Using the Correct Type of Grout

by Roger

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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Waylon

Is it safe to use TEC pre-mixed grout on my shower floor? In the product description it says its ok to use in showers, but also says ok for intermittently wet areas??
What to do?

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Waylon

Is it safe to use TEC pre-mixed grout on the shower floor? On the product description it says its safe for showers, but then also says ok to use in intermittently wet areas??

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gerald

what thinset and grout do I need when laying porcelain tile on linoleum ?

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Roger

Hi Gerald,

You can’t lay porcelain tile on linoleum.

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Cee

Thank you for your informative site.

I have a 15 yr old slate 12×12″ tile kitchen floor with 1/2 in grout lines. The previous owners DIY over 300 sq ft of floor and it has lots of lippage, enough to trip over. I would like to grind the floor down even, stain it black, reseal and re-grout it with black grout.

The grout and tiles have absolutely no cracks or chips but, the grout does dip down in the middle which, I would like to avoid, if possible, when I re-grout.

What would be the best grout for these large grout lines? I’ve used epoxy grout in my bath remodel and would like the same maintenance free option in the kitchen. Any other tips on grinding, staining, resealing, etc would be greatly appreciated
Thank you

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Roger

Hi Cee,

The dipping down is a product of the size of the grout lines, not the type of grout. You can get them (mostly) level by simply packing the joints well and taking your time when cleaning the grout up. However, with 1/2″ grout lines it is really inevitable to have that dip in the middle, those are huge. Epoxy, urethanes or regular sanded grout will all get you the same ‘look’.

As far as tips, research, research, research! What you are planning is a highly specialized skill, I would honestly recommend having a professional do it, but I know it wouldn’t do any good to tell you that. AmIRight? :D

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Ben DeJong

Hi Roger,

I am laying 3″ hexagon carrara tiles over Ditra. While I have successful experience with Ditra (thanks to you) I feel confident but this is the smallest tiles I’ve ever laid on the floor and first time with marble.

Should I use a water based sealer prior to grouting? I believe you recommend Miracle Sealants Porous Plus, but I believe I need a water based sealer and I’m not sure if this product is? Also considering Aqua Mix Sealers Choice Gold. Please advise.

As far as grout, I like the ease of Fusion Pro grout since it is premixed and doesn’t need sealing. The spaces are only 1/16″ so I suppose I could go unsanded, but I’m not sure if I should. What do you recommend?

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Roger

Hi Ben,

Either of those sealers will work very well. The porous plus is not water-based, but you don’t need a water-based for that application. I also like fusion pro grout, it’s good stuff. If you have that option I would go that route.

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John M

Roger

I have found your answers to my questions posted under mortar types very helpful. I am nearly finished the tiling of of a bathroom reno – removed bathtub, replaced drywall with mould resistant, and installed cement board over plywood subfloor, installed Schluter shower tray & membrane kit and am using 3/8 inch thick 6 inch x 36 porcelain tiles.

I am in a remote location where I have hauled in all of my via snowmobile and am a little concerned over the type of grout I have…. “Alpha Premium Grade ProFix sanded grout with polymer”.

I have used 3/6 inch spacers between all tiles inkling the corners (i.e. gap of 3/16 to 3/8 inch between end of one tile and face of next tile) The variability is due to my “novice ability” at tiling in a couple of spots… fortunately / hopefully will not show… but then again I don’t wear my glasses in the shower.

A couple of questions if I could impose on you:

1. Is this grout ok in the corners ? I understand you prefer caulk but I am having trouble finding some that will colour match near where I am. I will be using a clear silicone bathroom caulk where the tiled wall meets the shower floor.

2. Does the caulk and / or the porcelain tile need to be sealed in a shower area ?

Thanks !

John

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Roger

Hi John,

1. No, not in a gap that big. But you can silicone it, here’s how: First run a bead of silicone down the corner onto the face of the tiles on the back wall (where the corner would be if you had no gap there). Then let that cure, then grout everything, including the corners, as normal. The grout will wipe off the surface of the silicone and you’ll have a gap filled with grout with a bead of silicone between it and the back wall.

