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Grout – What Is It?
Everything You Need To Know About Tile Grout
Welcome to the only article you’ll ever need to read about tile grout, as told by a professional tile setter.
Learn what grout is, which one is best for you, the best tools for grout, and many handy tips that I’ve learned after 25 years of grouting.
How To Say It: grau̇t
Tilersplace Definition of Grout – colored mortar used to fill thin spaces between tiles. It is stored as a dry powder and it’s mixed with water to produce a workable product. Grout comes in various types to suit all applications both indoors and outside. It is highly workable while “wet” and hardens to a stiff and vigorous cementitious compound.
Layman’s Definition of Grout – Cement stuff that is used to fill the gaps in between tiles.
Homeowners Definition of Grout – The dirty lines between my tiles.
If you have ever seen tiles, either on walls or the floors, then you have seen grout. Every single tile installation is never complete without grout.
Grout helps in these ways:
- Create the contrast that is essential in tiled surfaces
- Adds strength to the whole entire installation as it holds all the tiles together, working alongside the thinset
- Adds much needed flexibility to the overall installation
It’s truly just as important as the tile itself.
Basically, tiles + grout = a tiled surface.
What Is Grout? – Tile Grout 101
In its essence, grout is Portland cement mixed with smaller aggregates like silica sand. When I started tiling, this was the only grout you could buy and I actually made it myself from those two components. If I wanted a colored grout, I would add colored oxides and presto: I had grout.
This type of grout tended to be extremely gritty and porous and was only suitable for floor use.
You could use it on walls but it didn’t stick well and looked downright ugly. This type of grout is traditionally called sanded grout.
Nowadays, this grout is very rarely used, sometimes it can be used for quarry tile installations otherwise it is avoided.
Sanded Grout – What Is It?
Sanded grout is the Joe Everyman of the grout world, the most commonly used and basic form of grout out there. It also the easiest to use and most forgiving of grout types, as you can easily wash away most mistakes.
Sanded grout is exactly what I described above, a basic sand and cement mix with some color pigment mixed in to produce a grout.
Commonly, a mix of polymers are added to make the grout stronger and more resistant to common stains.
That being said, it is still a very simple grout.
An advantage of this makes it very hard wearing and resistant to the most vigorous of scrubbing.
The sand in the grout helps prevent shrinkage which allows it to be used in tiling installations larger than 1/8th inch wide.
The largest problem with sanded grout is that it can scratch natural tiles like marble, travertine and other forms of polished stones. The rough bits of sand in the grout can create surface scratches which are hard to remove during grouting.
This grout is also difficult to use in vertical installations as it isn’t inherently sticky. To be fair, this grout should not be used on walls anyway, for that we have something called Non-Sanded Grout.
This grout is also one of the toughest grouts due to it’s high sand content, making it a real pain when removing with a grout removing tool.
Non-Sanded Grout – What Is It?
Non-sanded grout or “smooth wall grout” is what I would use on wall tiles as it is very smooth and forms a uniform surface. Due to not having any sand in it, it is only suitable for smaller grout joints from 1/16th to 1/8th inches in size.
If used in larger gaps, the grout will crack due to shrinkage that occurs during curing. It can also loose adhesion to the tiles and crumble out entirely over time.
Non-sanded grout is commonly used in ceramic and porcelain tiles, glass tiles and materials that can be easily scratched like marble tiles.
It lacks the harsh bits of sand that can scratch delicate surfaces during the grouting phase.
In installations that use these materials and require larger grout gaps, an epoxy grout can be used.
Non-sanded grout is generally stickier than sanded grout which makes it suitable for vertical applications like bathroom walls. It is very easy to apply in these conditions and doesn’t slide off the walls or grout float like a sanded grout would.
This grout is available as a dry powder or a premixed solution and can be applied with traditional grouting tools.
Moving away from that caveman era of homemade grouts and basic grouts, we now have many more kinds of grouts that are smooth and suited for all applications.
They are predominately a sanded grout however they are much smoother and more refined. This makes them suitable for both wall and floor installations and also deem them safe for use on most forms of tiles.
