And Finally – Sanded vs Unsanded Grout Explained

Hi there! Are you ready for another dose of DIY wisdom, this time on the issue of sanded vs unsanded grout?

Today I’m going to talk about an extremely important step of every grouting and tilling project.

In fact, this is something that people have been asking me for a while, forcing me to finally take some time and write down everything I know about this “problem”. I want to talk about the important difference between getting sanded or unsanded grout for shower walls. I will also talk about all those situations in which we should use one or another mixture of this specific tile plaster.

Sanded vs Unsanded Grout

Photo: Roe A. Osborn and Charles Bickford

Two Basic Types – Sanded And Unsanded Grout

I’m also aware that most people think these two types are almost identical and that they can be used on all tiles no matter what. This is a huge mistake.

Not only that the ignorance on this issue can lead to a big failure, but this failure can be an extremely expensive as well.

I will just say that I personally know people who were forced to regrout their bathrooms or kitchens all over again only a couple months after they finished with their work.small bag of sanded grout for joints

I think I don‘t have to tell how this frustrating and expensive can be if you go for a sanded option and it doesn’t work out well. This is definitely the scenario that must be avoided at any cost.

So, my advice here is that everyone should learn a bit about this difference before he or she start with grouting.

As some of you already know, tile plaster or mortar is almost equally important as the glue in tiling installation. When this special material is properly inserted between tile lines, it not only keeps ceramics steady and fixed to our floors and walls, but it also protects them from the moisture and all kinds of dirt.

And it looks much prettier with it.

The biggest problem for most people is that they cannot decide which type is the best for their job. It can be really frustrating, simply because there are just too many brands out there.

Did you know that there are more than 100 sanded grout colors and subtypes of this product?

You should be a real expert to know what makes them special and understand which type would be the most appropriate. Fortunately, our choice is not as complex as it might look in the begging.


Simply because all these subtypes can be subsumed under two main types: those that come with sand and those that are sand free! Pretty cool, ha? Let’s take epoxy and cement based plasters for example. As I explained earlier, epoxy grout is made of hardener and resin. On the other hand, cement based type is a mixture made of water, specialized pigments and good old Portland cement.

pack of non-sanded grout for tilesAnd guess what: both these products can be made of send or can be sand free. So, the main question is this:

In which situations we should use one of these two types? Do you know the answer?

Well, there are several rules when it comes to the usage of different types of tile grouts.

Which Type of Tiles You Want to Use

The first and probably the most important is the type of tiles you are planning to use. It is just not the same if you want to install glazed or unglazed tiles all over your home.

In the first case (glazed ceramics), it is recommended to use unsanded grout.

The reason is pretty much obvious. We just have to protect our highly polished, luxury tiles from “destructive” power of sharp sand grains.

Yes, this material should be definitely avoided if you want to preserve the original look.

Walls or Floors

Although there are no strict rules in this situation, I advise you to use only sanded grout for floor tiling. It is known that sand free products are less immune to cracks, making them not so reliable for floor jobs.

Also, these products are “weaker” compared to their granular relatives.

So, my advice is this:

Use sand rich plaster for floors and the other one for walls.

The same is with the question should I use sanded or unsanded grout for backsplash, shower wall or even subway tiles.

If you do not have experience with this just read product’s specification and everything will be OK.

Size of joints

This is probably crucial aspect for most experts when it comes to different types of tile putties.

And I think they right.

Here is one rule that you should remember right away: wider joints should be filled with sanded products. This material is ideal because it fills huge gaps between tiles perfectly, making them stable and fixed all the time.

Moreover, this type of plaster is ticker and doesn’t crack easily, which is extremely important for a wider joints.

On the other hand, narrow lines (those that are less than 8/1 wide) should be filled with smooth materials. And non-sand adhesives are ideal for this purpose.

Of course, this rule should be taken with a grain of salt. As I said earlier, there are other things that must be taken into consideration here. Joint size is just one of these things, not the only one.

As you can see, choosing the right plaster is something that has to be considered very seriously if we want to do the our job properly. Wrong choices will lead to failure sooner or later, that is for sure.

General Characteristics

  • Unsanded is very easy to work with, dries very fast and has nice structure. It is ideal for wall tiles, and should be used for polished and glazed ceramics, including several stone types (limestone, marble and granite). Because of absence of sand, this product is known for color fading, which is why you should pick darker one from a tone cart. This product is also prone to shrinking, and cracking. It should be used for narrower joints.

  • Sanded grouts are perfect for floor tiles and those with wider joints. This product is resistant to shrinking and cracking, making it ideal for extreme conditions, including outdoor use. It dries slower, but lasts longer. Its colors are long-lasting. Not recommended for polished ceramics.

So, before you go to the store and start your tiling adventure, make sure that you understand everything  about sanded vs unsanded caulk. And if you still have doubts or think that grouting is out of your league, you can avoid all unpleasant situations by calling professionals to help you.

And remember, even when you choose the winner in this grout battle, tilling is not finished until grout application is over. And then comes to question of choosing the proper grout sealer and completing everything by the book.






1 comment

  1. Betty

    I have sanded grout in my 3-month-old shower and sand accumulates on the shower floor after cleaning. This is annoyingly unattractive. How long does it take for the sand to settle down?

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