2. No

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Becca

Just found your site and love it. Thanks for all the info but am completely confused.
We just installed 3×6 white subway tile & want to go with white grout. I’m wanting the grout lines to look smooth & shiny. Is the shiny look from the grout, sealer or what? And if not, can we caulk over the grout to get the looking I’m wanting? I’m thinking about using apoxy. What is the difference between apoxy & urethane…or are they the something?
Can you suggest the best way to get the results I’m wanting? I’m also concerned about discoloration which is why I’m thinking apoxy. I am also wanting something that is pretty much maintenance free. (Don’t want to have to keep resealing). Thanks for your help.

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Roger

Hi Becca,

‘Smooth and shiny’ grout you’re mentioning is likely either non-sanded, epoxy or urethane grout. Sealer has nothing to do with it. Epoxy and urethane are not the same thing. In your case I would likely go with a urethane grout.

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Carlos Mendez

Hello Mr. ROGERS I HAVE A 1800 SQFT OF TILE UNSANDED 1/8 ON 24 INCH TILE THE FIRST CONTRACTOR PUT IT IN AND GLDID NOT PRESS IT IN IT’S A WHITE POLISHED porcelain tile unsanded. The homeowner once the tiles grout to be white like the tile are what would be the best way to approach this job would it be to remove Andrey grout

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Roger

Hi Carlos,

If you need to remove the existing grout a tool similar to a dremel with a small bit on it would be your best bet for that much grout. If it’s possible to use a grout colorant over the existing grout I would likely choose that route.

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audrey

Hi. I used poly blend sanded grout on black and grey porcelain tiles. 12×24. . There seems to be s9me kind of film on the tiles that won’t wash off.. doesn’t even rub off when dry. Doesn’t really show on the floor but on the shower walls where the light from the window reflects it looks terrible. Do you know a product to get this off or did I use the wrong grout for this tile. I have a lot more to do so don’t want to continue until I find a solution.,

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Roger

Hi Audrey,

The problem is the polyblend grout – it’s horrible with color inconsistency. The whitish film you see are mineral deposits from water, it can be from too much water in the mix, too much water used to clean it, or a number of other things. Take a drywall sanding sponge or a piece of sandpaper and sand the grout line lightly and see if that gets rid of it.

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Nelson

Roger,
I have never attempted installing tile before but I’m good at learning processes and not afraid to try anything. I am installing backsplash tile from the counter top to the bottom of the above cabinets. Tile is 1′ x 1′ mesh back 1″x 2″ marble. The counter top is a deck design with no backsplash. My question is, do I lay the tile flat to the counter surface and seal with caulk after grouting or should I leave a gap equal to the grout line and fill with grout then seal with caulk?
Thanks,
Nelson

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Roger

Hi Nelson,

It doesn’t need to be the same size as the grout line, I usually leave about 1/16″. Then it gets silicone.

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Mary

I am installing 2″white hex tiles looks as if 1/8 grout space on the mesh. I really wanted nonsanded grout. That is what I have on the bathroom on the turquoise 1950 shower and wall. I looks in perfect condition. Honestly looks as if it was just grouted. I want that for my floor. Can it be done, its being put down over terrazzo flooring. Or is it possible to find a mosaic 2″ white floor hex with smaller grout space. Or do you think I should be better off with the sanded grout in this case?

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Roger

Hi Mary,

You can use non-sanded grout in 1/8″ grout lines. Just make sure you pack it in there really well.

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Annie

Hi Roger,
Love your site, thanks so much for sharing your expertise.
I just installed a rectangular glass mosaic tile backsplash in the kitchen. While most of the joints on the mosaic sheets are 1/8″, some are 1/4″ and others appear to be closer to 1/16″. I used 1/8″ spacers between sheets. I am really REALLY wanting to avoid using epoxy due to likelihood of user error… would you recommend any other type of grout here? I don’t think it makes a difference, the backsplash is behind the cooktop and not the sink so stains may be more of an issue than water. Thanks so much!

