The Differences Between Sanded Vs Unsanded Grout | Know The Best For Your Project

For any DIY-enthusiast undertaking a tiling project, the question will be whether to use sanded or unsanded grout. 

Of course, you might have learned that there are two types of grout as you make an order for your projects. 

And, although both sanded and unsanded grout work to fill spaces between two tiles to enhance tilework’s structural integrity, their constitution, use, and suitability differ.

Sanded grout contains silica sand particles that get suspended as it cures for tight locks between tiles. They are best for wider horizontal joints of more than 1/8 inches and must be sealed after application. Unsanded grout has no sand and is suitable for joints less than 1/8 inches. Due to their thin and sticky nature, they are best for delicate and vertical joints. 

But, these are not the only differences between sanded and unsanded grout. 

Read through this article to get the details of each and understand one that is perfect for your project.

Sanded VS Unsanded Grout

Uses

Recommended Uses Of Sanded 

As the name suggests, sanded grout constitute fine sand particles that increase their thickness and strength. They are the default option for general tiling projects like walls and flooring. 

Sanded grouts are widely available in a range of colors to complement different tile shades. Due to its composition, it resists shrinkage; thus, durable. Sanded are best for:

1. Flooring Application: Generally, sanded are the best for horizontal and interior surfaces such as bathroom floors. Its sand constitution makes it strong and stable; thus, it can withstand foot traffic pressure.

2. Thick Joints: sanded form tight and strong bonds between tiles with less shrinkage. Thus, they are ideal for thicker joints of more than 1/8 inches.  If you force this grout on thin joints, it can easily crack due to a messy and inaccurate finish. 

N/B: Do not try to add more water on sanded grout for better consistency, as this could result in pinholing. It compromises the integrity of the whole structure.

Recommended Uses Of Unsanded 

Though the sanded grout is universally recommended for joints, there are some special instances where unsanded does great. 

Unsanded grout is made of polymer with extremely low porosity, giving it a smooth texture with no sealing required after application. 

You will pay more for unsanded grout, but they will work great in the following scenarios:

1. Narrow Joint: Naturally, unsanded grout is thinner than sanded, making it easier to apply in narrow joints. Use it when joining tiles that are less than 1/8 inches apart. 

2. Vertical Applications: Since the unsanded does not have sand particles, it tends to be smooth and sticky. Thus, it stays in places on vertical installations with less of a slump. As a result, the unsanded grout is best for shower and bathroom walls. 

And even though they are not as durable as sanded grout, they can hold up long enough as walls are not subjected to the pressure of foot traffic. 

Scratchable Surfaces: Polished tiles such as marble and limestone are easily scratchable, and using sanded will make matters worse. In such a case, unsanded grout will be the best since it is soft and smooth, thus, less abrasive on scratchable surfaces.  

For wider and scratchable surfaces, consider epoxy-based unsanded grout as they bond larger joints better with exceptional durability.

Table Showing Best Use Of Sanded And Unsanded Grout

UseSanded Grout Unsanded Grout 
Bathroom and shower wallsPoorBest 
Bathroom and kitchen tile flooring BestBest 
Shower panBest Best 
Rectified tiles Poor Best 
Hones or polished stonePoor Best 

Thickness

Sanded grout is thicker and more durable due to aggregate sand constitution. Conversely, unsanded is made of polymer that makes it thin and smooth.

As a result, sanded grout works best for wider joints for tight lock between tiles, while unsanded grout is easy to apply for narrow joints. 

After applying sanded grout, you will need to seal to avoid any water from penetrating through, which compromises the structure’s integrity. 

Installation Methods

You can apply both sanded and unsanded grout through DIY. However, the sanded is DIY-friendly as it is used on the unscratchable surface, thus no much concern. If you want to learn grouting skills, start with sanded and slowly to unsanded once you become a pro. Experience is key when applying unsanded, one since you are dealing with narrower spaces, and secondly, the application areas are mostly scratchable. 

Durability

Sanded is more durable than unsanded grout. The sand in sanded grout cures with time to form robust joints which do not shrink. The surface can withstand foot traffic, making sanded the best for flooring applications. 

Unsanded, on the other hand, easily give in when subjected to foot pressure. They can crack or shrink as well, making them best for the wall with no foot traffic. 

