Sanded Vs. Unsanded Grout: What’s Best For Showers?

You’ve noticed your shower is a blast from the past and it is time to rejuvenate your bathroom a bit. While you are redoing your shower, you notice that there are two predominant types of grout: sanded and unsanded grout. What would be the best for your project?

The best grout for showers is unsanded grout due to its vertical practicality and waterproofing features. You should not use sanded grout on shower walls, however, you can use both anywhere else throughout your bathroom.

We will break down what specifically sanded grout and unsanded grout is, and break down each type of grout so you know which grout is best for your home projects. Then, we will talk about the top-rated grout to buy and some tips on how you can move forward with your home project.

What Is The Difference?

Sanded Grout:

In a technical aspect, sanded grout contains small particles of silica sand, pigments, and water mixed to reinforce the structure of the grout, therefore making it more durable. To the touch, sanded grout is a lot more course and rough due to the different kinds of minerals it consists of.

Sanded grout is usually epoxy-based or cement-based. With epoxy grout, there is a mixture of resin and hardener mixed along with the ingredients, making it tougher in environments with more toxic chemicals. Cement-based grout just comes with the cement and the typical ingredients. Source

Unsanded Grout:

Unsanded grout is more of a simple mixture with powdered pigments, cement, and water. Polymers are also mixed into the grout, which is the reason why unsanded grout can be a bit pricey. Unsanded grout is more smooth and thin to the touch due to the absence of sand grains within the grout and the materials.

There is no cement-based unsanded grout, but there is an epoxy-based sanded grout that contains resins and hardener for the chemical. The chemicals in unsanded grout are built against scratchable surfaces. Source

Pros And Cons Of Sanded Grout

Pros of Sanded Grout:

  • Sanded grout has a much lower cost compared to unsanded grout. Source The price of the sanded grout is $0.50- $4.00 per pound, where the unsanded grouts price is $1.99-$6.99 per pound. Source
  • Sanded grouts have denser joints than unsanded grout. Since sanded grout bonds better and offer less shrinkage than unsanded options, it’s ideal for any tile with joints ⅛”- to ½”- thick. Source
  • Sanded grout has more of a wide range of color choices. Source
  • Sanded grout was optimized for floors, so it is very durable and built to withstand heavy surfaces. Source
  • Sanded grout is ideal for horizontal surfaces. Source
  • Sanded grout is a lot thicker than unsanded grout, which makes it last a lot longer. The sand attracts the other chemicals more, making it more durable. Source

Cons of Sanded Grout:

  • Sanded grout can scratch surfaces more than unsanded grout, including other tiles and parts of your flooring or home space. Source
  • Because sanded grouts have denser joints, it is more difficult to force the grout into thin seams. Source
  • Must be sealed with a pH-neutral, water-based, penetrating sealer to withstand being in the shower. Source

Pros And Cons Of Unsanded Grout

Pros of Unsanded Grout:

  • Unsanded grout has less of a slump on vertical surfaces. Source
  • Unsanded grout preserves sensitive tile spaces. Source
  • Grout sealing is not required when used in some applications. Source
  • Unsanded grout is more specialized for vertical installations (walls). When placed horizontally, unsanded grout usually cracks under intense pressure. Source

Disadvantages of Unsanded Grout

  • Unsanded grout is more expensive than sanded grout. Source
  • Unsanded grout has less of a color scheme to choose from. Source
  • Unsanded grout slumps when applied to wide seams. Source

Best Grout

Here are the top five specific brands of grout, written by a blog that specializes in quality shower products.

