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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Jan

Hi Roger, glad to find your forum. I hope you can give me some advice please. Have a 1940’s -built house with plastic bathroom wall tiles. The grout is not good. I was thinking unsanded, but after reading this post about epoxy grout i would like to try it. Would that interact with the tiles, or bond to them? Thanx!

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Ming

Hello, Roger, I was looking into information about best grout for 600*600 porcelain rectified tiles, and bumped into your forum. I find it is literally THE BEST! You are honest, helpful and straight to the point.

What grout would you recommend for our tiles?

Thank you so much.

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Roger

Hi Ming,

I have no idea – where are the tiles installed? :D

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Kathleen

I am renovating my master bath and we are using 12×36 veincut travertine. What do you suggest for type of grout and grout width. I have attached photos of the look we are going for.

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Roger

Hi Kathleen,

I would use 1/8″ on the floor and 1/16″ on the walls, provided the tile consistency allows for that. I would use sanded grout.

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Jon

Hi Roger,

What’s the real world difference between SPECTRALOCK® PRO Premium Grout and SPECTRALOCK® PRO Grout once you remove the marketing speak?

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Roger

Hi Jon,

None. Pro premium is the new name of spectralock pro. That’s it. The old pro product was reformulated and given a shiny new name. It’s a LITTLE BIT easier to work with, but not significantly so.

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Ming

Very helpful. Thank you👍.

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Melinda

Hi Roger,
My tile installer used an epoxy grout that is now starting to pull away from the quartz countertop. Any thoughts on why this is happening and if it’s fixable beyond regrouping? Does it mean I have to chip out the old grout and regroup or can I grout over the area that is pulling away.

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Roger

Hi Melinda,

That is a change of plane, it needs to have silicone in it, not grout. The two planes will expand and contract at different rates and in different directions. Silicone can compensate for that, grout can not.

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Chris

Rodger

I am using a Kolher tile shower drain. I believe it is made of a PVC material, it glues to the PVC fittings. My Question is this: i believe that the PVC pan liner should be glued to the top flat surface of the shower drain before the compression flange is bolted tight. I also think after cutting the hole out in the drain that silicone or better sealant should be applied under the liner just at the cut edge of the hole where it touches the PVC drain. I am being told that is not so and overkill and that silicone is enough between the PVC drain and the liner. What are your thoughts on this? Will the PVC drain adhere to the PVC liner using pan liner adhesive at that location?
Thank you

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Roger

Hi Chris,

No it will not. They are two different types of pvc (I know – makes no sense…). All you need is a bead of silicone under the liner between it and the lower drain flange.

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Nola Mudge

Roger,

We just bought Fusion Pro single component grout in Oyster grey. We have 3×6 white crackled subway with 1/16 grout lines. We have sealed it several times so that the color won’t seep into the cracks on the tile. Will Fusion Pro be ok to use with this type of tile and grout line. I have read some terrible reviews and also a few good reviews. Not sure what to do.

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Roger

Hi Nola,

I like fusion pro, a lot. You can use it on that tile provided you seal it well first. Remember, everyone will tell you about a bad experience, you normally have to ask for information about a good experience. :D

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Chris

Hi Roger,
We just laid wood look plank floor with no spacers, wanted minimal grout lines so it all blends. We went with non sanded grout because the spacing is so tight, problem being, I am having a heck of a time with this grout because it sets up so much faster than sanded grout. But more than that, the color is nothing like it Is supposed to be….much, much lighter. I’m gonna from water watering it down. I am at a loss on how to apply this grout and keep the color the color it is supposed to be. We have laid plenty of tile and worked with both types of grout, never have we encountered this issue. Any suggestions?

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Roger

Hi Chris,

It may be minerals on the surface of the grout after the water dissipates. See if you can sand down the top layer of some cured grout and see if it is the correct color. If not, let me know what specific brand and color of grout you’re working with.

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Eliza

Hey Roger, your article is super helpful. My husband and I just put down ceramic tile in a bathroom floor with 1/4″ spacing. We used a polyblend sanded grout with a mix in sealer used in place of the water. Now there are spots that are cracked and we aren’t sure why. Too much of the mix in sealer liquid? Or water during clean up? What can we do to fix it? We also forgot to use some sort of caulk where the tub meets the tile, could that be the problem? Help??!! 😂

Reply

Roger

Hi Eliza,

Using grout boost or products like it can lead to issues, especially with polyblend. It’s touchy as hell with just water. I honestly have no idea how to ‘fix’ it short of replacing the grout. If you grouted between the tile and the tub it should b e silicone – that’s why it’s cracked there. But you didn’t say if you have any cracks anywhere else that isn’t a change of plane. Do you?

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