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.

{ 1335 Snarky remarks… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Cedar

    Hi,

    I’ve got a problem I’m experiencing. I have some travertine mosaic installed for my shower floor and the installer used Laticrete PermaColor Select. It has started to break down (not sure what the correct term is) is some small areas.

    The installer says this happens sometimes in smaller grout lines. He recommended using silicone sealant to fix it, but I have a feeling this will become worse.

    How can this be corrected? Which grout would you recommend?

    I also used the same grout on the shower walls, but doesn’t seem to be an issue right now. Would it be later?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Cedar,

      Permacolor select is a sanded grout, when used in smaller grout lines it needs to be FORCED into the grout lines to ensure they are full. If it isn’t it could create grout ‘bridges’ where there is just a thin layer of grout filling the very top of the grout line with nothing beneath it. This will wear out fairly quickly. Silicone is NOT the answer, and will make it worse. He can regrout by just going over the areas and making sure the grout lines are full.

      Reply
  • Jana

    Hi Elf – I need help! Floor tile and grout that were just installed look terrible. What grout color and type of grout should be used to fix this blotchy mess? The tile installer said he would paint the grout and told me to pick a color. I need advice. What should I do? What color tile paint should I choose that will help match the floor tiles with the shower walls?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Jana,

      It is impossible for me to answer that question – I have no idea what ANYTHING installed in your house currently looks like. If you want to upload a pic I can look, but if the installer can’t grout correctly I HIGHLY doubt he can color the grout correctly, it’s not an easy thing to do.

      Reply
  • Julie

    Hi Elf ,
    My husband and I have installed 6×36 inch wood look tile in our kitchen and breakfast nook area , with 1/16 grout lines. What grout would you recommend for this ( sanded, unsanded or epoxy) and what brand do you find best for your recommended type?
    The tile is porcelain rectified and with a matte finish.
    we love your site , we installed an entire bathroom,shower and toilet in 18×8 travertine using your website /advice , it turned out beautiful ! I even built and mudded the shower basin myself !😌

    Reply
    • Julie

      Sorry I should have said flooring, not on the walls !
      Silly me 🙃

      Reply
      • Roger

        Hi Julie,

        I would use sanded grout in that application. I use a lot of TEC grout and Laticrete grout. Nearly any of the large manufacturers (tec, laticrete, mapei, etc.) will be comparable. Customs grout is okay, it’s just highly inconsistent for diy’ers (requires an exact mix and technique).

        Reply
  • Ravzie

    Hello! I am trying to get info on grout for the shower floor. My contractor wants to use Fusion Pro or Tec Power Grout, because they are easier I am guessing. Those grouts do not seem to work well in the wet floor area, as I find all sorts of professionals and DIYers having trouble. I do not want to have to pay to have this done again. I see you like Spectralock for many applications. What would you do in this case? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Ravzie,

      Power grout is a great choice, and there is no issue with it in showers at all. Most of the people you see having issues are ones who work with it incorrectly, likely not even reading the directions. You know – guys. :D

      Reply
  • Raquel

    Hello Roger,

    I have a newly put marble crema marfil floor which I would like to use epoxy grout on but am having a problem finding a cream color grout for that. I later will want to sand and buffer/shine the floor. Which grout brand would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Raquel,

      Rather than epoxy I would use Tec power grout. Same attributes as epoxy, not nearly as difficult to work with. I normally use #903 Birch with crema marfil.

      Reply
      • Raquel

        Hey Roger,
        Thanks for the quick response. Will the Tec Power Grout give me the type of finish that looks like a totally leveled floor. My floor installer recommended I use resin but I am trying to look for one that would truely work and find it difficult.

        The type of finish I want is like the one in the following picture, where the floor is absolutly leveled and seems are flushed. Remember I will be sanding and polishing the floors.

        Reply
        • Raquel

          This is the picture (which I forgot to upload)

          Reply
          • Roger

            I know the guy who installed that. :D

            Reply
        • Roger

          Provided it is installed correctly, yes it will.

          Reply
  • Gaurav Bhasin

    Hi Roger,

    I have a granite flooring on my terrace with the grout size of 1/4″.
    Which type of grout would you recommend?