These grouts have become the norm for all professional tile setters and we use these grouts on a daily basis.
The wide range of colors and color uniformity contribute to that trust.
These grouts are still based on Portland cement but the aggregates are much more refined and barely visible in the mix.
In addition to those ingredients, additivites things like:
- water dispersing agents
- color fast pigments
- synthetic resins
Are all added to the grout to make it a much smoother, stickier and paste like compound.
These in turn give the grout properties that have never been possible in old school grout.
Modern Grout Advantages:
- UV Resistance
- Frost Proof
- Resistant to abrasion
- In-built Fungicides + bacteriostatic agents (prevents bacteria from reproducing.)
Summary – What Is Grout?
In essence, grout is a cement mixed with sand. To make it a more resilient and visiually appealing product in modern homes and businesses, specialist chemicals have been added to the basic mix to create an even better product.
Of course, tile installations can vary widely and some need to match certain criteria like State or Council Hygeine regulations.
For those situations, we have a different grout. Introducing Epoxy Grout – The King Of Grouts.
Epoxy Grout – What Is It?
Epoxy grout is a multi-part grout that is mixed together to make a ready to use product. Generally there are two or three components that are mixed together.
One part is the grout compound itself and this is mixed with a thick liquid that acts as the water in a traditional grout mix.
Some grouts like Laticrete Spectralock Pro come with a third component that is a color pigment. You mix this to create the desired color, two pack epoxy grouts come pre-colored at the time of manufacteur.
Due to it’s composition, epoxy grout is a very robust and strong grout.
It’s is nearly 100% waterproof, stain and yellowing proof and safe to use in all hygienic areas like bathrooms and showers.
Many professional tilers will insist on only grouting showers with epoxy due to the added level of strength, waterproofing and ease of use it’ll give to the client.
I have epoxy grout in my personal shower and I’d never have anything else.
It is also suitable for commercial applications where tough hygiene requirements are needed.
It won’t allow germs or mildew to enter the grout, making it very easy to clean and sterilize.
Facilities like commercial kitchens or restaurants and even hospitals can all greatly benefit from use of epoxy grout in their tiling installations.
What Is Epoxy Grout Made Of?
Epoxy grout is a real example of a chemical soup that is mixed into a few organic components.
The basic components of epoxy grout is a hardener, and an epoxy resin that contains refined silica fillers and color pigments.
Mixed together, they create a chemical reaction to results in a very tough and resistant compound that happens to look beautiful in-between tiles.
That’s all you’ll be able to find online about what Epoxy grout is made from as the manufacturers don’t share the exact chemical components required to make an epoxy grout. Not that we need to know anyway, as they’ll likely be a whole list of weird sounding chemicals like delta-3 carene, sabinene or beta-pinene. (All plant-based resins.)
You probably don’t know that epoxy grout can also be used as a tile adhesive. In tricky to adhere substrates like iron or fibreglass reinforced plastic (shower liners), an epoxy grout can be used safely. The bond it creates is simply incredible.
Where Should Epoxy Grout be Used?
Epoxy grout can basically be used anywhere that you want to create a tough and trouble-free environment.
It can look like new for over a decade, require very little maintenance and dramatically increases the strength of any tiled installation. When used in a shower, it can greatly reduce the amount of mildew, mold and other hassles usually associated with grout in wet areas.
It is truly an outstanding product and provides the greatest amount of peace-of-mind and satisfaction when installed correctly.
So if it’s so great, why isn’t everyone using it?
There are a couple factors that need to be considered before using an epoxy grout and I’ll provide the dirt here.
It may be interesting to you.
Epoxy Grout Considerations
Epoxy grout is much more expensive in comparison to traditional sanded grout. On average epoxy costs atleast 2-3 times more than sanded grout. It is sold in small amounts and larger installations like a swimming pool can end up costing over $1000 in epoxy grout alone.
