Sanded vs Unsanded Grout: What’s the Difference?

The shower tiling job is delicate, unlike the joints on the bathroom or the floors, which need different strength levels. So should you use the sanded or unsanded grout for the tiling in the shower?

Flooring experts would have adequate knowledge about the similarities and differences between sanded and unsanded grout. However, some contractors still might not know the difference between these materials.

You should choose the right sanding material for the next shower installation, kitchen renovation, outdoor patio, and other delicate projects. These sanded vs. unsanded grout applications might make a big difference for your project.

What is Sanded Grout?

When picking the sanded grout from the hardware, you might notice the material has aggregated sand materials added to the grout. The sanded grout is suspended as the grout cures and is held together by fine sand particles.

The grout increases stability, making the surface resist cracking and grout shrinkage. This gritty mixture is cheaply available since the sand filler is easily available and cheap.

Moreover, sanded grout comes in different colors and has different applications, and you can use the materials to decorate different joints leading to a customized joint. The added sanded aggregate materials make the grout durable as it does not shrink due to the filler sand.

The grout dries the sand locks in place and is least likely to move, which might be true even when the grout dries completely. Thus the sanded grout is a proper adhesive material between tiles that should be placed 1/8 inches apart.

Floor Applications

You should use sanded grout for flooring applications as it is suitable for interior flooring. The process leads to more stability and durability, making the floor withstand foot pressure in areas with high traffic in the home.

Thick Joints

The sanded grout bonds well and leads to less shrinkage than the unsanded option and is ideal for any tiling with joints 1/8 to ½ thick. Fitting the bulky material to the thin joints might be challenging, leading to an imperfect finish and messy joints prone to cracking.

Your contractor might need to add appropriate water to create a strong joint; adding more water to the mixture risks creating pinholes on the joints.

When the excess water evaporates, cracks form under the joint, compromising grout. However, if the joint thickness is larger, the 3/8 thick or greater joints will require a heavily sanded wide-joint mixture.

Seals off the Tile Joints Completely

After completing the work, you should not leave the sanded grout exposed as it might cheap off on the dense and wide joints. It would be better to pour some water on the grout as it dries to reduce the cracking due to the wide grout.

Later, you might need to seal off the joints with a water-based, neutral pH sealer. The sealant ensures the joint is more stable and elongates the tile’s life in areas with high traffic.

Pros and Cons of the Sanded Grout


It is cheaper has it contains aggregated sand fillers which are abundantly available.

It might scratch soft tile surfaces.

It is used for dense joints between floor tiles with more than 1/8 spacing.

It might be difficult to force into thin seams.

It holds the tiles firmly together, making them more durable in areas with more traffic.

It would be best to seal it with a pH-neutral water-based sealant.

It comes in different colors and thus might be useful if you wish to decorate your house in different colors.

The grout does not crack when it dries due to the sand particles which hold the mixture firmly together.

What is Unsanded Grout?

The unsanded grout does not have added sand particles and is mostly used on delicate tile surfaces, which need less than 1/8 spacing. The unsanded grout is applicable for installing the showers as it is extremely sticky, and you can easily spread it onto a vertical surface.

The unsanded grout will shrink over time as it does not have large particles that hold the grout together. However, it is suitable for vertical surfaces with less space between the tiles.

Since the tiles will be close together, the shrinkage due to the unsanded grout will not affect the tiles’ stability. Moreover, since the unsanded grout is applied on vertical surfaces that do not experience foot traffic, it will hold the tiles firmly, leading to a stable surface.

Used on Vertical Surfaces

Durability will not be an issue for vertical surfaces as they don’t experience foot traffic; thus, the unsanded grout will work well for these surfaces. Additionally, it is easy to work with the unsanded grout on vertical surfaces and makes it possible to place the tiles correctly.

Most vertical tiles are smooth and need more care, and sanded grout would damage the smooth tiles, while the unsanded grout has a smooth consistency and thus will not damage the soft vertical tiles.

Used on Scratchable Surfaces

Scratchable tile surfaces are easy to damage, and you should use unsanded grout to fix the tiles on the surfaces. Moreover, the unsanded grout applies to the limestone and marble surfaces which are easy to damage.

The aggregated material in the sanded grout easily damages scratchable surfaces. Moreover, you can substitute the cement with epoxy-based options to fill the tile spaces for sensitive scratchable surfaces.

Pros and Cons of the Unsanded Grout


The unsanded grout is useful on vertical surfaces which does not experience foot traffic.

The grout is a bit expensive as it contains no filler materials.

The grout preserves sensitive tile surfaces.

It does not have color choices and thus might not be good for decoration.

You may not need grit sealing in some applications.

It might slum when applied on wide joint seams.

It offers a clean finish for thin tile joints and keeps the tiles in place.

What is the Difference Between Sanded and Unsanded Grout?

Sanded GroutUnsanded Grout


The grout has large sand particles and thus is applicable for larger joints 1/8-wide and more. The sand holds the grout together on the joints making the tiles firmly planted on the surface.

It is used for narrow joints less than 1/8-wide. The grout does not contain any particles and thus is easy to force into the thin lines.