  1. Custom BLDG Products NSG1221-4 Linen Non-Sanded Grout– With a customer rating of 5.0, this type of unsanded grout comes in a bucket of 1.1 pounds and has a cement base which makes it very waterproof. You can find the grout for $20 per unit.
  2. Red Devil 0425 Pre-Mixed Tile Grout Repair Squeeze Tube, 5.5 oz, White- With a customer rating of 4.2, this unsanded grout comes in a tube of 5.5 fluid ounces and has an epoxy base, which is known for being very versatile. You can find it for $7 bucks per unit.
  3. Perma Tile Grout Waterproof Tile Grout- With a customer rating of 4.2, Perma Unsanded Grout comes in a five-pound bucket with a cement base. You can find it for $50 per unit.
  4. Laticrete SpectraLOCK Pro Premium Mini Parts A&B, 2lb (0.9 kg)- With a customer rating of 4.2, this sanded grout comes in two pounds, comes in grey, and also has an epoxy base. You can find this grout for $33 per unit.
  5. Custom PMG165QT 1-Quart Simple Premium Grout- With a rating of 3.6, this premixed sanded grout comes in 32 fluid ounces, and comes in a grey style. You can find the grout for $20 per unit. Source

Tips On Installing Grout:

This is taken directly from a home improvement page on how you can easily install grout on your surfaces.

1. Use Grout Boost or Grout Once

These are liquid products that mix with your grout instead of water so that you don’t also have to seal the grout. Follow the instructions on the package to prepare your grout (usually involves mixing, waiting, and mixing again.)

Then apply the grout as usual. Then you don’t have to spray your grout with a grout sealer afterward.

2. Work in small sections at a time.

This is not the time to apply all of the grout at once and remove the extra after you are done putting in all the grout. You have to apply small sections (4′ x 4′) of the grout. Then go back to remove the excess grout on that same section right away.

Don’t wait too long or the grout will become dry and difficult to remove from the surface of the tile. As you’ll see below, I wiped off the grout with a damp sponge while the other area on the left was drying. It helps to move relatively fast so your grout doesn’t dry too quickly.

3. Check for holes or bubbles in the grout

It’s important to check for air holes or bubbles in the grout. Any spaces between the tile would allow water to penetrate and get behind the tiles. A good way to check for bubbles or holes is to take a flashlight and hold it flat against the wall. Look for any dark spots in the grout. This will signify a hole where grout is missing. If you see a hole, use your finger to patch it with grout and follow the usual drying times to remove the excess grout.

4. Wipe the extra grout with a sponge

Although you wipe off excess grout with a grout float (at a 45-degree angle), you want to lay your sponge flat on the surface of the walls or floor. Keeping your sponge flat helps to clean off extra grout. This is especially true of irregular surfaces like pebble tiles, or smaller tiles where there is more grout per area.

Use a damp sponge to wipe and rinse it often. Change the water in your bucket often.  This will result in less haze on your tiles and a cleaner finish.

5. Caulk in the corners and at the edges with caulk the same color as your grout

Colored caulk can be found at the home improvement store in the tile products aisle. It seals the edges of your shower where the wall meets the floor and blends right into the grout color. See how to use a caulk gun here.” Source

6. Check the absorption of the tile.

Many ceramic wall tiles are highly absorptive and will need additional care. One way to check if your tiles need a bit more help is to pour a few drops of water onto the back of the tile and see how fast it’s absorbed. If the water sinks in the tile in less than 30 seconds, you have a highly absorptive tile and should take extra precautions (through using more grout, taking more time allowing paint/grout to set, etc.). Source

7. Mix toward the high end of the water range

It is best to mix the grout with slightly more water, without going over the instructions listed within the manufacturer’s recommendations. Mixing in a little bit more water within the grout can help the tiles last longer on the material by allowing air to circulate through the adhesive, without wrecking the mix. Source

8. Dampen the tiles before you use adhesive on the surface.

“The use of water is an important part of the entire installation process. Before grouting, use a clean sponge with potable water to dampen the substrate throughout the tile installation. Next, dampen the edges of the tiles with a light water spray bottle.

Finally, be sure to cover the entire installation with breathable kraft paper for 72 hours. This protects the grout from environmental contaminants, plus it helps control the rate of moisture leaving the grout and ensures that it cures to a consistent color.” Source

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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