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Roger

Hi Annie,

Use regular sanded grout and seal it with a good silicone-based sealer.

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Brian

Roger,

I have about 800 sqft to grout, and i’m a first time DIYer. The tile is laying nicely, even though i have to go back and remove a bit of thinset from the grout lines. I tried a test area with some MAPEI Keracolor S, and ended up with what seems like inconsitent colorage, or latex leaching. Maybe I mixed wrong or cleaned too soon?

Do you have any suggestions for a grout that will be a bit more friendly? I was reading your article about Spectralock Pro Premium, and think that might be an easier way to go about grouting as it takes a variable off the table, and sounds like an overall better product in terms of finish and longevity.

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Roger

Hey Brian,

The keracolor is actually a very consistent grout and much easier to install than epoxy (spectralock). If you are getting inconsistent color it could be too much water in the mix or too much water when you cleaned it. You need to let it set up long enough to where you can press your finger on it and none will transfer to your finger. Wring the sponge out REALLY well when you clean it off, you actually want it almost dry.

Spectralock is a better and more durable product, but that is a LOT of tile to use it on for your first time. It is also much more difficult to clean up than regular grout. If you have it available you may want to check into tec power grout.

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Luke

I have a shower with sanded grout. The ground on the bottom edge is cracked and molding. I am cleaning out the old grout and plan to re-grout. I then plan to seal all the grout in the whole shower.
Can I use epoxy grout on the one grout line and then reseal all the grout lines?
Can I put grout sealant on the epoxy grout?

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Roger

Hi Luke,

If you’re talking about the very bottom where it meets a tub or the floor that joint needs silicone, not grout. They expand and contract in different directions and that cracks grout. If that’s where it is you need to remove the grout and use silicone instead.

If not…Yes, you can use epoxy there. You can use sealant over epoxy, but it won’t do anything, it’ll simply wipe off.

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Luke Rutten

I’m using a product called buy polyblend blend called sanded ceramic tile caulk. Are you familiar with this product? It says it is siliconized for ease-of-use but does not claim to be pure silicone or waterproof. I got it at the hardware store next to the grout. Should I bring this back and get 100% silicone caulk instead?

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Roger

Hi Luke,

It is a good product, but silicone is much better. They both work fine, but the caulk that you have will lose its elasticity more quickly, and need to be replaced, sooner than 100% silicone.

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Glenn

Not sure how old this post is and if my question will get answered still, but here goes.

We recently had our bath completely redone. In place of the tub we now have a shower and the shower floor is using pebble stones. The stones are about 1.5 inches around. The gap between the stones varies from 1/4 inch to maybe more than a half inch in some places.

The job was completed about 2.5 months ago and we recently noticed that the floor is coming apart. One of the stones popped loose and that caused us to take a closer look at the floor. In many places the grout is wearing away/gone. It appears the shower water is slowly dissolving the grout. The grout in general has a sandy feel to it which makes us feel it was poor quality grout in the first place. When we started the job we had heard about a grout type that would have a glass type look/feel to it which resisted mold. We asked about that but its not what we got.

What type of grout should have been used? (assuming you will say epoxy) And in general have you seen anything like this before and what the general cause may be?

We have a call into the contractor and have demanded the entire floor be replaced. But we want to make sure we are asking for the right stuff next time.

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Glenn

Pic of floor attached

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Roger

Hi Glenn,

The water is not eating away at your grout. There is movement in the pebbles, causing the grout to both crack and be ‘sanded’ away. It sounds as if you have regular sanded grout. I also assume that the BOTTOM of these pebbles are also rounded? As in – not flat. If so, that is indicative of them simply not being set properly. With rounded-bottom pebbles you need a LOT of mortar beneath them. After they are embedded the mortar should reach the vertical halfway point of each rock. This is the only way to have a solid bed of cured mortar beneath them, with no open or unsupported areas, which will ‘cantilever’ and lead to the exact issues you are seeing. Epoxy grout can help it, but it doesn’t make up for improperly installed stone.

