Caulk vs Grout

Published on:
Last Update:

While caulk and grout may seem to be similar to someone who is not familiar with the products, they are quite different. At times someone could even interchange one for the other. However, caulking and grouting have distinct uses, properties and shouldn’t be substituted for one another.

Grout is mostly available as a mixture of sand, cement, and water. Its generally used to fill the spaces between tiles and to keep them intact. Caulk, on the other hand, is a thick substance made of latex, silicone, or acrylic. Even though they both have sealing properties, they should not be used interchangeably or substituted for one another.

Caulk vs Grout Differences

caulk vs grout differences

To be able to understand better the differences between caulk and grout, it is important to look at them separately and then draw the differences. We can start by going through the uses of each of them.

Uses of caulk

Caulk is a versatile product that can be used in indoor decoration or even outdoor maintenance. Below are some of the uses of caulk;

uses of caulk
  • Can be used to seal gaps to beat bugs and other pests – caulk is the perfect tool for sealing gaps and cracks in metal, brick, or even stone. It is also excellent to repair tiny fissures in foundations and basement walls that allow rodents, insects, and other pests that may enter your home.
  • Works well with wood – in as much as you were careful when measuring and cutting wood, you might still end up with tiny gaps. If you wish to close the gaps, acrylic latex caulk is the ideal product for filling such small spaces.
  • It can be used to touch up the tile – small spaces can open up on tiles over time, more so in moist environments. This could invite mold and mildew to accumulate behind walls. Silicone caulk is the most ideal in these kinds of situations since they form a durable, watertight seal. They are also mold and mildew resistant.
  • It can be used to fill cracks before painting walls – you might notice tiny cracks and small holes on walls before painting. Painter’s caulk is a suitable product to use in this scenario. Since it dries on a paintable surface in about an hour, it is ideal for busy “DIYers.” It’s also used to fill gaps between floorboards and baseboards.
  • It is used to seal and protect – there is a particular type of caulk known as “fireproof caulk” that does a lot more than patch holes. It also helps to prevent a fire from moving through open space within a structure.
  • Can be used to glue wallpapers – to prevent wallpapers from pulling up after it dries, you could apply caulk around the corners. You could then use a wet sponge to remove any imperfections on the surface.

Uses of grout

Grout is a thick emulsion that hardens over time once applied, just like mortar. It’s made up of a mixture of water, cement, and sometimes sand, fine gravel, and color tint. See more sanded vs unsanded grout.

uses of grout
  • Grout’s primary purpose is to fill the spaces between tiles after they have been placed on a wall or a floor. Grout keeps the tiles intact and prevents them from shifting.
  • Grout can also be used to protect the edges of tiles from chipping.

Note: Even though grout is quite versatile and can be used in different materials, it should only be used on joints that are on the same plane. This is because they do not possess the waterproof properties to enable it to be used on planes that form 90 degrees.

Similarities between caulk and grout

Both caulk and grout are sealants.

Both sealer cracks; Grout solid joint is prone to cracks due to its rigidity, unlike caulk that tends to shrink and contact. Caulk also do shrink over time and pull away from one material, consider removing and replacing it when the joint gets damaged.

Differences between Caulk and Grout

Waterproof; best for windows, bathtubs and shower joint.Porous, thus not good for areas that need waterproofing.
Used in joints on intersecting different planes, at an angle of 90 degreeUsed for joints in the same plane and materials.
Strong enough to stick on the tile surface, carefully apply on corners.Wont stick on the tile surface but good for tiles crevices.
Waterproof corners prone to mold and mildew growth, prevent cracking along different planes and materials.Prevent tiles chipping and cracking along the same planes and materials.
Flexible to adhere to two different materials like glass and tiles surfacesFills voids and keep out debris in between tiles.
Applied with a caulking gun to avoid a sticky mess on tiles.Applied through scraping over tiles and jamming it in space and wiping off the excess with wet sponge.
Available in silicone,latex or a blend of the two.Available as cement-based and epoxy-based.
  • Grout is mainly applied using floats. The excess is then wiped using a sponge. Because of its inflexibility and waterproof qualities, it cannot be used on a plane that is 90 degrees to another. On the other hand, caulk can be applied to planes of different types of materials that are 90 degrees to each other. It is also quite flexible and can be used to seal the joints to prevent water leakage.
  • Grout is available in different forms like the cement-based and epoxy-based. The cement-based one is the most common as it is the cheapest one. The epoxy-based has resins that give it its waterproof and flexibility qualities. However, it is expensive. Caulk is available in silicone, latex, and even a blend of both. It also consists of different polymers.
  • Caulk is waterproof; that’s why it is applied on surfaces that have joints perpendicular to each other to prevent leakage of water. On the other hand, grout, which is cement-based, is not waterproof.
  • Grout is very strong and hardens quickly; that is why it is mainly used in large projects while the caulk is less strong. It is flexible; that’s why they are not used in large projects.
  • Grout is the best choice for use in wet areas like tiles bathroom walls and shower floors. It binds with concrete backing used behind tiles forming water-impervious bonds that prevent moisture saturation thereby inhibiting mold and mildew growth. Caulk on the other hand I great choice for filling joints tiles and other angled seams in your house.