Scratchable surface

It is not recommended for scratchable surfaces, and the aggregated materials will damage sensitive and scratchable surfaces.

It is recommended for scratchable surfaces as it does not have any course materials which scratch sensitive surfaces.


It is applied to tiles that require more space. It is suitable for the floors which experience more foot traffic.

It is applied to thin joint lines between the tiles. It is suitable for vertical surfaces like shower tile spaces, which don’t experience foot traffic.


It has suspended sand particles as it cures, thus increasing the joint’s stability, improving resistance to carks, and reducing shrinkage.

When applied to large joints, the grout might shrink, but since it is applied to thin lines, it might not experience shrinking.


It is thick and coarse due to the added sand particles.

It is thin and has a smoother texture due to the soft grout.


It is more durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic in the areas such as the kitchen and the living room. It forms thick joints, bonds better, and has less shrinkage.

When applied on thin tiles lines, it resists cracking and shrinkage but is unsuitable for areas under constant foot pressure.

Installation methods

Sanded grout is more DIY-friendly when tiles scratches are not a concern.

You should let an expert install the unsanded grout, but you should DIY if you are confident with your skills.

Can You Mix The Sanded And Unsanded Grout When Working On Tile Lines?

Although the sanded and unsanded grout are meant for separate works, you can mix them for a more stable job. The unsanded grout would shrink and be thin, and you can add a little sanded grout to improve its strength and durability.

However, you should be careful as the sand can scratch the surface, but you should achieve a ratio where the grout will not shrink as much when it cures and dries.

Moreover, mixing the sanded and unsanded grout will give you the colors you desire, and you can mix the two types of grout if you want to decorate the tile lines with the desired colors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Sanded Grout Need to be Sealed?

Yes, the sanded grout needs sealing as it is applied on width tile lines. Water can easily seep into the tile lines, especially if left unsealed. However, you should sprinkle water on the sanded grout when drying as it reduces the cracks and let it dry completely before applying the sealant.

What Happens If You Do Not Seal Grout?

If you don’t seal the grout, water can easily seep into the tile lines making the floor unstable. Moreover, the tile lines can easily become dirty without the sealant, leading to unattractive lines on the floor. Moreover, the sanded grout color may discolor, making it appear unappealing.

Can You Walk on the Tile Before Grouting?

No, you should not walk on the tiles before grouting as they might move out of place. Moreover, you would risk tile breakage as it is not firmly held to the ground.

Grouting keeps the tiles in place, leading to a desirable pattern, and it adds beauty to the tiles, especially if you use colored sanded grout. Sanded grout adds stability to the floor tiles making them more durable.

How Do You Tell If Your Grout is Sealed?

You can inspect the grout and pour water on it. The grout is completely sealed if the water flows freely or forms beads. However, if the water seeps into the grout, it is not completely sealed off.

Why is My New Grout Turning Brown?

Your grout could be turning brown due to porosity. A highly porous growth will turn yellow as the water and other fluids seep through the cracks. Sealing the grout properly with a water-repellant that prevents fluid seepage into the ground would be better.

Does Bleach Turn Grout Yellow?

Cleaning products that contain bleach might turn the grout yellow. Thus, you should check for cleaning products with chlorine, dyes, polymers, and other ingredients that might turn your grout yellow.

What are the Best Ways to Speed Up the Drying Time for Grout?

If you’re in a hurry to get your grout dry, you can do a few things to speed up the process. Humidity can greatly impact how quickly grout dries, so if you’re working in a humid environment, it’s best to try and reduce the indoor humidity by turning on the air conditioner or opening a window.

Keeping the air moving around the floor can also help speed up the drying time, so using a fan is a good idea. Finally, apply grout in thin coats and avoid applying it too thickly, which will also help shorten the drying time. Following these tips, you can dry your grout within 24 hours.

How Do I Clean Excess Grout From Around Baseboards?

If grout sticks on the baseboard, wash it with a brush and mildly abrasive cleaner and wipe it with a soft dry cloth. However, sometimes the brush might not remove all the grout, and you would need a more aggressive cleaner like vinegar which might break it down.

Is Grout Considered Lean Concrete?

Yes, grout is considered concrete made of water, cement, and sand and is used to join floor tiles, embed rebar on masonry walls, and connect precast sections.

Why Do You Need to Leave Space for Grout When Laying Tile?

You may need about 1.5 to 2-millimeter gaps when placing the tiles, and these gaps prevent issues if one of the tiles is broken. However, the space left can make the tiles prone to damage, and you would fill it with grout. Walking on tiles without grout leads to breakage, and the tiles might move out of place.


Fixing tiles on the vertical walls or the ground needs adequate tile spacing and the appropriate grout. The sanded grout contains aggregated sand particles and would be appropriate for the floor with more traffic as it leads to strong and durable tile lines.

Moreover, the sanded grout is least likely to shrink and comes in different colors suitable for decoration.

On the other hand, the unsanded grout does not have coarse particles and would be useful for scratchable surfaces. You can apply this grout on vertical surfaces that are not prone to traffic as it does not form strong, durable tile lines.