Tile Floors

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout for Tile Flooring [Differences, Pros & Cons]

Grout caulks the gap spaces between tiles. It enhances the structural integrity of the tile flooring work and prevents debris from being stuck inside the space between tiles. Mortar and grout are distinct materials used to bond tiles to their substrate. Grout is visible while the mortar is on the lower part of the tile. But what is the difference between sanded and unsanded tile grout?

Sanded grout contains fine sand particles that hold it together. The sand particles get suspended as it cures, increasing its stability, reducing shrinkage, and improving resistance to cracking. Unsanded grout on the other hand has no sand. Its expensive, best used for thin grout lines on delicate surfaces. unsanded grout doesn’t require sealing like sanded grout.

But which is the best grout? We’ve researched and put together this guide to explain the differences, pros, and cons of sanded vs unsanded grout. In your next flooring project, you will have a better knowledge of grouting materials

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout is the cheapest, readily available, and most widely used grout. The sanded grout is held together by fine sand particles that get suspended once the grout cures. These fine particles increase grout stability, reduce shrinkage, and offer better resistance to grout cracking.

Sanded grout is great in resisting cracks and shrinkage and best used for gaps wider than 1/8 inch on the floor. Heavily sanded grout mixture can be used for 3/8 inch or more, check for “wide-joint mixture”. However, it requires sealing after installation.

Pros and Cons of Sanded Grout

Pros of sanded groutCons of sanded grout
Prevents shrinkage and cracking.Difficult to work with small grout lines.
Best for large gaps, larger than 1/8 inch.Require sealing to improve water permeability.
Affordable/ cost friendly.Silica can scratch and ruin the tile surfaces.
Available in variety of colors.Leaves pinholes in grout lines in large gaps.

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout is a type of grout that contains no sand. A non-sanded grout is best used for thin grout lines less than 1/8 inch for delicate tile surfaces like glass tile. The grout is not ideal for large grout lines, 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 tiles such as in the bathroom or showers walls. Sealing the non-sanded grout is not necessary though it is recommended.

Pro and Cons of Unsanded Grout

Pros of unsanded groutCons of unsanded grout
Best for small spaces less than 1/8 inch.Not suitable for wide seams.
Smoother than sanded grout.Expensive than sanded grout.
Works well in scratch-able or sensitive tile surfaces.Have fewer color choices.
Good for vertical installation and clings well to vertical surfaces.Not suitable for wide seams.

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout Differences

If you have a grouting project, selecting the right grout is extremely important for the success of the project. Its good to note both types of cement grout have a number of overlapping uses. However, your tile project will look better if you can mark out the differences between the two and choose the right grout for your needs. Below are some of the differences between sanded vs unsanded grout.

Cost

The sanded grout is extremely cheap since sand is quite cheap and it is one the ingredient of sanded tile grout. Unsanded grout, however, is almost or over twice as expensive as the cement grout counterpart-sanded grout. Unsanded grout requires polymers that are more expensive that must be added to get the final unsanded tile grout

Durability

Sanded grout is durable and more stable to withstand heavy foot traffic pressure. It forms thick joints and bonds better with less shrinkage than unsanded grout.

Sanded grout is good at resisting cracking and shrinkage. Unsanded grout can be prone to severe cracking when pressure is applied to it, this makes it unsuitable for many flooring applications.

Installation methods

While both can be applied by careful DIYs. Sanded grout tends to be more DIY friendly since the tile surface scratches ain’t the main concern. It is an added advantage for DIY’s who aren’t confident but ready to learn more about grouting skills.

Unsanded grout requires more practices and veterans with better skill since it usually recommended for easily scratched tiles like natural stone, travertine, glass, ceramics and certain porcelains.

Areas of Application

Sanded grout is best used for larges joints more than 1/8 inches. There is a special mixture for 3/8 inch gaps or larger. It’s more resistant to grout cracking and shrinkage which makes it the best bet for large gaps.

Unsanded grout is better used in joints that are not more than 1/8-inch-wide. It has a smoother texture and clings well to vertical surfaces. This makes unsanded grout great for use for ceramic wall tiles grouting.

In many cases, the joint space or gap determines the type of grout to use, however, the tile type may also influence the decision. For highly polished, easily scratched tiles such as marble, we recommend unsanded grout to be used. Sanded grout will damage these types of tiles. Besides, the unsanded grout is not the best option for floor tiles since it cracks and may break under high pressure of flooring traffic However, it makes the best choice for walls/ vertical gaps.

Both grout types can be used in the kitchen, bathroom, and shower pan. In general, sanded grout will go with many projects, but unsanded grout works better in shower walls, bathroom walls, rectified, polished and honed stone tiles.

Below are the best application areas for sanded and non-sanded grout for tiles.

Area of installationSanded groutUnsanded grout
Shower panbestbest
Bathroom tiles flooringbestbest
Kitchen tile flooringbestbest
Rectified tilespoorbest
Honed stone tilespoorbest
Polished stone tilespoorbest
Walls (bathroom and shower) tiles  bestpoor

Thickness and Grout widths

First, determine the width of the grout line that requires filling. Thereafter, the width will help determine between sanded vs non-sanded grout. The grout width above1/8 inch, you better use sanded grout because it resists cracks and shrinkage. For grout line width less than 1/8 inch non-sanded grout is the best option for you. Sanded grout doesn’t compact well in thinner grout spaces

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