As a side note – because of the above issues I refuse to install that type of stone. It shouldn’t even be sold as an option. There is absolutely no good way to get a consistent installation with those.

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Glenn

The bottoms of the stones are flat, not round. Attaching a couple more pics.

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Roger

It looks to me as if there is zero thinset on the stone itself, is that accurate? If so it may be one of two things. Either the trowel used or the thinset mix was incorrect, or the mesh on the back of the stones had so much epoxy on it to hold the stones on that no thinset could get through. First one is the installer, second is the product. Regardless, if they are all like that they will need to be removed, taken off the mesh, and set individually.

Yes, I’ve done it (do it all the time, actually) and yes, it sucks. :D

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Glenn

As the homeowner my knowledge here is too limited to be able to answer your thinset question – dont know what it means. But I got some great insight into the problem from you and I am very greatful for your help here. I’m waiting to hear back from the GC who is reaching out to the Tiler and the Supplier of the grout. Its clear something was not done right and I have faith the GC will ensure it gets done again.

Thanks Roger – happy New Year to you and yours.

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Chris

I have a slate tile floor in a wet room of small squares, I want a limestone colour to offset travertine walls. The previous grout has not weathered very well and needs replacing I will use a Dremmel grout remover to a depth that will not reach the tanking material. What grout should I use to replace?

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Roger

Hi Chris,

Ideally an epoxy grout would hold up best, but it’s a serious pain to install that with slate. I would probably use TEC power grout in that instance.

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Marc

Hi Roger,
I’m installing a light 12×24 Porcelain tile with a black marble Pencil & chairail. It’s a 1/2 wall in a bathroom capped with a pencil, mosaic strip and ultimately a chairrial. the problem is i need a light color grout to match the tile, but the light color grout will look terrible (in my opinion) with the black pencil & chairrial.
cna i use 2 different color grouts or will that be too difficult to keep the transitions clean? or possibly use clear silicone in between the black marble pencils & chairrails?

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Roger

Hi Marc,

You can use two different color grouts if you want. Just be sure to install the darker first, let it cure, then install the lighter. It is easy to get light grout off of cured darker grout, the opposite is not true.

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randell

i just completed a shower stall using four inch subway tile. this is the first time that i ever did any tile work, while i do consider myself a handyman i had never did tile.it turned out great. i used a single component grout, stain resistance, never needs sealing,the name brand is fusion pro from home depot. it is expensive but well worth the few extra dollars.i used a white grout with white subway tile. the only down side is you must clean up every five square feet or so. it is easy

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SEAN MURPHY

I am about to grout my shower enclosure and my grout joints are 1/8″ more or less. I am planning to use a mixture of 75% sanded/25% unsanded grout based on some other tiling videos and forums. Do you think that’s okay?

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Roger

Hi Sean,

No, I don’t think that’s okay. Why would you do that???

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Sean Murphy

Because My grout joints aren’t perfect with some smaller than 1/8 inch so I used a combination of the two. Too late. It’s done now. Hopefully it won’t be an issue. It looks like everything is properly filled and sealed so I think it will be fine.

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Robert

Hey Roger-
Just found your site, great info… I’m getting ready to grout 3×6 subway tiles in my bath/ shower… 1/6″ joints, white ceramic tile, white grout. I’m considering using epoxy due to the possibility of well water staining (rust etc.)

[Pause for sip of beer]

I’ve done a couple of tile jobs in the past but never used epoxy. The working time or lack there of scares me a bit. I’ve read a couple of horror stories from some first timers.

Question is, after reading this am I understanding that I have to grout all of the joints in one fell swoop “Or Elfs!” :arrow: I mean “Or Else!”

Is that to keep it locked together in one big epoxy grid or am I just [Pause for sip of beer] misunderstanding you?