    Thanks for your help,

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Gaurav,

      You definitely need sanded grout for that.

      Reply
      • Gaurav

        Thanks, Roger for your quick reply. Just for the understanding , why epoxy is not recommended for such cases.

        Reply
        • Roger

          Most epoxy grouts are only recommended in a grout line up to about 3/16″. While it is nearly bulletproof, it will shrink as it cures. With grout lines that large you’d need to find one that is approved for use in lines that large. While it can be done, sanded grout will work just fine for that application. If you want epoxy you can do it, it just depends on how much time and money you’re willing to put into it.

          Reply
  • Jerry Hedgecock

    Hi Roger,

    i am getting ready to lay a 20″X 20″ Ceramic Tile by Energie Ker Utah Slate is the color, in our kitchen and hallway. it is approximately 400 Sq ft. i am thinking about a 1/8 max maybe even 1/16 grout gap.
    i have 2 questions, that are pretty standard on your forum.
    1. which grout would you recommend that will hold up to lots of foot traffic and have the best stain resistance?
    2. What grout size would you recommend for this size of tile?

    i realize thst grout size is really a personal preference, and i eill be laying directly on the foundation slab as we removed the previous tile completely.

    Thanks

    jerry

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Jerry,

      For the best I would go with an epoxy like Spectralock. Tec power grout is a close second.
      I normally do 1/8″ on floor tile, seems to be the best fit.

      Reply
  • Joseph

    Hello sir, my name is Joe and I could use some expert advice on a shower I just completed about 4 months ago. I’m having some grout cracks on the curb. They started to appear soon after the frameless shower doors were installed. The tile portions of the project were all mine (we had a company install the shower doors). The floor and curb were one of the very first sections of the shower I did, and it never showed signs of wear or movement until the doors were installed. The project was slow going, the floor and curb were complete for at least 4 months before the doors were installed (yes the whole project took about 8 months…I know, I should have paid a professional). If you look at the grout lines that run parallel to the shower doors, they are cracking. All other lines are just fine and the tiles are all secure if I bang on them with a rubber mallet, no popping. This leads me to believe that the curb foundation is ok, its not from water leaking, etc. I’m very diligent on the drying time of the Fusion Pro grout. The only reason its shinny now is because I put some clear silicone on top to keep water out. I certainly do not do that on strong grout lines. Could it be due to vibrations from the sliding door centered around the guide that is drilled into the top of the curb? If so, how do I get strong grout lines parallel to the doors? When I first noticed the lines cracking, I let them stay for about three weeks, then cut them out and re-grouted. They came back, same spot. So long story short – I’d sure appreciate any advice you have before I try re-grouting again, or something more extreme. Thank you for your time and the wonderful website!

    Reply
    • Joseph

      Picture follow-up

      Reply
      • Roger

        Hi Joe,

        I don’t see a photo, not sure what happened there. From what you’re describing, though, I can tell you that there is movement in the tiles to which the grout is attached. It may very well have been caused by the glass installers breaking the bond while drilling through the tile. Some of them use hammer drills and it vibrates the tile ridiculously while drilling, which cause the bond to break. If any part of that tile has become debonded the vibration from moving the door may very well eventually crack the grout out. I would begin by closely examining those tiles to see whether or not they are still fully bonded.

        Reply
        • Joseph

          I see, that seems very likely. They did beat the tar out of my tile…I couldn’t even watch as they were working honestly. I suppose the only proper fix is to remove the doors, examine and remove any faulty tiles and replace them.

          Reply
  • Fred

    Hello:
    I an getting ready to do a backsplash in my RV and I was wondering what grout should I use??? I know I need a flexible grout because it is a RV and things move as we go down the road I’m just not sure what… my plan is to use simple mat as my adhesive so I can cut down on weight and then use a flexible grout for the seems… if you have any recommendations on the grout I should use or a different way I would greatly appreciate it I just don’t want to use peal and stick/smart tile thanks much…

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Fred,

      There isn’t really such a thing as a ‘flexible grout’ (that I am aware of). In an application such as that I would likely use a urethane-based grout. Custom makes fusion and fusion-pro grout, those are urethane-based and normally readily available at home depot. Most manufacturers make one.

