There are three basic types of grout available for your tile installation. They are:

  • Non-Sanded (also known as Unsanded)
  • Sanded
  • Epoxy

Choosing the correct grout for your particular installation will not only complete the job correctly, it will also cut down on maintenance. Properly installed and sealed grout will last for the life of your tile. So which to use and when?

Non-Sanded (or Unsanded) Grout

Unsanded grout is made specifically for grout lines smaller than 1/8 inch wide.  This is a general rule. I use unsanded grout only in tile with grout lines smaller than 1/16″. Unsanded grout (all grout to different degrees) will shrink as it cures. The reason for only using it in smaller grout lines is the wider the grout lines, the more grout must be used to fill them. The more grout you have, the more it will shrink. If you try to fill grout lines that are too large the grout will shrink enough to pull away from the sides of the tile.

Unsanded grout is easier to work with, especially on vertical surfaces such as a shower wall, because  it is “stickier” than the sanded variety. You can spread it onto the wall and it will stick there while you force it into the grout lines. It is also much easier on the hands than sanded.  Although it is easier to work with, you need to make sure that the application for which you are using it is correct.

Sanded Grout

Sanded Grout is used for any size grout lines 1/8″ and wider. Although the specifications state unsanded grout be used in grout lines that are exactly 1/8″, you really should use sanded for them. It will ensure proper adhesion to your tile and guard against too much shrinkage. No, not Seinfeld shrinkage, grout shrinkage.

Sanded grout has fine sand added to it. This prevents the grout from shrinking too much as it cures. That’s why it is used for larger grout lines and should be used for the majority of tile installations.

If you have a polished stone such as granite, marble, limestone, and some polished travertine, you should be careful about using sanded grout. While sanded may be the correct choice for the size of grout lines, it may not be the best choice. Depending upon the polish of the stone the sand in the grout may actually scratch it. If you decide to use sanded make sure you test it in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it will not scratch your finish. Or use epoxy which would be a better choice anyway.

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout is the top of the line and best choice for any tile application. It can be substituted for sanded or unsanded grout.  It is more sturdy than both as well as being waterproof and stain resistant.

Epoxy is a two or three part chemical consisting of the base and the activator. With some brands the color is an additional part that must be added. Once the parts are mixed a chemical reaction begins. From that point, depending on the brand of epoxy, you have only a limited amount of time to get everything grouted before the grout becomes stiff enough to be unworkable. When it reaches that point, if you do not have everything grouted you are SOL.

To help slow the cure time you can mix your epoxy then put half of it in the freezer. The cold air will slow the chemical reaction and lengthen the working time. You can then work with the other half until it is all used. Clean it up, wipe everything down, then grab the second half out of the freezer and finish up. When you first pull it out of the freezer it will be, well, frozen. It thaws quickly, though, so should be workable within a few minutes. This essentially doubles the working time of your grout and ensures you don’t have to rush through it.

Since most epoxy grouts do not contain sand (or at least not in the classic sense of sand) it will normally not scratch your tile. If you have highly polished granite or marble that’s important. Be sure to test first anyway!

Different brands of epoxy have different working times as well as some being more difficult to work with than others. The brand with which I have had the most luck and the only brand I ever use is SpectraLOCK from Laticrete. It has a longer working time than any other epoxy grout (at least any I’ve ever used) and is virtually stain proof. Please don’t take that to mean the you can grout a jacuzzi with it, fill it with cherry kool-aid, and expect it not to be pink (Don’t do that). It just means that for all intents and purposes it will not stain without concerted effort. In my opinion it is the best on the market.

The only drawback of epoxy grout would be the price. It is fairly expensive. When weighed against the upside, however, it is well worth it. Low maintenance demands and high durability of epoxy grout make it well worth the money.

Picking the correct grout for your application is a key part of a proper tile installation. If you choose incorrectly you could end up with a multitude of problems and headaches. Grout, chosen and installed correctly, will complete your tile installation and push it from a good tile job to a great one. Do not underestimate the power of the grout.

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  • Scott

    Hello, you’ve been a wealth of knowledge for me while I do my bathroom so I’m reaching out. I’m installing 12×24 porcelain tiles on my shower walls and now I can’t decide on the grout. I have used a waterproof membrane behind the tiles so I’m not sure if the standard grout will be fine or should I use the epoxy. I get conflicting reports, some say to seal it up, others say to let it breath. I’m confused! Thank you for passing along your expertise

    Reply
  • Diane

    I have Travertine countertops, the grout is about 1/2 inch wide between each tile. The grout is not flush in a lot of places, a lot of the grout is only filled halfway between the travertine, it needs to be filled more. How can i do this without taking the old grout out? I am trying to sell my house and i dont have the time to take out old grout. The 1/2 gap is a huge gap and that would be way to much work. I had someone suggest sanded mapei, keracaulk. Wasn’t sure if that could be used as a filler, because the gaps between tiles are so big.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Diane,

      DO NOT use caulk to fill the grout lines. Taking out the old grout should take less than an hour. If you want to repair it correctly the old needs to be removed. If you do not want to repair it properly I would just leave it, someone else will. Trying to cover it up with something that won’t last is not the way to fix it. If you’re dead-set on it – just go over it with new grout. If you don’t remove the old then that will last just as long as anything else you try but it won’t compromise the ability to correctly repair it in the future.

