Sanded or Unsanded Grout? Which One Should You Use?

Different Types of Grout and When to Use Them

Close up of a tiling trowel and bucket of tile adhesive.
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Choosing which type of grout to use depends on the style, tile color, and type of material selected. Grout is used in the joints between floor and wall tiles. The most common types are sanded grout and unsanded grout. It can be water-resistant, but water or other liquids most likely will penetrate the joint and reach the backing. The best thing is to always seal your grout, and it should be done every 2 to 3 years as part of regular maintenance.

When to Use Unsanded Grouts

Unsanded grout is a cement-based grout normally used on smaller tile joints. It is recommended for floor and wall tiling projects with grout joints spacing between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. When unsanded grout is used to fill wider joints, the grout could crack due to the lack of bonding that the sands provide. This grout is designed for use in tile surfaces that are dry when the grout is applied. The water retentive additive allows the grout to stay moist until the cement cures properly. Unsanded grout is easier to work with on vertical surfaces because it is normally in a much more solid state than the sanded grout.

Is sanded grout the right solution?

Sanded grout is generally used for larger joints. Sanded grout types consist of a cement-based mortar that has small sand grains added to it to help it when setting. Adding the sand to the grout provides a stronger grout normally used in joints larger than 1/8-inch. It is an excellent alternative for natural stone, marble tiles, glass, and other heavier tile materials. Depending upon the polish of the stone, the sand in the grout may actually scratch it. If you decide to use sanded grout, make sure you test it in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it will not scratch your existing flooring.

How Epoxy Grout Can Be the Best Solution

Epoxy grout forms an impermeable barrier to liquids and doesn’t require additional sealing of the joint. This grout type prevents the growth of bacteria and limits the amount of cracking. Epoxy grout offers water-resistant properties and is recommended for quarry tile, ceramic, porcelain, and countertops. It is ideal when the tile is exposed to large amounts of water, and it is available in both sanded and unsanded varieties. However, depending on the brand of epoxy, you have only a limited amount of time to get everything grouted before the grout becomes stiff enough to be unworkable.

The only drawback of epoxy grout would be the price as it is fairly expensive compared to other types but can be used in any tile application.

For a longer working time, put the epoxy grout in the freezer to increase the setting time, allowing you to have more time to work with it.

Furan Grout

Furan grout is similar to epoxy, but it is made of polymers of fortified alcohols that are highly chemical-resistant. Furan grout is used to grout brick pavers and quarry tile and it is also recommended in areas exposed to chemicals and grease. The tile surfaces may be smooth, nonskid, or abrasive depending on the intended use for the floor. The tile or brick surfaces must receive a wax coating to protect them from staining prior to the installation of furan. They are used for industrial projects such as laboratories, dairies, and meat-packing plants.

Furan grout is only available in black, and precautions should be made when mixing to avoid breathing the vapors. Special skills are required for proper installation and should be used when temperatures are between 70-80 degrees.

Grout Installation Cost

Cost depends on the level of expertise of the contractor and the area on which the tile grout will be installed. As an average, it is safe to say that the cost can range between $2.71 to $4.50 per square foot.