What is the difference between sanded and unsanded grout?

The main difference between sanded and unsanded grout lies in the durability and bonding of the grout. Sanded grout has a natural bonding quality due to the way in which the sand particles are bound together, naturally forming a tight lock. This makes sanded grout more durable, although it does have to be sealed in most cases.

Unsanded grout on the otherhand does not form such a tight lock and is therefore susceptible to wear over time. Unsanded grout does have its benefits, though. In particular, it works better when you are grouting a small area such as the gaps between tiles and it is also ideal for use on surfaces where scratching would cause a problem; because the absence of sand prevents the grout from damaging the surface to which you are applying the grout.

If you are a DIY enthusiast, you will most likely be doing a home project with tiles but cannot decide what grout you need to pick up. Allow us to hold your hands through this.

What is grout?

Grout is putty that goes between the tiles and fills up the empty spaces between them. Grout is essential to keep the tiles in their place. There are two types of grout and confusion crops when you decide which one to pick.

Grout is putty that goes between the tiles

Why is grout important?

  • The grout holds the tiles together. It acts as a mortar between them.
  • It also keeps the moisture out, thus helping to maintain distance between the tiles.

There are two very important bonding materials used when tile lying is undertaken.

  • Mortar, and
  • Grout

Under the bed or the layer of bonding material used before the tile-laying is the mortar. The mortar is almost invisible once the tile work is complete. More than 90% of the structural stability of the tile is due to the mortar.

Once the mortar dries well and hardens, the grout gets filled in the spaces between the tiles. The grout is nicely filled with the edges of the rubber float. The float scraped diagonally across the tiles helps to fill it in space. All excess grout can be easily cleaned using the clean edge of the float.

Although grout does not improve the installation’s structural stability, it does fill up all spaces, literally sealing them from dust or other debris. Unlike mortar, grout is completely visible. Using various colors of grout can make the tile work look exotic and eye-catching. In a way, grout is essential but nevertheless functional too.

There is a reason why home improvement DIYers get extremely confused, standing in front of the store shelves. There is so much variety that even a seasoned contractor can get confused!

Grout comes in two varieties

  • Sanded grout and
  • Unsanded grout

The right grout for your project will make all the difference in its final appearance and its life. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you think twice and make the right call when you are shopping for grout for your home project. Once you understand the difference between sanded and unsanded grout, picking it up for dealing with a project at hand is going to be a cakewalk for you!

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout has finer particles of sand in it and thus the name. It is one of the most common types of grout because it is pocket-friendly and comes in a wide palette of colors.

Unsanded grout

Unsanded grout, as the name itself suggests, does not contain any sand or other finer particles. Instead, it uses polymers as bonding agents. The putty is extremely smooth in texture and costs high.

Sanded Vs Unsanded Grout

Because we want you to choose a perfect grout for your DIY, we decided to do a comparative analysis. It will help you understand which one between the two types of grouts is good for use.

Sanded grout is bound together well with very fine sand particles. As the grout cures, these sand particles will suspend, making it more stable, more resistant, and less shrinking. It also makes it less prone to cracking.

Sanded grout is easily available at most home improvement stores. You will also find it in stock throughout the year in online stores and various e-commerce websites. It is very popular among people who work around tiles for two main reasons:

  1. It is easy on the pocket.
  2. It comes in different hues.

Unsanded grout, on the other hand, has absolutely no sand added to it. In its place, it has Portland cement, various pigments, and water. If you are looking for something hardier, you may choose epoxy grout with resins and a hardening agent.

Cement-based unsanded grout is usually preferred in residential projects where the work involves using the grout between floor tiles and tiles on the walls. Epoxy grouts are mostly preferred in commercial projects where they will probably have more footfalls and can withstand exposure to harsher materials, for instance, grease, paint, pigments, and acids.

What to use: Sanded or unsanded grout?

It is important to use the right grout for the application that you are handling. Many of us have had no one to tell us what grout works best end up learning the hard way. Thankfully, this article will help you understand the flooring applications and the best grout that you must use.

  • Sanded grout is the most preferred option and the standard choice for interior floors. It is more durable and can withstand reasonable pressure and footfalls.
  • When you have to cover thick joints, always opt for sanded grouts because not only do they bond better, but the shrinkage level is very low. To make it easier to remember, always go for sanded grout when your tile joint is anywhere between one-eighth and half inches thick.
  • Non sanded grout, on the other hand, is best used when you are working around narrower joints that are lesser than one-eighth of an inch. This grout is thin and without any loose particles. Hence, they are ideally very easy to work in narrow places.

