Which kind of tile grout…
Why do things have to be complicated? You pick out a grout color and now you’re faced with another decision: sanded or nonsanded? Which kind of tile grout is right for your project? This post will cover what the different types of grout are and where they can be used.
First, we’re going to break down the tile grouts into two categories cement and non-cement.
Check out my next post on Epoxy and Urethane Stain Proof grouts like Fusion, Flexcolor, Spectralock, and more.
Cement grout is most common and well-known type of grout. Inexpensive, been around forever, can be installed in most any application, and the easiest to work with are just some of the advantages of this type of grout. Drawbacks include:
- Regular sealing
- Easiest to stain
- colors can fade over time
- Prone to discoloration problems
The discoloration problems can be caused by mixing too much water, too little water, not mixing well enough, mixed with hard water, applied in too much heat… you get the picture. Here are some of the different kinds of cement grout:
Also known as nonsanded grout. It’s used for thin joints or where scratching the surface can be an issue. Although rare, this can happen on sensitive natural stones and when grouting glass tiles. Common uses for this grout: ceramic wall tiles like subway tiles and also natural stone, such as marble, that is usually set with a tight joint.
The rule of thumb is if your grout joint is 1/8 inch or smaller then you want to use a non-sanded grout. Personally, I think 1/8″ is too big and would limit it to 3/32″.
I think it goes without saying that sanded grout has sand added to it. It’s for volume- the same way that you would add gravel to cement. Although probably still the most popular grout today the technology is always changing.
Applications for this grout typically include floors, large tile, and anytime you have a grout joint 1/8 inch and larger.
High-Performance Cement Grouts
This is an actual category of cement grout. While still being in the cement grout category these are not ordinary cement grouts. They have the best color consistency, no efflorescence, are the most dense and therefore, most stain resistant of the cement grouts. These are fast setting grouts which can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing.
High-performance cement grouts can be used in grout joints as small as 1/16th inch and usually go up to 1/2 inch. This kind of grout is a sanded tile grout. Some examples are Prism, Ultracolor, and Permacolor. Even with the increased stain resistance, they should still be sealed with a grout sealer.
Update: Laticrete now has a product called Permacolor Select NS (unsanded) which is a really nice high-performance grout if you need a nonsanded option.
Grout sealer additives
There are some products out now that are liquids which are added to the grout when mixing and claim to make cement grouts stain proof. Examples of these products are Grout Boost, Grout shield, and Stonetech Stain Protect.
I don’t have a lot of experience with these products and it seems to me that the reviews have been mixed. Maybe some of the kinks have been worked out by now but I would encourage you to do further research before committing to these.
Which tile grout is best?
Personally, for my business, I use high-performance grouts as the base option (with a grout sealer) and then upgrade to the stainproof types from here. Sanded and non sanded tile grout is just too finicky for my tastes and too prone to callbacks.
There are exceptions, like if the tile is likely to scratch, then I’ll use an unsanded grout but the bulk of my cement grout usage is Prism, Permacolor, or Ultracolor.
The problem for the consumer is trying to find these products. They aren’t on the shelves at the big box stores so you’ll either have to special order them in or buy them directly from a tile distributor. Many times the distributor won’t sell to the consumer.
In addition to not being able to get them, they are more expensive and they are fast-setting which means it may be easier to get in trouble with them when you are installing them.
For these reasons, you may elect to go with a “normal” kind of tile grout. If so, I still recommend putting on a penetrating grout sealer or using one of the additives mentioned above.