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Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout Best Option for your Tiles

Tile grout works in the same way as a mortar that holds the tiles together. But it can also curtail the level of humidity and helps maintain a certain distance between the tiles. 

Although there is a wide range of grouts available for sale. But they’re grouped into one of the two common types, namely; sanded or unsanded. So the most suitable choice for your tile is dependent on the type of tiles being installed and the joint size between them.

What Is A Sanded Grout?

This type of grout comprises fine sand particles that are held together. The particles of the sand get suspended as it boosts their stability, cures, reduces shrinkage, and enhanced resistance to cracking.

Pros of Sanded Grout:

  • Slightly more color choices
  • Low cost
  • Denser joints

Cons of Sanded Grout:

  • The sanded floor must be sealed with a penetrating sealer that is pH-neutral or water-based.
  • Can scratch surfaces
  • Challenging to force into thin seams

What Is An UnSanded Grout?

On the other hand, Unsanded grout contains no sand. It’s generally more expensive than sanded grout and is perfect for delicate surfaces with thin grout lines. Unlike sanded grouts, Unsanded grout doesn’t need sealing.

Pros of Unsanded Grout

  • Preserves sensitive tile surfaces
  • Grout sealing is not needed in some applications.
  • Less slump on vertical surfaces

Cons of Unsanded Grout

  • Fewer color choices than sanded grout
  • Slumps when applied to wide seams
  • Costlier than sanded grout

The Differences Between Sanded Grout And Unsanded Grouts

The paragraphs below would provide the major differences between the Sanded Grout and the Unsanded Grout.

Sanded Grout Can Damage Smooth Tiles

An essential thing to consider when choosing between sanded and unsanded grout is the tile material you’re using. The harsh constituents (aggregate materials) present in the sanded grout can damage soft materials such as limestone, granite, marble, and other delicate stones.

The sanded grout can act in the same way as sandpaper. The materials that make up the sand are most times much harder than soft stones. Avoid spreading the sanded grout over the soft tiles because it can cause damage, mainly if it is on soft limestone and marble. This plays a major role when choosing between sanded or unsanded grout.

Unsanded grout is considered the best option for smooth and polished tiles such as marble, even if the joint breadth is 1/8 or larger. Typically, most contractors prefer an epoxy-based unsanded grout in these situations – not a traditional sanded or unsanded grout. 

Both types of grout can be gotten in an epoxy-based form. Furthermore, they’re closely similar to their portland cement-based relatives. 

Nevertheless, instead of using the reaction between water and cement, these grouting alternatives make use of an advanced chemical substance that consists of a base and an activator. Once the activator is added to the base, then the grout starts to cure in an irreversible chemical reaction that leads to a firm hold.

Unsanded Grout Offers A Better Hold On Vertical Surfaces.

It’s most likely you used an unsanded grout if you have previously installed a shower. Unsanded grout is very sticky, as no other sand or aggregate materials are added. It can easily be spread on a vertical surface, plus it will stick there without any hassles even as you work on forcing it to grout lines.

And while unsanded grout will shrink, it is not a significant problem on a vertical surface. The tiles are usually relatively close to each other, ranging between 1/8 inch and 1/16 inch. This means that the shrinkage that occurs after the grout dries and hardens does not affect the durability of the tile.

The thickness and durability 

Sanded grout is a standard grouting material mixed up with aggregate sand material. These aggregate materials that are added make sanded grout much more long-lasting than unsanded grout due to its shrinkage.

Furthermore, there is an occurrence of shrinkage and pulling away from tiles when cement-based, unsanded grout dries.The addition of sand to the grout ensures that the material doesn’t shrink as much as it will typically happen.

 This happens because the ratio of aggregate material is higher than the cement. To cut a long story short, in terms of durability, sanded grout always comes top in the contest against unsanded grout.

Also, when the grout hardens, the sand locks in place and will not move. Even when the grout is completely dry, the Sand remains locked in place. This ensures proper adhesion of the tiles, which must be placed more than 1/8 inch apart, and for tiles that will most likely have heavy traffic on them. For example, tiles in the bathroom.

The sanded grout also resists cracking, which makes it more durable. On the other hand, Unsanded grout can be prone to severe cracking when pressed, making it unsuitable for most floors. Sanded grout is the best choice for most interior floor installations. And here is why

  • it is more durable than unsanded grout
  • It can handle heavy movement, 
  • it’s usable for larger tile joints. 

The Use For Joints Smaller Than 1/8 Of An Inch

You will face many challenges if you try to use sanded grout to design tiles using joints that are not equal to or bigger than 1/8 inch. It is not a good idea to use sanded grout for precision joints that are smaller than 1/8 inch. For precise work, unsanded grout is always a better alternative.

First, it is more challenging to work with sanded grout in tight spaces. The material (aggregate sand) used to create it can not only be quite heavy but will prevent you from squeezing it into small joints. This makes it unsuitable for precision work. The sanded grout is long-lasting, but that won’t count if you can’t even insert it properly between your tile applications.

Pinhole is another huge problem with sanded grout that causes small joints. The use of sanded grout for small joints may require contractors to use more water in the base. This makes spraying the grout easier. However, excess water can cause pinholes.

Can You Mix Sanded And Unsanded Grout Together?

Sanded and unsanded grout can be mixed to make your grouting project much more long-lasting. For unsanded grout, pour a little sand to it and mix to boost its strength and durability. Since it will now have a high ratio of aggregate material, shrinkage will be minimized in the grout when it cures.

Additionally, it’s not recommended for mixing various colors of unsanded and sanded. Here is why; you will end up messing up the colors of the walls of your shower and floors when the grout dries up, and the tiling settles in. You should mix similar colors if your sanded grout finishes when you are doing your bathroom renovation work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will sand grout scratch ceramic tile?

While the roughness of the sanded grout can make cleaning a little more tedious, the sand itself should not scratch most types of ceramic or glass tiles. But, if you have tiles with a high gloss finish, you should test a small amount of dry grout on-site on a loose tile before the grouting and installation process takes place.

Is mortar different from grout?

Grout and mortar are different. The former can be used for filling the gaps between tiles, while the latter is the adhesive that holds tiles to the floors or walls. 

Can you use grout instead of mortar?

No, don’t use it. Grout can never be used to replace mortar, no matter the content level of water.

Is sanded grout better than Unsanded?

Yes it is. Sanded grout is considered the better option for most indoor flooring installations because it is more durable than unsanded grout. Hence you can expect such grout to handle high traffic. Besides, it is also ideal for larger tile joints.

Is grout waterproof in showers?

The cement board and the backer board provide dimensional stability only in wet areas. That is to say; they will not swell after consistently being exposed to moisture in your shower. Also, tiles and grouts are not waterproof. 

Final words

The sanded grout should be your standard choice for general-purpose tiles such as floors and walls. This type of grout is widely used, has the broadest range of mixed colors, and minimizes grout shrinkage. 

Think of sanded grout as the basic grout for everything, except for a few variations that require unsanded grout. But you must avoid using an unsanded grout as a general-purpose grout because it can be detrimental for all applications. This because it does not hold up as well structurally as sanded grout.

Meanwhile, you can make use of either sanded or sanded grout for vertical tiles such as bathroom or shower walls. Unsanded grout makes a better work material. It adheres better to vertical surfaces with less than the slump connected to the sanded grout. Sealing is not necessary due to polymer content in the unsanded grout and its extremely low porosity.