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.
Pros of Sanded Grout
Cons of Sanded Grout
Sanded Grout Usage
May scratch surfaces
Suitable for bathroom, kitchen floors, or shower use
Challenging to force into thinner seams
More color choices
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:
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:
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.
Bathroom and Kitchen Floors
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.