoughts

Tile spacers are a vital part of laying tiles professionally. But when it comes to grouting, you need to remove the tile spacers so you can grout successfully and finish the job well. Remember to use a small, flat tool to remove tile spacers and be gentle.