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Let’s delve into the world of grout, an essential material that serves as the adhesive bridge between tiles and their substrate.

Grout, a critical element in tile installations, occupies the spaces between tiles, meticulously cleaned with the edge of a float.

Beyond its aesthetic role, grout enhances structural integrity, effectively sealing gaps to prevent debris infiltration, making it both a functional necessity and a design element.

When embarking on the journey of selecting grout, you’re faced with a pivotal choice: sanded or unsanded grout.

These two varieties share some common applications but understanding their distinctions is paramount to elevate the quality of your tile project.

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

Sanded Grout

Renowned for its durability and stability, sanded grout finds its niche in interior flooring applications.

It excels in environments where resilience is paramount, capable of withstanding substantial pressure without yielding.

This variant of grout incorporates fine sand particles, ensuring a secure bond while preventing any shifts within the joints.

Following installation, sealing sanded grout is essential to fortify it against moisture penetration.

Notably, sanded grout presents a cost-effective solution for your tiling needs.

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout comes to the forefront when dealing with thin grout lines, typically ranging from 1/8-inch down to 1/16-inch.

Unlike its sanded counterpart, it omits the inclusion of sand and excels in delicate tile surface applications, such as ceramics, glass, metal, marble, or natural stone tiles.

Unsanded grout adheres seamlessly to fine surfaces and hairline grout lines, delivering a polished and pristine appearance.

While sealing unsanded grout might not be mandatory in certain scenarios, it is often recommended for added protection.

In-Depth Comparison: Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

Sanded grout lives up to its name, composed of Portland cement-based grout, featuring silica sand, inorganic aggregates, and chemical additives.

Its forte lies in accommodating wider grout lines, as the sand particles interlock to forge a robust joint.

This makes sanded grout the primary choice for a myriad of tiling applications.

Additionally, sanded grout is notably budget-friendly, thanks to the cost-effective nature of sand as a filler compared to the polymers used in unsanded grout.

However, it’s worth noting that unmodified sanded grout, due to its porous composition, requires sealing to avert water infiltration, safeguarding the integrity of the substrate beneath the tiles.


Conversely, unsanded grout, often referred to as non-sanded grout, shines when dealing with very thin grout lines and excels on vertical surfaces, including tiled shower walls.

The absence of silica aggregate filler in unsanded grout renders it compatible with surfaces susceptible to scratching, such as certain ceramics, glass, metal, marble, or natural stone tiles.

Its ease of application and ability to deliver a flawless finish on delicate tiles position it as an invaluable choice for specific projects.

Pros and Cons

Sanded Grout


  • Lower cost
  • Denser joints
  • Slightly more color choices


  • Can scratch surfaces
  • Difficult to force into thin seams
  • Must be sealed with a pH-neutral, water-based, penetrating sealer

Unsanded Grout


  • Less slump on vertical surfaces
  • Preserves sensitive tile surfaces
  • Grout sealing is not required in some applications


  • More expensive than sanded grout
  • Fewer color choices than sanded grout
  • Slumps when applied to wide seams

Recommended Uses

For most tiling applications, sanded grout is the preferred choice. It serves as the default option for general use tiling projects, such as flooring and walls.

The availability of sanded grout is widespread, offering an extensive range of color options while minimizing grout shrinkage.

Consider sanded grout as the go-to option for nearly all tiling projects, with only a few exceptions necessitating unsanded grout.

It’s important to note that using unsanded grout universally for all applications may prove detrimental due to its inferior structural strength compared to sanded grout.


While both sanded and unsanded grout can be used for vertical tiles like those found in bathroom or shower walls, unsanded grout exhibits superior workability in this context.

It adheres more effectively to vertical surfaces, minimizing the tendency to slump, which can be problematic with sanded grout.

Additionally, the polymer content and low porosity of unsanded grout often eliminate the need for sealing.

Grout Widths

When it comes to grout width, sanded grout is the ideal choice for grout lines ranging from 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch.

Grout lines exceeding 1/2-inch become impractical, prone to cracking and instability. Unsanded grout can also be used for 1/8-inch lines.

However, it is generally recommended to opt for sanded grout between the two due to its superior performance in this range.


For grout lines as narrow as 1/8-inch down to 1/16-inch, unsanded grout emerges as the most suitable option.

The reason for selecting unsanded grout in such scenarios is that sanded grout fails to adequately compact into thinner grout lines.

Using unsanded grout for lines measuring 1/8-inch or more will result in slumping, cracking, and subpar fill.

Tile Surface Recommendations

Sanded grout is employed on tile surfaces where potential scratching from the sand content within the grout poses no concern.

This quality proves advantageous for do-it-yourselfers who may require regrouting at some point and prefer a more forgiving option.

In contrast, unsanded grout is typically recommended for tile surfaces susceptible to scratching, including natural stone, glass, and specific porcelains and ceramics.

The abrasive nature of the sand content in sanded tile grout may pose a threat to these delicate surfaces.


Cost-conscious projects favor sanded grout, as it is significantly more economical than unsanded grout, which commands a price tag over twice as high.

The cost discrepancy arises from the need to incorporate more expensive polymers in unsanded grout, driving up production costs.

Last words

In conclusion, discerning the differences between sanded and unsanded grout is instrumental when embarking on a tiling endeavor.

Your choice should align meticulously with the unique demands of your project, ensuring not only its longevity but also the aesthetic allure of your tiled surfaces.


Is unsanded grout easier or harder to clean than sanded grout?

Sanded grout presents a coarser texture that can make cleaning more challenging.

Its porous nature allows it to accumulate grime and dirt.

However, effective cleaning can be achieved with the use of brushes, cleaning solutions, and persistence.

Is it acceptable to use sanded grout in a shower?

While sanded or unsanded grout can both be used for vertical tiles like those in bathroom or shower walls, unsanded grout exhibits superior adhesion to vertical surfaces and is less prone to slumping compared to sanded grout.

Additionally, if the tile spacing is minimal, unsanded grout is often the preferred choice.

However, for gaps exceeding 1/8-inch between tiles, sanded grout may be more suitable.

What is the difference in curing times between sanded and unsanded grouts?

The drying time for both sanded and unsanded grout is typically similar, typically taking about 72 hours.

However, it is advisable to wait longer, around seven days, before subjecting the grout to moisture, ensuring it has fully cured.


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