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I recently tiled our bathroom floor (nothing fancy - just a 7 x 5 room). In between the tiles, I've used a sanded grout and that's worked nicely but I'm confused on what to use around the perimeter of the floor. There's a gap between the tile floor and the wall - it ranges anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Should I use grout here as well? Or something else?

Eventually I'm planning to have a base board so no matter what, the gap won't be seen.

Beneath the tile is hardiebacker, moisture resistant paper (two layers, and subfloor.

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If all interior walls or, if insulated exterior walls,no need to fill gap with anything. Just get your baseboard moldings up to finish the job

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    Fill it with grout. Even if your baseboard will cover it you don't really want that space left there. Once you have your baseboard in place you will want to run a bead of caulk top and bottom to fill any spaces. Use water soluble painters caulk and wipe off excess with a wet finger. – user19614 Dec 15 '14 at 12:30
  • @user19614 why would a space that is concealed by the baseboard be an issue? Hardwood floors leave a space here for expansion, carpet leaves a space there for stretching the carpet, why is tile any different? – BMitch Dec 15 '14 at 14:34
  • You don't want a space here because dirt will collect there. Wood floors have to leave a gap for expansion, carpet floors don't leave a gap unless they did a bad job. – user19614 Dec 15 '14 at 14:57
  • @user19614 There are lots of gaps behind parts of your home that you can't see that are filled with dirt. It's pretty standard to find that during any renovation, but shouldn't affect your home since it's under/behind the baseboard where the gap isn't visible. Grouting all the way up to the wall framing under the drywall seems like a waste of grout and adds a lot of work to anyone that wants to replace the flooring in the future. – BMitch Dec 15 '14 at 16:10
  • Why add to the dirt? When I grout a floor I am not concerned with the extra grout needed to go all the way to the wall. What would concern me more is if when I come to put up the baseboard now I have a gap threats have to come back and fill. Do the job right first time, grout up to the wall and don't leave crevices and cracks. – user19614 Dec 15 '14 at 16:32
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You can find a lot of valuable information on tiling information at The Floor Elf

He has a summary on grout vs. caulk. The term he uses is "changes in plain" and makes good arguments for using caulk. Since you will be putting down baseboard it wont really be seen so finding a perfect match in color is not an issue.

Here is a summary from the article at: Grout or Caulk article

Using Caulk at Changes of Plane

There are several advantages to using caulk in corners and any other area where there may be a plane change or where tile meets another material such as your bathtub or sink.

  1. Unlike grout you are able to use caulk in a corner where tiles are butted against each other. It will stick to the face of the tile rather than needing a space between the tiles to grab.
  2. Caulk is flexible. If there is any movement the caulk is flexible enough to move with it and remain in place. It will not crack out or fall off.
  3. Caulk is waterproof – grout is not. Water will collect in corners such as where your tile meets the tub more than it will on the face of the tile.
  4. If your caulk does crack out or need to be replaced it is easily done.

The only two disadvantages to using caulk instead of grout are

  1. You need to periodically remove and replace the caulk.
  2. Depending on your choice of grout, you may not be able to find a caulk that matches exactly.

The first reason I consider to simply be regular maintenance and the latter is less of a problem since most major grout manufacturers sell matching caulk.

When I redid my bathroom floor this site was a tremendous resource.

  • -1 good info but isn't answering the OP's question where they have baseboard covering the gap rather than two tile surfaces meeting. – BMitch Dec 15 '14 at 14:36
  • The article provides both sides to the argument of what to use, either grout or caulk. I provided only the summation for using caulk. When I researched what to do I found a lot of varying opinions and needed to make a decision I felt comfortable with for the entire perimeter of my bathroom. this included where the baseboard, and where the wall met the tile. – treeNinja Dec 15 '14 at 14:48
  • Sounds like you may be describing installing the tile after the baseboard was already installed. That's the wrong order, the tile goes down and the baseboard goes on top where it covers the gap between the tile and wall. The only thing you might caulk is under the baseboard but that's not the OP's question. – BMitch Dec 15 '14 at 16:13
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I have tiled my own floors, ran base, wood and tile in one room or another. I have also flushed toilets and had them overflow. The construction of wood framed homes inherently allows for water which naturally seeks the lowest point will find the gaps at the plate line to the underlayment, (and tile!!) all around the perimeter of any bath. To me that has a lot of space to hold a lot of potentially unsavory water, if you want to call it that. Although the expansion and contraction of materials that make up a flooring system in a wood framed house is very small, I have run my tile close enough to the plate, when the drywall is cut high enough. When the drywall does not allow any room to tuck it under the cut edge I run it close enough to cover the gap with the base, as it should be done anyway. The point I will make, in either situation, I fill the gap with backer rod if it needs it, pushed just below the surface, and place a good grade of caulk over all of it to seal the floor to the wall. I cove the caulk into the corner so the bottom of the drywall is covered in caulk, that way it will not soak up any thing on the floor. To set the wood base, I plane or table saw the lower bottom corner off to make room for the caulk cove that is in place.

This may be a little over the top after all of that, but I use caulk set on the bottom edge of my base that I set to seal the base to the floor. This is applied to the base after it is cut and tried in place. I remove it, add caulk, set it and nail with pressure, pushing down.

I will not use grout anymore. I did on one job and the tile cracked because of the minor movement of framing I mentioned earlier.

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I would use a flexible jointing compound such as silicon. Silicon is available in most colours to match the grout. It will allow for movement should any expansion/contraction occur, prevent water from lying in the gap between the tiles and wall and does not have to be replaced for at least 20 years.

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