      Reply
      • Fred

        Thanks for the info I appreciate it… I found a product called flex-tile and after watching the video of their product it appears to be a rubber caulk and I guess it is intended for RV and mobile homes but I’m not so sure about a caulk in the seems lol… I am leaning towards a product called sandstone flexible grout that I seen at Menards have you ever worked with the stuff? Thanks much and thanks for the speedy reply I didn’t expect that lol…

        Reply
        • Roger

          I’ve never used either of those products. I’ve seen the flex-tile, but honestly know nothing about it. Never even heard of the sandstone stuff. The flex-tile may work fine for that application since it’s for that particular setting, but I have no experience with it.

          Reply
          • Fred

            Ok thanks much I appreciate it and thanks again for the speedy rply…

            Reply
          • Nick

            QuartzLock2 urethane grout is quite flexible

            Reply
  • Amber

    We are about to put in white 3×6 subway tile for a backsplash in our kitchen. I am completely stumped and have no idea what grout, grout color, and spacing we should do. I know I don’t want white but like a little definition with the grout. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Amber,

      I normally use 1/16″ spacing on subway tiles. A light silver or gray will give the grout some definition without being overbearing.

      Reply
  • George

    Hi Roger,
    This is a great site. Thanks for all the information. I will be starting a tile installation in a 3 season porch and have a bunch of questions that I’ll ask in different posts. This one concerns grout. I am installing ceramic tile around a center mosaic. The photo shows the mosaic and some of the tile we are considering. the mosaic will be in the center of the room, surrounded by a border to frame it and then the floor tiles. I will use an unsanded grout for the mosaic and a sanded grout for the rest of the floor. Is there any problem having the two grouts together? Also, I expect that what I will do is complete the mosaic grouting and then do the rest of the floor. That means the mosaic grout will be cured before the rest of the floor is grouted. is that a problem? Will the new grout stick to the cured grout?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi George,

      Neither one of those will be an issue. And yes, the new grout will bond to the cured grout just fine in that application.

      Reply
  • Deb

    What type of grout should be used for a shower floor tile?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Deb,

      Did you read the post on this page? It depends on the size of the grout lines, not where the tile is installed.

      Reply
  • Lovey

    tile setter left job unfinished. I need to grout it. We used river rock tiles. What is best grout to use?
    thank you

    thank you for your help.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Regular sanded grout would be best. A LOT of it. :D

      Reply
  • Anne

    We are getting ready to install a new backsplash in the kitchen. We are using 3×6 subway tile off white porcelain. What type of grout do you suggest we use. We would like to keep the grout lines as minimal as possible

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Ann,

      Unsanded would likely be your best bet with smaller grout lines.

      Reply
  • Jim

    Hi Roger, I am installing 2″ hexagon marble tile, with a gloss finish and 1/16″ grout lines, on a bathroom floor. The tile is white marble and the grout will be light gray. What type grout would you recommend ( sanded, nonsanded, epoxy)? I have never worked with epoxy and worry about ruining the floor.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Jim,

      Regular sanded or unsanded would work just fine (you can use either on 1/16″). No need for epoxy.

      Reply
  • Carlos

    Roger, I would like your advice. I have glazed, 2″x2″ tiles on the shower walls with spacing of less than 1/16th, which means no scraper, knife can go in there to remove the old grout, which is intact and clean. So when I regrout it will sit on the glazed surface. Last time I did that it stock solid firtunately. I thing it was epoxy. How do prifessional guys deal with such narrow spacing when removing the grout?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Carlos,

      We remove the walls and rebuild the shower. :D (seriously…we RARELY remove grout for anything)

      You can also scrape out nonsanded grout with a utility knife.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Jan,

      It should not have any negative interactions with those tiles, and yes, it will bond to them – ridiculously well.

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Ming,

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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • Jon

    Hi Roger,

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • Ming

        Very helpful. Thank you👍.

        Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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?

      Reply