It is important to know the difference between sanded and unsanded grout and choose the correct grout for your particular tile installation.
The basic difference between sanded and unsanded grout is simple. Sanded grout has sand in the grout while unsanded grout does not have sand in it. You may wonder then what is the point in putting sand in grout. Sand will reinforce the cement in the grout and make the grout stronger and less likely to crack. Just like common concrete has sand and rocks in it to increase its strength the sand in the grout serves the exact same purpose.
Sanded grout is basically just sand and cement mixed with a color pigment to give the grout its color.
Unsanded grout is just cement and a color pigment.
Unsanded grout will not be as strong and durable as sanded grout and unsanded grout is more likely to crack especially on wider grout joints. It would seem that there is no reason to use unsanded grout for any tile installation. Unsanded grout should be used for certain tile and particularly stone installations with smaller, more narrow grout lines.
You can tell if you have sanded or unsanded grout just by looking at the grout and feeling it with your finger. Sanded grout will have a rough texture and if you look closely at it you will be able to see the sand in the grout. Unsanded grout will have a smooth texture and feel with no appearance of sand in the grout.
Sanded grout is the best type of grout to use on ceramic and porcelain tile installations that have over a 1/16th inch grout joint. There is not any reason to use unsanded grout when doing a ceramic or porcelain tile installation where there is over 1/16th inch grout joint. These types of tile installations will benefit from having a stronger more durable grout that is less likely to crack. Also it is much easier to apply sanded grout and produce nicer looking grout joints when using sanded grout on larger grout joints.
When you have narrow grout joints of 1/16th inch or less then you should use unsanded grout. With smaller grout joints the sand will not fit into the grout joints and sanded grout will not fit into the all the nooks and crannies that are prevalent on these types of tile installations. Particularly in many shower installations that use the standard 4 inch or 6 inch tiles the tiles will be almost butted up next to each other. In these cases with narrow grout joints it is better to use unsanded grout for these types of tile installations. With the narrow grout joint there is not much chance of the grout cracking when using unsanded grout.
For most stone tile installations it is better to use unsanded grout. Most stone tile installations have narrow grout joints to make the stone tile installation look better. When using sanded grout on these types of tile installations the sand in the grout can actually scratch the tile surfaces during the installation. This is particularly evident on some of the softer stones such as marble, limestone and even travertine. Granite tiles are usually sufficiently hard where the sand will not scratch the tile surface but there are also other reasons for not using sanded grout on stone tile installations.
If you ever decide that you want to refinish your stone tile installations then rotating and oscillating diamond pads will be needed to bring back the shine to your stone tiles. If you have sanded grout then during the restoration and refinishing process some sand will become dislodged from the grout and scratch the stone tile surface. It is virtually impossible to do any type of professional stone restoration process on stone tiles where sanded grout was applied.
Sometimes unfilled travertine tile is installed with wider grout joints that have a honed or unpolished look. In these cases it is be best to use sanded grout to fill in the holes in the unfilled travertine and also to fill in the wider grout joints between the travertine tiles.
Cleaning and maintenance of sanded vs unsanded grout also varies. When cleaning sanded grout you can usually expect to achieve better cleaning results then when cleaning unsanded grout. Sanded grout is usually more porous and by using professional tile and grout cleaning products or having a professional steam tile cleaning service clean your grout you will typically see much more improvement in how well the sanded grout cleans up.
Additionally there are grout dyes available for sanded grout to restore its appearance to like new condition that are not available for unsanded grout. You should not generally not attempt to dye unsanded grout as it will typically not stick as well to the grout as it will to sanded grout.
To achieve the best cleaning results when trying to clean unsanded grout an acidic cleaner designed for cleaning tile and grout works the best. Acidic cleaners works best on the dense unsanded grout to remove stains. You should only use acidic tile and grout cleaners on ceramic and porcelain tiles and grout. For this reason you can see that cleaning stone tile grout with an acidic cleaner is not an option. When cleaning unsanded grout in stone tiles you should use a soft scrub pad and scrub the grout with an alkaline cleaning product. An alkaline cleaning product can sometimes work to remove the dirt and stains in the stone tile grout but not always.
Often times unsanded grout will become dirty and dingy and also develop cracks in it. In shower tile installations over time mold and mildew can grow in the unsanded grout that is impossible to clean effectively. In these cases it is best to remove and replace the grout with a professional regrouting and recaulking procedure. Regrouting is typically not an option with sanded grout due to it being too hard to remove with standard regrouting tools.
You can read some valuable information and tips on how to hire a tile, grout and stone cleaning and restoration contractor at our contractor information page here. Tile Restoration Professional.
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