      Reply
  • Joana

    Hi there, thank you so much for your site. It has been really helpful to me. I am hoping I can use the glass tiles that come in 12 x 12 sheets for the shower floor. I am about to set them with thinset and I am uncertain as to what type of grout I should use. What do you suggest? Epoxy or Sanded?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Joanna,

      You can if they are rated for use on a floor. You’ll need to check with the manufacturer for that. I prefer epoxy, but you can use either.

      Reply
  • Mark

    Im putting 12×24 tiles on my kitchen floor using Easy Mat. Although I understand the need for it, what actually stops the grout from cracking due to the small amount of spongy effect from it?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Mark,

      Once you install the tile with thinset and it cures the spongy effect disappears. Really. :D It works very well (I’m assuming you mean Custom’s Easy Mat).

      Reply
  • Michael

    Nin-cum-poop alert … I may be one … because I’m still not sure if your replies come in this same thread or are somewhere else on you lovely site … or I may be being impatient and so will keep checking this thread … I have now picked up some Fusion Pro/Single Component Grout as an alternative to the TEC grout I mentioned already … ever heard of it? I can get the SpectraLOCK, but I will have to order it and wait till it arrives to finish the saga … thanks as always dear fellow …

    Reply
    • Roger

      It is easier if you have all of your replies on the original question or conversation. Just click on the ‘reply’ at the bottom of the comment rather than posting a new question or thread every time.

      Reply
      • Michael

        Thanks for the posting guidance kind sir … and my questions regarding the two pre-mixed grouts? I know you have experience with the TEC grout, but what of the Fusion Pro/Single Component Grout as well? I await your further guidance …

        thanks

        Reply
  • Michael

    Just noticed the “Notify me of follow-up … by email” ditty (so I’ve now checked it) … I’m hesitant to go forward with my TEC bright white pre-mixed grout till I hear from the oracle … too much work thus far to risk a wrong final move … I await your pearls … thanks,

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hopefully this ditty finds you. :D

      Reply
  • brooke

    Hi! I’m very confused about which grout to buy. I am installing 2×8” white matte tiles in the shower. Recommended spacing is 1/8” -would you suggest sanded grout still? I am worried it will scratch the matte surface.. Second, we are installing marble floors in the bathroom. Would you use sanded or non-sanded here? The epoxy worries me, because I didn’t hire the best contractor (to save money.. so I’m sort of in the “you get what you get” boat. )Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Brooke,

      You can use unsanded in both (you CAN use sanded in the shower, but given the contractor I wwould opt for unsanded there as well).

      Reply
  • Nicole

    I am having a pebble stone backsplash installed in my kitchen as well as the wood like tiles on my kitchen floor (on foundation slab).
    1. What type of grout would you recommend for the backsplash (mesh) that will not stain, will hold it’s color?
    2. What type of grout would you recommend for the floor tile (Floresta Natural Ceramic wood looking 8″×24″ planks) and size of grout lines that will not stain, durable, hold it’s color, and hold up to foot traffic?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Nicole,

      I would use either spectralock epoxy, Laticrete permacolor or TEC power grout.

      Reply
      • Nicole

        Would that be sanded or unsanded? Also what grout spacing would you recommend for the floor tiles?

        Reply
        • Roger

          Sanded. All those grouts are sanded. The grout line spacing depends on the particular tile, I normally use 1/8″ on floors if I can.

          Reply
  • Bianca

    Hi Roger,

    Just installed crema marfil polished marble tile. What grout do you recommend that is stain resistant?
    If I use spectralock will it stain/ change color of the marble?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Bianca,

      No, it won’t permanently change the color of your marble, or stain it. Initially you may see a ‘picture framing’ effect, where the perimeter of the tile is a bit darker, but that dissipates. It is from the liquid soaking into the sides of the tile, but it isn’t permanent. One caveat, this is only if you are using a lighter color grout – if it is significantly darker then yes, it may stain your marble.

      Reply
      • Bianca

        Thank you for your reply.
        What color grout would you recommend from spectralock?

        Reply
        • Roger

          #17 marble beige.

          Reply