Tiling is one of the most practical and hygienic types of flooring. The enduring popularity of tiling is a testament to this – since ancient times, humanity has been tiling, with some of the earliest examples coming all the way from ancient Egypt. One of the most critical elements of tiling is the grout, and you may find yourself wondering what the difference is between sanded and unsanded grout.
Sanded grout sports aggregate material that makes it easy to work with, especially when tiling vertically. However, the aggregate is abrasive thus unsuitable for some types of tiles. Unsanded grout is best for softer tiles but will collapse if the spaces between the tiles are more than ⅛” (0.3 cm).
If you’d like to know more about the different types of grout and where they are best applied, read on. I’ve also put together a few pointers that might help you decide which type of grout will suit your needs.
Choosing the Right Grout
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing grout. The type of tile, location and spacing between the tiles are the main points you must look at.
Without this knowledge, you may be setting yourself up for a costly failure if you use the incorrect grout. Even if you use the right grout the wrong way, you could still end up with tiles that are not sealed correctly. This would make them vulnerable to cracking, staining, ultimately ruining an entire project.
● Spacing Is Key
One of the first things you need to consider is the spacing between your tiles. Significant gaps give room for error, but if the gap is greater than ⅛” (0.3 cm), you cannot use unsanded grout. This is because the grout might shrink away from the tile as it dries, creating pockets and cracks.
Sanded grout is denser than its unsanded counterpart, filling holes and spaces while drying harder due to its cement-like quality. This makes sanded grout preferable for hard-working surfaces like a bustling entrance hall.
Nevertheless, this is not a hard and fast rule. If you want to create an elegant space, for example, by tiling your lounge using marble, you’ll want to use unsanded grout to create thin grout lines.
● Choose the Right Grout for Your Tile
If you have chosen a tile made of a relatively soft material, or you are installing polished tiles, sanded grout will be unsuitable. The abrasive quality of sanded grout will damage and scratch these types of tiles.
For softer tiles, like marble and glass tiles, one should only use unsanded grout. In the case of marble tiles, the aggregate material in sanded grout will wear away the edges of your tile over time, creating space for moisture and dirt to get underneath.
Glass tiles, on the other hand, while prized for their brilliant surfaces and superior stain resistance, are brittle and most vulnerable to cracking. The radiant surface is easily scratched by the hard aggregate material in sanded grout.
● Choosing Grout Based on Location
Think carefully about where you want to tile. If it is an area with high foot traffic, you will want to select a more rugged tile and take advantage of the more durable nature of sanded grout. For a decorative yet functional backsplash, you may prefer a more elegant glass tile and will have to use unsanded grout in this case.
Considering whether you are tiling a wall or floor is secondary. You can use sanded or unsanded grout when tiling vertically, but there are pros and cons to each. Sanded grout is easier to work with but does not stick as well to vertical surfaces.
Another benefit of unsanded grout is that it does not need to be sealed in every application. Sanded grout, on the other hand, necessitates the application of a water-based sealer to protect it from the elements and day-to-day activity.
● Choosing Grout Based on Grout Width
Leaving large gaps between tiles while laying them allows a greater margin for error when grouting. For gaps bigger than ⅛” (0.3 cm), only use sanded grout. The added benefit here is that sanded grout is easier to work with and stronger too, as I have mentioned.
Trying to use unsanded grout in large gaps creates several problems. First of all, without the sand component, it is naturally much softer, thus prone to creating air pockets that will collapse when used in large gaps.
Manufacturers recommend you take special care to ensure that unsanded grout gets packed as tightly as possible into the spaces it is meant to fill. Inexperienced tilers may wish to either avoid using unsanded grout altogether or get professional assistance where this is not possible.
● Choosing Grout Based on Cost
Depending on the size of your project, you may want to consider the cost element. Unsanded grout is more expensive than sanded grout. However, for a small project, the difference in cost may be negligible.
When tiling vast areas, you will need vast amounts of grout. Things can get quite expensive depending on what type of tiles you use. As such, it may be tempting to cut costs by using sanded grout, but this is one area you definitely shouldn’t skimp if you are applying costly natural tiles.
When tiling on a budget, sanded grout with larger gaps between your tiles provides a satisfactory surface that seals well against the elements. The only drawback is that the final product may not look quite as good.
The key difference between sanded and unsanded grout is the presence of the aggregate material used in sanded grout. It’s important to know the properties of each product to enable you to use them effectively and provide a durable surface.
With this knowledge, you should be able to make informed decisions when planning your tiling project. This will entail considering the location of your tiles, the type of tiles you are using, and how wide you want your grout lines to be.