Last Updated on July 30, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas
Sanded grout contains sand particles, suitable for wider grout lines (1/8″ or more) like floor tiles, providing strength but not ideal for delicate surfaces. Unsanded grout lacks sand, used for narrow grout lines (less than 1/8″), such as walls or delicate tiles, preventing potential scratches and offering a smooth finish.
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Sanded VS Unsanded Grout
Recommended Uses Of Sanded
As the name suggests, sanded grout constitutes 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 is best for:
1. Flooring Application: Generally, sanded is 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 to sanded grout for better consistency, as this could result in pin-holing. 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:
- 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.
- 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
|Use||Sanded Grout||Unsanded Grout|
|Bathroom and shower walls||Poor||Best|
|Bathroom and kitchen tile flooring||Best||Best|
|Hones or polished stone||Poor||Best|
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 locks between tiles, while unsanded grout is easy to apply for narrow joints.
After applying sanded grout, you will need to seal it to avoid any water from penetrating through, which compromises the structure’s integrity.
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 not 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 since you are dealing with narrower spaces, and secondly, the application areas are mostly scratchable.
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.
If you are on a budget, then sanded grout will be the best option. Sand particles used on sand 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
- Available in many color options
- Cheaper than unsanded grout
- Form stronger bonds in joints with gaps of more than 1/8 inches
- Less prone to shrinking and cracking
Cons Of Sanded Grout
- In large gaps, it can leave pinholes
- Not good for scratchable surfaces
- Require sealing after application
- Not recommended for joints with less than a 1/8-inch gap
Pros Of Unsanded Grout
- Best for vertical surfaces as it forms strong bonds
- Work best even on scratchable surfaces
- Easy to apply on small joints of less than 1/8 inches wide
Cons Of Unsanded Grout
- It does not bond well in wider joints of more than 1/8-inch
- Fewer color options
- 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|
|Use||Filling joints between tiles, especially on horizontal surfaces||Filling 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 level||Friendly 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 chart||Lighter than the color chart|
|Price||Cheaper than unsanded: Less than $4 per pound||More 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 in||Clogging 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
- It needs about 24 hours to dry
- Though sanded has many color options, both have blue, green, gray, brown, and beige shades.
- The mixing ratio is 5kg of grout with 1.1- 1.3 liters of water
- 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 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 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 it 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.
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.
Emma is a graduate of Domestic Science or Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Economics) from the University of Wisconsin. She has 7 years of experience Working with the strategic section of BestBuy and now writing full-time for Homeeon.
From Managing the Home, Interiors, Cleaning, and Exteriors to Gardening and everything about Making A Home Liveable – is her passion and this Homeeon is the result of this.
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