Go for unsanded grout in the following places

  • Surfaces that can be easily scratched: Unsanded grout can be used when you are working with tiles that have a smooth and polished finish, for example, when you are using limestone and marble or any other soft surfaces. Sanded grout will likely scratch the surfaces, so you must never use them when working with these mediums.
  • If you have to fill in space bigger than one-eighth of an inch for smoother tiles, prefer to go for epoxy unsanded grout. However, epoxy grouts can give you a hard time filling it in because they are less pliable than the cemented polymer unsanded grout. Also, understand that they are slightly costlier too.
  • When installing tiles on the walls: When installing vertically, unsanded grout is more specifically suited, as it will stay right there. If you have wondered whether you must go in for sanded or unsanded grout for shower walls, then the answer is naturally unsanded grout. Wall tiles such as shower walls and kitchen backsplash do not have to deal with footfalls and other pressures. Unsanded grout is normally used in such places without any issues.

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout based on their location of use

You can use sanded grout on

  • Bathroom floors
  • Kitchen floors
  • Shower floor
  • Foyer and entry doorway

You can use unsanded grout in

  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchen floor and backsplash
  • Repaired walls
  • Shower wall and floor
  • Polished/honed/softer medium

Are you a DIYer that works around wood, plastic, and metal, smoothing and polishing them? Then, you will perhaps want to know more about orbital sanders as well!

There are many types of sanders, but orbital ones have our hearts. The main reason is that it makes work easier by reaching all corners, thanks to its square edges. It is simpler and also less expensive than other sanders. You will need a sandpaper sheet of about ideally 9×11 in size. You can buy ready cut sheets from your local hardware store, or you can reuse the old sanding sheets from your orbital sander if you have one.

If you were to ask why we are all for orbital sanders, then it’s because we like its versatility. It is also easy to get started with them with regular-sized sandpaper. They are allusively aggressive, and they do not leave marks while sanding. There aren’t many things to not like about them. They are best for light sanding on surfaces.

Are you preparing a surface to paint or to seal? Grab an orbital sander, and you are great to go!

Cash-strapped! No problem, there are plenty of orbital sanders under $100 and some substantially below that price point. Don’t wait too long to get your dream power tool. Sometimes, the inspiration for great DIY comes from the right type of tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do interior decorators opt for sanded grout for tile joints that are between ⅛”- to ½” thick?

Contractors and interior decorators worldwide use sanded grout for tile joints that are between one-eighth and half of an inch because fitting bulkier grout into anything thinner than that means either the project turns out to be messy and ugly. It is quite prone to cracking even if you do with utmost care.

Pin holing is another concern where workers add more water to the sanded grout to fit into tiny spaces. Initially, the idea may seem to work, but as time passes and excess water evaporates, it destabilizes the tile work and looks messy and unpresentable.

  1. I have a joint size that is greater than three-eighth of an inch. What grout should I use?

When you have tile joints that are thicker than 3/8th of an inch, you have to go for a specially created grout called a wide-joint mixture. The wide joint mixture is heavily saturated with sand to give added stability to the structure or holds the tile well.

  1. I want to install tiles in the shower in my bathroom. What type of grout can I use?

If you are redoing your bathroom shower tiles, then the right type of grout will protect the wall from damage from all the splashing of water. It will also keep it looking new for years to come after installation. Whatever grout you choose will depend on the tile joint’s size and the material of tile that you are installing. In most cases, unsanded grout is better in such circumstances. It sticks well and without any slump on vertical surfaces.

  1. What is a tile joint? How long does the grout take to cure?

Tile joint is the space between the two tiles next to each other. Space so formed while laying is where exactly the grout is nicely filled. All grout applications need to cure for at least 48 hours before you can use the area.

  1. Do I need a sealant after I use grout?

When you use sanded grout, it is very important to seal it after installation with a pH-neutral water-based sealer. The sealing prevents water from seeping to the back of the tile and wetting and running down the mortar. Some sanded grouts in the market nowadays boast of being a modified formula and do not need sealing. Unsanded grout does not need sealing because of its high polymer content and low porosity.

  1. Why is unsanded grout costlier than sanded grout?

Unsanded grout is twice as costlier than sanded grout. Sand is cheap, and it forms the majority of sanded grout. Unsanded grout needs more expensive substances such as polymers to form the content, thus, making it a costly proposition for DIYers around the country.


When confused over sanded grout versus unsanded grout, remember the trick to determine the best choice between them lies in only two things. The first is the choice of the tile that you are working with, and the second is the joint size available for filling between the two tiles. Hopefully, with this, you will be able to make an informed choice about what grout to pick when you are at the home improvement store. If you think that someone needs to clear their head on unsanded vs sanded grout, don’t forget to share this with them.

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