Sanded vs Unsanded Grout For Tiles

Grout is a putty-like mixture that you use to fill spaces between tiles and help keep them in place. Most often, it is used by homeowners when working on DIY tiling projects.

However, while grout is widely used during home improvement, many DIYers are unaware it is available in two types: sanded and unsanded.

There are different types of grout to use depending on whether you’re installing a kitchen backsplash, a new shower, or a tiled floor.

You can learn the difference between sanded and unsanded grout in our guide. By the end, you’ll be able to tell the difference between sanded grout versus unsanded grout, as well as where each type of grout works best. (Find the Best Tile Saw)

Difference between Sanded and Unsanded Grout

Which is Better Sanded or Unsanded Grout?

No matter what tiling project you have, you will use two materials for bonding tile to the substrate. Mortar and grout are both used. Mortar is used to form the base and sticks the tile to the wall or floor. Mortar also keeps tile secure and level.

When your mortar dries, you’ll force grout between the tiles using grouting products such as a rubber float you draw across the tile faces. Grout fills the gaps, and excess is wiped away to leave a nice finish. Grout adds further integrity to tile work and is a part of the design of your tiles.

The question is, which grout is best from sanded grout vs. unsanded grout for your tile type.

Sanded grout contains fine sand material and is the better choice for most tiling projects. It’s cheap and provides a robust joint filler. Unless you purchase a modified formula, then sanded grout needs to be sealed after installing it.

Unsanded grout won’t contain sand and should be used when you have thin grout lines on delicate tile surfaces. You often see this in glass tile. With unsanded grout, sealing isn’t required in most applications, yet it is usually recommended.

Uses of Sanded and Unsanded Tile Grout

Sanded grout is a Portland cement-based grout with silica sand, inorganic aggregates, and chemicals.

Best for creating wider grout lines sanded grout should be your primary choice for most tiling applications since sand particles have the ability to lock with each other to form a sturdy joint.

Sanded grout is less expensive than unsanded grout since sand is a cheaper filler than the polymers in unsanded grout. Due to its porous nature, sanded grout, unless modified, must be sealed to prevent water from infiltrating to the back of the tile and ruining the substrate.

Unsanded grout, sometimes called non-sanded grout, is best for very thin grout lines ranging from 1/8-inch down to 1/16-inch. Unsanded grout is easier to work with than sanded grout on vertical surfaces such as tiled shower walls. (Learn About Sanding Polyurethane)

The lack of silica aggregate filler in unsanded grout means that it works well with scratchable surfaces such as ceramic, glass, metal, marble, or natural stone tiles.

Sanded Grout

Pros

  • Lower installation cost
  • Stronger tile joint
  • More color choices
  • Best used in flooring applications

Cons

  • May scratch tile surfaces
  • Hard to fit in a fine grout line
  • Needs sealing with a water-based, penetrating sealer

Unsanded Grout

Pros

  • Less drop on vertical wall tiles
  • It helps preserve sensitive tile surfaces
  • Grout sealing not always needed as it can repel moisture

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Fewer color choices than sanded grout
  • Grout mixture slumps in large grout joints

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout Uses

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout Recommended Uses

Sanded grout ought to be your choice for general tiling like flooring and walls as it is widely available and the broadest range of colors choices and reduces shrinkage.

You can use sanded grout or unsanded grout for vertical tile like showers, yet unsanded grout provides a better material.

Grout Width

Sanded grout is best for larger grout lines of 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch. Grout lines that are wider than 1/2-inch can crack and be unstable.

Unsanded grout is ideal in grout lines with a width of 1/8-inch and down to 1/16-inch since it can compact into thinner lines. Unsanded grout is used in this application because sanded grout cannot be compacted into thinner grout lines.

Unsanded grout you find in 1/8-inch or more slumps and cracks and won’t deliver a proper fill. Most grout lines using unsanded grout are no thinner than 1/16-inch.

Tile Surface

Sanded grout will be best used for tile surfaces that stand the chance of being scratched from the sand content, and it doesn’t pose too much of a problem. This makes it ideal for do-it-yourselfers who may not possess the best grouting skills and may have to re-grout again.

When Should I Use Non-Sanded Grout?

Non-Sanded Grout is best used on joints less than 1/8 inch, whereas, for a width larger than 1/8-inch, you will get grout shrinkage and may crack or not fill correctly. A non-sanded grout is smooth and won’t scratch the tile.

If you are a homeowner who has polished stone like marble or uses glass tiles, you want unsanded grout. Non-sanded grout can also adhere better to vertical surfaces and tile joints, such as your bathroom wall or shower tile applications.

Where to use Sanded Grout and Non-Sanded Grout

 Sanded GroutNon-Sanded Grout
Bathroom or KitchenYesYes
Rectified TilesNoYes
Shower WallsNoYes
Shower PansYesYes
Bathroom WallsNoYes
Polished Stone/ Honed StoneNoYes

In the table here, you can see non-sanded grout is used in more locations around the home; however, sanded grout is a good first choice if possible. It is cheaper and can last longer, especially when you have larger grout lines.

What Type of Grout Should Be Used in a Shower?

When you are tiling your bathroom, you may struggle to know which grout to use. It would help if you only used unsanded grout with glass, polished marble tiles, or metal tiles, as this can stop scratching your tile.

Acrylic grout is a viable option for wet areas such as kitchens, decks, and showers. They resist mildew and retain color. You can find Epoxy Grout, yet this is not as DIY-friendly as other types.

Does Sanded Grout Need to be Sealed?

You will find there is a quick answer, and that is yes. It would help if you sealed the sanded grout. Sealing sanded grout is the last phase with most ceramic tile projects. (Find the Best Belt Sander)

Once you seal the grout, it has color resistance and has durability and will stop water from leaking behind your tiles.

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout For Tiles

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