When updating or building your own house, it's important to opt for a great flooring option for your project. And that's where tile grout comes in. Tile grout is the material that fills the space between tiles and helps to keep them in place.
It's available in both sanded and unsanded varieties, and each has its own set of pros and cons. So, which type should you choose for your project?
Let's take a look at some of the most common types of sanded and unsanded tile grouts out there, plus their pros and cons. This will help you can make an informed decision about which one will work best for your needs.
What is Grout?
Grout is a thin mortar used to fill the joints between tiles. It is a mixture of cement, sand, and water applied with a grout float. In addition, grout is a dense, thick fluid made of water, cement, and sand. It also has other uses apart from sealing joints between tiles.
Grout is also used as a reinforcement for existing structures and walls, used to fill voids. It's also used to embed rebar masonry and even connect sections of concrete.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Grout Tile
The size of the project will dictate the amount of grout you need to buy. If you are grouting a shower, you may only need a few pounds of grout because the space is small. Larger projects will require more grout. This is because grout comes in many forms and sized containers. You can get grout premade as a powder and in industrial-sized bags for extra-large projects.
Vertical or Horizontal Installations
Grout for vertical applications is often one color, while grout for horizontal installations is usually different colors. Vertical installation grouts are usually sanded or unsanded based on the application you will be using them for. You can also buy adhesive-backed backsplashes with integrated grout to make the process easier and cleaner.
In vertical applications, you'll need a grout that can handle the tug and pull from the gravity, while in horizontal or floor grout, your grout doesn't need to be thick or strong.
Tile Type and Size
Grout should also match the type of tile that you are using. For instance, you don't want to use a soft, unsanded grout with large tiles as the grout will deteriorate over time and become prone to cracking.
Besides being larger than 1/8″, ceramic or porcelain tile is denser than glass, stone, or metal tiles. Even though they're harder and denser than glass, stone and metal tiles still require sanded grout.
Colors of Grout
Sanded grout is also available in a variety of colors, whereas unsanded grout can only be white or beige. If you're looking for a custom color, sanded grout is the way to go. Note that the most common grout color is gray. Grout also comes in many colors, including white, black, green, and even orange.
Some brands will also offer dyed grout where you can pick exact colors to match your decor or tiles.
Application and Drying Time
Sanded grout is much thicker than unsanded, and as such, it takes longer to dry. While unsanded grout dries within four hours, sanded grout takes anywhere between 24 and 48 hours to fully cure or dry out.
This slow drying time means that sanded grout can be a hassle for contractors who need to get the job done and over with, but it also means that sanded grout is extremely durable. As such, sanded grout is more frequently used in commercial settings where durability is a must.
Grout is not expensive, but you need to purchase large amounts of it based on the size of your project. The cost includes everything, ranging from the mixing pail, bucket or tray, coloring or special needs, and the application trowels, clean-up tools, equipment, and other items.
Sanded grout is best for grout lines ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch. Grout lines of more than 1/2 are impractical and will crack and become unstable. And because unsanded can also be used for 1/8 inch lines, it's recommended that you use sanded grout and not unsanded.
Unsanded grout is best for grout lines as wide as 1/8 inch and down to 1/6 inch. The unsanded grout is used in this application because the sanded grout won't properly compact into thinner grout lines. On the other hand, unsanded grout will slump, crack, and not provide the proper fill.
Tile Surface Recommendations
Sanded grout is used for tile surfaces where scratching from the sand content in the tile grout won’t be a problem. If you’re looking regrout and lack much skills, then sanded grout is the way to go.However, unsanded grout is recommended for tile that is easily scratched such as natural stone, glass, certain porcelains and ceramics. The sand content in sanded tile may damage these surfaces. Abrasion from sanded tile is also not enough to scratch the tile surfaces.
Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout
These two types of grout may seem the same, but they are not. Unsanded grout is perfect for smaller projects or areas where less durability is needed. It is a blend of Portland cement, water, and sand that can be easily applied with a rubber grout float by pressing it into the joints.
On the other hand, sanded grout is a blend of Portland cement, water, sand, and lime. This type of grout is recommended for larger projects or areas that need more durability. The sand in the mixture helps to give it more strength and prevents it from cracking over time.
As mentioned earlier, sanded grout is a Portland cement-based grout with silica sand, inorganic aggregates, and chemicals. Sanded grout is best for creating wider grout lines.
This makes it the best choice to consider for tiling applications because sand particles have the ability to lock with each other to form a sturdy joint. Sanded grout is also less expensive than unsanded grout as sand is a cheaper filler than polymers in unsanded grout. These fine particles increase grout stability, reduce shrinkage and offer better resistance to severe cracking of the grout.
Pros of Sanded Grout
- It's thicker than unsanded grout and is more durable
- Lower cost compared to unsanded grout
- Presence of denser joints
- Available in more color choices
- Prevents shrinkage and cracking
Cons of Sanded Grout
- Difficult to force into thin seams
- Must be sealed with a pH-neutral, water-based, and penetrating sealer
- It can damage smooth tiles
- It cannot be used in joints less than 1/8 inch
Also known as non sanded grout, unsanded grout is best for very thin grout lines from 1/8 down to 1/6 inch. Non sanded grout is easier to work with than sanded grout on vertical surfaces such as tile shower walls. The lack of silica aggregate in this grout works well with delicate tile surfaces such as ceramic tile and glass tile.
Non sanded grout is not ideal for large grout lines because it will slump, crack and not fill properly in width more than 1/8 inch. The grout is smooth textured and best for highly polished stone like marble and vertical lines such as bathroom and shower walls.
Pros of Unsanded Grout
- Suitable for vertical installation and clings well to vertical surfaces
- Grout sealing may not be required in some applications
- Preserves sensitive tile surfaces
- Best for small spaces less than 1/8 inch
Cons of Unsanded Grout
- More costly than sanded grout
- Slumps when applied to wide seams
- Less color choices than sanded grout
FAQs on Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout Tile
Why is sanded grout cheaper than unsanded grout?
Sanded grout is cheaper because it doesn't need to be as dense as unsanded. In addition, the tiny spaces between tiles are usually filled with a material other than grout, such as epoxy or mortar mix.
Which one is best between traditional grout and epoxy grout?
Epoxy grout is used in areas that are continuously exposed to water. Traditional grout can be stained, while epoxy grouts feature a non-porous surface.
Final Thought on Sanded vs. Unsanded Tile Grout
When applying grout on your walls, floors, and even mosaics, you'll need to grout. The type of grout you need, whether sanded or unsanded, will depend on the product and joint spacing you have. You need to ensure that you get the right grout for your application to hold the tiles and prevent issues like cracking. You should also learn how to regrout tile because you’ll need to do this later on.