Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout: Which is Better?

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout: Which is Better?

How hard can installing tile floors be? Well, if you’re a patient perfectionist armed with good information, maybe it’s not too hard for a DIY project. Your results couldn’t be worse than if you hired a contractor off of a list site, right? Before you start, you’ll need to know, among a multitude of other important things, the type of grout best for your design objectives.

Grout itself is a fluid form of concrete used to fill the spaces between the tiles. Without grout, liquids and debris fall and lodge between the tiles and become a nasty mess over time. Even if your flooring tile were set so that the tiles abut each other with no evident gaps, there technically are still gaps there. Water seeping between the gaps will eventually loosen the tiles from the floor. Grout shores up the edges and corners of the tile, too, so they don’t chip and break with use. So, no floor will function well without the critical element that is grout.

What are the grout options for tile floors? Keep reading to find out.

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout is what is sounds like, grout with fine silica sand in it. Because the grout itself will shrink some, or a lot, while drying, the sand added to grout prevents too much shrinkage. The sand acts as a filler so the grout can maintain its attachment to the tile edges. The larger the grout line, the more need for sanded grout. Most flooring applications have grout lines greater than 1/8 of an inch and should be applied with sanded grout.

Bear in mind, though, that some tiles with a high-gloss finish, such as marble, polished travertine or granite, may be scratched by the sand, but we’ll talk about that in a moment.

Where sanded grout may slump off your wall as you install it, unsanded stays in place while you work it into the joints. However, without the sand, it can shrink more.

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout is — you guessed it — grout without the addition of fine, filler sand. This is used for very narrow grout lines, less than 1/8 of an inch, such as you might have on walls, particularly with tiles in the mosaic style. Unsanded grout can be forced into the gaps much easier and sticks to vertical surfaces better. Where sanded grout may slump off your wall as you install it, unsanded stays in place while you work it into the joints. However, without the sand, it can shrink more. But because your gaps are so slender, the shrinkage is minimal and doesn’t affect the function of the tile.


Epoxy grout may well be the king of grouts in terms of service and price. Stain-resistant, waterproof, durable and generally safe for polished tiles, epoxy can replace sanded and unsanded grout in any application. The only downside, besides the higher cost, is that it’s more difficult to install. Because you mix together two components, and maybe the color additive, as well, to create a chemical reaction, your working time before it hardens is much shorter than with regular grout. If you’ve never grouted a thing in your life, you may want to stick to the more forgiving grouts and use epoxy on your next tile job, instead.

Be sure to consult the professionals at your tile store before you embark on a tiling project. The design teams at Mees Distributors, Inc. are happy to help you get started. For more information on DIY projects, see our article here. When you’re ready to select your tile, come on into one of our showrooms — we have three convenient locations serving the Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton areas. Or simply contact us today with any questions about tile and proper installation.

Cincinnati Showroom

1541 West Fork Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45223
Phone: 513.541.2311
Fax: 513.541.4831
Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm
Saturday 8:00am-12:00pm (noon)