- Not Suitable For All Tiles
This one is quite an open subject but generally, I tend to avoid using epoxy grout on natural stone unless it’s thoroughly sealed beforehand. Even then, it should be spot checked to see if the natural stone absorbs anything because once that discoloration beneath the surface occurs, you can’t get it out.
- Difficulty to Use
Forget what the sugar coated DIY home blogs will tell you, epoxy grout is not easy to use. Especially if you are using it for the first time. An inexperienced user of epoxy grout can easily ruin a completed tile installation and the common remedy is a complete tear-out and do over.
Once epoxy grout dries, the only thing moving it – is an angle grinder.
Everything about epoxy grout is more difficult to use in comparison to standard grouts.
Starting with mixing the components, it’s recommended to use a spiral mixer attached to a power drill to ensure a complete mix and uniform color. A margin trowel can be used to mix the grout but due to the viscosity, it is not easy.
Once the epoxy grout is mixed, it is a hand-grenade. At least I see it that way.
Epoxy grout sets very quickly and the longer you mess around, the more difficult it’ll be to push it into your grout gaps.
You will also be spending more time in your wash up phase, so you need to hustle to complete the grouting as quickly as you can.
Pro Tiler Tip
Never mixed the whole bucket of epoxy grout, use about a quarter of the components and mix them in a separate bucket. Use up that first, then make more.
Epoxy grout is also much more difficult to wash up and can leave a nasty haze on the tiles if not removed properly.
Read more about this in my best epoxy grout buyer’s guide. I equip you with all the tools to successfully grout with epoxy.
How Do I Choose Which Grout To Use Where?
So now your brain is exploding with all this knowledge about grouts and what makes every type unique but you’re probably scratching your head about which one to actually use where.
Let’s try simplify it for you.
Sanded Grout – Use on ceramic tile floors in common areas. Porcelain can be grouted as well but be careful if it’s highly polished, some types may get scratched if it’s a less quality tile.
Non-Sanded Grout – Use on all forms of wall tiles in any residential installation. If used in wet areas or kitchens, a quality grout sealer is recommended.
Modern Grout – This grout can be used in virtually any situation: on walls and floors, both indoors and out. On polished tiles and gritty outdoors tiles. I use this type of grout in a vast majority of my professional tiling work and it’s outstanding. This Kiesel grout is a great example of a modern grout.
Epoxy Grout – Wet areas like showers or kitchens subject to intensive cooking routines! Mosaic and other similar feature walls where you want it to be perfect.
Toilets or areas subject to pet leaving their deposits. Epoxy grout will prevent the ammonia in urine crystallizing in the grout and creating a stink that is impossible to remove.
All commercial applications that are subject to heavy traffic or require strict hygiene.
Still not sure which grout to use? Ask below in the comment section and I’ll tell you the best grout to use!
Best Tools For Grout
Now that you know all about grout and which one to use, let’s look at the tools you’ll require to work with this stuff.
The tools may look very simple, but the following four tools are what I use every day to grout in my client’s homes. Together with your man (or lady) power, anything can be grouted with these simple tools!
Essential Tools You’ll Need To Grout
Grouting is mainly a hand tool kind of job – the tools are simple but make all the difference in producing a quality job.
The brand of the grouting tools is not overly important as they are mostly the same concept, just don’t go hunting for the cheapest tools as you do get what you pay for most of the time. Click on names of the various grouting tools if you want my recommendations.
Grout – Conclusion
In this article, we answered the age-old question of what is grout and took a dive into all the forms of grout that are available on the market today.
We learned that grout is mainly a mixture of cement, sand and colored pigments with modern grouts adding extra mold inhibitors and finer sands to produce a more robust and durable product.
Epoxy grout was also talked about in depth, with the common use cases and things to watch out for covered off as well. Things like faster setting time, difficulty in use and the need to use caution while handling it.
Lastly, we looked at what are the basic grouting tools needed to grout tiles and to achieve a quality job.
If you have any further questions about grout, like how to remove it, how to seal grout, or how to remove grout haze – you’ll find all the answers on my site. Simply use the search box above.
Hope you learned something today and most importantly – happy grouting!