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Sanded Vs Unsanded Grout (Design Guide)

Below we discuss sanded vs unsanded grout including the differences and how to choose the best grout for your tile project.
Kitchen subway tile backsplash with unsanded groutWhen installing tiles – be it for flooring, walls, backsplash, counters, or others – aside from choosing the proper size, shape, and type of tile materials, you need to think about the grout. Choosing between sanded and unsanded grout can really make a difference when it comes to looks, cost and durability.

Grout is the mortar used to bind tiles together. Grout is basically a mixture of cement and water, however, there is also a type of grout known as epoxy grout which has resin and hardener added.

Types of Grout Mixtures

Traditionally, cement-based grouts are used in residential applications, such as when installing tiles for a bathroom wall or kitchen backsplash.

Epoxy grouts are a bit hardier and can stand up to harsh conditions so they are usually used for outdoor tile installations. They are also resistant to corrosive materials like grease or acid so they may be used in garages.

Difference between sanded and unsanded grout

Difference between sanded unsanded groutBoth cement-based and epoxy-based grouts are commercially available in two types: sanded and non-sanded. The main difference between the two is if there is sand in the mixture or not.

Depending on the types of tile that you are installing and the size of the space you are leaving in-between them, one type of grout can be more advantageous than the other. Let’s take a closer look at both types to see how sanded vs unsanded grout stacks up for your next project.

What is sanded grout?

Tile with sanded groutWhether it be cement-based or epoxy-based, sanded grout has a third main ingredient – sand. The addition of sand into the mixture makes the grout thicker and prevents it from shrinking around the joints between the tiles. Because of its bulk, sanded grout is best if you are working with wide joints. It is also a more budget friendly grout since sand is inexpensive.

When should I use sanded grout?

If you are installing tiles with joints wider than 1/8 inches you should use sanded grout.

While it is possible to use sanded grout on joints that are less than 1/8 inches, the bulkiness of sanded grout might make it difficult to get the proper amount of grout in joints this small. You might end up with uneven grout.

If you are working with joints that are larger than 3/8 inches, you will need to get sanded grout that has a large proportion of sand. This will be labeled as “wide-joint” grout and can be easily found in hardware stores.

Sanded grout is often used in flooring applications since it can hold up better to the pressure of foot traffic. One may use sanded grout for a bathroom floor tile and unsanded for a shower wall.

Finally, sanded grout has a larger amount of color options for those looking for a wider variety of options.

What is unsanded grout?

unsanded grout tileUnsanded grout, be it cement or epoxy based, does not have sand added. Because of this, it has a smoother texture once it has dried. It is also lighter, which can be advantageous but can also make it prone to cracking.

Since unsanded grout is often used with sensitive tile surfaces it may require more skill/experience to install the tiles, especially when used with fragile or different tile shapes. However, using unsanded grout itself is often easier to work with in a vertical application than sanded grout.

When should I use unsanded grout?

Unsanded grout adheres better to vertical surfaces, so it is best used for wall tiles. You should also opt for non-sanded grout if you are setting tiles with joints less than 1/8 inches in width.

Most common applications for unsanded grout is a kitchen backsplash or shower wall.

If you are installing tiles that are easily scratched, like marble for example, you should go for non-sanded grout. Sanded grout may damage this type of tiles. Unsanded grout has a less abrasive and much smoother texture making it better suited for use for delicate tile surfaces.

Unsanded grout is also less solid than sanded grout and can crack or break under pressure, that’s why it’s not recommended that you use non-sanded grout for floor tiles.

For more related designs take a look at our article about tile patterns.