Cost

If you are on a budget, then sanded grout will be the best option. Sand particles used on sanded are far much cheaper than polymers used on unsanded grout. 

In fact, if you go for unsanded, you will end up spending twice the amount you would have spent on sanded grout. Nonetheless, if working on vertical surfaces with narrower paces, it will be worth investing in unsanded grout. 

Pros And Cons 

Pros Of Sanded Grout 

1. Available in many color options

2. Cheaper than unsanded grout

3. Form stronger bonds in joints with gaps of more than 1/8 inches

4. Less prone to shrinking and cracking

Cons Of Sanded Grout

1. In large gaps, it can leave pinholes

2. Not good for scratchable surfaces

3. Require sealing after application 

4. Not recommended for joint with less than a 1/8-inch gap

Pros Of Unsanded Grout

1. Best for vertical surfaces as it forms string bonds

2. Work best even on scratchable surfaces

3. Smoother

4. Easy to apply on small joints of less than 1/8-inches wide

Cons Of Unsanded Grout 

1. It does not bond well in wider joints of more than 1/8-inch 

2. Fewer color options

3. Cost more than sanded grout 

Summary Table: Difference Of Sanded VS Unsanded 

Sanded Grout Unsanded Grout 
Basic composition Sand, cement, color shade Cement, polymer, color shade
UseFilling joints between tiles, especially on horizontal surfacesFilling joints between tiles, especially on vertical surfaces
Suitability Joint wider spaces of more than 1/8-inch Joint smaller spaces of less than 1/8-inch
Shrinkage The presence of sand makes sanded less prone to shrinkage Shrink and crack if used on wider joints of more than 1/8-inch 
DIY skill levelFriendly as the surfaces dealt with are unscratchable Fair though can be challenging when working on scratchable surfaces 
Final color More or less similar to the color chartLighter than the color chart 
PriceCheaper than unsanded: Less than $4 per poundMore costly: Can cost up to $7 per pound 
Sealing Must be sealed after application with a water-based sealant No sealing is required after application 
Incorrect application results inClogging if applied on smaller joints less than 1/8-inch. It will not get to the joint, resulting in cracks Shrinkage and cracks if used on wider surfaces as there is no sand to hold the grout together 

Similarities Of Sanded And Unsanded Grout

Both sanded and unsanded grout share the following features

1. It needs about 24 hours to dry

2. Though sanded has many color options, both have blue, green, gray, brown, and beige shades.

3. The mixing ratio is 5kg of grout with 1.1- 1.3 liters of water 

4. Both are used to fill joints between two tiles to prevent water damage 

Is Sanded Or Unsanded Grout Easier To Clean?

Sanded grout is easier to clean than unsanded grout. In sanded grout, you remove the stains as you would do from clothes.  Apply the alkaline cleaner, use a cloth to wipe, and rinse properly. 

However, unsanded can be tricky as it does not absorb water and doesn’t absorb cleaners. You can try using acidic cleaners, which makes it better, but the solution is to re-grout. Re-grouting is easier for unsanded joints than the sanded ones. 

Can Sanded And Unsanded Grout Be Mixed?

Sanded and unsanded grout can be mixed. There are some instances when you will need to use unsanded grout on slightly wider vertical surfaces. But, this could expose you to the risk of shrinkage and cracks. You need to add some sand particles to unsanded grout by mixing with sanded grout to avoid such. This way, you improve its thickness and enhance durability. 

How Long Should I Leave The Grout Before Wiping It?

After applying grout, the floor would be muddy due to excess of it. Wait for 15-30 minutes before wiping the excess grout by using a sponge soaked in water. Now, wait for about 3 hours before wiping completely any excess grout outside the grout line. Keep rinsing the sponge to ensure the wiped-out area is sparkling. 

Final Thought

When laying tiles on the floor or a wall, you will need a bonding agent such as grout. Whether to use sanded or unsanded, the answer lies entirely on the kind of project at hand. As guidance, any joint wider than 1/8 inch sanded is the best option, and for those smaller joints, unsanded is the ideal choice. Nonetheless, for walls, the unsanded is best, while for floors, opt for sanded grout.  Otherwise, always mix the grout in the right proportion and give it enough time to dry regardless of which one you are using. 

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