Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout: Which is Better?

Kenneth Wilson

Choosing between sanded vs. unsanded grout tiles goes beyond your personal preference. Whether your next home improvement project is a kitchen renovation or an outdoor patio– it’s ideal to know the difference between sanded and unsanded grout.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a flooring specialist to know exactly what makes each grout type unique.

These grout types have particular ideal applications, which we’ll discuss in detail below.

Sanded Grout

Pros of Sanded Grout

Cons of Sanded Grout

Sanded Grout Usage


May scratch surfaces

Suitable for bathroom, kitchen floors, or shower use

Dense joints

Challenging to force into thinner seams


More color choices

Requires Sealing


Sanded grout is considered the most common type of tile grout. It is suitable for most home improvement projects.

It is made of fine quartz or silica sand grains, acting as a filler. The sand also increases the material’s strength. This is a cost-effective grout type, given that sand is generally a cheap filler. It is also available in several different color options.

If you ever find yourself in these situations, it’s best to opt for sanded grout:

  • Flooring applications - Generally, sanded grout is a no-brainer for interior flooring projects. It has excellent durability and stability, able to withstand the pressure of heavy foot traffic.
  • Thick joints - Sanded grout offers a better bond and fewer shrinkage problems. If you’re working with joints with a thickness of ⅛ to ½ inches– best use sanded grout.

Unsanded Grout

Pros of Unsanded Grout

Cons of Unsanded Grout

Unsanded Grout Usage

Less slump on vertical surfaces

Will cost you more

Suitable for bathroom, kitchen floors, rectified tile and shower walls, and polished/honed stone

Preserves sensitive tile surfaces

Limited color choices


Grout sealing may not be required in some cases

Tends to slump when applied on wider seams


First off, unsanded grout boasts a smoother texture– as it doesn’t have sand grains on its surface. Expect unsanded grout to cost you more than its sanded counterpart, primarily because of the pricier polymers used as its bonding agent.

Here are some ideal scenarios where the use of unsanded grout is recommended:

  • Narrow joints - Since unsanded grout is thinner than sanded ones, it’s easier to apply for narrow joints. If the joint has less than ⅛ inches width, use this grout type.
  • Scratchable surfaces - Unsanded grout is recommended by many professionals when dealing with smooth or polished tile such as limestone or marble. In contrast, sanded grout may scratch these tile surfaces in the installation process.
  • Vertical installation - Without sand, unsanded grout is notably sticky. You can count on this grout type to stay in place when doing various tile installation projects. Remember that vertical installations do not need high durability to withstand heavy foot traffic pressure.

Ideal Uses of Sanded vs. Unsanded Tile Grout

Here’s a brief table showing the ideal usage of both sanded and unsanded grout in the different areas of your home.

Keep in mind that there are different ideal applications for each grout type.


Sanded Grout

Unsanded Grout

Bathroom and Kitchen Floors

Rectified Tile


Shower Walls


Bathroom Walls


Polished Stone


Major Differences of Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

Let’s delve into the specifics of how sanded grout is different from its unsanded counterpart and vice versa.

Sanded Grout is Thicker

Sanded grout, true to its name, contains aggregate sand material. This makes the grout more durable due to its resistance against shrinkage.

Case in point: cement-based, unsanded grout often shrinks over time. As a result, it may pull away from your tiles.

In contrast, the presence of sand makes the grouting mixture resistant to shrinkage problems. Once the sanded grout cures, sand is locked in place and won’t budge. You can count on sanded grout to offer proper adhesion of tiles. Its why sanded grout is far more ideal for areas with heavy foot traffic (like bathrooms).

Sanded Grout has Increased Durability

Additionally, sanded grout is resistant to cracking– making it highly durable. Meanwhile, unsanded grout may be prone to cracks when exposed to heavy pressure.

If you’re planning to do an interior flooring project, sanded grout may just be the better choice between the two. Aside from its durability, it is also suitable for large tile joints. However, tile joints that are ⅜ inches (or more) will require a specific wide-joint mixture grout. This is readily available at your local hardware store.

The material is made with higher aggregate material to reduce shrinkage problems effectively. Use this product for tile projects involving large-sized grout joints.

Unsanded Grout has a Better Hold on Vertical Surfaces

In some areas in the home, such as the shower, it’s most likely that you used unsanded grout for its installation. This grout type is very sticky– given it doesn’t have any additional sand or aggregate added into the mixture.

Notably, unsanded grout is easier to spread on most vertical surfaces. You can expect no significant issues when working it into the grout lines.

But, doesn’t unsanded grout shrink? Yes, but it’s not a pressing issue when applied on vertical surfaces. Tiles are usually between ⅛ to /16 of an inch close together. The shrinkage that happens after curing won’t affect the tile’s durability.

Sanded Grout may Damage the Surface of Smooth Tiles

In choosing whether to use sanded or unsanded grout– you will need to consider the tile material you need to work with.

Note that the harsh aggregate material in sanded grout may damage the surface of smooth tiles, like that of granite, limestone, and marble. Think of it as similar to sandpaper. It may only scratch the surface if you spread it over soft tiles.

For smoother, more polished tiles– it’s best to use unsanded grout. Not just the standard one, though. Most contractors in the country opt to use epoxy-based unsanded grout for these situations.

Sanded Grout is not Ideal for Joints less than ⅛ Inches

Sanded grout for tiles with joints smaller than ⅛ inch is like signing up for future problems (and repair costs). In these cases, unsanded grout is the way to go.

Sanded grout is challenging to work within tight spaces. Its aggregate (sand) material can be pretty bulky in the first place– making it difficult to force into smaller tile joints. That said, this grout type is not suitable for precision work.

Another potential problem you can expect when using sanded grout for small joints is Pinholing. Excess water used by contractors makes it easier to spread the grout, but this may only leave a small, pin-like hole in the process.


Ultimately, sanded grout has its attributes compared to its unsanded counterpart. You can’t randomly grab any grout at your local hardware and hope it’s the right choice for your next project. This may only be a waste of money and time on your end.

That said, always consider which grout type will be the more appropriate choice for your next home improvement project. (Related: What Is Polymeric Sand And How Do You Use It?)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I change the grout color?

Technically, yes. Some homeowners choose to stain the grout to a darker color or even out extreme color variations. Some grout stain products also act as a sealer, so you can benefit from this added feature.

How long does it take for grout to dry?

On average, grout takes about 24 hours (1 full day) to cure completely. However, the time will primarily depend on your project's type and size.

How often should I clean grout?

Ideally, clean the grout at least once every 2 to 3 months. It's also advised to do regular spot cleaning to avoid the nasty build-up of spots or stains. Doing so will also make deep cleaning easier on your end.

Kenneth Wilson
January 5, 2022

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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