Can I use Caulk instead of Grout?

It depends on where you would want to use the caulk instead of grout. But it is not advised to use them interchangeably.  This is because they have different properties. Specific scenarios would warrant the need for caulk instead of grout. Such scenarios include;

  • Change of plane – for example, where the shower wall meets the floor, the best product to use would be the waterproof silicone caulk. This is because grout is more likely to crack due to settling.
  • You can use caulk in the shower because grout is porous, and the possibility that it would develop stains and mildew is very high. With caulk, you can wipe it with a damp rag, and it will appear good as new.  

Is grout better than caulk?

There is no definite answer to this question. Just as mentioned earlier, it depends on where you want to use either of the products. There are some places where grout is better than caulk and vice versa.

For example, it would not be ideal to use caulk on large floor projects as they are not stronger than grout. The simplest answer to this question is, “it depends on the project.”

Is there a Caulk that looks like Grout?

Yes, there is a caulk that looks like grout. They are referred to as “sanded caulk.” They are, however, not supposed to replace the grout.  You can only use sanded caulk in areas where grout may crack because it is not flexible but also if you need something that looks like grout.

Where can I use Caulk instead of Grout?

It’s good to mention there are distinct uses of caulk and grout, although they are used together. Grout helps to keep the tiles in place and prevent movement, but not flexible as caulk.

Caulk is waterproof and flexible and best used in areas around windows, showers, and bathtubs or where the tub meets the tiles or glass. The truth is you will need both caulk and grout for your kitchen sink area, and bathroom/shower projects, but they can not be used interchangeably.

  • You can use caulk, where the shower walls meet with the floor as it is more flexible than grout.
  • You could also use caulk to seal seams between walls/fixtures and tiles – this is because caulk has waterproof properties that could prevent water leakage.

Should I Caulk before or after Sealing Grout?

Caulk is a great sealer around edges and more so in areas where there will be leakage or prone to constant dampness. Grout has its own aesthetic values. The colored grouts are often used for decorative purposes, thus putting caulk over the grout will be an obstacle.

In addition, grout is used between tiles to hold them in place, but also in bathrooms/ showers since it dries fast. Once it dries, it hardens and remains non-flexible to prevents tile slippage or water from getting behind the tiles.

Trapped water moisture is a leading cause of mold and mildew, thus caulking over grout lines can increase mold risk. However, if your grout doesn’t crack, you may opt not to caulk. In the case of the grout cracks, it is recommended you caulk after grouting. This is because it will make it stick and create a better seal. It would also be easy to clean as it is easier to clean the caulk than the grout.

Here is a video on how to fix cracked grout tile with sanded caulk.

Fixing Cracked Tile Grout with Sanded Caulk

Both products are good, and you would want to use them repeatedly in your re-modeling and repair projects. However, do not forget only to use grout to fill grout joints (except for a change in plane angles). On the other hand, caulk can be used anywhere you need to seal a seam between two materials.

Here a tips on how to apply caulk

How to caulk corners in a shower

Can i use caulk instead of grout

The answer is no, caulk and grout has distinct uses, but are used together in kitchen ad bathroom projects but not interchangeably.

Is it better to caulk or grout around the tub?

You should use caulk since you are joining two different materials. Caulk is a flexible sealant that will allow movement of the tub unlike grout. However, some contractors grout the tub and the tiles joints, if it cracks, remove the grout before caulking thejoint.

Should i remove grout before caulking?

Yes, you need to remove excess grout before caulking. In case you decide to remove the old grout and replace it with caulk, ensure you first get rid of all old grout off your tiles. Incase the contactor applied grout on bath and tile joints, remove the old grout after cracking and replace it with caulk.

Do i grout or caulk first?

You should always grout before caulking, However, in it depends on the area you have grouted. Apply caulk help to seal your grout making it easy to clean and inhibits mold and mildew growth.

How long after sealing grout can you caulk?

Grout dries up fast, however, allow it at least 24 hours to completely cure before caulking.

Photo of author


Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

Leave a Comment