Also I’ve heard that the epoxy grout can look a little shiny/ plasticy?

-Thanks

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Roger

Hi Robert,

The reason is because you don’t have the working time to install some, clean it up, then install more. The stuff won’t wait around while you clean up some of it. You don’t really need to do it all at once, if you work fast enough you’ll be fine. The easiest way is simply to mix up smaller batches, that way you can use it all, clean it off, mix up some more, etc. It has nothing to do with locking it all together, you can do some one day and do the rest the next day if need be. It may look a bit plasticy, if you stare at it and that’s what you’re looking for. To most people it looks just like regular grout.

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Robert

Thanks Roger…
Just out of curiosity, if it is an epoxy product then how is it (in a sense) not water proof? That is, can water penetrate it or is there still just a lot of little gaps that water can get through here and there between the grout and tile?

And if not water proof, does it need to be sealed?

Thanks again!

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Roger

Because the tile itself isn’t waterproof. The epoxy is, no you don’t need to seal it.

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RJ

Hi, first, thank you for publishing this site. It is extremely helpful.

I have installed 6″x12″ carrara marble tiles around a tub, and am trying to decide on the best type of grout to use. The grout lines are 1/16″. Cost aside, is Spectralock still the best choice for this application? I’ve read elsewhere that epoxy grout can be difficult to work with on marble applications and may be “overkill” given the need to periodically seal the marble. I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts. Thanks!

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Roger

Hi RJ,

Spectralock is still my first choice. There are also many acrylic-based grouts out now that are actually pre-mixed – they work very well also. As far as the need to reseal – read through this: Sealer information

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kelly

Roger,

Thank you for providing this web site and resource. I installed 4X4 Dal tile on my bathroom walls and 5″ hexagon tiles (similar to Dal but a different brand) on the floor. I’m ready to grout and thought that in the past you had discussed the various brands. I can’t find that now. I used Custom’s Polyblend on my last bathroom (same types of tile) and didn’t like it. I went to my local tile shop to get laticrete unsanded grout but they didn’t carry it. They talked me in to buying Prism, but I’m not sure that is what I want. After reading your site today I see that you prefer Spectralock. Would you also recommend spectralock for my installation? Thank you.

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Roger

Hi Kelly,

Spectralock is simply my preferred for epoxy. The Prism is a very good grout. Just make sure you follow the directions exactly – they aren’t kidding about some of that stuff. :D

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kelly

Thank you Roger. I was concerned because Prism is sanded and I thought I was supposed to use unsanded grout. Are you saying it really doesn’t matter?

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Roger

I have rarely had a grout scratch my marble. I ALWAYS test first on an extra piece or in an inconspicuous area, and you should. But it’s not normally an issue, and prism is actually better than most sanded grouts in that regard.

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kelly

Thank you again Roger. But. I don’t have marble. I have 4X4 Dal tile on the walls and another similar hexagonal (4-5″) on the floor. The wall tiles are spaced with the bumpers built into the tiles. The floor is 1/8″. Would you use Spectralock in this instance, or Prism, or unsanded?
Kelly

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Roger

Oh. :D The spectralock or prism. The prism is actually likely a better option for that one.

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kelly

Is is interesting that unsanded grout is no longer the standard for this old-style tile. I appreciate your help Roger!

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Curtis Wilson

I’m getting ready to install stainless cap mosaic tile with mesh backer for kitchen backsplash Was wondering on grout. I do not want to damage the stainless which scratches pretty easily

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Roger

Hi Curtis,

If it scratches that easily you may want to contact the manufacturer and ask them for their recommendations, they can tell you what will work. If the grout lines are under 1/8″ you can use regular non-sanded grout, but they likely are larger than that (I assume).

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Zachary

Any time you are working with fragile tile surfaces or ones that scratch easily, like glass tile, you want to avoid sanded grout. That will almost guarantee scratches. Unsanded and epoxy are you only options.

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