Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout: Which Is Right for Your Tiling Project?

Mizuki Hisaka
Written by Mizuki Hisaka
Reviewed by Robert Tschudi
Updated December 5, 2022
A man applies grout
Photo: karepa / Adobe Stock


  • Sanded grout has sand particles and is more durable.

  • Because it’s more stable, sanded grout is a good fit for flooring projects.

  • Unsanded grout contains fine mineral particles instead of sand.

  • The sticky texture of unsanded grout works well for tiling walls.

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You might be busy choosing the perfect tiles for your kitchen backsplash or bathroom walls, but it’s also important to pick the right grout for the job. If you decide to use cement or polymer cement-based grout, you’ll have two options: sanded or unsanded. Once you understand what makes sanded and unsanded grout different, it’ll be easy to know which bag to buy at the store.

Sanded Grout Pros & Cons

A view of a tiled bathroom
Photo: Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Sanded grout has fine sand particles—hence the name—and is a good match for tile joints wider than 1/8 inch. It’s durable and can withstand heavy wear and tear, so it’s perfect for your kitchen, bathroom, and patio flooring.


  • More stable and holds up better

  • Less shrinkage and cracking

  • Many color options

  • Affordable


  • Requires a pH-neutral, water-based sealer

  • Can scratch delicate tile surfaces

  • Longer drying time

Unsanded Grout Pros & Cons

A view of a kitchen backsplash
Photo: Space_Cat / iStock / Getty Images

Now that you know what sanded grout is, you can probably guess what unsanded grout is—it has no sand. Instead, it has fine mineral particles and pairs well with thin tile joints under 1/8-inch wide, which likely means that you’ll use it for your kitchen backsplash and shower walls.


  • Better for vertical installations

  • Smoother texture is more aesthetically pleasing

  • Won’t scratch limestone, marble, and other fragile tiles

  • Can be easier to install because it’s stickier


  • More expensive

  • Shrinks more, less durable

  • Limited color options

  • Can’t be used on large seams because it’ll sag

Sanded Grout vs. Unsanded Grout

Your tile installation will last as long as possible when you use the right grout for the job. On the flip side, using the wrong grout can cause problems like scratched, loose, or cracked tiles.

“We’ve discovered that most people who work at tile stores can tell you if a certain color of grout will enhance or diminish the overall appearance of the project,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “That’s because they work with interior designers all day long.”


Some people prefer the smoothness of unsanded grout to the textured look of sanded grout. However, sanded grout comes in a broader range of colors, which lets you hyper-customize your tile installation.

Most visually appealing: Tie


If you need unsanded grout, you’ll typically only find it in white, beige, and other similar neutral hues. Typical sanded grout colors include black and a variety of brown, gray, and blue hues. You can also use grout dye powder to achieve an impressive range of bright colors like lime green, yellow, and neon pink. Some of these powders have a metallic sheen with sparkles.

More options: Sanded grout


Sanded grout is more durable, thicker, and coarser because of the fine sand particles that hold it together. It can withstand lots of pressure, making it an ideal choice for flooring.

The fine mineral particles in unsanded grout make it less durable, and because it can crack under heavy pressure, you’ll want to skip it for flooring projects. Unsanded grout is ideal for vertical applications like kitchen and shower walls.

More durable: Sanded grout


A 10-pound bag of sanded grout costs $5 to $30, and a 10-pound bag of unsanded grout costs $10 to $35. The pricier grout promises better color consistency and resistance to efflorescence, which are crystal deposits formed by water. 

Overall, sand is less expensive than the pigments and polymers in unsanded grout, giving sanded grout the edge.

Better price: Sanded grout

Ease of Installation

Generally speaking, people find that unsanded grout is easier to install because it’s stickier. It’s also a quicker installation because you don’t have to use a sealer (although it’s wise to use one in high-moisture areas).

Sanded grout takes longer to cure and requires a sealer, making it a more time-intensive install.

Easier for DIY: Unsanded grout


In addition to daily or weekly cleaning, it’s necessary to re-seal your grout annually if you sealed it to begin with. First, clean the grout thoroughly using a store-bought cleaner or a DIY solution made of baking soda, ammonia, and vinegar. (Just make sure that the cleaner is suitable for the type of tile you have and don’t mix a store-bought cleaner with any other ingredients or cleaners.) Once the surface is clean, apply the re-sealer.

Easier to maintain: Unsealed unsanded grout


Knowing how to regrout your tiles can help you fix any problems before they get worse, and it can also help your tiles last longer. Common issues include cracked or missing grout, and the repair process is the same for sanded and unsanded grout.

If you have cracked grout, clean the area thoroughly and then install fresh grout on top.

For missing grout, you need to start with a clean slate. Use a grout removal tool and a grout brush to clean the seam. Then, refill the gap with fresh grout. Reset or replace any tiles as needed.

If you’re short on time or not interested in this sort of DIY, you can call a grout repair pro near you. “When we complete a tile job, we leave a box of tiles with the homeowner, as well as a description of the brand, type and color of grout,” Tschudi says. 

Easier to repair: Tie


You can expect unsanded and sanded grout to last around 15 to 20 years if you use high-quality products and stay on top of maintenance and repair. Moisture affects longevity, so grout is likely to have a shorter lifespan in bathrooms. And sealed grout lasts longer than unsealed grout.

Lasts longer: Sealed sanded or unsanded grout 

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